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CONNECT THE WORLD

Turmoil in Pakistan; Floods Devastate Australia

Aired January 4, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: It was on this show that a governor in Pakistan explained why he opposed his country's blasphemy laws. Well, that stand cost him his life. Now, the country's minorities minister tells me why he believes he could be next.

(VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Tonight, the latest on the case that ignited these protests and what it says about the future of interfaith relations in Pakistan.

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

Well, Pakistan's president has announced three days of national mourning. This latest crisis comes as the government battles to stay in power.

With the story and all the connections, I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Also this hour for you, water, water everywhere -- Australia wakes up to another day of flooding and a commodities crisis.

The truth about M.J. -- finally, tort hearings begin over the death of the king of pop.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS: I think the fact that I always sort of felt freaky has been a great asset to my work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Sigourney Weaver like you've never seen her before. And she's taking your questions.

And do keep in touch with the show. My personal address is @beckycnn.

Well, he had campaigned to free a Christian woman sentenced to death for criticizing the Prophet Muhammad. Well, now, it seems that speaking out against Pakistan's blasphemy law has cost Salman Taseer his own life. Earlier today, the governor of Punjab Province was assassinated in a busy market in the (INAUDIBLE) Islamabad. The gunman was his own security guard. The interior ministry says the guard confessed to killing Taseer because of his opposition to the blasphemy law.

I mentioned the woman charged under these laws. We want to take a moment to remind you of her story.

Reza Sayah has been following the case from Islamabad.

And back in November, he spoke to one of her children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Whenever I see her picture, I cry," says 12-year-old Isham.

A Pakistani court sentenced Isham and Asia's mother, Asia Bibi, to death, not because she killed, injured or stole, but simply because she said something.

(on camera): 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."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, Reza Sayah with the case of Asia Bibi, who remains in jail waiting for her appeal to be heard.

Well, an investigation by a Pakistani government ministry found the charges against Bibi stemmed from -- and I know that -- "religious and personal enmity."

But as Chris Lawrence reports, the government's decision to review the blasphemy law has provoked protests on both sides of the divide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One side warns the government to keep its hands off Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): All Muslims have to promise, if someone tries to change the blasphemy laws, we will spread blood everywhere.

LAWRENCE: The others say they have to go.

MARVI SIRMED, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Pakistan does not need any more blasphemy laws. We are a majority, for God's sake. Muslims are a clear majority, over 98 percent.

Why do we need them?

LAWRENCE: Marvi Sirmed says it's the 2 percent Christian population that most needs protecting.

SIRMED: If blasphemy laws should exist, they should safeguard minorities. They should safeguard the religion of the minorities, not of the majority.

LAWRENCE: Critics worry that blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores and one Muslim lawmaker introduced legislation to change it.

DR. MOHAMMAD KAMAL, SUPPORTS BLASPHEMY LAWS: I know the people from Karachi to Peshawar, all of them, they are very sentimental about this thing. They cannot tolerate it. So I -- I don't know how they can -- they'll dare to do it.

LAWRENCE (on camera): A lot of the clerics have been promising some sort of retribution or repercussions if the government pushes ahead with any plan to try to change the blasphemy law here.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, change is exactly what Salman Taseer was pushing for. Back in November, he told CONNECT THE WORLD that Pakistan's president had agreed at his request to pardon Asia Bibi if the courts failed to do so.

He also told us why he opposed the law under which she was convicted.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALMAN TASEER, PUNJAB GOVERNOR: Look, the blasphemy law is not a -- is not a God made law. You know, it's a -- it's a -- it's a manmade law. It was made by General Zia-ul-Haq. And the -- and the portion about giving a death sentence was put in by Nawaz Sharif. So it's a -- it's a law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities.

I mean no big, rich powerful man has gone in under the blasphemy law. It's only poor people who they want to, you know, either grab their property or threaten them or get into local disputes. So the blasphemy law is actually an unfortunate leftover from a military regime. And it has to go in due course or be amended. And I think that the pressure is on us -- is on the parliamentarians now. People have spoken up, I'm very happy to say. I -- I took the initiative. And I think, from all sides, from all solutions I see, from all democratic areas, people are coming out and openly condemning the -- the blasphemy law. I think that that's really encouraging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, calls to amend the controversial law also have the backing of Pakistan's minorities minister. A Christian himself, Shahbaz Bhatti agrees that the law is being used as a tool of victimization.

Well, earlier, I asked him if he, too, now feared for his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAHBAZ BHATTI, PAKISTAN'S MINORITIES MINISTER: I -- I am not fear, but I am getting pressed. I was told by the religious extremists that if you will make any amendment in this law, you will be killed.

But I am ready to sacrifice my life for the principle stand I have taken, because the people of Pakistan are being victimized under the protect of blasphemy law. And I, as a minister of minorities and a representative of minorities strongly believe that this law needs to be amended to stop the (INAUDIBLE) persecution under this law.

ANDERSON: So you will continue to push for amendments in this law, is that what you're saying?

BHATTI: I will continue. I will complain for this. I will advocate for that and these cowardly acts of the fanatics cannot stop me for moving any further steps against the misuse of blasphemy law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: So with so much opposition and a government in crisis, can Pakistan's blasphemy law be changed?

Well, put that to the Pakistani high commissioner to the U.K., a regular guest on this show, Wajid Hasan.

And we thank you for joining us on what is a very sad day, of course, today.

WAJID HASAN, PAKISTAN'S HIGH COMMISSIONER TO THE U.K.: Thank you for inviting me.

ANDERSON: The minorities minister telling me earlier on that he feared for his life. He is looking to get this law repealed. Sadly, the Punjab governor has lost his life.

HASAN: Yes.

ANDERSON: Will these cha -- laws change?

HASAN: Well, yes, they have to change, because it's a very uncivilized law and it was imposed -- again, it has nothing to do with Koran or Sharia, our religious laws. It was a manmade law, imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq and used by various rulers in the past.

And Benazir Bhutto's government, in 1994-96, was determined to improve upon it so that it is not abused against the minorities.

ANDERSON: Forgive me, sir, and -- and, you know, I -- I don't mean to be disrespectful here, but one man has lost his life, one man fears for his life and yet we hear from the government today they'll do nothing to change this law.

You say it should be changed.

HASAN: No. No. Becky, let...

ANDERSON: But at this point, we've seen (INAUDIBLE)...

HASAN: Let me tell you something. In Benazir's time, because she did not have that sort of majority in the parliament, she couldn't change it. But what she did was she brought in administrative law which provided that any case -- alleged case of blasphemy should first be reported to a magistrate, who is a law officer. And if he's satisfied, then the case should be restored.

If not, if he is not satisfied and the person who has made the complaint, he should be punished. And that was the provision induced by Benazir Bhutto. But it was not followed subsequently.

ANDERSON: The case of Asia Bibi is, of course, in process at present. We don't have the result of -- of her appeal at this point. Zardari had said to the Punjab governor that he would pardon Asia Bibi if, indeed, the high court didn't drop her case.

Nearly 1,000 people have been charged with blasphemy but most cases are thrown out on appeal, as you've been suggesting, and no one has actually ever been executed, as far as I know. And yet nearly -- is it more than 30 people have been killed on the street after being acquitted of -- or while they've been awaiting trial?

HASAN: Not only that, a judge of the high court acquitted somebody and he was killed in his residence. So you can imagine what sort of fanatics they are and see how much they have penetrated into the government's security (INAUDIBLE)...

ANDERSON: This is a government in crisis, isn't it?

I mean just at the weekend, this became a minority government in Pakistan.

What's the future for this government?

HASAN: The government has a bright future. It is a -- it doesn't -- it's not scared of what -- whatever is happening these days. It is determined to fight these terrorists and it's not going to give up.

ANDERSON: How...

HASAN: Do you see what -- you see what Salman Taseer said, that he stood up. And everybody is standing behind him. The president is standing behind the prime minister and there is no question of any vote of no confidence against him. And it is the opposition parties that have to bring a vote of no confidence. They don't have the votes.

ANDERSON: Nawaz Sharif has given Zardari's government just three days to repeal a number of laws that they -- he wants to enact at this point...

HASAN: Well, one can talk about them because they are related to politics in the country. One can talk about them and the government has never closed its doors on that. And the -- they always invite the (INAUDIBLE)...

ANDERSON: Will they concede, though, to Nawaz Sharif at this point?

Or is this a government of reconciliation, as it were?

HASAN: Yes, it is a government of reconciliation. It has never closed its doors and it is willing to talk.

ANDERSON: Does that mean conceding to the opposition at this point?

HASAN: No. It's...

ANDERSON: It's a weak government.

HASAN: -- it's...

ANDERSON: Let's at least admit to that.

HASAN: No, I don't agree with you, it's a weak government. It is a government which has a prime minister who was opposed -- who was elected unopposed by the parliament. And only a few days ago, he had absolute unanimous support on the 19th amendment in the constitution. You can imagine that sort of support he enjoys in the parliament.

ANDERSON: Do you worry about the future for Pakistan, at this point?

HASAN: Well, everybody...

ANDERSON: I'm not just talking about the government. I'm talking about the future for Pakistan.

HASAN: Well, everybody is worried about the future of Pakistan, because of the penetration of these terrorists into government security agencies. So everybody's life is in danger. So, obviously, this is quite scary.

But, again, when the determination is on the side of the government that they have got to deal with the problem and they've got to deal with it effectively so that it is totally eliminated from Pakistani society and Pakistan go well -- goes back to the '70s, when we didn't have any problem of that sort.

And we are committed to come -- going back to Mr. Ginar's (ph) Pakistan, in which he had said every citizen, whether -- whatever caste, breed or color, will have equal rights.

So we have to reassert, because this is the commitment of Zulfikar Bhutto, Motamal Shaheed (ph), Benazir Bhutto and this government that they will complete the vision of our late leaders.

ANDERSON: We'll have to leave it there.

We thank you very much indeed for coming in.

HASAN: Thank you.

ANDERSON: It isn't a great day, as I know you knew...

HASAN: No, it isn't.

ANDERSON: -- Salman Taseer. So I -- I'm sorry for that.

HASAN: Well, thank you.

ANDERSON: And we thank you for coming in this evening.

HASAN: Thank you very much.

Thank you.

It was nice talking to you. ANDERSON: And to honor Salman Taseer, the Pakistani People's Party has declared two weeks of mourning.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, we're going to move on to Australia. As the waters crest in Queensland, we're tracking the country's commodity crisis.

And probing the death of the king of pop -- Michael Jackson's physician is in court.

But will he face a manslaughter charge?

That coming up here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON SWANSON, FLOOD VICTIM: I've worked all these years so hard to get what I had and it's just gone. Just gone. I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, residents swept up in Australia's flood crisis are waking up to what could be the worst day of flooding yet, I'm afraid. This is the picture so far. Waters in Queensland are still rising and are expected to crest on Wednesday. Two hundred thousand people have been affected by these floods. And though supplies are now arriving by helicopter and by boat, the water is now full of snakes, as you saw just then, complicating the situation even further.

Now, if you want to put the size of this disaster into context, take a look at this map. The area highlighted in red is the affected area in Queensland. Now, look at that area when you superimpose it on top of Western Europe. It's a total area the size of the France and Germany combined. That really gives you a sense of just how massive the challenge faced by the Queensland authorities is

Well, as the crisis deepens, all kinds of Australian exports are being washed out, everything from pineapples to coal is affected in this.

Erin Edwards from 7 News now reports even areas free from flooding could see their livelihoods in ruins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN EDWARDS, 7 NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Yaupon (ph), growers are racing against rot. This should be Central Queensland's peak picking season, providing 90 percent of Australia's pineapples.

BEN CLIFTON, PINEAPPLE GROWER: This is the pineapple summer crop. Unfortunately, due to the road closures down around the Bundy area, fruit like this, which you would have harvested last week, is not going to make it to market.

EDWARDS: Ben Clifton has 150 tons to harvest. The only way to get the fruit out is by a barge. More than half his crop will go to waste.

CLIFTON: Well, hopefully, it will have a positive effect on prices to -- to offset the impact of -- of lost tons that we're going to have.

EDWARDS: Millions of dollars of pines, litchis and mangoes are being shipped south -- the first fresh cargo arrived at Gladstone this afternoon. Tomatoes, bananas, cane, cotton and grain are the hardest hit.

ROBERT WALKER, AGFORCE CEO: This will wipe out some producers.

EDWARDS: There are food and fodder drops to isolated properties. It could be weeks before stock can be moved for slaughter. Beef prices have already risen and will go higher.

WALKER: It's not just a Queensland shortage. This will impact on world markets, as well.

EDWARDS: Floods have already cost the coal industry $1 billion. Miners can't get to work. Coal pits, which are full of water, are running out of fuel and oil. And there's no way to transport the black gold to the port. Hundreds of kilometers of rain lines have been washed away.

Eighteen ships are anchored off Gladstone. Twelve more are on their way. Australia supplies two thirds of coking coal.

(on camera): Even coal that's ready to go can't. Here at the Gladstone port, the stockpiles are too wet and too heavy to be loaded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MARCH 2008)

MICHAEL ROCHE, QUEENSLAND RESOURCES COUNCIL: They rely on us as a reliable supplier, particularly of coking coal for steel making.

EDWARDS (voice-over): The coal industry will recover. After the 2008 flood, the price of coking coal doubled.

In Rockhampton, Erin Edwards, 7 News.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, well, if you were watching this show last night, you'll remember that we talked about the problems rising prices could cause. But do remember, for every loser, there is a winner, too.

So could someone actually benefit from the situation?

Well, for example, if Australia can't produce enough coke and coal, then steel makers could turn to North America instead. Coke producers in Canada and the U.S. could also pick up the slack.

Then there's sugar -- Queensland Sugar Limited handles more than 90 percent of Australian sugar exports. It's buying more sugar from Thailand and from Brazil to honor its commitments.

And, finally, wheat. Well, we've had the U.S. cold snap, the Russian export ban and now these floods. Wheat prices have been at two year highs.

Bad news for consumers?

Well, perhaps. But for farmers with wheat stockpiles in countries like Argentina, it could mean bigger profit margins.

You can see how a story in one part of the world resonates elsewhere.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Your heads up on the day's biggest stories -- up next, the global push to ban smoking. We head down to an English pub to find out, three years on, if a smoke-free zones are working.

And then the lady who has battled ghosts and aliens -- Sigourney Weaver tells us what she's fighting for in her latest film.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: OK. It kills, on average, one person every six seconds. Such is the global toll of tobacco, experts say. Yet more and more people are using the drug.

Well, all this week on the show, we've been looking at what is being done around the world to break the habit of smoking.

And tonight, we're focusing on the impact of bans in the U.K., where the workplace has been smoke-free for more than three years.

According to one study, 400,000 people quit smoking in the first year of the ban.

Well, health records show that the number of people actually admitted to hospital for heart attacks dropped by up to 3 percent. And as for any controversy, well, studies show three quarters of the British population support the smoke-free laws.

Well, not everyone has benefited from the bans.

Matthew Chance headed down to a local pub to see if pundits are still finding the laws, well, hard to swallow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in England, a ban has been in force since 2007, outlawing smoking in enclosed public spaces like offices and, of course, pubs like this one.

It means smokers have to go outside if they want to light up, making bars free of the choking cigarette fumes that used to fill these places. They're often free of people, as well. Many landlords and bar owners say their businesses have suffered as smokers stay away. The smoking ban may have been a factor in many pubs closing down.

But not everyone is unhappy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me, I find that because when people stopped smoking, and it -- more people came in. People felt healthier. They embraced it a lot more, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, at first it was negative. But it's becoming increasingly positive. I mean my clothes and, you know, like it's just a lot more healthier and, you know -- but I do smoke occasionally. But I don't smoke half as much as I would normally.

CHANCE: Well, there's also strong evidence that the ban is having a positive impact on Britain's health. Medical researchers say smoking and passive smoking-related disease are down and that thousands of lives could be spared now that smoking has been taken outside.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, well, the U.K.'s smoking laws are now nationwide. But that's not the case in many countries around the world.

Tomorrow night, we're going to look at the divisions in Germany, where many punzers (ph) are still clinging tightly to their cigarettes as they are to their beers. And if you want to catch up on what we did on the issue yesterday, do head to CNN.com/connect. Also find the stories on our Facebook page, Facebook.com/cnnconnect.

And if you're not a fan already, do join up.

Now, some of you will know her as Ellen Ripley from the film series Aliens. Other film buffs out there would have recognized her voice in the epic "Avatar." When she's not busy battling aliens, our Connector of the Day is fighting for a serious cause. That's up next.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

It's just about half past 9:00 here.

Coming up, it's just about time to meet our Connector of the Day, one of Hollywood's toughest leading ladies. Sigourney Weaver for you.

And we'll go to Los Angeles tonight, where Michael Jackson's physician could be facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the music legend's death.

And finally, the story that's got all of you talking -- why did hundreds of birds fall out of the sky in Arkansas over new year? * ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in London at just about half past nine, here. Coming up, it's almost time to meet our Connector of the Day. Tonight, one of Hollywood's toughest leading ladies, Sigourney Weaver, for you.

We'll go to Los Angeles, tonight, where Michael Jackson's physician could be facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the music legend's death.

And finally, the story that's got all of you talking. Why did hundreds of birds fall out of the sky in Arkansas over New Year? We'll go over all the conspiracy theories, some of them weird, and some of them, frankly, wacky.

Those stories are ahead in the next 30 minutes here on CNN. First, as ever at this point, let me get you a quick check of the headlines.

Pakistani officials say the governor of Punjab province was assassinated, apparently because he spoke out against the country's controversial blasphemy law. They say Salman Taseer was gunned down by his own security guard in an Islamabad market. News reports say the guard surrendered immediately.

Iran is inviting ambassadors from world powers to visit its disputed nuclear facility, but reportedly left the US, Britain, France, and Germany off the list. Those nations will join Russia and China later this month for talks with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Residents in Queensland, Australia are waking up to what could be the worst day of flooding yet. Local government officials will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday as floodwaters are expected to crest. Supplies are arriving by boat and by helicopter. A total of 200,000 people have been affected.

Well, a family spokesman says Alireza Pahli -- Pahlavi, sorry -- the son of the former Shah of Iran has committed suicide in Boston, Massachusetts. He was 44 years old. His father was overthrown in 1979 and died the following year.

Those are your headlines this hour.

Like me, you probably first came across your Connector of the Day in a film that was pretty terrifying. It was called "Alien." Off the screen, this actress is just as formidable, standing up for causes she really believes in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): She's battled ghosts, aliens, and fellow human beings.

(WOMAN SCREAMS)

ANDERSON (voice-over): But actress Sigourney Weaver always manages to make it look easy. The Hollywood leading lady has been capturing audiences' attention for more than 30 years, starring in an array of films across genres and platforms.

And off the screen, she's donated her voice to numerous causes. Her well-known role in the film "Gorillas in the Mist" helped make her into a champion of animal rights and environmental issues around the globe.

She is also a longtime advocate for gay rights and starred in the 2009 television movie "Prayers for Bobby," based on the true story of a boy who killed himself as a result of religious intolerance. As the film comes out on DVD this week, Sigourney spoke to me about why the fight against bullying is so important to her.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS/ACTIVIST: This script was based on a book written by Mary Griffith, who's in the movie, and a journalist named Leroy Aarons. It was the book that a lot of gay and bisexual and lesbian youth in America give their families when they want to start the discussion about the fact that they're gay.

And I think one of the reasons we did it was to create a DVD, which is another way of opening this conversation. And I think communication and dialogue are one of the most important things that we can do to advance the cause of gay rights.

ANDERSON (on camera): The role must have been terrifically difficult. Derrick, one of our viewers, asks, "How did you prepare for the role as Mary?"

WEAVER: I was quite intimidated by the role reading it. I felt like Mary Griffith was just the diametrical opposite person to myself. And so, I went and met with Mary, who is a very different person than the person you meet at the beginning of this story.

We spent the day together talking about Bobby, talking about her -- what she would call her ignorance and fear of anything gay. She was very religious, she -- she was absolutely adamant that Bobby should not be gay and, in fact, research has shown that if you are -- if you come out and your family is highly rejecting, that there's a -- you're eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

So, I think it's a very important statistic for families to know, because the reason Mary Griffith wanted her story shared with the world is so that other families don't make the same mistakes that she did.

ANDERSON: One of our viewers, Dale, says that families of gay and lesbian children aren't fighting hard enough against the discrimination. Do you agree?

WEAVER: I think that -- I think we all have to fight against discrimination. I think it's a big step forward for our country that we've gotten rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I think in our country, it's really our gay and lesbian and bisexual friends who are out on the front lines of a sort of fight for equality, and that's just what's happening now. And I think the fact that now you'll be able to serve openly in the military as a gay person will be a huge step forward to getting this communication and dialogue started.

I think if people knew that they were talking about specific human beings when they say that that person -- those people shouldn't have equal rights, once you tie it to, "Oh, but I don't mean that Gary shouldn't have equal rights, I love Gary." But this idea of gay people, it has to become specific. It has to be specific people and, then, I think we will make some big strides.

ANDERSON: Thomas writes to us. It's an interesting point. He says, "Speaking of bullying, I understand that you were made fun of because of your height all the time when you were in school. How did that feel, and how," he says, "did it influence your career?"

WEAVER: Well, I'm not sure I was being bullied, but I was very self- conscious, so what I would do was make fun of myself before anyone -- I was bullying myself. For laughs, sort of.

But I think the fact that I was sort of -- felt freaky has been a great asset to my work, because I often play people who are kind of on the outside of things, like Dian Fossey and other people. People who are isolated because of who they are or what they believe in. So, that's been -- I feel a real connection with people who don't fit in.

ANDERSON: Flex FS -- SF has written to us. This is an interesting one. He says, "I'd like to know if you believe life gets easier as an individual as one gets older." I'm asked that often.

WEAVER: Well, I think you don't care as much about how you're coming over, which means you're -- more relaxed about things. It's an interesting thing. It's one of the nice things that I think age and experience give you.

ANDERSON: I think they were asking, possibly, as a gay youngster, and it's an interesting question, isn't it? There's been a lot of work done for people saying, "Look, you know what? Stick with it, things get better." And those are important points, I think, aren't they?

WEAVER: Well, and I think in our country, we have organizations like PFLAG and the Trevor Project where, if you are feeling isolated and not getting the support and love that you need, you can call and you can go to these organizations and talk to other people who went through the same thing and find a connection, find support.

And I think that's very, very important for young people, to be told, "This is natural, you are wonderful, you are loved, and hang in there." You know?

ANDERSON: Yes. Humor me. A couple of questions on the industry. Christopher says, "With your talent and tenure in the industry, do you have -- still have to audition for parts?"

WEAVER: Well, no, I don't. That's very true. I'm very fortunate. Although, sometimes it gives you a chance to audition the director and find out how they work. But no, I don't usually do that. I usually meet with them.

ANDERSON: Good for you. And David asks, "What can you tell us about 'Ghostbusters 3'?"

WEAVER: I just saw Bill Murray at the Screen Awards, and we both don't know. I think everyone would like to get together and make a good movie. We'll see if it happens. I hope so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Good stuff. We all hope so, too. Remember, this is your part of the show, so get your questions in for your Connectors of the Day. Tomorrow, comedian Maziar Jobrani joins us. He's an Iranian-born American who dares to poke fun at Middle Eastern stereotypes. So, what do you want to ask Maziar? Let us know. We'll put the best questions to him. You can do that at cnn.com/connect.

Still ahead tonight, the only person charged in the death of Michael Jackson is getting his day in court. Preliminary hearings are now underway to determine whether there's enough evidence to take Dr. Conrad Murray to trial. That story and more is just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Now, a year and a half after the sudden death of Michael Jackson shocked the world, his doctor is defending himself in court.

Now, Conrad Murray is accused of giving the pop star a fatal dose of sedatives. The preliminary hearing will determine whether the case goes to a full-blown trial. Casey Wian, first, for you outside the courtroom in Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, prosecutors today began the long process of trying to persuade a Los Angeles judge that they have enough evidence to hold Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's former personal physician, over for trial on charges of manslaughter.

Listening to prosecutors included members of Michael Jackson's family, his mother, his brother, and his sister, La Toya. Prosecutors said that they plan to call between 20 and 30 witnesses over seven to eight days of testimony.

Those witnesses will attest to Michael Jackson's health before he died, the grueling efforts he was undergoing preparing for what they call one of the most important concert tours of his life, and the fact that, according to the prosecution, Dr. Murray did not adhere to the accepted standard of care in administering this drug propofol, a powerful anesthetic normally used in hospitals, to help Michael Jackson sleep in his home.

Defense attorneys are expected to contend that someone else, perhaps even Michael Jackson himself, delivered that fatal dose. We're expecting this preliminary hearing to last about eight days because of the intense number of witnesses that they'll be calling. Becky?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, Casey Wian for you, there. Well, prosecutors also told the court today that Dr. Murray waited at least 21 minutes to call an ambulance after he found Michael Jackson unresponsive. Randi Kaye, now, gives us a timeline of what transpired on the day that Jackson died.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The desperate 911 call comes from inside Michael Jackson's rented Beverly Hills mansion. It is just before 12:30 pm, June 25, 2009.

CALLER: Pumping, he's pumping his chest, but he's not responding to anything, sir.

KAYE (voice-over): The king of pop's heart had stopped. He is unconscious. His personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, who can be heard in the background on the call made by Jackson's security guard, is attempting CPR.

911 OPERATOR: Did anybody witness what happened?

CALLER: No, just the doctor, sir. The doctor's been the only one here.

OPERATOR: OK, so did the doctor see what happened?

CALLER: Doctor, did you see what happened, sir?

(INAUDABLE)

CALLER: Sir, you just -- if you can please --

OPERATOR: We're on our way.

KAYE (voice-over): As the emergency unfolds, news spreads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ORIGINALLY AIRED JUNE 25, 2009)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're getting some breaking news coming into "The Situation Room" right now from -- about Michael Jackson, the king of pop --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): His family is at his hospital bedside.

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER: My brother, the legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson, passed away on Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 2:26 PM.

KAYE (voice-over): Sorrow, shock, and so many unanswered questions. Immediately, the investigation begins to focus on Jackson's physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. A cardiologist hired to care for the pop star as he prepared for the upcoming concert tour.

June 26th, the day after Jackson died, police announced they impounded Dr. Murray's car from the singer's mansion in search of prescription medication that could be, quote, "pertinent to the investigation."

Days later, on June 30th, a registered nurse tells CNN, Jackson had insomnia and had asked her for Diprivan, a very powerful sedative also known as propofol.

CHERILYN LEE, NURSE: And I said, "Michael, if you take that medicine, you might not wake up."

KAYE (voice-over): Propofol is usually administered through an IV drip and produces such a comatose state it is not supposed to be used outside a hospital setting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ORIGINALLY AIRED JULY 29, 2009)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Propofol is a medication he uses all the time. So, is this it right over here?

RAPHAEL GERSHON, CHIEF OF ANESTHESIOLOGY, GRADY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Yes.

GUPTA: It looks like -- milk of amnesia, they call it.

GERSHON: Milk of amnesia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): By July 1st, Jackson's death is a full-blown drug investigation involving the US drug enforcement agency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ORIGINALLY AIRED JULY 1, 2009)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Here in Los Angeles, the investigation into Michael Jackson's death has taken a dramatic turn. There are reports that police found Diprivan, a powerful anesthetic, in Michael Jackson's house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): Weeks later, July 22nd, in a surprise raid, federal agents searched Dr. Murray's Houston clinic. Investigators are authorized to seize evidence related to the offense of manslaughter. They take a computer hard drive, documents, and roladex cards.

Five days later, July 27th, a major bombshell. A source tells CNN Dr. Murray gave Michael Jackson propofol, also called Diprivan, within 24 hours of his death.

DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: For a patient to be administered Diprivan in their home or in the outside world, to me, is outrageous.

KAYE (voice-over): On July 30th, search warrants for Murray's home are made public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ORIGINALLY AIRED JULY 3O, 2009)

KAYE (on camera): There's a lot of surprising information in here, Anderson. The search warrant says that they were looking for evidence, quote, "demonstrating crimes of excessive prescribing and prescribing to an addict. Also, evidence of manslaughter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): On August 18th, Dr. Murray makes his first public comments. He releases this video online.

CONRAD MURRAY, MICHAEL JACKSON'S PHYSICIAN: I have done all I could do. I told the truth. And I have faith the truth will prevail.

KAYE (voice-over): August 24th, the LA County coroner concludes that Jackson died of an overdose of propofol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ORIGINALLY AIRED AUGUST 24, 2009)

KAYE (on camera): The key thing, though, that we have learned tonight is that lethal levels of propofol killed Michael Jackson. A coroner's preliminary report is telling us so. Dr. Murray thought that Michael Jackson was addicted to the drug. He was, apparently, trying to wean him off it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): According to an affidavit, Dr. Murray told detectives he'd been treating Jackson for insomnia for weeks. Murray says he tried other drugs, but the pop star demanded propofol to help him sleep. So, at 10:40 am the day he died, he gave him 25 milligrams of it. 911 was called almost two hours later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ORIGINALLY AIRED AUGUST 24, 2009)

COOPER: And what about Murray's actions the day Jackson collapsed. Have you learned anything more about where he was, actually, when the singer stopped breathing?

KAYE (on camera): He said he finally went to sleep, according to this affidavit. He watched him for about ten minutes, and then, he left the room to use the bathroom. He said he was gone for about two minutes, maximum, according to the documents. And when he came back, Michael Jackson wasn't breathing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): On February 8th, 2010, Dr. Conrad Murray is officially charged with involuntary manslaughter. He surrenders to authorities, pleads not guilty, and is released on $75,000 bail.

ED CHERNOFF, CONRAD MURRAY'S LAWYER: Dr. Murray did not cause the death of Michael Jackson. There's no way that Dr. Murray would pump Michael Jackson full of propofol sufficient for major surgery and walk out that room.

KAYE (voice-over): If the judge decides to go ahead with the trial, Dr. Murray could get up to four years in prison for the death of the king of pop. Randi Kaye, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And so, the preliminary case against Murray kicks off.

Well, did fireworks literally scare them to death, or was it a deliberate murder plot? Or, perhaps, even a sign of the apocalypse? All kinds of theories are swirling about what might have caused birds to drop from the sky in the United States. We're going to try and unravel the mystery for you, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, a mystery deepens as more dead birds are discovered, this time in another US state. Wildlife officials in Arkansas still scratching their heads about the thousands of birds that fell from the sky there when neighboring Louisiana reported a similar mass death.

Some 500 dead birds were found in that state. But unlike the victims in Arkansas, the birds in Louisiana showed no evidence of trauma. Both states are awaiting test results to officially determine a cause of death. They don't believe, though, that the two incidents are related.

Well, if they're not related, then it's one heck of a coincidence, isn't it? To have birds dropping dead in two states within days, dropping out of the sky. The mystery's leaving some people to come up with their own explanation, as Jeanne Moos reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the kind of bird's- eye view you don't want to see.

SAMF2000, YOUTUBE.COM: This is, like, beyond nuts.

TIMWALKINGBEAR, YOUTUBE.COM: Birds are falling out of the sky, dead.

MOOS (voice-over): Four to five thousand dead birds in Beebe, Arkansas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was horrible. You could not even get down the road without running over hundreds.

MOOS (voice-over): But at least they were on the road.

(BEGIN VIDE CLIP, "Magnolia")

(FROGS THUMPING DOWN ONTO CAR WINDSHIELD)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (voice-over): Not raining onto windshields, like the falling frogs in the movie "Magnolia." What the dead blackbirds brought of the woodwork were oddball theories. "Run, the end is near!"

ASHEVILDEAD123, YOUTUBE.COM: You listen to me, right (EXPLETIVE DELETED) now. If you have a gun, load that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.

MOOS (voice-over): There were conspiracy theories involving government testing and airplanes spraying bad stuff.

TEXT: My findings are a massive electric shock wave emitted by H.A.A.R.P. re entered the earth's atmosphere.

TIMWALKINGBEAR: A flock of these birds got a direct blast of the chem trails.

SAMF2000: Magnetics. You know, the Earth's magnetic field.

MRBLOGALOG, YOUTUBE.COM: They could've got a hold of some bad food. Like, they could've flew in and was, like, "Hey, let's eat this food."

MOOS (voice-over): Everyone kept saying it was like a Hitchcock film. But in Hitchcock's film, the birds weren't dying, the people were.

The Arkansas bird flap caused some to raise the specter of religious retribution.

ASHEVILDEAD123: Jesus is coming, and he's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) pissed.

AFROSTAN1, YOUTUBE.COM: Get ready. Get ready. Well, you can't be. Well, I guess you can get ready.

MOOS (on camera): And then, to make matters worse, another dead bird story started winging its way around the web.

MOOS (voice-over): Websites like Rapture Watch spread a similar story from South America.

(MAN SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

SAMF2000: This is too much of a coincidence for dead birds to be falling out of the sky in Argentina.

MOOS (voice-over): Except the birds actually washed up on beaches, dead from starvation, back in July.

Autopsies Monday on the Arkansas blackbirds pointed to massive trauma.

KEITH STEPHENS, SPOKESPERSON, ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION (via telephone): A lot of trauma in the breast tissue, there were blood clots in the body cavity.

MOOS (voice-over): The prevailing official theory is that New Year's Eve fireworks or thunder startled the huge flock.

STEPHENS: It would be very easy for them to fly into each other, fly into a tree, into a house.

MOOS (voice-over): Skeptics scoff at that.

CARNEYART, YOUTUBE.COM: Ha ha ha ha.

MOOS (on camera): For now, the ones who really know what happened aren't talking.

MOOS (voice-over): From the survivors, not a peep. Jeanne Moos, CNN.

AFROSTAN1: It's kind of weird to me, you know. It's kind of weird.

MOOS (voice-over): New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Just a few minutes left on this show. Stay with us. We're going to be right back with some of your comments and, indeed, the headlines here on CNN this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. Now, we want to go back, get some reaction to what was the top story this evening, Pakistan mourning the governor of Punjab, who's been assassinated. Salman Taseer was gunned down by his own security guard, apparently, because of his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Now, hundreds of you have been sharing your thoughts on the website. Here's a few comments.

Mynerve, somebody who goes by that moniker, says, "It's a shame. Sounds like he was an intelligent, level-headed leader who stood up for the under-represented. I am sure he will be missed."

We got a comment from NonUS, who talks about those blasphemy laws in Pakistan. They say, "Many of these laws are man made or human interpretations of the Koran, for man's own use to control others. Things have to change in Pakistan. Hopefully, he did not die in vain."

Another person writing into us tonight, "No one needs to fight for God. God can defend himself. We don't have to kill on personal differences."

Lots more on the site, cnn.com/connect, if you want to join that discussion, do get your voice heard on the website, there, cnn.com/connect.

Now, it's a sight you're not supposed to look at directly, but that hasn't stopped some of our iReporters from capturing some spectacular Parting Shots for you this evening.

This is a partial eclipses of the sun, witnessed in parts of Europe and north Africa early on Tuesday. Take a look at that. Jennifer from the Netherlands sent this photograph in, and she says she was lucky to watch it for 20 minutes before the clouds came in. Remarkable stuff.

This one is courtesy of iReporter Dagmara. She witnessed the moon pass between the sun and the Earth from the comfort of her apartment balcony in Brussels.

And finally, the most dramatic of the lot, James in Jerusalem snapped this image and described the scene as "very Edgar Allen Poe." Just some of the views from around the world of a partial solar eclipses in tonight's Parting Shots.

I'm Becky Anderson, that's your world connected. "BackStory" is next here on CNN, right after a check of the headlines. Don't go away.

END