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CONNECT THE WORLD
$1 Trillion Worth of Minerals Up for Grabs
Aired August 24, 2010 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A trillion dollars worth of minerals up for grabs in Afghanistan. But just like Iraq and its oil fields, does Kabul have the stability to reap the rewards?
Or will the profits be siphoned off to fuel a bloody conflict reminiscent of Sierra Leone?
Joining the dots on some of the day's best stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.
Hidden beneath Afghanistan, a mountain of riches.
But is it a coup or a course for a nation battling corruption and insurgency.
And who will be the real winner when the wealth is shared out?
I'm Becky Anderson in London with the story and its connections tonight.
Also coming up this hour, getting the message across -- how teaching and texting can come together in the classroom.
And you asked for her, so here she is again. Fatima Bhutto answers your questions as we replay a popular Connector of the Day. And do remember, you can connect to the program online via Twitter. My personal address is atbeckycnn. We'll read up some of those Tweets toward the end of the show. Log on and do join the conversation.
Well, putting its national -- or natural treasures up for tender, we're going to start tonight in Afghanistan, where the discovery of vast mineral deposits is attracting interest from investors the world over.
Jill Dougherty explores whether the untapped gems will pave the path to a better life for the war torn nation and its people.
ATIQ SEDIQI, AFGHAN MINISTRY OF MINES: It's a huge deposit. This is a beginning and it continues in that direction.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're in the mountains of Bamyan Province, 80 miles from Kabul. Atiq Sediqi, senior geologist for the Afghan Ministry of Mines, is showing me the Hajigak iron deposit, said to be the largest undervalued iron ore deposit in the world.
(on camera): So that's it?
SEDIQI: It is a piece of -- of the Hajigak.
SEDIQI: And it's 62 percent iron. Let me break them.
DOUGHERTY: It's all pure iron ore.
SEDIQI: It's 100 percent.
DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): In the mountain range that stretches 15 mils, almost two billion metric tons of amazingly pure iron ore. This September, the government of Afghanistan will offer a tender for mining rights here, hoping to attract international companies.
SEDIQI: As a magnet attracts (INAUDIBLE).
DOUGHERTY: (on camera): So that's definitely iron ore?
SEDIQI: Right. Right.
SEDIQI: And then we break it a little bit more. Oops. And that's the oxide of iron from the surface that this is there.
DOUGHERTY: Can I feel that?
SEDIQI: Yes. Sure.
DOUGHERTY: Oh my god, it really is heavy.
(voice-over): Iron ore is just one of a vast array of minerals Afghanistan has hidden under breathtaking mountain ranges formed 140 million years ago. There's copper, cobalt, lithium and rare metals -- gem stones like emeralds, rubies, sapphires, lapis lazuli, topaz and the recent discovery, 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil plus natural gas.
Based on Soviet studies from the 1960s, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the potential value of Afghan's mineral wealth at a trillion dollars. The minister of mines says it could be as much as $3 trillion and only 30 percent of the country has been explored.
(on camera): So that could be, really, the economic future of your country?
WAHIDULLAH SHAHRANI, AFGHAN MINISTER OF MINES: It's got great potential for this country. Right now, the major source of our economic growth have been the international aid coming to Afghanistan. And in future, of the five, seven or 10 years, the contribution from the mining sector would be the major sector in our a -- in the sustainability of our economic growth in the future.
DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): But there are two huge challenges -- a lack of security and infrastructure. Right now, Afghanistan has only about 50 miles of railroad. The government plans to build much more, tying railways, highways and energy supplies together so those minerals can be exported.
(on camera): So you've got all of the places that you want to go...
SHAHRANI: Sure. Sure.
DOUGHERTY: -- east toward Pakistan, India, China...
DOUGHERTY: And then north, Central Asia...
SHAHRANI: Indonesia and Russia.
DOUGHERTY: And then Iran?
SHAHRANI: Yes. And, also, you know, that was the south of Pakistan, again.
DOUGHERTY: Near the Hajigak iron ore deposit, the villagers are hoping that development, if it comes, will bring jobs and money. This 14- year-old boy tells me, there's no danger from the Taliban here.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Here is not an insurgent. And the people can provide you with security, too. And you don't need more killing guns. (INAUDIBLE) guard yourselves.
DOUGHERTY: But can the government assure the village elder that corruption won't siphon off the potential benefits to his people?
The government promises everything will be public and transparent. These Afghan citizens hope that's true.
Jill Dougherty, Kalu, Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: All right, well, who's lining up to do business in Afghanistan?
Well, topping the list, China. In 2008, it made the single largest investment in Afghanistan's history, bidding $3.5 billion for a huge copper mine. Over the next 25 years, China plans to extract about 11 million tons of copper.
Also, five firms from India are bidding against who?
Well, you guessed it, China. They're after five to six billion tons of iron ore, as you saw in that report. There are deposit in the Afghan mountains. But the bidding currently on hold due to corruption concerns.
And Russia -- well, it's refocusing on the region. A state-owned firm is exploring potentially lucrative gas fields in the north of the country while other Russian companies are said to be hunting for minerals such as iron and aluminum.
Well, Afghanistan isn't the only country digging deep into its natural resources to try and fund a new future for its people. Dozens of rigs in Iraq's Ramallah oil fields are already online, many contracted out to international companies, as you probably know.
Fred Pleitgen checked out the progress being made back in June.
Here's a -- a reminder of what he dug up.
ANDERSON: The gremlins are having a go at this tonight. No track on that report, but some shots there of the oil fields in Iraq. You know the story -- carving up Iraq's oil fields by the international companies, so there are people going in.
Well, do the locals get a chance to really get the benefits of those natural resources?
Well, back in Afghanistan, could the discovery of the country's mineral wealth be something of a double-edged sword?
You don't have to look far, of course, to find an example of how minerals can fuel conflict rather than conclude it. Take the blood diamond phenomenon in which diamonds mined in African war zones are sold on to finance and insurgencies.
That's the big question tonight. Let's dig further into it.
I want to bring in Ashraf Haidari.
He's a political counselor at the embassy of Afghanistan in Washington.
Antoine Heuty from the Revenue Watch Institute in Washington.
Ashraf, let's start with you and let's start in Afghanistan.
We -- we saw Jill Dougherty's report about the area where the largest amount of iron ore in the world, potentially, is sitting below the Afghan mountains. We also saw some pictures there of Iraq.
How does Afghanistan exploit its newfound mineral resources?
ASHRAF HAIDARI, EMBASSY OF AFGHANISTAN IN THE US: Well, as the minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani pointed out, we hope that in the next three to five years, we attract capital investment from the region as well as from around the world and in the natural resources sector in Afghanistan, which has largely been unexploited and which is, potentially, a major source of employment for the Afghan population, which is one of the youngest in the region, where, of course, most of our people are unemployed.
And, also, it's part of our economic development strategy to create as many jobs as we can, now, and, of course, on the long run...
HAIDARI: -- so that Afghanistan, over time, becomes self-financing, both in terms of our economic growth and development and reconstruction, but also in terms of the defense of the people of Afghanistan against our common enemies.
ANDERSON: I understand that.
So jobs in mind, not necessarily, though, Antoine, owned by the Afghans themselves. We just alluded to those who are bidding for much of the mineral resource in Afghanistan. It doesn't look as if the entirety of it will go anything like Afghanistan's way.
ANTOINE HEUTY, REVENUE WATCH INSTITUTE: Well, if we -- if we judge by international experience, a number of countries have had serious difficulties in getting a good deal from their exportive sector. A number of countries, such as Congo, the Sierra Leone and others, have not only signed bad contracts with companies, but, also, their expectations from the populations, as we've seen in the report, have also often been missed and which can further create discontent among the citizens of Afghanistan if all these hopes are not fulfilled.
ANDERSON: Ashraf, how do you prevent that?
HAIDARI: Yes, we, of course, reject that contracts, like we did back in February 2010, when there was one offer from one of international firms. I believe it was from Orient Petroleum International, which we considered not to be in our best interests and the best interests of the Afghan people in terms of creating jobs.
So we are, of course, very careful about the terms of the contract, based on the minerals laws and other natural resources laws, allow us to make sure that the revenues generated from the natural resources sector in Afghanistan...
HAIDARI: -- will stay in Afghanistan, will be invested in a productive economy so that we continually grow up our (INAUDIBLE) economy...
ANDERSON: Right. I get that. OK...
HAIDARI: -- and continue to create jobs.
ANDERSON: So that would be a key to Afghanistan.
But will it create conflict?
And lest we forget, the movie, "Blood Diamonds," laying out the potential for resource conflict.
Let's just take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "BLOOD DIAMONDS," COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't tell you're going to try and sell it to yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To who?
And for what price, my friend?
You need my help whether you like it or not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hear that?
Do you hear that?
They're coming into the city overnight. It's started.
What are you going to do now, huh?
This is the one stone that can buy anything -- information, safety, even freedom. But a big stone does not stay secret for very long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Resources can be a mixed blessing, Antoine, of course, and resource conflict can ruin a country.
HEUTY: Yes, definitely. I mean the experience of Sierra Leone, of Liberia is there to remind us what can happen if a country that is still in conflict, such as Afghanistan, discovers significant resources, such as is the case here. And the key to -- to -- to answering that -- that problem is transparency. The government of Afghanistan has taken some steps to address the transparency and corruption concerns, but a lot needs to be done. They have signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, but now we want to see whether this will be actually implemented.
And there are other major concerns regarding how money is spent and how (INAUDIBLE)...
ANDERSON: All right...
HEUTY: -- happens in the country that will need to be addressed.
ANDERSON: Ashraf, the last question to you -- and it's an important one and one that has been brought up with me again and again and again. It's our Twitter question tonight and it's a controversial one.
Did the coalition forces go into Afghanistan to rip off the national resources?
HAIDARI: That's absolutely wrong. The international forces are in Afghanistan in the fifth -- in the invitation of the Afghan government and people to help secure Afghanistan so that reconstruction of Afghanistan and the long-term development of Afghanistan, in part, through extraction of our natural resources, which have been not exploited, happen. And so we are committed, in partnership with the international community and, of course, their military forces in Afghanistan, to help secure Afghanistan, on the one hand, and also to build the institutional capacity and help our ministers, such as the minister of mines, through technical assistance, to implement laws and to offer bids on...
ANDERSON: All right...
HAIDARI: -- these natural resources so we extract for them the long- term economic growth of Afghanistan.
ANDERSON: Mineral resources -- coup or conflict?
Gentlemen, we thank you very much, indeed for joining us this evening, connecting the world here on CNN.
Well, the day after Somali militants declare a final war to overthrow the government, a devastating suicide attack kills dozens in Mogadishu. We're going to have the details of the assault just a stone's throw from the presidential palace.
ANDERSON: Welcome back.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
I'm Becky Anderson.
Now, new worries today about the instability of Somalia and the wider region after gunmen stormed a hotel in the heart of Mogadishu, killing dozens of people. Militants promising to keep up their fight until all African Union troops propping out of Somalia's government are expelled.
David McKenzie has the latest.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least 30 people have been killed in a brazen daytime terror attack in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Two gunmen dressed as government soldiers stormed the hotel, the Muna Hotel, which is near the presidential palace, with handguns and shot people outside and inside the reception area.
It seems like the attack was carried out by Al Shabab, the Islamic militant group that is trying to overthrow the transitional federal government.
After attacking the hotel, they detonated -- at least one of them detonated a suicide vest, which killed further people. It seems that they were directly targeting the government, because at least six members of parliament were killed in this brazen attack.
The attack on the hotel came in the midst of two days of a sustained offensive by Al Shabab on Somali government troops and the African Union force that is trying to prop up the weak transitional government. But even in the scale of fighting that's been occurring in Mogadishu, the information minister was taken by surprise by this terror attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABOIRAHMAN OMAR OSMAN, SOMALI INFORMATION MINISTER: Yesterday, they called for jihad against the government as well as the A.U. forces. But who would have thought in hotel -- a civilian hotel and this campaign, this criminal defiance of people, this shows how -- the atrocities they can do. Their aim is not to get rid of the government, their aim is to terrorize people. And these people are terrorists. They are doing this with al Qaeda. They are (INAUDIBLE) al Qaeda. Foreign jihadis have keep coming here. So the situation is getting worse by the day. The government forces (INAUDIBLE) job. And today, they contained of this and 30 people are (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Somalia has not been a functioning state for many years. And the transitional federal government can only lay claim to small parts of the capital. African Union forces are due to have 2,000 more troops arriving soon to try and bolster their rule.
David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi, Kenya.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: Well -- well, I want to get you the regional impact of this story. The ongoing unrest in Somalia is being felt by its neighbors. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for a deadly bomb attack in Uganda's capital, Kampala, last month. The group said it was because Uganda is part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Well, Kenya is not involved in that mission, in part out of fear that it might also be targeted. Meanwhile, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen are home to more than half a million Somali refugees.
Well, our next guest warns that most international intervention in Somalia has been a failure and in some instances has actively contributed to the country's 20 year crisis of state collapse and armed conflict.
Ken Mankhaus is a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina and a former adviser to the U.N. operation in Somalia.
Let's start with the raid there today.
What do you read into that?
KEN MANKHAUS, PROFESSOR, DAVIDSON COLLEGE: To me, this is -- it's pretty clear that what Shabab is hoping to do is discourage further African Union peacekeeping forces from coming, which is a proposal on the table, and to discredit the African Union force. Its mandate is to protect the transitional federal government. And Shabab was able to show that it was unable to do so.
ANDERSON: How big a force are they and what -- what is the real extent of their reach?
MANKHAUS: The size of the Shabab force is unknown. We have estimates of a couple of thousand Somali fighters and anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand foreigners joining them. They are not a particularly big group, but they are strong relative to the utter weakens of the transitional federal government and any other potential rival on the scene.
ANDERSON: And regionally, just how big an impact might they have and -- and why, outside of the region, to a certain extent, should we care?
MANKHAUS: Well, the region really worries a great deal about spillover from Somalia. This has been a problem for 20 years. Shabab's attack in Uganda in July was -- was an expected disaster and -- and really does set a precedent now for Shabab taking the war outside of the borders of Somalia.
This has the potential to bring Ethiopia back in, which would be disastrous. It has the potential to reach into Kenya, which would be disastrous for Kenya's economy. The U.S. and the rest of the international community cares mainly because of the regional spillover that Shabab's campaign could have.
There are also fears -- I don't know if they -- how well-founded they are -- but there are certainly some fears that Shabab could even send sleeper cells to Europe or North America.
We'll have you on again.
We're going to have to take a very short break and pay for the show through the advertising.
But, Ken, we thank you for that.
The regional impact of a story, a deadly raid -- a story out of Somalia earlier today.
Well, after the break, it is design by nature -- the latest must have. Find out why architects are looking to the environment for guidance and what famous landmarks here in London they've inspired.
ANDERSON: Well, incredible nature, cutting edge science -- we're going to show you the unseen, the untold and the unexplored, revealing the planet's most inspiring stories and what we are learning from our environment. That's next tonight.
We're halfway through what has been a two week journey for us.
On Monday, we were in the U.S. blending biology with robotics this week. Scientists there have a theory that an eel's spinal cord may be the key to helping paralyzed people walk again.
Well, tonight we're here in Britain, where architects are using nature as their model and mentor, transforming the world's structural design.
Take a look at this.
ANDERSON (voice-over): For millennia, designers and architects have looked to nature for inspiration, from the temples of ancient Greece to the cityscapes of the 21st century.
DAVID MARKS, ARCHITECT: Architecture has embraced biomimicry from a very, very early stage, all the way back to the Greeks. I mean it wasn't just ornament that they were using but a series of patterns and geometries and numbers that derived from a very close observation of nature.
ANDERSON: David Marks looked to nature for inspiration for the design of his treetop walkway at London's Kew Gardens.
MARKS: There's several elements that use biomimicry. One is the use of the material, which is a -- a weathering steel. It has an external layer of -- of -- of metal which rusts and belies a protective skin, much in the same way that barks protects and provides a protective skin to a tree.
We also used biomimicry in the design of the bridges between these nodes, which are 12 meters apart. And where the structure forms an integral part of the handrail. And the geometry that's used in the design of those bridges is based on the -- the Fibonacci series.
The Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence of numbers that's named after a 16th century mathematician. And it's made up by adding the number preceding. So it goes one, one, two, three, five, eight, 13, 21, etc. And it's a number that's found frequently in nature. And the higher the number becomes, the more it approaches the number behind the golden section, which is a proportion which you find in many, many living things. You find it in human beings. You find it in your own fingers.
So it's been there right from the beginning. It was used in the -- in the great cathedrals and has been a constant source of inspiration for architects and -- and designers throughout the ages.
ANDERSON: The modern world abounds with examples of biomimicry.
MARKS: The new building in the city of London, the Gherkin, is taking its inspiration from nature in the way the patterns and the forms and the structures have been developed. It has an exposed skeletal structure, which is not that unusual for buildings. But the way it's been arranged is something that's very organic and -- and goes back to something that we might have seen in nature.
ANDERSON: Finally, can we learn from nature?
Nature, it seems, can learn from us.
ROSS LOVEGROVE, DESIGNER: This is called ginkgo carbon. It's actually a table. I've used the concept of a table to analyze a structure in a very contemporary material. So this is made from two s, super wafer thin s by a particular process, by an aerospace company.
And internally, it's separated with this device, which has something of the semblance of an innococlia (ph) maybe from a whale or something like a schizocarp, which is a seed which falls to the ground.
It wasn't deliberately designed that way, but this is what you get in the negative space -- the negative void between those two s.
ANDERSON: Architecture's engagement with nature is nothing new, but its full potential is only just beginning to be realized as humans are able to study nature on a microscope level.
MARKS: I don't think there's any limit to where biomimicry can take us, either at a microscopic level or in terms of its connections in the way DNA informs the way things are made. And we'll just continue to learn from nature, hopefully, in a way that makes the world a better place.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: The architect's plans using nature's blueprint -- we've been looking at some well known designs here in London that were inspired by the environment.
And tomorrow, we are in Louisiana, in the marshlands there, where scientists may have found a very slick solution to help boost the oil spill cleanup process. We're going to tell you a bit more about using nature to restore our delicate ecological balance. That is this time tomorrow, in this special series of reports, Earth's Frontiers, running over the course of this week and last here on CONNECT THE WORLD.
Well, still ahead tonight, as soon as they help one child, they realize that hundreds more are waiting in line. We're going to see how aid workers in Pakistan are overwhelmed by the needs of flood victims and under equipped with supplies. Yet they are determined to continue saving lives.
That and your headlines coming up.
ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD. It's about half past nine in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Let's get you a quick check of the headlines this hour.
In China, at least 43 people are reported to have died after a plane overshot a runway and caught fire in Yichun. The Chinese news agency says 53 others were rescued. According state media, 91 passengers and five crew were onboard the Henan Airlines flight, which took off from Harbin, in the same province.
US military officials say there are now fewer than 50,000 American troops in Iraq. That's the lowest level since the 2003 invasion. Remaining troops will transition to a new mission, called Operation New Dawn, to train and advise Iraqi security forces.
Police are acknowledging mistakes in that deadly hostage ordeal on Monday in Manila. Eight tourists were killed by a disgruntled ex-police officer. Philippine president Benigno Aquino says he'll oversee an investigation into the standoff and how it was handled.
And in Pakistan, there's a major risk of more devastating flooding. It appears the Indus River may burst its banks as soon as tomorrow. Thousands of workers are trying to strengthen barriers at high-risk areas.
The human misery in Pakistan is already unimaginable. Some 20 million people have been affected by the floods. Four million are homeless. Countless numbers are at risk of disease. Our Kyung Lah visited with one aid worker who is determined to ease the suffering.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shortly, you'll see how bad the sewage facilities are here, and the fact that, really, the number of people here are just overwhelming what basic facilities there are.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, this is from the water this child was drinking?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is from the -- yes. From the floodwater where he's actually been in. Yesterday, babies were just basically being put in my arms and I was being asked to either give them food, give them water, or give them health. This has been one of the hardest disasters I think I've ever worked in.
Both these children have been born since they've been displaced. This baby is six days old, and this baby here is only two days old. So, they've basically been brought into the world and they're living in a makeshift school at the moment. The good thing is that this is actually a life that's come into the world rather than one we've actually lost as a result of the floods. But still, these children are really particularly vulnerable.
The child has been living in very dirty conditions, and that basically she has diarrhea. That's the biggest risk for children, and particularly this child as well who's so small.
They're begging for food at the moment, and just being able to not be able to give them the food when she so desperately need it right at the moment is one of the hardest things.
LAH: Can the international community make a difference here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they can.
LAH: It's that simple?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's that simple.
LAH: What's needed?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More money. More support. And just the ability for us to be able to deliver this aid.
This is one of the questions here in this school. And you've got a number of families living in this classroom.
The greatest fear is now that the number of deaths will increase significantly as a result of health diseases that come following the floods. It's incredibly frustrating. I think this one has been -- it's been one of the hardest disasters to actually see.
To look at children who are on the verge of dying, to hold children who have got significant diseases that require treatment and realize that for the foreseeable future, this is what -- this is what their life holds for them.
ANDERSON: It's a story that continues, of course. And as if that wasn't enough, aid workers cite another threat facing the kids in Pakistan. And that is, human traffickers.
We reached out to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, and a spokesman there tells us that, while there have been not yet any confirmed reports, they quote, "We know there is child trafficking in Pakistan in their post-disaster situation. There are unaccompanied children. There are people who try to take advantage of the situation. And you may have families who take drastic measures because they simply need to survive."
Well, this is a story CONNECT THE WORLD is committed to covering in all of its forms. We're On the Trail of Human Trafficking, following one of the world's experts as he crisscrosses south Asia, documenting what he finds.
And what Siddharth Kara has brought us so far has been quite remarkable. From laborers toiling on roadside projects in New Delhi, to children working Bangladesh's shrimp industry, it's been a shocking journey. His latest exclusive blot to us details what he has found in West Bengal outside Kolkata.
He writes, "I met numerous young girls who fell prey to offers for domestic work in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. And after several months, they were paid, perhaps, 10 or 20 percent of the promised wages. Eventually, they are returned home, where they are just as desperate as before."
We want to know what you have to say about this. The issue of human trafficking, and what form it exists where you live, perhaps, and what needs to be done to stop it. I'll be putting your questions and comments to Siddharth when I speak to him later in the week, as he continues his journey across south Asia. That's our On the Trail of Human Trafficking, beginning at cnn.com/connect for you. That is where you start, and where we will continue the journey for you.
Teachers versus teenagers mesmerized by their mobile phones. Text messaging has become a point of contention in many classrooms worldwide. But as the saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them. We're going to find out how texting can be used as a teaching tool.
ANDERSON: O. M. G. Text messages are at the center of a youth culture that speaks as much with its thumbs as it does with its tongues. A recent study by the Pew Internet Project shows that they have become the primary way that teenagers reach their friends. And that doesn't stop even when those kids are in school.
So, are cell phones simply a distraction to students in class, or could they be turned into positive teaching tools? Deborah Feyerick dials into the debate for you.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventh grader Cayleb Coyne has texting in class down to a science.
CAYLEB COYNE, SEVENTH GRADE STUDENT: Open it up, put the phone in there, and act like I'm looking for something instead of looking at something.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Hallways are also good.
COYNE: It's harder to get going in the hallways than it is in class.
FEYERICK (on camera): Because you're moving.
FEYERICK: Like a shark. Always moving.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Coyne says his cell phone has been confiscated six times in six months, and he's not the only one. Despite constant reminders from his principal at Haverstraw Middle School.
AVIS COLLIER SHELBY, PRINCIPAL, HAVERSTRAW MIDDLE SCHOOL: Your cell phones are supposed to be where? Yes. In your locker, not in class.
FEYERICK (voice-over): But class is exactly where they end up. According to the Pew Research Center, even in schools that ban cell phone use, nearly 60 percent of all students admit texting during class, a growing problems in schools across the country.
ROBIN NOVELLI, PRINCIPAL, BAYSIDE HIGH SCHOOL: Why are you so addicted to this technology -- ?
FEYERICK (voice-over): At Bayside High School in Florida, students risk being suspended if their phone is confiscated more than once. So far this year, 200 kids have had their phones taken away.
NOVELLI: Students need to be fully, 100 percent authentically engaged in the classroom, and pulling out a cell phone and texting their friends about whatever it is they might be talking about is not the learning environment that I as a principal want to promote.
FEYERICK (voice-over): And despite that zero tolerance policy --
NOVELLI: We still, daily, collect cell phones from students that have them out when they're supposed to be learning in the classroom.
MICHAEL RICH, DIRECTOR, CENTER ON MEDIA AND CHILD HEALTH: I don't think we're going to stop the tsunami.
FEYERICK (voice-over): But pediatrician and media expert Michael Rich says, the reality is, kids use more than seven hours of media a day. Depriving them of it could backfire.
RICH: Pandora's box is open here. The technologies are here. What we need to do is take control of them instead of letting them control us.
SHELBY: You can't put the genie back in the bottle. The cell phones are here.
FEYERICK (voice-over): At Haverstraw Middle School --
RONALD ROYSTER, TEACHER: All right, guys. Turn on your MLDs again, please.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Teachers like Ronald Royster have decided, if you can't beat them, join them.
ROYSTER: It's not really a phone, it's their computer for class.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The school handed out 75 cell phones to fifth graders as part of a unique pilot program.
ROYSTER: Click on Ellis Island.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Texting and calling features are disabled, and internet sites are filtered. Phones are used for things like note-taking and research.
For 11-year-olds Kiara, Ryan, and Nia, learning is different now.
FEYERICK (on camera): When did you make a movie? Did you make a movie during homeroom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: No, this was actually in math. It was about decimals. You can synch it, which means that the teachers will get it, and they can grade you on it.
FEYERICK: So it really is helping reinforce the lessons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: Because we're, like -- we're memorizing things so much easier on here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: It's almost like you want to look at the screen. It's almost like a mini TV, where you're, like, you want to look at it. You don't want to go look at a piece of paper.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The district superintendent says dollar for dollar, buying phones is more efficient than new computers.
FEYERICK (on camera): There are some educators who just say these should not be in school. What is your response to them?
ILEANA ECKERT, SUPERINTENDENT, HAVERSTRAW-STONY POINT CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT: I think we're in the middle of a new revolution. It's part of who they are today. And why not use something in a positive way that they're bringing with them?
FEYERICK (voice-over): As for these fifth graders --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: I actually started texting less when I've had this. Now that I have this, it's kind of more fun to go on the internet on this and experiment with it when I'm home instead of sitting there texting all day, like, doing nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: It's, like, bye phone.
FEYERICK (on camera): The kids we spoke with say their grades went up last year because of the mobile devices. The superintendent says, for the cost of a single computer locked away in a lab, she could hand out mobile devices to an entire class so kids of all income levels would have access to the latest technology and guidance on how to use it best. Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.
ANDERSON: All right, I want to do more on this. Let's take a look at some of the stats first about kids and mobile phones. In the US, three fourths, or three quarters of all teenagers have their own cell phone. More than half of all teens send text messages every day, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day.
In the UK, young people tend to use their phones for things other than talking, such as texting, e-mail, and internet browsing. Nearly half say they access content or send e-mails on their phone, compared to just 23 percent, or about a quarter of adults. And young smartphone owners use ten apps a day, which is double the national average.
In Hong Kong, 87 percent of young people own a mobile phone. They spend an average of 57 minutes a day talking on it, but only 15 percent of teens there surf the internet on their phones,
So it does vary across the road. My next guest believes that mobile technology can be put to good use in the classroom and believes that, far from running children's ability -- or ruining, sorry -- children's ability to write, sending abbreviated text messages can actually strengthen their literacy skills.
Sharon Washington is the executive director of the National Writing Project, an initiative which is, well, it's about improving literacy in schools across 50 US states, and she joins me now from Berkeley, California.
My mum would be with you. She's taught English as a second language all her life, and she would say as long as kids are communicating, let them do it. But really, when it comes to OMG, WN, R, U -- is that really good for our literacy standards?
SHARON WASHINGTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL WRITING PROJECT: I would say that having students text or young people text is actually really good because it's asking them to communicate in a written format.
I recognize that it's very casual and informal, but I think that -- we see young people today talking, certainly, in casual language that they wouldn't necessarily talk to their teachers or their parents or their grandparents. And now, they're actually taking a sort of verbal casual language and putting it into their writing.
ANDERSON: Is it --
WASHINGTON: But they certainly understand the difference between doing it casually with their friends versus doing it in an academic or a school setting or a workplace.
ANDERSON: And that's what's important, isn't it? Because I was expecting Deborah Feyerick's report to effectively say that cell phones are a distraction during lessons, that they should be banned in use during classroom time, and that they are no good so far as the kids are concerned.
I can tell you, my 18-year-old nephew, I think probably texts as many as 150 or 200 texts a day. There's nothing wrong with his literacy standards. So, are you advocating the use of mobile technology more in the classroom, or less?
WASHINGTON: I would actually say that I'm trying to encourage digital technology in the classroom, whether it be a mobile device, or a laptop. Doesn't really matter. I think it's really about giving students the skills and the experience to learn how to use these mobile devices or digital media devices, both for their own education, but also in terms of future work.
I think that just thinking of it as totally a toy for entertainment is the wrong message.
ANDERSON: So what are you doing to harness the power of mobile technology, or digital technology in the classroom. What's the project all about? What are we going to see at the end of it?
WASHINGTON: One of the things that we've begun to see already is that young people's writing achievement scores are actually increasing because of the ways that the teachers in the National Writing Project are really engaging with, how do we look at digital media today and how it is used today in ways that are very effective and necessary in today's workplace? And certainly in terms of school.
ANDERSON: Give us some examples, very briefly.
WASHINGTON: Very briefly, we've got a book that's coming out in November called "Because Digital Writing Matters," which actually looks at the ways that some teachers in classrooms are using things like digital tools.
So, one reason is -- one way is looking at podcasting. And we're seeing that students -- fourth grade students in Philadelphia, who primarily in this particular classroom are English language learners, are using podcasting, whether it be with their telephones or with the internet, or recorders and then posting them. And they are learning how to sort of write the text for their science projects in terms of really being able to distill what do they want to say.
And because it's technology, they're excited about it. They're really engaged.
WASHINGTON: And so the students want to do it.
ANDERSON: Oh, I'm enjoying this immensely, but we're going to have to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Come back and talk to us again when you have more on the project. Sharon Washington for you tonight on something that we -- well, I guess we've all just got to understand is happening around us. And the kids are just doing it.
You got -- got in touch with us and we listened. All this week, we are bringing back the best of your Connectors of the Day. Up next by popular request, the journalist and commentator who is descended from a distinguished line of Pakistani politicians. That coming up.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Born into Pakistan's most famous dynasty, Fatima Bhutto's life has always been under scrutiny. But that hasn't stopped her from being an outspoken political journalist and commentator. As the granddaughter of Zulfikar Bhutto, the founder of the Pakistani People's Party, Fatima's personality and background has led many Pakistanis to see her as a future party leader.
But she's had issues with other family members. She was highly critical of her aunt, Benazir, before her assassination in 2007, accusing her of corruption and of trying to hijack democracy.
In her new memoir, "Songs of Blood and Sword," Bhutto describes what it's like to be part of the influential yet tragic Bhutto clan.
From political heiress to independent scribe, Fatima Bhutto is your Connector of the Day.
ANDERSON: Connector of the Day is your part of the show, of course, and when we asked you who you wanted to hear from again, Waqas Malik took us up on the offer and requested journalist and commentator Fatima Bhutto.
I caught up with her much earlier this year, and let me say, it was well before the Pakistan floods, so you won't hear any discussion of that. I did, though, ask her why she called her new book the title "Songs of Blood and Sword."
FATIMA BHUTTO, AUTHOR, "SONGS OF BLOOD AND SWORD": Well, the title comes from an Iranian poet who I've always followed and admired who was executed by the Shah's regime for his criticisms of the state and the violence of the state.
And there is a lot of blood in Pakistan. There is a lot of blood in this family. Zulfikar, my grandfather's name, means "the sword of Ali." So I thought there were some interesting parallels there.
ANDERSON: Some questions from the viewers. Judith from the Netherlands says, "do politics inspire your work and writing? And if so, is your writing the way you contribute to your political family?
BHUTTO: Yes. I think writing is the way that I contribute to politics, rather than to my family. But I think it's people that inspire me to write. Because politics is always going to be violent and corrupt and dirty, I think, no matter where we're looking at it. But how people survive it and how people live through it is what I find interesting.
ANDERSON: The politics of your family, of course, extremely violent.
BHUTTO: Yes, extremely.
BHUTTO: Well, my grandfather was executed in 1979 by a military regime. His youngest son, Shahnawaz, was killed six years later in mysterious circumstances that have never been solved. My father was killed outside our home in 1996. And Benazir, the most public or most famous member of the family, was killed in 2007.
ANDERSON: You're still seeking justice for the murder of your dad. What are you doing to that end?
BHUTTO: We've been fighting in the courts for the last 14 years in Pakistan, and all the courts have done is delay the process of justice. They've acquitted all the policemen involved in the case and basically told us that nobody killed my father and six of his associates.
So we're appealing. We continue to seek justice through the courts. But also through memory. Through protest, and I think that's what "Songs of Blood and Sword" is, in part.
ANDERSON: Your father was a political rival of your Aunt Benazir. She was, of course, assassinated in 2007. Was the recent investigation by the UN sufficient, do you think?
BHUTTO: I don't see how the UN investigation could be sufficient without a forensic crime scene, which was washed up in the aftermath of Benazir's killing. There was no autopsy conducted, and her body was not exhumed. So how the UN feels able to tell us anything about how she was killed is surprising to me.
ANDERSON: Khaled Anwar of Pakistan says you've got the talent and courage of the Bhuttos and you're the real torch-bearer of the family. What's your response to this? He says, "Do you consider stepping into a more prominent political role?"
BHUTTO: Oh, I think I'm prominent enough. I wouldn't want to get more prominent.
ANDERSON: Not everybody agrees with your views in the family, let's be honest.
BHUTTO: Let's be honest. In the country, let's also say. I think to speak out the way I do against the corruption of the state and the violence of the state, you need total freedom. And joining politics would take away that freedom. You become indebted and obliged, and imbedded in a certain way.
ANDERSON: Keira from New York says, "What is, then," if you don't want to be a politician necessarily, "what is your vision for the future of Pakistan?"
BHUTTO: That's a very big question. Pakistan is only 63 years young this year. But I hope, at least, as a young Pakistani, that we can not only bring about transparency and accountability into a country that has been plagued by corruption and political incompetence, but also in the truest sense of the word, a participatory democracy, where your name doesn't matter. Where people represent areas they live in.
So more than just a representative democracy, but a truly participatory one, and one where women and minorities are safe, are protected by the law, which is currently not the case.
ANDERSON: Ryan has written in. He asks how you overcame the hard times that your family saw, what you saw. And I guess that begs the question, how difficult was it to write the book?
BHUTTO: I'm very lucky to have a very loving mother and two brothers. And it was really that source of support and love, really, that I think saw us all through very difficult times.
Getting through the book was a different story, because it involves digging into a family that was very difficult. Digging into things that have happened to the family that have been and still are shrouded. I had to play private investigator a lot of the time and trace people around the globe.
But it needed to be done, I think, with our memories being as short as they are. Not just in Pakistan, but around the world. And our countries being as silent as they are. There is a great imposition of silence in south Asia. Not just Pakistan again, but Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal. And to combat that silence is difficult, but I think it has to be done.
ANDERSON: You're Connector of the Day today, Fatima Bhutto. We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.
ANDERSON: Just before we leave you tonight, I want to share with you a few comments that you've been making about our top stories this week. On the urgent cry for help for Pakistan's flood victims, just a little of what you've been saying.
Charlieblu says, "We need to search our conscience and stop supporting countries around the world that don't take care of their people. So people need to stop having so many kids," he said. "I had the children I could only afford. None."
You've also been busy tweeting me about my question of the day today on Afghanistan. If you found mineral wealth -- Let me start that again. If you found mineral wealth, help or hinder to a country? Here's just a few of the responses coming in on the Twitter today.
Fishu (ph) says, "No, unless America stops fighting them with their land and resources." And Keira in New York said, "Both. It has the potential to help them monetarily, while opportunistic people will hinder them by trying to take advantage."
Contact me on Twitter, the address is @beckycnn. Those were tweets on our top story of the day today, which is the million or the trillion dollars below the ground in Afghanistan, is that going to be good or bad news.
I'm Becky Anderson in London. That's it from this show. You are connected. "BackStory" is next right after this check of the headlines.