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CONNECT THE WORLD
NATO Agreement on Missile Defense System; America's Exit Strategy from Afghanistan; Urban Planet: Building Infrastructure in Iraq
Aired November 19, 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: Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.
I'm Max Foster.
Following up on a story that has thousands of you locked in debate on our Web site. It's about this Pakistani woman, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of two, sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Mohammed. It's a judgment based on what's called the blasphemy law -- a law that also exists in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Iran. Last night, we told you how Asia Bibi was taking her case to the high court.
Tonight, we're responding to your interest in this story. You'll hear from Pakistan's minorities minister, who's giving us the first signs of the government -- that the government may step in.
And you'll hear from Pakistan's most famous human rights activist. She's faced death threats for speaking out on the blasphemy law. Now in her new role as the Supreme Court Bar's president, she's going to help fight it.
First, let's remind you, though, the fate of Asia Bibi. She's already been locked behind bars for more than a year when she learned that she now faces a far more terrible fate for a crime she says she didn't commit.
Reza Sayah recaps her story.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prosecutors say Asia Bibi insulted Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They say the alleged incident happened when she was picking berries in this field in the town of Itan Wali, just about two hours west of Lahore.
(voice-over): Court records show Asia was sharing a bucket of drinking water with fellow workers. But when she dipped her cup, her fellow workers refused the water, saying it had been touched by a non- Muslim woman.
Asia Bibi is a Christian. The women argued. Mafia Satar (ph) and her sisters say they were there and heard Asia's insults.
"She said your Mohammed had worms in his mouth before he died," Satar told us, "a crude way of saying Mohammed was no Prophet."
The town cleric, Qari Salam (ph), reported the incident to police, who arrested Bibi. After nearly 15 months in this jail came the conviction and the death sentence. Per Section 295C of Pakistan's penal code: "Whoever defiles the name of the Prophet Mohammed shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, Pakistan has one of the world's strictest laws against blasphemy, as does Saudi Arabia. That country prevents any religion outside of Islam from being practiced in public. Not only is blasphemy punishable by death, but so is apostasy, the conversion of Muslims to another religion or their rejection of the faith.
Iran, another theocracy, also has Draconian laws against insulting Islam. Courts use Sharia or Islamic law to justify death sentences for blasphemy.
Indonesia is a secular state with a Muslim majority, but it also penalizes blasphemy. The law was upheld by a constitutional court just this year. It prohibits distorting the central beliefs of six officially recognized religions. Human rights groups say it's often used to discriminate, though, against minorities, including Muslims outside mainstream beliefs.
Now, in the case of Pakistan, critics have tried for years to get its blasphemy law repealed, to no avail.
I talked earlier with Pakistan's minorities minister about the reform efforts.
As a Catholic, Shahbaz Bhatti is a minority himself.
I began by asking him what the government is doing to help Asia Bibi.
SHAHBAZ BHATTI, PAKISTANI MINISTER FOR MINORITIES: We can't interfere on the court decision. But, however, I, as a minister for minorities, we have written a letter to our provincial government to protect the life of the Asia Bibi in jail and also give her full pro -- full opportunity to plead her case on merits for justice.
FOSTER: If the judge doesn't overturn this sentence, what will the government do?
BHATTI: There two other forums. One is after the High Court, she can appeal to the Supreme Court. And after the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court maintains the same decision, then she can appeal to the president of Pakistan and the president of Pakistan has a constitutional authority to turn down the death penalty.
FOSTER: It does raise the question around the fact that there is a blasphemy law even in Pakistan.
Is it appropriate anymore and does the government plan to change it?
BHATTI: We are -- we are consulting with the religious parties to make a legislation to stop the misuse of blasphemy law. My president very clearly said that we won't allow anyone to use the blasphemy laws to victimize any innocent people in Pakistan. We want to stop those people who are using a shelter of this law to settle their own personal vendettas.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, many activists who want Pakistan's law changed are pinning their hopes on Asma Jahangir.
She's the long time human rights activist who was recently elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
She herself has been to prison for speaking her mind and is well aware of the difficulties that minority groups face in getting a fair trial.
ASMA JAHANGIR, PAKISTANI HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, PRESIDENT, PAKISTAN SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION: I have, from my experience, seen that people are probably killed before they can get to that process. And this law has certainly been abused. The same government promised that they would at least reform the law. And many drafts were presented to them. But then we heard nothing about it.
FOSTER: How, though, have we got to this point, where all the lower courts and the police system, as it were, have -- have -- it seems -- seemed unanimous in their condemnation of this lady, Asia.
JAHANGIR: Well, let me put it in this way. Let me talk about the subordinate court. They are not protected at all. So it would be very difficult for a judge sitting there, completely vulnerable, to give a judgment of acquittal in the face of threats that they would receive.
I would therefore and have always suggested that if this law has to stay, then at least a trial should take place at the high court level.
FOSTER: So the lower courts aren't independent?
JAHANGIR: Well, I am saying they're not even protected. I mean that is part of independence, but they are physically...
FOSTER: But they come under the influence from outside forces?
JAHANGIR: No, they're physically not protected. I mean I have done cases of this nature and I know that they are physically not protected.
FOSTER: Then you're suggesting that the judgments have been influenced by...
FOSTER: -- external factors?
JAHANGIR: Absolutely has to be, because look at the atmosphere that is there. I haven't seen this particular judgment, but all the other judgments that I have seen, I -- it clearly suggests that there is a risk to the judges' live themselves. And, indeed, in one of the cases, a high court judge was subsequently killed.
FOSTER: And is your view that this blasphemy law doesn't have a place in Pakistani law?
JAHANGIR: Well, it's my view that it has been abused over and over again and that there is a good case for the parliament to repeal it or at least, at the minimum, to water it down to a level where people can expect comfortable justice.
FOSTER: You're a key player and a very influential player in the Pakistani legal system.
So what are you going to do about it?
JAHANGIR: Well, I've done a lot. I don't think you know the history. I was the first person to speak against this law and we continue to ask the parliament to look at it. I can't change the law.
FOSTER: Do you feel -- you've talked about the -- the pressure on the lower courts from external forces of some kind. And you said there have been death threats about some people who work in the legal system.
Do you feel under threat...
JAHANGIR: Well, I have been under threat...
JAHANGIR: -- for many years. But that doesn't stop people from, you know, may...
FOSTER: Have you had death threats?
JAHANGIR: I have had, yes.
FOSTER: But you're going to carry on voicing your concerns about this law?
JAHANGIR: I think that a lot of people in my country have had death threats because they are stood -- have stood up against, let me say, forces of extreme orthodoxy. But people are very brave in our country and they continue to speak up.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, the death sentence for Asia Bibi has outraged people around the world, including many of you.
And here are some of the thousands of comments that we're getting on our blog.
Nix0030 writes: "If ever the punishment did not fit the crime, this is an outrageous crime against humanity."
And from Lincoln2010: "It's a -- it's a modern day Salem witch-hunt. Appalling. Unbelievable. My heart goes out to the people in that country who live in fear under their oppressive government and religion."
But Justice 786 says: "Neither in the Koran nor in the Hadiths of Mohammed is blasphemy a crime punishable by death. Please do not associate this barbaric law with Islam."
CatoPaine raises this point: "The death of one Pakistani Christian woman is deemed a tragedy and worthy of days of coverage and outraged volleys. Is it because she's Christian or simply because it's absurd? When 500,000 Iraqi civilians are killed, is it just a statistic that the media label collateral?"
Well, Patt1937 says: "If this is an example of peaceful Islam that President Obama and others continue to talk about, it just reinforces my belief that Islam is anything but peaceful."
Ahmad18ny tells us: "I was a Muslim. No longer. Religions are fake. Do some research in biology and physics then come again. I love and respect everyone, not just Muslims. We are all one species."
And we'll end with this from yanaga: "When people learn to respect each other's religious and -- religions and belief, the world will be a better place."
As always, you, too, can join the debate. Just head to our Web site, CNN.com/connect.
We'll be keeping our eyes on this story, Asia Bibi's story.
Lots more ahead in the show, though.
NATO comes -- or names the date for Pakistan -- or Afghanistan's troops to take charge next.
But will they be ready to tackle the Taliban?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUNG SAN SU KYI: It's possible that we'll have to change for a new generation. But since I'm not all that young myself, I do believe in older people's ability to change and to see things in a new light, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Aung San Su Kyi tells us why she hasn't given up the fight for democracy in Myanmar.
And it was a long night for Harry Potter fans, but was the latest installment all that they dreamed of?
FOSTER: Well, the buildup has been dominated by talk of risks and cuts, but as a NATO summit began today, there was agreement amongst its members as the alliance pledged to develop a missile defense system to protect Europe and the U.S.
Chris Lawrence joins us live from Lisbon, where the summit is take place -- Chris, tell us more about the defense system.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, really, there's -- there's two summits going on. One is the very public summit in which they come out for these press conferences and tell everyone that everyone is unified and that everything is going great.
But privately, there are disagreements. For example, NATO came out with the nuclear posture, saying that it will remain a source of a nuclear deterrent. Well, on the surface that seems united, but actually what that means is the U.S. was able to force a compromise from France and Germany.
France had wanted to stay independent as its own deterrent. And Germany was trying to get the allies to agree to a nuclear-free Europe.
Well, the way this is all going to be worded when it comes out is something along the lines of, "We hope for disarmament at -- at a future date, but NATO will still possess nuclear weapons as long as other nations have them."
Another thing you mentioned, that they did come to an agreement about installing a missile defense system across the continent similar to the one that now protects North America. Well, Germany had wanted that missile defense system to replace the nuclear deterrent.
Put as President Obama explained, it's just going to supplement it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to announce that for the first time, we have agreed to develop missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations as well as the United States. This important step forward builds on the new phased adaptive approach to missile defense that I announced for the United States last year. It offers a role for all of our allies. It responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles. And tomorrow, we look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area, as well, recognizing that we share many of the same threats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: Well, again, you know, the president talks of Russia, bringing Russia in. But that's easier said than done. From what we've been able to find out, the Russians are going to want some concessions to become involved in this missile defense system. They're going to want some of these missiles on -- they're going to want the system to only protect against missiles that are slower, of a certain speed and only fired from a certain direction. In other words, they think that NATO having a missile defense system that specifically would protect it against Russia is just a non-starter.
Also, there had been some discussion among some of the allies to name Iran as one of the threats that this missile defense system is going to protect NATO from. Well, Turkey does not want to specifically name its neighbors. So, in order to please both Russia and Turkey, what you may come out of this in -- is an ambiguous statement that really doesn't clearly define exactly what the threat is -- Max.
FOSTER: And that, Chris, all needs to be resolved before they then talk about Afghanistan, which is potentially even a -- a bigger topic at this summit and Russia is involved there, as well.
What we have learned about Afghanistan and how there's going to be policed or soldiered in future?
LAWRENCE: Well, all of this is very connected. You think of them as separate topics, but, really, you know, bringing Russia on board with the missile defense system also could bring Russian help with Afghanistan, opening up supply routes to go not only into Afghanistan, but back out through the country, back through Russia.
Also, Russia, perhaps, training some of the Afghan helicopter pilots, things like that.
But, really, when you talk about NATO's big strategic vision, its new mission, so to speak, of being this global policeman all around the world, all of that comes back to Afghanistan and whether the NATO mission there is successful.
If it is, then NATO members will be more likely to sign up for those kind of ventures down the road. But right now, more than half of the NATO members are cutting their defense budgets. If things don't go well in Afghanistan, they're going to be much, much less likely to fund and supply that kind of venture down the road -- Max.
FOSTER: Chris Lawrence, we'll leave you to the summit.
Thank you very much, indeed, for that.
Well, take a look at the current troop levels in Afghanistan. There are more than 143,000 foreign troops in the country. The U.S. has the most, with approximately 95,000 boots on the ground. ISAF has an additional 4,800 forces in Afghanistan from 48 countries overall. The U.K. has the second largest contingent, with around 9,500. Germany has more than 4,300; Italy, 3,700; France has more than 3,800 and Canada has more than 2,900 troops.
Well, the Obama administration has made no secret of its desire to begin pulling its troops out of Afghanistan.
Speaking bluntly on "LARRY KING LIVE," Vice President Joe Biden said a deadline would help to focus minds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of our critics say you shouldn't set a deadline to get out. The reason we needed to do that is the same reason we did in Afghanistan, we had to say, look, you've got to step up, man. Let me tell you, we're going to start -- daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October -- I mean in next July. So you'd better practice riding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: But despite the tough talk, many questions remain over America's exit strategy from Afghanistan.
To discuss some of those points, I'm joined from Washington by Stephen Flanagan.
He is the senior vice president of the Center for Strategic & International Studies and a former State Department official.
Thank you so much for joining us.
How did you interpret Joe Biden's comments there?
STEPHEN FLANAGAN, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I think the administration has wanted to make clear all along that there is a timetable, that there has to be some targets to have a phased transition to an Afghan lead for providing for security of their own country.
And what the administration wants to see is a -- is a strong commitment from allies to enhance the training and -- and the preparation of the Afghan forces to take on that role and also for the Afghan government to realize that they can't count on the international community indefinitely to continue to provide for the security of their country.
FOSTER: When I spoke to the head of NATO yesterday, he was very clear that American troops aren't pulling out of Afghanistan immediately.
But that's the pressure on Obama, isn't it?
FLANAGAN: No, the -- I mean I think what the -- what the alliance is expected to agree to tomorrow is a -- a phased transition to what's called a conditions-based transfer of authority for Afghan lead in providing for security. And that would begun the initial phase is -- or the hope is that if the training is going well enough, the initial phases of that drawdown, of that transfer, province by province, would begin some time early next year, taking place and unfolding over -- over a period up to 2014.
But, also, the senior civilian rep of NATO in Afghanistan yesterday noted that that doesn't mean NATO, then, is fully disengaged. NATO could still be there, an over the horizon presence. It could still be providing some kind of advice and training support to the Afghan forces even after 2015.
FOSTER: So the same number of troops will be there next year as in the year after, they're just going to change their role?
They're handing power over?
FLANAGAN: Well, no, they would -- there could be some withdrawals. What the Obama administration has suggested is that there will be some U.S. withdrawals beginning in July of 2011. And I know that another -- other forces bill begin. Some of them are on strict timetables, for example, the Canadians would.
But, now, the Canadians are going to do exactly what you just said, they're going to roll over upwards of 750 of their forces to -- from an active combat role in the southern part of Afghanistan to the training mission. So that was a big plus because that filled a gap that the head of the NATO training mission had identified existed until the Canadians made that decision.
FOSTER: But that's a tiny, tiny thing compared to the number of American troops there. The concern is, isn't it, that there -- the Taliban is just waiting for the Americans to leave, at which point they -- they start their insurgency again?
FLANAGAN: Well, but -- but again, it's not -- it's not all the Americans' lead. It's some withdrawals of American forces. The -- the goal is to be. But again, General Petraeus and other leaders of -- of the United States government have made clear that it's going to be based on conditions, that it's not going to be precipitous. And what the real goal here, though, as I said, is to -- is to energize the training efforts, to continue the progress that has been made.
And there has been remarkable progress made, even in just the last year, in training the Afghan security forces, both the army and less -- less effective with some of the police. But still some real progress. And -- and there are some areas where the Afghans are doing very well.
FOSTER: OK, Stephen Flanagan, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us, sir, from Washington, DC.
Well, still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, Iraq's new urban battle -- the ambitious plan to turn the most anguished road in the world into the most beautiful.
And as the cholera epidemic spreads, so, too, the anger against U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti.
FOSTER: More than three billion people -- half the world's population -- are city dwellers. And with that figure only expected to rise, we're looking at what's being done to improve our rapidly growing urban planet.
From Nigeria, where mobile toilets are key to helping keep Lagos streets clean, to Rio de Janeiro, where two Dutch artists are brightening up the darker sides of town.
In Tokyo, we explored the concept that cities exhaust our brains -- how creating quiet spaces can improve mental health. So, too, how trees and gardens are changing the face of one of South Africa's neighborhoods.
And in Mumbai, rising above the city's choking traffic, skywalks are proving the safe way to beat the sometimes perilous commute.
The government, we finish the journey in Iraq, where, as Arwa Damon explains, the cities are growing but building the infrastructure needed to support the population can be a deadly task.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): This type of construction hasn't happened in Iraq in almost 30 years. Officials are trying to transform war torn Baghdad into a dream city -- modernizing its skyline in some places with fancy new buildings.
(on camera): This is the capital's Airport Road. And it was once known as the most dangerous road in the world -- RPG Alley and Highway of Death were just among a few of its nicknames.
Now, the Iraqi government has plans to spend $200 million, turning it into what it says will be the most beautiful road in the world.
(voice-over): But before Iraq can even begin to pull itself out of decades of war, it not only has to defeat terror, it has to defeat a silent and deadly enemy -- unexploded ordinance and mines. The country is among the most affected in the world.
From its heavily mined border with Iran to oil fields in the south that need to be cleared before full scale operations can commence, even urban centers like Baghdad.
A few years ago, parents wouldn't let their children wander through this area in the capital, where construction is now booming. Ahmed Khamel (ph) remembers laying soccer a few years back. "The ball was kicked off the field," he recalls. "One of the players went to get it and stepped on something that detonated."
When an Iraqi NGO finally cleared the area, this is what they found.
Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman and also involved in developing a national initiative to rid his country of explosives, calls the unexploded ordinance a sleeping terrorist.
ALI AL-DABBAGH, IRAQI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, we expect approximately 20 million pieces is there, which you could count, that each citizen got one mine. And this is -- it is a big problem for us to deal with. It is beyond our capacity. We can't handle this with our normal means and -- and people -- we do need international help.
DAMON: And a lot of it. There are only a handful of NGOs and ordinance management companies that operate in Iraq. A 2009 U.N. report estimated it would take around 19,000 workers -- 60 times more than those currently involved -- and at least 10 years -- to get rid of decades of war pollution. The U.N. says that the contamination of nearly all of Iraq's provinces is one of the nation's largest public safety concerns -- an impediment to development and needs to be urgently addressed for a number of reasons.
AL-DABBAGH: We have found some of the terrorist operations that they had used mines and suicide bombers. So it is cheap and it's a -- a free weapons in the hands of the terrorists.
DAMON: Before Iraq can truly look to the future, it has to eliminate the war remnants of its past.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Now, an alarming cholera epidemic ignites fear and violence in the streets of Haiti. Now, the threat of disease is affecting inmates of the country's largest prison. That's ahead, along with the world's headlines.
FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: A cholera epidemic in Haiti leads to riots and rage with UN peacekeepers in the crosshairs. Now health officials warn the death toll could reach 200,000. We'll have a live report.
Myanmar's democracy icon speaks to CNN about her vision for her future and her country and why she thinks the military regime is now ready for dialogue.
And the boy wizard does it again. Millions of Muggles flocked to theaters worldwide for part one of Harry Potter's final chapter.
All those stories ahead in the show for you but, first, the headlines.
US president Barack Obama says NATO has agreed to create a missile defense system that could protect all of Europe as well as the United States. His announcement came at a two-day summit -- NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal. The war in Afghanistan tops the agenda there.
Rescuers in New Zealand are on standby outside a coal mine where 29 miners are missing. It's been around 18 hours, now, without any contact. Two people emerged from the mine with injuries after an underground explosion. Concerns over the mine's ventilation system are delaying rescue efforts.
Talks between Irish and European financial officials have been continuing behind closed doors in Dublin. The goal, to find the solution to Ireland's financial woes and shore up its battered banks. Ireland's prime minister says the talks are going well.
A dangerous mix of chaos and rage on the streets of Haiti one week before the country's presidential election. A deadly cholera epidemic is quickly spreading, and crowds are releasing their fury on those who were sent there to help. To explain, Ivan Watson is there in Port-au-Prince. He joins us now, live. Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, the international committee of the Red Cross says that the cholera epidemic has now spread to yet another vulnerable population, another vulnerable community, the prisoners at Port- au-Prince's main prison. They say that at least 10 inmates have died as a result of the disease, and at least 30 have been infected, and that number is expected to grow because of the cramped and overcrowded conditions in Haiti's largest prison.
Meanwhile, the organization Doctors Without Borders, Medicins Sans Frontieres, has issued a blistering report, saying that there are critical shortfalls in the response to the cholera epidemic, saying, quote, "Despite the huge presence of international organizations, the cholera response has been inadequate."
They have been at the front line of much of the cholera treatment, we've seen them operating in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, an seeing just a rush of cholera patients there in a makeshift cholera treatment center built in a basketball stadium there.
Now, the clashes that we've seen around the country, they do seem to have subsided a bit today. Here in Port-au-Prince, there were some small- scale skirmishes, some rock throwing, some tear gas, and we did hear about some reports of similar incidents taking place in a town called Hinche. You're looking at pictures from yesterday of some of the clashes that took place right on the streets behind where I'm standing right now.
But the main city that's been the focal point of the unrest, Cap- Haitien, we are hearing after four days of pretty heavy rioting and complete lockdown of the city, now traffic is starting to move around more normally. Cars are able to start moving through the streets, that's a positive sign for that northern city.
We visited the hospital there on Thursday before leaving that city and saw a number of people wounded with bullet wounds, 37, according to doctors who were working there, gunshot wounds over the first three days of this week. And this is what one doctor said. He blamed the bullet wounds on the United Nations peacekeepers. Take a listen, Max.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILTON CHERUBEN, DOCTOR (through translator): After the attacks administered on the population, from Monday to Wednesday night, we received 37 cases of bullet wounds. Ages of the population range from 9 to 35 years. One boy, 9 years old, was shot by a projectile. An 11-year-old was shot in the arm. A 14-year-old received a projectile in the mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Now, I just got off the phone, Max, with the United Nations spokesman. He denies that the peacekeepers were responsible for those gunshot wounds. He says, throughout these four days of fighting in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, the peacekeepers only killed one demonstrator, he says, after they opened fire on the peacekeepers first. Max?
FOSTER: An aid group has told me that they think this is all to do with politics and the upcoming election and political groups stirring things up. Just give us a sense of the atmosphere running up to that election. They just need to get it out of the way, don't they?
WATSON: Remarkably, amid the cholera epidemic and some of the violence, the 19 candidates running for president right now in elections that are about nine days away, they're still out stumping. They're on television day after day, they're playing their advertisements, their campaign posters are around. And they're still trying to campaign. They have been limited, they have not been able to travel to that northern city, the second-largest city in the country, Cap-Haitien, due to the unrest there. But they are still campaigning, and several of them have been appealing for calm amid the instability of recent days.
I do have to say that some of the protesters that we talked to here who were throwing stones at United Nations peacekeepers and setting fire to the posters of one particular candidate favored by the outgoing president, they were arguing that now is no time for an election due to the fact that you still have, as you can see behind me, hundreds of thousands of people still living in tent cities after the earthquakes of last January due to the fact that you have people dying day after day from a cholera epidemic that has claimed at least 1100 lives.
Many of the candidates, however, say, "We need to go ahead with these elections." Max?
FOSTER: OK. Ivan, thank you very much. You'll be there for the election, I'm sure, as well. Now, up next, she has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. Now, the woman who's come to symbolize defiance against Myanmar's military regime speaks to CNN about her hopes for her homeland. A one-on-one interview with Aung San Suu Kyi coming up.
FOSTER: Respect, change, freedom, empowerment. That's what Myanmar's democracy icon says she wants for the people of her country. Nearly a week after being released from house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi sat down with CNN. She spoke to Fred Pleitgen, who spent 16 days in Myanmar to report on the recent elections even though the country's military regime didn't allow journalists in. Here is part of his interview.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How have you been experiencing the people here. What have they been telling you about what they would like you to do in the future?
AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST: They are so enthusiastic about trying to help us to achieve change. And change is a great word. They feel that there's a great need for change in this country, and that's what we all want.
PLEITGEN: You've been speaking a lot about dialogue since you've gotten out. Why do you think the military will enter into a dialogue with you? Because they've tried to keep your party out of the election, they now have this parliament. Why do you think they'll want to talk to you?
SUU KYI: We've been talking about dialogue for the last 22 years. I think the problem is that most military people are not used to dialogue. Because you don't have dialogue in the military, you have commands. And, I think, perhaps some of them don't understand -- quite understand what we mean by dialogue.
What we mean by dialogue is, let's talk to each other. We'll tell you what we want, you tell us what you want, we come to some kind of compromise. Obviously, there'll be times when we don't agree with each other. But we don't have to, then, say "I'm not going to talk to you anymore." You talk a bit more, you try to find more common ground.
I don't think this kind of exchange is something with which the military in general are familiar. And I think that has been our greatest problem.
PLEITGEN: You've been speaking -- you've been using the term "revolution," a peaceful revolution. A revolution is always getting rid of one political system and installing another one. Is that what you mean?
SUU KYI: No. I mean -- by "revolution," I mean a significant change. Like the IT revolution. It means -- the IT revolution has meant tremendous changes and significant changes for the whole world. So, what we mean is enough change within the country to make people feel that they've got on to a new and better stage.
PLEITGEN: What sort of society do you envision? And, of course, we always look at societies that are already there. Do you envision something like the United States, with very broad freedoms, both economically as well as socially? Or would you be willing to settle for something maybe more along the lines of China, where you have broad economic freedoms now, but social and personal freedoms are still somewhat lagging?
SUU KYI: I think we would like more respect for human rights in Burma than at present that you can see going on in China. Of course, we would like the economic progress. But I think that has to be balanced by what I would think of as accountability. And I think China is going in that direction. I think some of their local governments and so on have been made to be more accountable. And I think accountability is very important. Progress has to go hand-in-hand with accountability.
PLEITGEN: If you say that the military is not used to speaking and you want to empower the people, that means you're going to have to challenge the military. So, what I see is campaign rallies, people, maybe, protesting even if peacefully. Is that the kind of things that you're thinking? Mass events? That's challenging the military, that's not something they've reacted to very well so far.
SUU KYI: We have to use the new developments of the 21st century to bring about a new 21st century military mentality.
FOSTER: So, what does Aung San Suu Kyi's release mean for the international community? China, in particular. And what can regional countries do to put pressure on Myanmar's military regime. Joining us now from New York is one of our big thinkers, CONNECT THE WORLD panelist Gordon Chang. Gordon, thank you so much for joining us.
The -- Myanmar's neighbors have been criticized for not actually putting any pressure on Myanmar, and China not doing enough. But those criticisms come from the west. Just explain whether or not they have pressured and whether or not they will pressure.
GORDON CHANG, CONNECT THE WORLD PANELIST: I think countries in the region, especially India, have not put pressure on the generals in Burma largely because the Indians see Burma as a prize in a contest that they have with Beijing. So, China has sort of set the standard, and other countries, if they're going to have any sort of influence in Burma, need to talk to the junta. So, essentially, countries in the region have not pressured the generals.
FOSTER: But they don't need to speak to the junta anymore, do they? They can just speak to Aung San Suu Kyi, and she can do the negotiation from there.
CHANG: Well, that's what's going to be the new way of going forward, because I'm sure that countries in the west and India and some of the neighbors are going to probably sit back and take their cues from Suu Kyi, because she has extraordinary influence in the international community.
And I think that that's the reason why the generals released her, because the generals want Suu Kyi to help in lifting those sanctions on Burma.
FOSTER: Which is why she's such savvy politician, isn't it? Because in that interview with Fred, you saw her talking about dialogue and a conversation. But actually, we're talking about hard negotiation here, aren't we? The Burma has got a real sort of fight on its hands with Suu Kyi, but she's got massive power, economic power.
CHANG: Well, she does. In the negotiations that led up to her release, the generals said, "We don't want you speaking to mass rallies in our country," and she said, "No, I'm going to do that." And then, the generals said, "But we want you to spend some time after your release and then not talk to people." And the day after her release on Sunday, she had that rally of 30,000 people in Rangoon.
So, yes. She's a really tough politician. And the generals really have a lot on their hands. This is a zero-sum contest, and my money says that she is going to win.
FOSTER: The fear is, of course, within the country amongst her supporters and outside the country, as well, in much of the west, that the junta could just think, "Oh, this is just too much. We're going to lock her up again." Is that likely this time around?
CHANG: She's been locked up three times, now. So, essentially, what we have is the generals know that they can put her away again, but the problem is, if they do that, they isolate themselves, which means they become more dependent on China, which has been the primary backer of the junta.
So, essentially, the generals have released her because they want to have these links with the United States, with Europe, with India. Other countries. And to really be able to create a bit more space for Burma. So, there are some restrictions, really, as a practical matter, on putting her back in jail. But yes, of course, that is always the option.
FOSTER: So, is there a political solution here for the junta and for China, then, to do some sort of deal with Suu Kyi without losing face? How do they go into this negotiation?
CHANG: They go into this negotiation with a lot of hope because this is a very difficult discussion. The things that she wants, actually, do amount to a revolution, as she has been talking about in the last couple of days.
And we're not talking about in IT revolution, we're talking about a fundamental change in the government, which means that the generals are gone, that there are free and fair elections, that there's rule of law. Those types of things, which would be completely incompatible with what the generals want.
FOSTER: OK, Gordon Chang, thank you very much, indeed. We're going to follow that story for years to come, I'm sure. But it's fascinating.
Now, midnight was the bewitching hour as "Harry Potter" fans jam theaters around the world to start the final chapter -- just to start the final chapter of a magical journey. Did it live up to expectations?
FOSTER: A very busy week in the world of social media, as ever. So, what's been trending big online this time around? Well, whether you're a Beatles fan or simply want to save the world from an environmental catastrophe, there was something for everyone. Phil Han takes a look.
PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER (on camera): It's been a really exciting past seven days on social media, and there have been tons of stories out there that have really caught the attention of the world. But I want to bring you just a few in case you missed them.
First up, we have YouTube sensation Keenan Cahill. He's become one of the biggest stars on YouTube, and that's all thanks to a couple of music videos. But, in case you haven't heard of him, here's a look at the video that made him famous.
(MUSIC - "Teenage Dream")
HAN: The video of him lip-syncing to a Katy Perry song has racked up more than 17 million hits in just a few months, making him one of the most recognizable faces online. The 15-year-old is from Chicago in the US, and we spoke to him about how he's dealing with all the new-found fame.
KEENAN CAHILL, YOUTUBE STAR: My life hasn't changed as much. It's -- I think -- it's another thing to add onto my life. I still go to school, I still do homework. It's just another thing to add on. It has been a bit intense, but I try to keep it on the low as much as I can.
HAN: Keenan has become so famous that even A-list celebrities are starting to appear in his videos. Here's a look at his most recent one, where Keenan is lip-syncing to a 50 Cent song, and look who shows up.
(MUSIC - "Down on Me")
HAN: That video has already gotten more than seven million hits. Now, another really big story on social media was all the hype that was surrounding Apple Computer when they announced that they would be bringing iTune users the complete back collection of the Beatles for download.
ED SULLIVAN, HOST, "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW": Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!
(MUSIC - "I Want to Hold Your Hand")
HAN: The reaction on social media wasn't so great, as many people were expecting something a bit bigger but, nonetheless, it still is really good news for all those Beatles fans out there.
Now, another story out there that was causing a lot of buzz was the buzz around one of the biggest game releases of all time. It was the shoot-em-up game called "Call of Duty: Black Ops" which was released this week. Now, in the game for Microsoft Xbox, users play soldiers whose mission it is to destroy the enemy by any means possible. Figures show that the game sold $600 million worth of sales in just five days, a record amount.
But if shooting terrorists isn't your thing, another game that was released earlier this month has a much bigger mission. Your job is to save the planet from climate change. Now, the computer game is called "Fate of the World," and in it, your job is to deal with competing governments, you have to sort out global warming agreements, and fight rising emissions.
Now, I spoke to the game's creator, Gobian Rowlands about what he hopes the game will achieve.
GOBIAN ROWLANDS, GAME CREATOR: I think, really, the kind of ultimate goal, if anything, is to provide a good, commercial entertainment game with real science that also has an element of teaching critical thinking. And we're not trying to tell them what to think, we just want them to understand the issues and make up their own decisions.
HAN: And finally, we have some gorgeous pictures to share with you. American astronaut Douglas Wheelock captured these stunning pictures while he was onboard the International Space Station, and he uploaded them to his very own Twitter page. He captured images of the northern lights, parts of Ireland, and a gorgeous tropical island off the coast of Africa.
So, there you have it. Just a few of the standout stories from the past seven days on social media. I'm Phil Han, CNN, London.
FOSTER: Well, another hot topic on the web this week is the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One." That is the first half of the last "Harry Potter" film, which opened in the theaters -- in theaters all over the world at midnight last night. But that late hour didn't deter the diehard fans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Hello, CNN! Welcome to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!"
ALLEN MEALEY, CNN iREPORTER: CNN iReport Allen Mealey reporting live at the AMC IMAX theaters here in Riverside, California, where we have a bunch of very loyal Potter fans here.
MEALEY: This is the seventh anticipated film in the series, "Harry Potter and -- "
CROWD: "The Deathly Hallows!"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: In case you didn't know. And if the books and films alone don't satisfy you, perhaps you might want to think about taking up the sport of Quidditch. It's the magical game, the team competition that Harry Potter himself plays at Hogwarts. A few years ago, some fans in the US brought that sport from legend to life, and over the weekend, more than 700 players converged in New York, would you believe, to participate in the Quidditch World Cup.
JOSH AICHENBAUM, QUIDDITCH PLAYER: This is the World Cup.
ANNOUNCER: Are you ready for this?
KATIE PETERS, QUIDDITCH PLAYER: This is a sick World Cup.
ANNOUNCER: And they're off. Nitney (ph) Lions getting an early start.
AICHENBAUM: All right, Quidditch World Cup, it's important and it's in New York.
ANNOUCNER: The finest in American Quidditch.
AICHENBAUM: Quidditch is a sport that comes from "Harry Potter," written by JK Rowling. And this is reinvented so normal human beings, Muggles, can play it. And they can't fly, but they can play it well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brooms up! Quidditch!
AICHENBAUM: Everyone has to hold onto a broom.
PETERS: Yes, you have to carry a broom the whole time. And it's really difficult.
AICHENBAUM: That's to replicate the idea that in the "Harry Potter" version, everyone's flying on a broomstick. So, if they're not holding onto their broomstick, they're not flying, they're going to fall off and plummet to their death. So, that's the idea there.
PETERS: There's the keeper, which is the goalie. And he or she defends the hoops. And then, there's beaters, and they have the bludgers, and they play a lot of defense, hitting people with the dodge balls. And then, the chasers have the quaffle, and they're sort of the offense, they try to score goals.
PETERS: And then, the seeker is the one that catches the snitch.
AICHENBAUM: One ball is represented by a person like me wearing all yellow.
ANNOUNCER: Here's the snitch, it's sprinting across the field.
AICHENBAUM: Running around, and that ball is called the snitch and is located hanging out of my pants. There's two seekers, one on each team, who try to catch that ball, and they try to pull it out, and that ends the game.
PETERS: It's sort of like rugby in that you can hit people, but it's also dodge ball in that the bludgers can hit other players. And then you score through hoops sort of like basketball, and then, it's like flag football with the snitch.
ANNOUNCER: Like a matador, he sneaks the snitch out of him!
PETERS: So, it's like five or six different sports in one.
AICHENBAUM: It's extremely physical, so I think it emulates the game in the books fairly well. They put rules in to try and make it less physical, but people tackle, and they trip people.
Funnest thing about Quidditch, a lot of it's just the camaraderie between teammates. And then, once you're out there on the field playing, it's a lot of fun. Because there's so much going on, it's an exciting game to play.
ANNOUNCER: Tough break.
PETERS: The point of Quidditch is to have fun and to play sport. A lot of us are athletes and we sort of just enjoy the athletic part of it. But mostly it's just to have fun, and it's like a big family. So, it's just a good time.
AICHENBAUM: I kind of feel like I'm returning to elementary school PE. Everyone's read "Harry Potter," so there is that aspect that we're bringing an aspect of "Harry Potter" alive.
PETERS: When we first started playing, people were kind of just like, "What are you doing?" And calling us nerds and all that stuff. But now that it's grown so big, we've sort of become the cool kids on campus.
ANNOUNCER: Rochester, final, 30 to zero!
PETERS: I play because I love sports. I love being on a team. I like "Harry Potter" and it's just fun. It's always fun.
ANNOUNCER: This is what it's all about.
FOSTER: Well, I'm still wondering what they're doing. I don't know about you. I'm Max Foster, that is your world connected, and we'll be right back with the headlines, and "BackStory" is just after that.