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CONNECT THE WORLD
Unrest in Haiti; Will Ireland Get a Bailout?; Urban Planet: Cities and the Brain
Aired November 17, 2010 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, HOST: Violent protests on the streets of Haiti's second largest city. Demonstrators say U.N. peacekeepers caused the cholera outbreak that's claimed 1,000 lives. Tonight, aid agencies tell us how they're stuck in the middle of a political rift as supplies are held up and lives are lost.
Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.
The very people who are coordinating a global effort to save Haiti are being accused of causing that country's cholera outbreak.
I'm Max Foster in London with the story and its ramifications.
You can get involved in the story. Head to our Facebook page. We'll read your comments later in the program.
Also tonight, we take you to a town on the border of three countries. Its people consider themselves Syrian, but many also have Israeli passports and now part of the town will be handed to Lebanon.
Ireland's fiscal future is on the line in Brussels today. We ask why the Eurozone needs to deal with the problem.
And our week long look at urban cities. Tonight, how science proves that the hustle and bustle of the metropolis is bad for your brain.
That is CNN in the next 60 minutes.
Now, it's the last thing Haiti needs right now with the cholera outbreak increasing its grip on the country. Aid workers were already facing an uphill battle. Now, their task has become even harder. Take a look at this scene from today. Doctors say more than 2,000 people arrived at this center overnight desperate for treatment. The three days of violent clashes in Haiti's second biggest city have halted deliveries of medical supplies and left patients untreated.
Ivan Watson has more.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what you see when you land at Cap-Haitien -- smoke from burning tires. And a tail fin of your pilot's plane, who's eager to leave as fast as possible.
The United Nations peacekeepers normally stationed here are nowhere to be seen.
As for the Haitian police: "The police have taken off their uniforms and put on civilian clothes," says this airport worker. "The people got angry and burned police stations on Monday so the police have to protect themselves."
Locals say the protesters have blocked all the roads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they burn tower -- tires in the road so he don't let nobody pass.
WATSON: So we improvised.
(on camera): This is the only way we can really get into town, because all automobile traffic has been blocked. So we've got our gear and our team piled up on this convoy of motorbikes.
(voice-over): Roads leading into the city blocked by burning tires, torched cars and even a coffin. Machete wielding locals patrol the streets. Scenes of chaos less than two weeks before Haiti is supposed to hold presidential elections.
(on camera): We've seen some crowds of young men out in the street. We're told that they're protesting against the U.N. peacekeepers. They want them to leave Haiti and Cap-Haitien. They blame them for the cholera epidemic in this country.
(voice-over): The peacekeepers can do little more for now than put out fires and face-off against an angry population terrified by the deadliest cholera epidemic to hit Haiti in more than half a century.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got so much people sick right now. So the people are very, very, very, very scared about the cholera and now.
WATSON: The U.N. peacekeepers are effectively under siege -- targeted by angry locals who almost went after us.
The protesters are mostly armed with rocks and bottles. They clearly control most of the streets right now. As the sun set on a second day of riots, teargas and smoke from dozens of fires continues to rise over Haiti's second largest city.
Ivan Watson, CNN.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, American health authorities say the type of cholera spreading across Haiti is similar to a strain that was found in South Asia. Haitian demonstrators point the finger of blame at U.N. peacekeeping forces from Nepal.
Let's cross now to our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, who's in New York -- Richard, what sort of response has the U.N. given to this?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: The United Nations is saying it's too early to blame the UN. They are saying -- well, they're not denying anything, but they are saying that all testing so far - - three different kinds of tests -- have not turned up any proof that the Nepalese soldiers -- peacekeepers -- are responsible for the spread of cholera in Haiti.
The United Nations is saying that, in effect, it is trying to help the people of Haiti to keep a stable environment during a hot political campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY U.N. SPOKESMAN: What we are trying to do is to assist the Haitian authorities, including the Haitian national police, to make sure that the elections can be held in as smooth and as peaceful an atmosphere as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: A United Nations official in Haiti is saying that these demonstrations are really politically motivated, that they are, quote, "well organized, well armed and well coordinated" and that they're using the U.N. as an easy, big target that is seen as helping a, quote, "unpopular government."
Now, also adding fuel to this story, Max, there's a Swedish newspaper report today which quotes Sweden's ambassador to Haiti as saying he was told that it is the fault of the Nepalese peacekeepers, that he was told that, unfortunately, it is due to a -- that it's been proven that cholera came from Nepal.
The Swedish foreign ministry, which CNN talked to today, confirmed the interview comments, but couldn't confirm whether Nepal was really responsible.
The U.N. has no comment on the Swedish newspaper report -- Max.
FOSTER: Richard, thank you for joining us then from the UN.
The cholera outbreak has already killed 1,100 people and affected thousands more.
So how is the violence affecting the work of the aid agencies on the ground there?
Well, earlier, I put that question to Oxfam's head of mission in Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren.
ROLAND VAN HAUWERMEIREN, HEAD OF MISSION, OXFAM: It has absolutely affected our cholera response. As we started to set up the operational response, we wanted to cover at least 300,000 people starting Monday by distributing chlorine. We couldn't do any step out.
In addition to that, we wanted to do our health promotion, looking at the water sources, cleaning latrines in school and common buildings. And we couldn't go out.
But the time factor in this cholera crisis is crucial. We don't have even a figure, if there is an increase. But we fear that this unrest and the low response, as being the only water and sanitation organization, might have lethal results.
So we are fearing that every day, every minute it's going on we'll be in a disadvantage of the affected people.
FOSTER: But, also, you're worried about your staff, I presume, getting caught up in this and being confused with U.N. workers.
So at what point do you pull your people out and give up on the operation altogether?
VAN HAUWERMEIREN: The permanent -- and you said it correctly -- this is the permanent dilemma of NGO workers. I have to make a choice between trying to save the lives of thousands of people and putting my staff at risk.
So far, due to some experience here in country, we can delegate some tasks to national staff members for simple tasks of the distribution.
But we made our cars quite visible in this sense, that Oxfam logos are put on everywhere. We had one incident on the roadblock until now, when we tried to get out. They left us.
But, yes, indeed, there is always a small risk that we can be mixed up with some U.N. people.
FOSTER: Is it a frustration to you that some people in Haiti are causing others problems because they're disrupting an effort to solve Haiti's problems?
VAN HAUWERMEIREN: I'm happy that you raised this. Yes, this is a real concern. We are in an earthquake affected country with a weak government structure. And in addition comes this cholera crisis. We think to know or we suspect that there are some actors who want, really, a destabilization in this weak atmosphere.
It is absolutely frustrating that the population has not the possibility -- the majority of the population has not the majority to convince some individual actors that whatever they do will disrupt the stabilization. But certainly avoid that life-saving support is brought to their brothers and sisters. And this is really frustrating. And we don't find with whom to talk in order that we, at least, could do our work.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: The head of mission for Oxfam in Haiti, speaking to me a little earlier on then.
Well, authorities in neighboring countries are also watching the cholera outbreak closely. One case has already been reported in the Dominican Republic from a Haitian worker that recently crossed the border.
And in the USA, a woman in Florida has also tested positive for the disease after returning from a visit to Haiti.
You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Still to come, crisis talks for Ireland -- the auditors are flying in.
It is another step closer -- is it another step closer to a bailout?
And then, deserted streets in Mexico -- we'll tell you why residents have fled, turning their home into a ghost town.
FOSTER: Ireland is standing firm on its refusal to request a bailout.
But can the debt-laden nation really afford to turn away rescue?
Well, that's the question European Union officials want answered. They're sending a team of auditors to Ireland on Thursday to look through the books to see if the country has enough cash to pay the debt on its battered banking sector.
If not, the E.U. and the IMF are ready to extend their hand.
After a meeting in Brussels, financial leaders spoke of the need for solidarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLLI REHN, E.U. ECONOMIC AND MONETARY COMMISSIONER: We need to act in unity. Every nation is responsible for its own economic sustainability. But we must collectively defend the financial stability of the E.U. as a whole when it is at stake. And this is a time for cool heads and -- and clear determination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE OSBORNE, BRITISH FINANCE MINISTER: We're going to do what is in Britain's national interests. Now, Ireland is our closest neighbor and it's in Britain's national interests that the Irish economy is successful and we have a stable banking system. So Britain stands ready to support Ireland in the steps that it needs to take to bring about that stability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, the crisis is also impacting on the population of Ireland. More than 65,000 people have left the country in the past year. Forty-two percent have been Irish nationals. Ireland is also losing its appeal to immigrants. The number of people settling from the E.U. 12 has dropped from a peak of more than 52,000 three years ago to less than 6,000 now. As a result, this year has seen the highest net emigration from the country since 1989.
Ireland has acknowledged it's facing a crisis, as far as it's agreed to open its books to the IMF and the EU, that scrutiny begins tomorrow.
For more on the likelihood of a bailout, I'm joined by former chief economist of the IMF, Ken Rogoff, in Boston.
Thank you so much for joining us, Ken.
I'm not an expert on these matters, you are.
KEN ROGOFF, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST, IMF: My pleasure.
FOSTER: But to me, if you look at the numbers, Ireland is bankrupt and needs a bailout.
What's the expert's view?
ROGOFF: They're in a tough corner. It's not easy to get away without one at this point. But they could last for a while -- I mean one month, three months. But ultimately, I do think they're going to have to turn to the European Stabilization Fund and the IMF for support.
And, by the way, when that comes, that's not the end of the story, because eventually, they have to repay that. And we could still see further restructuring in Ireland.
FOSTER: What happens when a country does go bankrupt?
Is it allowed to go bankrupt by the European Union, do you think?
ROGOFF: It happens all the time, even when they're not supposed to. So, certainly, I don't think it's quite as traumatic as it's painted. Most countries have gone through that. I've studied with Carmen Reinhart 800 years of financial crises and we've all been through them and we come out of them.
But certainly Ireland is in a classic one. So is Greece. So is Portugal. So is Spain. They're going to need help from the European Union and the IMF. That might prove enough. But it might take years before we're sure of that.
FOSTER: Everyone seems to know that they're going to end up with a bailout.
So what do you think European politicians, particularly Irish politicians, are claiming that it's not going to happen and that things are going to be fine?
They keep talking about how they've got enough money to get into next year.
ROGOFF: Well, there are two things.
First, Ireland wants to maintain its sovereignty. When you come under an IMF program or now, a European Union program, you have to meet their conditions and they're very fundamental -- tax increases, what happens to government spending. And I think the IMF, in particular, tries to take a light hand, but it's not easy.
Europe, on -- on the other hand, they're worried that whatever they do in Ireland sets an example everywhere else. And so they're trying to fumble for a framework. And honestly, they don't have one.
FOSTER: Aren't Irish politicians also holding out for an agreement, which is probably being done behind the scenes, and they don't want to unsettle Irish residents and start a run on the banks?
ROGOFF: Yes, maybe so. You certainly don't want to have this play out in slow motion for a long time. The crisis is clearly picking up steam and you mentioned people leaving Ireland, not just money.
The big problem is the economy is not growing. And with all the tightening that they're going to need, it's not growing for a while. You just can't go through that year -- year on year. You can do it for six months, nine months. But it's just been a long time. And that's what they're struggling with.
Ireland wants conditions where it can grow. That's what they're bargaining for.
FOSTER: And just very quickly, how long do you think until this bailout is announced or agreed?
ROGOFF: Boy, you know, it could be in two days, it could be in two months, it could be in a year. I do think we'll ultimately see it.
FOSTER: OK, Ken Rogoff, thank you very much, indeed.
Coming up, stress in the city -- as part of our Urban Planet week, we look at how living in a city can hurt your brain. And we ask one expert what you can do to reduce some of the negative effects.
Plus, the tale of a complicated town -- the Ghajar used to be in Syria, then occupied by Israel, now part of it could change hands again and many residents aren't pleased.
FOSTER: Many cities around the world are bursting at the seams. So all this week, CNN is looking at what's been done to create better lives for the increasing numbers of city dwellers.
Our Urban Planet week kicked off in Lagos in Nigeria, where finding a public toilet can be tricky, but one local entrepreneur is bringing relief to many with his mobile toilet business.
Then, we headed to Rio de Janeiro, where two Dutch artists are bringing color to a neighborhood that has seen some pretty dark times.
Whatever city you do live in, if you do live in a city, well, life can be very stressful. And researchers believe that can have a direct impact on our brains.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from Kobe in Japan, where the World Health Organization is wrapping up its global forum on urbanization and health.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Life in the concrete jungle -- that's what they call it. And if you live in a city, you're probably used to something like this. The problem is with so many different distractions, it's very hard to focus on one particular thing. It's called control perception -- toggling back and forth between so many things. And it can leave you feeling mentally exhausted.
There's no question that living in a city has a lot of advantages. Shops can be open all hours of the day, you can buy things. There's also lots of cultural attractions. And what are finding more and more is that all of that comes with a price. And there's an impact on the brain, as well.
In fact, here in Japan, it's a big topic of discussion. They're talking about the fact that mental illness is one of the biggest health problems here and they attribute it to this complex, high tech environment. The suicide rate here in Japan -- no secret -- is among the highest in the world.
And the thing is that more people live in cities than ever before and they're living in cities longer than ever. So all of this is expected to get worse. And here's why. All that stimulation, well, it can cause spikes to the stress hormone known as cortisol. And, as a result, it can be very difficult for the brain to hold things in memory, reduce your self- control, dull your thinking. It may even speed up cognitive decline -- just from living in a city. Think of it as your brain more rapidly aging.
But here's the part I like in all this -- getting away from the stress associated with the chaos of a big city can be as simple as finding a place like this. In fact, recent studies have shown just glimpses of green areas can make a huge difference in your overall cognitive function. It makes you less distracted, less stressed and more relaxed. In fact, just a few minutes away from bustling Kobe, Japan, we found this place. It's a very old park. A lot of people come here for a few minutes a day. There are shrines. And there are good opportunities to find green space. And that really seems to be the key -- find green spaces in your city and make sure to use them as much as possible.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, one city with a lot of green space is Johannesburg in South Africa. But for one area of the city, it wasn't always that way.
CNN's Robyn Curnow now on a township going green.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind the razor wire, in stark contrast to the rest of Madlala Street (ph) in Soweto, a little garden is tended with love by Alice Nyakaza and her son, Timba (ph). "I did the garden because when the people walk here, they must see something beautiful," she says.
Soweto township was built by the apartheid authorities to house black South Africans, who were not allowed to live in Johannesburg's white suburbs. For decades barren and treeless, Soweto was, and, in many ways, remains a startling comparison to the oldest suburbs of Johannesburg, which are just a few kilometers away.
(on camera): Here in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, there are about 10 million trees, according to the city council. So many of them, in fact, that Johannesburg is one of the world's largest urban frosts.
(voice-over): Recently, though, the authorities have been planting more trees in neighboring Soweto -- 200,000 in the last five years. But the greening program was difficult to implement at first, says Reggie Maloyi of Johannesburg's city parks.
REGGIE MALOYI, JOHANNESBURG CITY PARKS: It's in the thousands -- (INAUDIBLE) where we planted our trees. A lot of times we find that the trees have been pulled down and all. And normally it's little children, because the trees are still very young. They will be walking past and just pull on a branch, because they are still very tiny. So for us to come here and actually educate them and make them aware of the importance of trees.
CURNOW: For now, before the council plants trees -- 20,000 a year is now the aim -- they educate the township's youngsters, like Emmanuel Phofolo, on why trees are a good thing.
EMMANUEL PHOFOLO, STUDENT: The trees give us shade and they also give us oxygen and they produce medicine and papers and textiles.
CURNOW: The Soweto greening initiative is not just about planting any old tree anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Notice I didn't carry it with the stick, right?
You cut it and pull the whole thing up.
CURNOW: After some initial planting mistakes, the city council now ensures they don't plant tree species with deep root systems, which they found by trial and error damaged underground water and sewage pipes.
Weather, of course, also plays a part in what is planted.
MALOYI: And I think that we're getting on easier to say is this tree the right tree for this area?
Because we then, from this area, we are saying before we identify a -- to an area to plant a tree, we send our tree specialists to come and test the soil for us and tell us what kind of a tree will survive in this area, because Johannesburg hasn't got the same climactic conditions. When you go to the south, during the winter, there's too much frost there, unlike when you come up from the north. So that's all those things that they eventually come up in the years that we've been planting now.
CURNOW: And down in Madlala Street, Alice and Timba (ph) continue to prove to their neighbors that a beautiful garden is not just for the wealthy.
Robyn Curnow, CNN, Soweto, South Africa.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, beautiful gardens and green space don't just make a city look good. In fact, nature is good for the brain, just as much as cities can have a negative impact, as Sanjay was saying a little earlier. That's according to a study, as well, by the University of Michigan.
For more on this, I'm joined by the author, Jonah Lehrer, who's also a contributing editor at "Wired" magazine. He's written recently on this very subject, in fact.
Just tell us about your research on -- on -- on -- on the impact of the brain of living in a city and what you found.
JONAH LEHRER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "WIRED" MAGAZINE: This is a study done by researchers at the University of Michigan. And it was a very simple study that basically had two groups of people. One group had to walk down the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The other group got to walk for two miles in a park. Then they brought everyone back to the lab and gave them a battery of cognitive tests.
And what they found is that the people who had to walk for two miles in a city performed worse on just about every test they could give them. They had a worse working memory. They had a tougher time paying attention. They were in a worse mood. And their explanation is pretty straightforward, that walking in a city is pretty tough on the brain. You've got to not get hit by cars. You've got to not bump into other people. You've got to resist the smell of French fries -- all those little mundane tasks take a toll on our brain. They draw down what are called our cognitive resources.
And so when we get home, when we're in the lab, it's tougher to pay attention. It's tougher to be in a good mood.
FOSTER: But does that, in a way, keep your brain stimulated, as well, so longer-term, perhaps, it helps your brain?
LEHRER: Well, those long-term studies have yet to have been done. And -- and that's a really important point, because, obviously, there's other data showing that people do become more productive in cities, we have more ideas, we make more money. That's why people move to the city in the first place.
But I think at a daily level, in our day to day lives, I think it's pretty clear that walking in the city, walking down a busy thoroughfare is an unnatural state for the brain to exist in. And it -- and it requires a lot of work. It's work we're often not even aware of, but I think this research demonstrates that we should be aware of it. We should take it into account and -- and find ways to relax ourselves, find ways to restore the brain, to -- to make sure we actually walk in a park.
FOSTER: Yes, so just take us through the practical solutions to this, because people live in cities because they have to.
LEHRER: Absolutely. And -- and the good news is the practical solutions are fairly easy. You know, it's sometimes as simple as making sure you, you know, spend a little time looking at a tree or a lawn, any kind of greenery seems to restore the same mechanisms which are depleted by a busy city street.
So if you walk down Fifth Avenue in New York City, make sure you spend a little time in Central Park. It's often as simple as that. In fact, these researchers found that simply looking at pictures of nature -- so just a photograph of a national park, of a beautiful natural setting, could actually restore the same brain mechanisms that are depleting by the city street.
FOSTER: Jonah Lehrer, thank you very much, indeed, for that.
A bit of green does you some good, it seems.
Now, coming up, residents of a disputed border town say they don't want a Berlin Wall, as they call it, dividing their community. They're upset that Israel has tentatively agreed to withdraw from parts of the town and give it to Lebanon.
They say it belongs to neither.
That story straight ahead.
FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, we'll head to a village with a serious identity crisis to find out why people are worried it'll be split in two.
Then, we're off to a Mexican town where residents have fled altogether over fear of attack.
And later, we'll bring your questions to one of the world's top models, Agyness Deyn. Find out what she has to say about fashion, football, and her future.
All those stories ahead in the show for you, but first, we're going to check on the headlines this hour.
Aid agencies are calling for calm in Haiti's second-largest city, where angry demonstrators are accusing UN peacekeepers of responsibility for a cholera outbreak. Protestors set a police station on fire in Cap Haitien, as well as cars and tires. Authorities have suspended commercial flights to the city.
Germany security threat level is at the highest level it's been since last year's elections, and extra measures have been taken. The country's interior minister says there's concrete evidence of planned attacks against the public transportation sector later this month.
Alleged international arms dealer Viktor Bout has pleaded not guilty to four terror-related charges in New York. He arrived in the US on Tuesday after being extradited from Thailand. In a sting operation, Bout allegedly agreed to sell millions of dollars in weapons to Colombia's FARC rebels.
The UN drew the boundaries for a disputed border town and, now, Israel appears willing to comply. The residents who will be most affected by the changes say, "Nobody asked us."
Israel's security cabinet has agreed to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, a town that sits on the Lebanese border. If the pullout goes through, UN troops would patrol the northern half, and Israeli troops the southern. Locals fear that will split the town in two, creating a new type of Berlin Wall.
Further complicating the story, many residents say their town belongs to neither Israel nor Lebanon, but to Syria. Ghajar was, indeed, Syrian territory until Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967. Paula Hancocks explains why many residents prefer the status quo to the UN partition plan.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scenery is stunning. The way of life is slow. It may look idyllic, but this village of al Ghajar is nestled in the hills of one of the most tense areas in the world, where Israel, Syria, and Lebanon meet.
These residents consider themselves Syrian, they hold Israeli citizenship, and now, under a UN plan, about half of the town would be handed to Lebanon.
HANCOCKS (on camera): Here in the middle of this road is where the United Nations decided to mark the border in the year 2000, when Israel left Lebanon. Now, if they decide this will be the border, on the northern side of this village is where most of the residents live, and on the southern side is where most of the amenities are, which means the school children may have to go through a checkpoint just to get to school.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): The UN drew a straight line where the border would be based on a map from 1923, and it wants its peacekeepers, clearly visible just a few meters across the border in Lebanon, to take control of northern Ghajar from Israel. But the details are yet to be hammered out.
Najeeb Al-Khatib, the official village spokesman, says the UN is ignoring actual facts on the ground that residents are of Syrian descent, not Lebanese. He tells me --
NAJEEB AL-KHATIB, GHAJAR SPOKESMAN (through translator): "We demand, today, the return of our Ghajar village, with both parts, north and south, as one village with all its land to Syria."
HANCOCKS (voice-over): Tawfeeq Al-Khatib has lived in Ghajar his whole life, 66 years. He shows me his Syrian ID card from before 1967, when Israel occupied the Golan Heights, including his village. He also served in the Syrian military. He says --
TAWFEEQ AL-KHATIB, GHJAJAR RESIDENT (through translator): We won't accept this. It's not fair. You cannot divide us like this." He says, "My daughter and my sister are living on the south side. How will I ever see them if the division happens?"
HANCOCKS (voice-over): The residents chose to accept Israeli citizenship in the 1980s in the hopes they would be returned to Syria in any future Israeli-Syrian peace deal.
Officials maintain life will change little here under the plan, but residents are not convinced. For now, if the UN does give half of the village to Lebanon, this cow would have a hoof in two countries. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Ghajar, the Golan Heights.
FOSTER: Well, Israel is also wrestling with another contentious issue, and that is whether to accept a US plan for getting peace talks with Palestinians back on track. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the proposal with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, and the US wants Israel to adopt another temporary freeze on settlement construction in return for incentives that reportedly include the sale of 20 advanced warplanes.
A key question is whether that freeze would include building in East Jerusalem. If so, some of Mr. Netanyahu's cabinet members say they will not approve it. If it does not, Palestinian leaders have suggested the whole proposal is a non-starter.
Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to change facts on the ground by seizing more land they say belongs in a future Palestinian state before final status talks can resolve borders. Our next guest, though, says the whole settlement issue is overblown and misunderstood.
Elliott Abrams supervised US policy in the Middle East for the administration of former president George W. Bush. He is now with the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you so much for joining us on the program today.
As far as what you understand about the talks between Netanyahu and Clinton, the most recent ones have been going, do you see an area there for agreement? And if so, where is it?
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I don't see an area for agreement yet. There's a lot of confusion, obviously. Both sides are quite unhappy with where things stand today. The Palestinians are saying, "Look, is it possible that the United States is going to say 'we don't really care about construction in Jerusalem, if you'll just extend for 60 days.'"
The Israelis are wondering about these sweeteners, which include, for example, vetoing anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council. They've always assumed the United States would do that without having to do a 90- day construction freeze.
So, there remains a lot of confusion about what Secretary Clinton offered. And she is now, apparently, moving back a little bit in the sense that it's one thing to offer private assurances. It's quite another to be asked to put them in writing. And Netanyahu is now asking her to put them in writing so that he can present them to his cabinet.
FOSTER: And that's --
ABRAMS: It's a mess.
FOSTER: Yes. And that's going to be the really tough bit, isn't it? For Netanyahu, then, to sell this to his cabinet. Explain to us, if you can, the real problem for him when he goes to that cabinet, and the really difficult part when it comes to these settlements.
ABRAMS: Well, he's got a difficulty that is reminiscent of Sharon's. It's not so much the entire Israeli political scene, it's the Likud Party. The difficulty Sharon had when he wanted to do Gaza disengagement was his own party -- and, ultimately, he broke up Likud and started the Kadima Party. What is left of Likud is an even more conservative party than the Likud Sharon dealt with.
So, Netanyahu has to worry about getting each vote within Likud, and then, from other coalition partners, and they're not going to -- they don't like the idea of another 90-day extension on a moratorium.
And they don't really see what they're getting from the United States. There were rumors about the 20 more jets but, again, if no one's willing to put it in writing, how can anyone be sure what it is? So, he probably, today, does not have the votes unless he can produce something from Secretary Clinton in writing.
FOSTER: And the suggestion is that he could get an extension if there's an agreement that that is the last extension, and then, the rebuilding can continue after that. But then, what does that mean for the Palestinians?
ABRAMS: That's exactly the problem. The Palestinians have, in fact, said in the last day or two, "Wait a minute. Do you mean that at the end of 90 days, the United States' position will be, OK, go ahead and build?"
I have to say, I think this whole settlement issue has been built into something it never was before by the Obama administration. Egypt and Jordan both signed peace agreements with Israel while construction in settlements was going on. Under Arafat and under Abbas, the Palestinians did negotiate while construction of settlements was going on.
President Abbas has said publicly, now, what he had previously said privately, that once the Obama administration said there cannot be a negotiation unless there's a construction freeze, he was pretty much cornered. How could he be less insistent, less Palestinian, if you will, than the Americans were being?
So he really cannot now say, "Well, we can live with a little bit of construction in the settlements." This mess was, really, created and imposed by the Obama administration, which has now been trying for near unto two years to get out of it. This 90-day extension with sweeteners is another effort to get out of it, and it doesn't look as if it's succeeding, at least not yet.
FOSTER: OK. Is there another get-out for Secretary Clinton, if it comes full circle and it goes back there and they have to negotiate again with Netanyahu?
ABRAMS: I think the way to do this is to get it off the front pages and to stop this idea that this is a great crisis. "Thirty days to doom, ninety days to doom, send Mitchell out." Stop talking about it so much. Get it back on page 20 or 30. Calm down, and then, maybe, step by step they can go back to the table.
FOSTER: Elliott Abrams, thank you very much, indeed, for giving us your perspective on that unbelievably complicated story, which just gets more and more difficult, it seems.
Now, drive through the streets and you'll se building after building after building deserted. We'll take you to one town in Mexico, next, where nobody wanted to become the latest statistic in a brutal drug war.
FOSTER: It started as a rumor, but in a country where drug violence takes thousands of lives a year, nobody wanted to leave it to chance. Rafael Romo tells us how one community in northern Mexico turned into a ghost town.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The road leading up to town, Highway 54, is empty, and so are buildings and homes on the outskirts. Windows are shattered at an abandoned gas station riddled with bullets.
This is Ciudad Mier in northern Mexico, a town across the Rio Grande. It used to have a population of 6500. There are no cars in downtown Ciudad Mier, and no people. Only deserted houses and bullet holes on the walls.
A mural of Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolution hero, has also been shot at. The town hall is also vacant, a torched business nearby begins to tell the story of why people have fled.
Ciudad Mier is located in the Mexican northern state of Tamaulipas, near the border, and close to Laredo and McAllen, Texas. The Gulf Cartel and the gang of mercenaries known as Los Zetas are engaged in a bloody turf war.
But what prompted people to flee in panic was a rumor that the Gulf Cartel was about to carry out the massacre in retaliation for the killing of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, one of their leaders, who was gunned down early this month by Mexican forces.
Four hundred fifty families are now staying in a shelter set up for them in Miguel Aleman, a nearby city. A Mexican news magazine calls it "the first refugee camp of the Mexican war against drug trafficking." The Mexican army has already sent 3,000 troops to regain control of the area.
FLORENTINO SAENZ-COBOS, STATE GOVERNMENT ENVOY (through translator): This is very difficult, because we're dealing with a war between two gangs. But the state government is trying to find a solution with the federal government. We're expecting that we should be able to have people back in their homes in a week.
ROMOS (on camera): Ciudad Mier is not just any town in the middle of nowhere. The Mexican government gave it the title of "Magic Town" three years ago because of its colonial past. The move was supposed to increase tourism to the area. But now, what was supposed to be a magic town is a ghost town. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
FOSTER: While Mexico has seen the most bloodshed, the effects of the drug war are spilling into Central America. More than 6,000 people were slain in Guatemala in 2008 as drug gangs like the Zetas set up training camps in the country's remote regions.
In Honduras, Mexican cartels have established smuggling routes and control centers for their cocaine shipments, and some 1600 people were killed in drug violence there last year.
And in El Salvador, which already has the highest murder rate of any Central American country, killings jumped 37 percent last year as warring drug gangs vie for territory.
We want to briefly return, now, to a story that led our newscast tonight, and that Haiti's cholera crisis. Violence has erupted in the disaster-struck country, with the locals hitting out at UN peacekeepers who they blame for the outbreak, which has claimed more than 1100 lives. The United Nations have strongly denied its people are responsible for the disease.
And we spoke with the chief of OxFam's Haiti operations, who's also just received statements from other charities, we have, at least.
PLAN International says, "We have been directly affected by the security situation today. There is a perfect storm brewing between the cholera outbreak coinciding with the election process."
The World Health Organization wrote in to say this. "All the roads are blocked. The airport is closed and completely blocked. The last shipment they received was over the weekend." We'll follow that for you.
Still to come, your Connector of the Day. She has worked with some of the biggest names in the fashion business. The Manchester girl who's made it onto the world stage. Agyness Deyn joins us, next.
FOSTER: "Vogue" magazine declared her one of the top models of the new millennium. If you don't know her name, you may well know her face. Let's get you connected now with the young lady who's strutting her stuff around the world.
FOSTER (voice-over): She's as famous for her hair changes as her costume changes, but for cover girl Agyness Deyn, fashion isn't just a day job. The British-born model worked a number of odd jobs in her youth, all in pursuit of her lifelong dream to walk the runway. And it didn't take long for the dream to come true.
Deyn was discovered as a teenager in London and quickly rose to become one of the fashion world's top models. At the age of 27, Deyn has headed up some of the most high-profile haute couture campaigns, including those of Jean Paul Gaultier and Giorgio Armani.
And this month, she's launched her own lifestyle website, entitled NAAG.com. She spoke to me about what she hoped to achieve by launching the site.
AGYNESS DEYN, BRITISH MODEL: Basically, it's all the stuff that we'd love to see. Kind of like -- I don't know, a big sister kind of figure to people that want to know -- because I know growing up myself, my brother, he used to play Happy Monday, Stone Roses, Oasis, all the Brit pop stuff. And I'd be like, "What is this?" So he'd be giving me his CDs and old records and magazines and stuff. So, that's how I got -- found what I liked.
All the stuff mainly has a humorous tone, and you kind of feel like you know the writer, because I always love reading pieces like that, where I kind of feel like I go into the person who's writing's head.
FOSTER (on camera): We've got lots of viewer questions for you.
FOSTER: Lulu asks, "Do you have a favorite designer to work with?"
DEYN: I don't know. The first designer that I ever worked for was Vivienne Westwood. That was the first ever fashion show I did. So that was a very monumental designer to work with, and especially with her being northern.
And then, over my career, working with John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier. And then, they seem so exotic to me, because you're working for them in Paris, and you're wearing these such couture gowns and it's nothing I'd ever done before.
FOSTER: I want to ask you, you say how inspired you are by these designers and these collections.
FOSTER: You were 13 years old working at a chip shop in Ramsbottom, I understand.
FOSTER: Your family had no background in fashion.
FOSTER: How did you get here, and what's it like being here?
DEYN: It's great being here. I -- yes, I worked in a chip shop, but every kid has part time jobs and everything. You always have dreams, and I was always such a big dreamer. And I always knew that there was something else, that I wanted to see stuff. Different places, different people, talk to different people.
And then, falling into fashion when I got spotted on the street in London was such a way to do that, because I got to travel and go to all these different -- like, India, China, Africa, America. I'd only really been in England and parts of Europe for a holiday with my parents --
FOSTER: You're living the dream.
DEYN: So, yes. It was -- at first, it was mind-blowing. And it still is.
FOSTER: Angie Lopez says, "Since most modeling careers don't last forever, do you have other interests you're keen on pursuing?" We've talked about the website, but I know you're interested in music as well, aren't you?
FOSTER: Some acting?
FOSTER: So, take us through the other things you'd like to d.
DEYN: I'm always open to anything. And, yes -- at the moment, my main focus is on this. But, yes, acting in the future is on the horizon. And --
FOSTER: You sung on records, haven't you?
DEYN: Yes, only for fun, though. I would never do it --
FOSTER: You're not going to go into that?
DEYN: No, no. I'll just do that every Friday night in the karaoke bar.
FOSTER: Casey M. asks, "Do you think the fashion world is healthier than it was ten years ago? Is the body image issue getting worse?"
DEYN: I think that when somebody -- it's so sad for, if you are going through something with body image. And sometimes I feel like it's not just started because of going into a job. I think it would have always been there.
FOSTER: Lulu again. She says, "Do you have a moment in your career that really sticks out to you?"
DEYN: Yes. I had just arrived in New York with my new agent in America. And I did a shoot with Steven Meisel, my first shoot with him. It was so flamboyant, like, the gowns and the makeup and. It was like Cabaret. It was just so amazing. So, that shoot.
FOSTER: A very different question, and it's from David Todd. I presume he's from Manchester, because he's asking, "Do you support Manchester City or Manchester United?" You could make some enemies, though, couldn't you?
DEYN: I know, I know. My whole family are United. So you kind of have to be, or else you get disowned. When you're in Manchester, you're one or -- you're red or you're blue. But a really good friend of mine, who is a major City supporter always -- like, for my birthday this year, he got me a huge poster of Noel and Liam in their City shirts.
FOSTER: The Oasis boys.
DEYN: Yes, yes, yes. So, yes. I think he's threatened to buy me a City kit.
FOSTER: Agyness Deyn, there. Well, tomorrow night, a musical collaboration. We've got two Connectors on the show for you. Joining forces for Pakistan's flood victims.
(MUSIC - "Open Your Eyes")
FOSTER: That's just a sample of the hit song by British rock legend Peter Gabriel and acclaimed Pakistani musician Salman Ahmad. The pair are getting together to raise money for the flood victim cause. They'll be with us tomorrow night. Remember, if you do have any questions for our Connectors or want to find out more about them, do have a look at our website, cnn.com/connect. You can fire your questions into us, find out more about our Connectors. Tonight, we'll be right back.
FOSTER: In our Parting Shots tonight, the global buzz surrounding Britain's royal engagement, in case you haven't noticed. First, let's take a look at how the happy news broke on television screens around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": The royal cam is up on the chopper today. That is a picture -- a live picture of Buckingham Palace in London, England. Of course, we are there today because there is big news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, IBN: Britain's Prince William is all set to get married next year. He got engaged during a private holiday with his longtime girlfriend, Kate Middleton, in Kenya. The wedding will take place in spring or summer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, GEO TV: (Speaking in Urdu.)
PETER MANSBRIDGE, CBC CORRESPONDENT: Prince William, second in line to the British throne, future head of state of Canada, is now engaged to his future queen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: And the princely proposal is still gracing front pages. Here in the UK, several papers printed special souvenir editions, some up to 16 pages long, "With Mummy's ring, I thee wed" among the headlines there.
Around the Commonwealth, Sydney's "Daily Telegraph" hailed Will and Kate as a new generation of royals. The "New Zealand Herald" was among the first papers in the world to print the news as it came through in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Auckland. In Canada, "Will and Kate finally set a date" is the "Vancouver Sun's" front page headline, although they haven't set the date yet.
The royal engagement was also big news across the US. The "New York Daily News" is running with this bold statement, "The new Diana." So, too, in Europe, Dutch newspapers focused on the Diana connection, highlighting the sapphire engagement ring. And in Germany, the "Hamburger Morgenpost" screamed the news, the paper telling the story with one picture and one word, a simple, "Yes!"
That's tonight's Parting Shots. I'm Max Foster, that is your world connected. Thank you for watching. "BackStory" is next, but we're going to check the headlines first.