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CONNECT THE WORLD

A Profile of Liu Xiaobo; China Censors News of Nobel Peace Prize; Meet the AirPod

Aired December 10, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We congratulate Liu Xiaobo for this year's Peace Prize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The loud applause, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize goes to an empty chair -- a seat that should have been occupied by this man, locked away in the Chinese prison. As the world celebrates Liu Xiaobo, what should we make of this -- a shroud of censorship cast over the event by Beijing.

Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Well, for whatever reason, Iraq, Pakistan and Russia, along with more than a dozen other countries refused to attend today's Nobel ceremony.

Decisions made by violation or at the behest of Beijing?

Exploring the connections for you tonight, I'm Becky Anderson in London.

We're taking your comments on this story at Facebook.com/cnnconnect. We'll read out some of the best as we move through the hour.

Late in the thick of a fight, this is how you usually see the Taliban. This hour, something you don't normally see -- a film showing the Taliban joking, laughing and playing sports.

And released from an Iranian prison, but why?

On World Human Rights Day, we'll have the latest on the story of Sakineh Ashtiani.

That's CNN in the next 60 minutes.

Well, the Nobel Peace Prize without the winner present. For only the second time in history, no one accepted the annual award in Oslo in Norway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THORBJORN JAGLAND, NOBEL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: That the laureate is not present. He is in isolation in a prison in Northeast China. Nor can the laureate's wife, Liu Xia, or his closest relatives, be with us. No medal or diploma will therefore be presented here today. This type alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate. We congratulate Liu Xiaobo with this year's Peace Prize.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Liu is serving an 11 year sentence for, in China's words, inciting subversion of state power. His wife is under house arrest.

So Liu Xiaobo can't speak to the world, at least not right now. But CNN did talk to him before he started his prison sentence.

Jonathan Mann chronicles Liu's history from scholar to convict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIU XIAOBO, 2010 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE (through translator): In a dictatorial society, if you want to be a person with dignity, if you want to be an honest person and fight for human rights improvements, fight for freedom of speech, then being in prison is part of what you take on.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Liu took on that burden in 1989, in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. He was a successful author and academic, lecturing in New York when thousands of Chinese began their unprecedented challenge to the government.

Liu rushed back to join them and eventually ended up as one of their leaders. Chinese troops and tanks broke up the protest. Hundreds of people were killed.

But things could have been worse. Liu talked some of the protesters out of armed resistance. He convinced the military to give safe passage out of the square to hundreds of others.

But within days, the authorities jailed him. His university fired him. The up and coming academic found himself with a new job description - - dissident -- in and out of jail for the next two decades.

XIAOBO: Sometimes I joke that a dissident intellectual has to be good at being in prison, the same way a worker has to be good at their work, a farmer has to be good at cultivating land well, a teacher has to be good at teaching. It is the same.

MANN: Liu could no longer publish in China, but he worked to defend other writers and his words, published unofficially or outside mainland China, continued to challenge the authorities.

In 2008, he was one of the leading figures behind Charter '08, an Internet manifesto that called on the Chinese government to live up to its own promises to its people. "China has many laws but no rule of law," it said. "It has a constitution, but no constitutional government."

Liu was jailed even before Charter '08 could be published, sentenced to 11 years behind bars.

PERRY LINK, CHARTER '08 TRANSLATOR: It was a very dangerous thing politically and everyone knew that. And he said, I'll take the rap. He essentially said, I'll cover for the rest of you. I'll say that I was the main instigator of this, even though in historical fact, he -- he wasn't. He did that knowing that it would be risky for another prison term.

So he went into prison with his eyes open. And his friends admire him for that courage.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Jonathan Mann reporting there.

Well, China's government deemed the award a farce the moment it was announced.

Beijing bureau chief, Jaime Florcruz now, showing us how China is keeping news of the prize under wraps.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAIME FLORCRUZ, BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In China's view, Liu Xiaobo is a common criminal and the Nobel award is all about politics.

JIANG YU, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: The Nobel Committee's decision is open support for criminal activities in China. It's a flagrant provocation and interference of China's judicial sovereignty.

FLORCRUZ: China has been trying to keep about Liu Xiaobo out of public sight, blocking out CNN coverage, blocking Web sites and approaching Liu supporters ahead of the awards ceremony in Oslo.

Prominent economists and artists have told CNN they've been stopped from leaving the country. Dissidents have been put under house arrest.

(on camera): China's heavy-handed tactics since the Nobel announcement may have been meant to silence dissent. But analysts say these measures may backfire by putting the spotlight back on China's controversial human rights record.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Jaime Florcruz.

Well, China called for a world boycott of the ceremony. At least 16 nations or government entities followed suit. Amongst them, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia.

Now, the Committee said it expected a harsh reaction from Beijing and thanked the nations that did attend.

Well, I'm joined now by two guests tonight who are uniquely placed to move this story forward for us.

Akbar Ahmed is a regular on the show. He's the former Pakistani ambassador to the U.K. and has views on why his country, Pakistan, declined to attend the Nobel awards.

And we have Minxin Pei from Claremont McKenna College in the States. He argues that the West has triple standards for China and that it should not demonize the country.

Chaps, thanks for joining us.

Akbar, let's start with you.

There are some who suggest that China strong-armed countries into staying away from these Nobel awards today.

Do you believe that's what they did with Pakistan?

AKBAR AHMED, FORMER PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: I don't think so at all, Becky. Pakistan and China have a very long and stable relationship. It's important to understand what's going -- what's happening to Pakistan in and around Afghanistan and India, neighbors. Pakistan has uneasy relations with them. It has an uneven relationship with the United States, which gives it -- gives it a billion-and-a-half dollars and it's promising to give it another five years or aid and send -- similar sums.

Yet, Pakistan sees China, of all the countries it deals with, as the one stable ally and friend.

And remember, China gives a lot of assistance to Pakistan. They set up a nuclear reactor there. It's setting up this port, Gwadar, which will give it access to the Gulf...

ANDERSON: All right...

AHMED: -- that's a port with a new (INAUDIBLE) for Pakistan. And, of course, China is seen, also, as an Asian power -- as a power of the future, whereas many people in that part of the world see America, the United States, as a power of yesterday.

ANDERSON: All right, Akbar, so what you're saying is -- effectively, you're saying Pakistan, by violation, stayed away from the awards, despite, perhaps, what the Western media is reporting.

Minxin, you say that China is demonized by the West.

Why?

MINXIN PEI, PROFESSOR, CLAREMONT MCKENNA COLLEGE: No, I did not say that. I think you're referring to a key article I wrote. The title was not written by me.

ANDERSON: Oh.

PEI: What I'm saying is that, personally, I think the award to Liu Xiaobo is a great thing. It's a great recognition of this man's contribution to the cause of human rights and democracy. When the award was given, I was in Beijing. And I can assure you that people I know all celebrated this award. And, of course, the people I know in China are intellectuals.

What I refer to as the triple standards under which China is judged is that China really suffers from being a powerful country and being a one party dictatorship. And that's not the fault of -- the fault of the West. It is really the fault of the Chinese government.

As far as the West is concerned, in future, in dealing with China, it should be principled, but in tactical terms, it should be more careful and more flexible.

ANDERSON: All right, let me just read out today what a group of former Nobel peace laureates, who seem to be taking in a very conciliatory approach, wrote today about what happened. This is the likes of Elie Wiesel, John Shumshue (ph), Anna Badi (ph) and others. They wrote today, chaps -- and listen up -- and I quote -- "We commend the People's Republic of China for the expansion of economic freedom that has vastly improved the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens."

It goes on to say: "We would accordingly appreciate the opportunity of engaging with the government of the People's Republic of China to discuss the status of Liu Xiaobo and to establish what steps might be taken to facilitate his early release from detention."

I wonder what the both of you think. This is the sort of language that, going forward, might work better with China than that which we've heard, perhaps, in the past -- Akbar?

AHMED: Becky, they've created an exquisite dilemma for China. China is a country with a great sense of self, of history, of its own destiny. It has been a superpower thousands of years ago and is conscious of its civilization and yet it is aware that this episode in its history will be used, as it is being used, to point out to the great, let us say, flaws in its system.

And Liu, of course, is an incredibly honest and brave man to stand up and say the things he's been saying, and, therefore, he's now escalated onto the world stage. He's a -- he's joined the pantheon alongside Mandela and cannot so easily be wished away or brushed under the carpet.

So it is -- it has become a great dilemma for China, what to do with him...

ANDERSON: Minxin...

AHMED: -- either expunge him or just ignore him.

ANDERSON: Minxin?

PEI: Yes, this kind of language is appropriate and it's the right approach in dealing with China. You want to show where you stand firmly, but, also, you want to be polite. You want to show respect. You want to recognize China's a achievements, but also, you want to point out that in the political realm, China is an ally. It is not like other countries that have (INAUDIBLE) economically and politically.

ANDERSON: Part of what I read in the article that you wrote for "The Financial Times" earlier this week was about exploring the perceptions that people have in the West as opposed to the perceptions that people have in China of their leadership.

What do Chinese people have to say about what the world thinks of its leadership, at this point?

PEI: Well, the Chinese people think that their leaders are not strong enough in dealing with the rest of the world. But that does not mean that they think specifically on the Nobel Peace Prize issue, their leaders are not being strong enough.

The truth is that the Chinese government has not led the Chinese people be -- given them the opportunity to make an independent judgment for themselves, because the news is blacked out.

But now, on other issues, on economic issues, on national security issues, most Chinese people think that China -- the Chinese government is not defending China's interests.

ANDERSON: And that's interesting, isn't it, Akbar...

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: -- because...

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: Yes. I mean Minxin, Akbar, that's interesting, isn't it, because to a certain extent, the rest of the world thinks that China is too assertive.

AHMED: That's right. That's a -- this, as I said, Becky, it poises a very difficult dilemma for China.

Remember how sensitive it was and is in terms of the Dalai Lama, for example?

And the Dali Lama is really external to China. And Liu, of course, is part of Chinese from the system. He's from inside China. So it's going to be very difficult.

I think, Becky, we also need to point out that out of the 17 countries that boycotted the event, 12 were Muslim nations. And what is curious is that Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan are all close allies of the United States, getting billions of dollars of aid.

So this episode has thrown up a lot of very interesting insights into world affairs.

ANDERSON: Minxin, your last word?

PEI: Oh, I think this list is not the list that I would like to see China is associated with. This is not a list of liberal democracies. So it's a sad commentary on -- of the so-called friends China has.

ANDERSON: Fabulous.

Guys, fascinating stuff.

We thank you both, very much, indeed, for joining us, taking a story out of Norway today and pushing it forward for you.

Minxin and Akbar Ahmed joining you this evening.

Now, coincidentally, today is also World Human Rights Day. The U.N. says that's the reason why its high commissioner of human rights could not attend the Nobel awards in Oslo. She was in La Paz in Bolivia. Later in the show, we're going to speak to the head of Human Rights Watch Iran about a woman who's been sentenced to be stoned to death in her country.

And later, you've heard about green cars, but how about one that runs on nothing but air?

Stay with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Merry Christmas and a leaky new year -- that is the message from the protesters on the twelfth day of the WikiLeaks saga. Thousands of Australians have rallied in support of countryman, Julian Assange, imprisoned in the United Kingdom this week. They're demanding the Australian government support Assange, who has been arrested on charged unrelated to the release of classified U.S. documents.

Now, demonstrators, too, in Pakistan, where protesters burned a U.S. flag to show their support for the whistleblower Web site. In New York, a rally was staged in front of the U.S. Federal Building. The placards there reading, "The Pentagon has blood on its hands, not WikiLeaks." And in Mexico, a placard has been unveiled in support of Assange, protesters defending the WikiLeaks' founder with banners bearing slogans, including, "We are all Assange."

Well, despite the arrest of the man who runs the WikiLeaks site, the leaks have kept coming this week. The latest cable said the U.S. pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, paid investigators to dig up corruption links to Nigeria's former attorney general. The documents say the company was trying to get a lawsuit dropped over a drug trial involving kids.

Now, the Nigerian government claims the antibiotic caused deaths and deformities.

Well, the company has described the allegations in the cables as "preposterous."

North Korea has also come under the spotlight over its nuclear weapons activities in other countries. Witnesses claim to have seen technicians from the rogue state helping Myanmar develop secret nuclear and missile sites.

And we also heard that North Koreans have been supplying missile technology to the Middle Eastern countries, including Yemen and Iran.

And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the WikiLeaks' line of fire once again. In a leaked memo, she named Saudi Arabia as the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban.

Well, in between all of the disclosures about major players on the world stage over the past two weeks, the most memorable leaked cables have involved what can only be described as tittle-tattle. For instance, this was revealed as the U.S. view of German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "risk averse and rarely creative."

China says North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, behaves like a, quote, "soiled child." Cables describing him as a "flabby old chap," "losing his grip" and "drinking."

Russian President Dimity Medvedev was described by U.S. diplomats as a "junior figure" who plays Robin to Putin's Batman.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was portrayed in U.S. memos as having a "thinner-skinned and authoritarian personal style."

Frustrated diplomats described Afghan President Hamid Karzai as "erratic, emotional and prone to believing in paranoid conspiracy theories."

And last, but certainly not least, this view of the Turkmenistan president: "vain, suspicious, guarded, strict, very conservative and a practiced liar."

Coming up, we are connecting you to some amazing footage of the Taliban. It's not all about combat. CNN brings you insider access on how they live as well as how they fight. Our special report in about 20 minutes from now.

And could this car save the planet?

It's the little pod that could. And I'll show you why, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, this week I brought you a series of reports that I filed as I crisscrossed the planet to put the world in the spotlight.

We started off in Cancun in Mexico, where world leaders and activists gathered to have their say on global climate change. But the real heat was on Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, who went out of his way to tell me how he's living up to his pledge to be the greenest president ever.

But I found the story of the earth's future is best told looking back at Copenhagen. In 2009, the world's leaders came, they saw, but they didn't conquer -- the arguments about climate change.

And putting as much light as possible on the global warming issue of the year, we took a look at deforestation. To that end, I took you to Kenya, where it's all about balancing commerce with conservation.

Well, we're lucky to see what's happening on three continents this week. Sadly, I couldn't travel by car, especially in the little no pollution miracle I'm about to show you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): Meet the AirPod. It has only three wheels, two doors and doesn't even have a steering wheel, but its creators think this could be the future of urban transportation.

CYRIL NEGRE, MOTOR DEVELOPMENT INTERNATIONAL: OK, so this is the AirPod and I've just ran it for a while. And as you've seen, it's very agile and you can see there is no driving wheel, just a joystick. And it's very comfortable, because you are liking the seat, just driving into the city with the wonderful view around you, because you are seeing everywhere. And it's a real new way to drive into the city.

The main advantage, of course, is that it's not polluting cars. You're running for free emissions, without emissions. And then after it's also the costs, because it's very cheap to use and cheap to buy.

ANDERSON: The world's approximately 600 million passenger cars burn more than one billion cubic meters of fuel every year. But father/son team Cyril and Guy Negre think they have come up with a solution at their lab in Nice, in the south of France.

NEGRE: Which is very special about the AirPod is the energy we use. We use compressed air to drive it. This is a very clean system, a very economical system. And the AirPod is very adaptable to the city.

The compressed air engine works very simply. It is just using the air we've just compressed into the tire (ph). And then we use this compressed air to move some pistons into the engine, that drives directly the crank shaft, goes to the wheel and the movement drives the car.

ANDERSON: The AirPod produces a fraction of the emissions of standard engines, although it produces similar emissions to electric cars.

NEGRE: It has some emissions if you compress it using electricity, of course, because using electricity, you will have some emissions at the point where you produce the electricity. This kind of car would have around 40 grams of CO2 per kilometer, which is a lot less than a normal car.

But mainly, this kind of system is particularly adapted to use renewable energy to compress the air. The fastest AirPod will be 80 kilometers per hour. And the range, between 150 and 200 kilometers. But the main factor is the kilowatt hours used to 100 kilometers. And on that point, the AirPod is very good. It's around seven to eight kilowatt hours to 100 kilometers. And the natural electrical car on the market was four places in size about 11 to 13 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers. So that's the main factor, the main parameter.

ANDERSON: The AirPod has already caught the attention of India's car manufacturing giant, Tata.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in the car for many times in the cities. And we've seen the reaction of the people. They're amazed looking at this car, which is so strange, so different. And they ask (INAUDIBLE) this is an electrical car. Because, no, we don't want to produce an electric car. But they were very impressed by the car. At the beginning, they were thinking that we were fools. But -- but now, I think that they are changing their mind and we can see a lot of pressure concerning this car, because it is a car that disturbs a lot of big companies.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Crisscrossing the world for you here on CNN, getting you a -- a sense of what is going on environmentally.

Well, coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, a rare inside look at an enemy the West rarely gets to see except in battle. CNN brings you an in-depth look at the Taliban -- how they live as well as how they fight. That is in about 10 minutes from now.

First, though, against the backdrop of World Human Rights Day, human rights groups charge Iran has pulled a fast one on the woman who was sentenced to be stoned to death.

That and your headlines up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back at a half past nine in London. I'm Becky Anderson. This is CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Coming up for you, truth versus rumor. Did the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning really leave prison? We'll show the photographs that sparked the story and hear Iran's official response.

Also, removing the veil of secrecy from the Taliban. Startling footage of militants at work and play provided to my colleague Anderson Cooper.

Plus, the week on the web. We sift through the top online stories over the past seven days for you, including changes to Facebook that have some users asking what's the point.

Those stories coming up in the next 30 minutes for you here on the show. First, as ever at this point, let me get you a very quick check of the headlines this hour.

An empty chair greeted this year's Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in Norway. The winner, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year prison sentence in China. Beijing calls the award a political farce.

Drug maker Pfizer says allegations in a US diplomatic cable posted by WikiLeaks are preposterous. The document quotes a company executive indicating that Pfizer would pressure Nigeria's attorney general to drop a lawsuit over a 1996 clinical trial.

US officials say the paperwork for 119,000 aircraft is missing, outdated, or incomplete. There are concerns that criminals are exploiting the situation to avoid being tracked. The FAA will require owners to re- register planes over the next three years.

And Britain's prime minister vows to prosecute the protesters who attacked Prince Charles's car on Thursday, but police have yet to make any arrests. The attack culminated a day of massive student protests over proposed university tuition hikes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAVI PILLAY, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Human rights defenders all over the world are the ones who are on the front line advancing the cause of human rights everywhere. And they look at all kinds of issues, and they speak with great courage for ordinary people. They are heroes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: And today, these heroes are being recognized. Some of them, such as Nelson Mandela and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi are known to us all. But most are unsung. To mark Human Rights Day today, thousands of these unknown activists have rallied around the world in their fight against discrimination.

Among them, vision-impaired Pakistani protesters calling for peace in their country. Members of the remote Indian adivasi-tribal region demonstrated with their mouths gagged in Mumbai. They're demanding access to basic amenities. Israelis have rallied in Tel Aviv protesting against what they say is a rising tide of extremist sentiment. And in the Philippines, success for these activists. They've been fighting for the freedom of detained health workers accused of being Communist rebels. The president today ordering after 10 months that the 43 men and women be released.

Human rights groups remain up in arms over the case of the Iranian mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Rumors emerged yesterday that the 43-year-old woman sentenced to death by stoning had been released from prison. Well, she did leave her cell, but not for the reasons her supporters had hoped. Rather, Ashtiani was taken home by authorities, it seems, to recreate the scene of her alleged crime for a documentary being aired on state-run TV. You are about to see the promo of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAKINEH MOHAMMADI ASHTIANI, SENTENCED TO STONING (through translator): We planned how to kill my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Betrayal, of course, sometimes is very dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: All right. Well, the documentary aired on Press TV a short time ago. For reaction, lets go to Reza Sayah, who's been monitoring the story from Islamabad. What do we get, Reza?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky. Just when you thought that this story couldn't get more convoluted and tangled comes this very unusual program that aired on Iranian state media, Iran's English-language Press TV aired this program about an hour ago, and it featured Sakineh Ashtiani herself and what the program called another confession to the murder of her husband.

This isn't the first time that Ashtiani has been brought out in front of cameras for an alleged confession. We've seen this happen at least twice before over the past few months. But this particular program was different. Much more elaborate. You're looking at it right now.

In this program, television crews actually followed Ashtiani, you see here there, into her home, into the alleged crime scene, where she actually reenacted the alleged murder, the alleged electrocution of her husband. There was lots of dramatic edits, dramatic zooms, and dramatic music.

This is, obviously, highly unusual because, according to Iranian authorities, this is a woman who's in prison convicted of adultery and murder. And now, she's apparently been plucked out of her jail cell and featured in this documentary.

In the program, we also saw her son and her lawyer, who had also been detained. The program also condemns the public campaign to free here. They tried to link a human rights activist who's trying to help her with a terrorist group.

So, Becky, this has been a very strange case, and it got much stranger tonight with this program that was clearly designed to promote the government's position in this case.

ANDERSON: Yes, and at this point we have no idea where Ashtiani is. Reza, we thank you for that. Let's get you to New York to talk to Hadi Ghaemi, who's the head of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Firstly, what do you make of this Press TV documentary, sir?

HADI GHAEMI, INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN: It was a very disturbing piece, and it is the Iranian government turning a judicial case to completely a public relations game. And there was complete disregard for due process by bringing her out and making her to be part of this theatrical and this melodrama, trying to convince the international public opinion that she's guilty.

ANDERSON: OK. At this point, what do we know of where she is?

GHAEMI: She must be back in her prison cell. It was very amazing that the TV crew had access to her, but her lawyer has to be in detention rather than defending her. Most probably, she and her family and lawyer are back in jail right now.

ANDERSON: Where does the case stand at this point?

GHAEMI: The case in a way was completed this summer when she received her stoning sentence and a 10-year prison sentence for cooperating in the murder of her husband. But since the international outcry, the Iranian government is doing a lot of tap dancing trying to justify executing her one way or another. And today's program was an attempt in that direction.

ANDERSON: What is the timing if, indeed, there were to be an execution at this point?

GHAEMI: Right now, we don't know exactly -- we don't even know if they are going to confirm the execution. They have given very mixed signals, and it is open-ended right now, I would say. It all depends on how the Iranian government chooses to use its time on the international stage.

ANDERSON: Yes, this is a story which has been widely covered by the international press, much to Tehran's chagrin. How does Iran stack up against other countries, vis-a-vis executions?

GHAEMI: Iran has one of the most horrible records on execution. If you look at it per capital, Iran executes more people than any other country. And in absolute terms, only China executes more people but, given the population difference, Iran is a leader in capital punishment, unfortunately.

ANDERSON: What effect do you think this pressure from the outside world had on this Ashtiani case, so far as authorities are concerned? Do you think it helped or hindered her case?

GHAEMI: Well, it's definitely helped to delay her execution and, hopefully, to reverse it. The key point here is not just about Ashtiani, but about abolition of stoning in Iran. And that is what the government is trying to divert attention from. They don't want to talk about abolishing stoning or Iran's human rights record. They want to just focus it on this one person, whereas the international campaign is really much broader and about abolishing stoning altogether in Iran.

ANDERSON: Hadi, I've got to take a short break. We appreciate your thoughts. Thank you for joining us. The story of Ashtiani, of course, continues. Your expert on the subject. Tonight, it is World Human Rights Day, let me remind you of that.

Up next, their attacks reverberate across the globe, but how much do we really know about the shadowy world of the Taliban? Well, up next, we're going to show you the Afghan insurgents as you have never seen them before. We're back, 90 seconds away. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, 42 minutes past nine in London on a Friday evening. More than 2200 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. Yet, little is known about this shadowy enemy. No western reporter's ever been behind the lines to film the Taliban for days on end. Until now, that is.

In the CNN documentary, "Taliban," Norwegian filmmaker Paul Refsdal reveals to Anderson Cooper his unique footage of the Afghan fighting force at war and at rest. Here's a preview of that documentary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Find yourself a good position and fight them one by one.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "TALIBAN" (voice-over): Taliban fighters prepare for battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God helps the holy warriors.

COOPER (voice-over): A convoy approaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Let the first vehicle pass, and then start the --

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Shoot those sons of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you hear! Shoot their brains out!

(GUNFIRE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): This is the Taliban as you've never seen them before. In battle, in their homes, in their hideouts. Rare, exclusive images behind enemy lines.

TEXT: TALIBAN.

COOPER (voice-over): Norwegian filmmaker Paul Refsdal first came to Afghanistan in the 1980s to report on the Mujahideen. Now, he returns on a dangerous assignment. One that will take him to one of the country's deadliest regions. It's an assignment that could get him kidnapped and killed.

COOPER (on camera): Why did you want to do this?

PAUL REFSDAL, NORWEGIAN JOURNALIST: Because we've been fighting the Taliban for nine years. I thought it was time that someone met them and actually tried to show who these people are.

COOPER: Why risk your life to tell the story of these people who are fighting the US government, who are fighting the Norwegians as well?

REFSDAL: It's very important that people know who we're fighting. Because, at present, people don't have a clue, really.

COOPER (voice-over): High in the Afghan mountains, Taliban fighters return to their positions, preparing for another attack.

REFSDAL: They have at least one old Soviet anti-aircraft gun positioned in one place in the mountains, and they use that for all their ambitions as a long-distance weapon against US vehicles.

COOPER (voice-over): Refsdal says it isn't much, but it's all the fighters have.

REFSDAL: When I stayed with the Taliban, what I observed was very little weapons, few ammunition, old weapons. These are weapons, gun that are 25, 30 years old. And ammunition is the same age, more or less. So, they don't have much.

(ARTILLLERY FIRE)

COOPER (voice-over): And yet, they fight almost constantly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ghairat, do you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via radio, through translator): Mujahed, do you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ghairat, who was there above you? Was it Omar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via radio, through translator): It was Omar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): OK, OK, get yourselves to number --

REFSDAL: These guys, the Taliban, were doing two and three attacks every day, so they were very active.

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Khyber, Khyber. Do you hear me?

(EXPLOSION)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via radio, through translator): Khyber, get out! Where is it? Do it! If I see it, you will see -- it will catch fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God willing!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via radio, through translator): Find yourselves a good position, a strong position. Take down these bullies one by one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Assad, everything is OK. Tell all the comrades to get to safety. Assad, prepare yourself. As soon as they get out, take action again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via radio, through translator): Get to a good position to see the target.

UNIDENTIFED MALE (through translator): Long live, long live.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: You're watching footage from a CNN documentary called "The Taliban." The documentary also shows what the Taliban do, at least some of them, when they're not fighting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Some men gather together, taking a few warmup tosses. A usual pickup game, but an extraordinary scene. This is Afghanistan, these are Taliban fighters. A Norwegian filmmaker, Paul Refsdal, has a seat on the 50 yard line.

REFSDAL: The Taliban, they have a lot of spare time, and the favorite sport they have is throwing rocks. They have competition, who can throw the rocks further than the other ones.

COOPER (voice-over): The rules are simple.

UNIDENTIED MALE (through translator): Here are the rules. Stay here and do it like this.

UNIDENTIED MALE (through translator): OK, OK.

UNIDENTIED MALE (through translator): Don't cross this line.

COOPER (voice-over): Longest toss wins.

UNIDENTIED MALE (through translator): You have three turns.

UNIDENTIED MALE (through translator): Stay back!

COOPER (voice-over): Assad, Davron's (ph) top lieutenant, referees. Soon, this contest becomes a showdown. Davron (ph) versus Omar.

COOPER (on camera): Tell me about Omar. What was your impression of Omar?

REFSDAL: Omar seemed like a stereotype of a Taliban fighter, how we maybe imagine him. He seemed wild.

COOPER: What was your first impression of Davron (ph)?

REFSDAL: Davron (ph) strikes me as a kind of wise old man. Davron (ph) is a soft leader, in a way.

COOPER (voice-over): And Davron (ph) has tips for everyone, even his main competition.

UNIDENTIED MALE (through translator): Do it like this.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is very difficult.

COOPER (voice-over): Davron's (ph) last toss is the longest, but it's not without some controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You cheated!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Why? I did it this way. You can do it, too.

COOPER (voice-over): So, Davron (ph) wins again. No one, it seems, can or will beat the boss.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Each of the excerpts that you've just seen are part of a one-hour special that will air on CNN. See more of Refsdal's time with the Taliban and hear him talk about his experience being kidnapped. The full documentary has some world's untold stories. That's Christmas Day, right here on CNN. Tonight, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, as ever, the world of social media has been abuzz this week, so we couldn't end the week without connecting you to the best stories. CNN's Phil Han is on the case for you. He's also on iPod Nano watch. First, though, he's got some grace notes about some new YouTube celebs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER (on camera): It's been another exciting past seven days in the social media world, so here's a look at some of the most interesting and notable stories in a segment that we like to call Week on the Web.

Now, first up, this video on YouTube has been one of the most popular of the week, with more than eight million hits so far. WGN TV in Chicago were covering the implosion of a bridge for several minutes, hoping to catch that moment it went down. Now, unfortunately for them, they literally miss the explosion by seconds. Here's a look at what happened.

PAUL KONRAD, WGN WEATHER: Into the 30s around here.

LARRY POTASH AND ROBIN BAUMGARTEN, WGN MORNING ANCHORS: Are you kidding me?

BAUMGARTEN: Who did that?

POTASH: Boy, that interview on osteoporosis on "Good Morning America" is sounding a lot better now than it did.

HAN (voice-over): It was the third most popular video on YouTube globally, and it has turned the pair into internet sensations overnight. Now, I asked one of the anchors, Robin Baumgarten, why she thinks this video has become so popular.

BAUMGARTEN: I don't know. What do you think it is? You think it's my hair? You think it's the purple blouse? Or is it that awful dance that I was doing? I don't know.

I don't know. I can't tell if people think that I'm really angry for real. Because I'm not really angry. I mean, I'm a little frustrated. But I just can't figure out why it's so popular.

HAN (on camera): Now, another big story was the revamp of Facebook's profile pages. Now, the optional change gave users a more visual feel by highlighting photos and changing the way your personal information is presented.

Now, unfortunately, the reaction was mixed, as lots of users said they didn't like the functionality of the page. Many users even called for Facebook to offer them a downgrade option back to the old look.

Here's another video that was one of the most popular ones this week, with more than four million hits. Now, the singing duo of Kurt Schneider and Sam Tsui are already huge online celebs, and their latest rendition of Nelly's "Just a Dream" is proving to be just as popular.

(MUSIC - "Just a Dream")

HAN (voice-over): Now, you might also recognize Sam because of this video of him and clones singing the "Glee" version of "Don't Stop Believing."

(MUSIC - "Don't Stop Believing")

HAN (voice-over): That video has more than 19 million hits, and when I spoke with Sam, he told me how he's dealing with all his new-found fame.

SAM TSUI, PHILADEPLPHIA: The fact that I will walk down the street or be waiting in line at Starbucks or something, and someone will be, like, "Hey, you're Sam, that guy from the video." It's crazy that that actually translates into sort of real-world recognition and stuff like that. But no, it does happen, and it's cool and really flattering every time it does, so --

HAN (on camera): Next up, we have a great little gadget that could soon turn your iPod Nano into a wristwatch. Now, inventor Scott Wilson posted the idea to create an iPod watch online, and he hoped to raise about $15,000 through donations.

Well, after just two weeks, Wilson has received more than $700,000 to turn his watch into reality. He posted his invention on crowd funding website Kickstarter, so for all you would-be inventors out there, if you're after some cash, going online could be the answer.

And finally, as 2010 draws to a close, Google has just come out with its year-end wrap with what they call their zeitgeist. Now, Google analyzed all its online searches from the past year to create a list of the most popular queries, and captured everything from joy to anger.

So, that was a quick wrap-up of some of the best social media stories out there. Make sure you tune in next week to see what you may have missed. I'm Phil Han in London for CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Yes, he is. Stay with us. CONNECT THE WORLD will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: All right. A couple of minutes to go here on CONNECT THE WORLD, so let's get some of your comments in tonight, shall we? We've been asking you about the imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Now, 00Sayalem00 posted this. "It is called a Peace Prize. What's that got to do with a Chinese dissident?"

Somebody else who goes by the name of Vulpes08003 tells us, "The Chinese government will fall to the will of its people as they become more affluent."

And another viewer or user says, "This is the beginning of a new struggle between China and the West."

It's a big story. Get your voice heard on CNN, head to the website, cnn.com/connect. You can find us on Facebook, as well, at facebook.com/CNNconnect.

'Tis the season to be jolly. That's all very well if you're not having to deal with this wretched December weather. That's the theme of tonight's Parting Shots for you, and we're sending out a bit of sympathy to these motorists who got caught up in a record-breaking snow dump in Canada this week.

Residents, too, in this part of New York state are going to need more than a shovel to dig themselves out of this.

Pretty scenes like this belied Germany's travel misery. Thousands of airline passengers stranded as flights were canceled in Frankfurt and in Munich.

In Paris, tourism took a hit, heavy snow temporarily shutting down the Eiffel Tower. That doesn't happen very often.

Panama Canal also closed for just the third time in its history. What you see there are chunks of land being swept into the Gamboa Bridge.

And when it does rain in Australia, it pours. Residents of this area are being evacuated as the worst floods in 30 years inundate the once drought-stricken town.

December deluges and snow dumps across the world in tonight's Parting Shots. I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected from London here on a Friday night, it's a very good evening. "BackStory" is up next here on CNN, right after I get you this quick check of the headlines.

END