Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Protests Spread Across Bahrain; Developments in Iran; Stones Fly in Yemen; Italian Prime Minister to Face Trial
Aired February 15, 2011 - 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: In Bahrain, demonstrators have lost two of their number, but that's only motivating them more, as 10,000 people demand change.
(INAUDIBLE) in Iran, though. Lawmakers talk of no less than death for two opposition leaders.
Later, Italy's Berlusconi in more trouble as he's ordered to face a criminal trial.
And TV history -- how a robot fared against humanity's very best in trivia.
These stories and more tonight as we connect the world.
Furious with their government and armed with a new faith in people power, people across the Middle East are taking to the streets to demand change. We're going to check developments in Iran and Yemen, but first, in Bahrain.
Protests are swelling in the tiny Gulf nation after two demonstrators were killed in clashes with police. Thousands of people gathered on Tuesday in the capital, Manama to demand regime change. Bahrain's king made a rare televised address to try to diffuse the crisis. He offered his condo -- condolences for the protesters' deaths and promised an investigation.
One demonstrator was killed on Monday, the other on Tuesday whilst he was attending the funeral of the first protester.
Let's get more now on the unrest.
Mansoor al-Jamri joins us on the line from Manama.
He is editor-in-chief of the Bahrain daily, "Al-Wasat."
Mansoor, give us a -- a sense, if you can, of the very latest mood there.
MANSOOR AL-JAMRI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "AL-WASAT": What we have now in Bahrain is there is a -- the biggest (INAUDIBLE) in the heart of the new district of the capital, which is in the -- between all the shopping malls. People are gathering there, some tents are -- have been put up. Food has been distributed, water. Groups are cleaning. Others are directing the traffic. A total absence of police.
It seems that the demonstrators are copying what they saw in Tahrir Square in Egypt. The security forces decided to pull out because after the killing of two people and the wounding of something like 40 people, they -- they feel that things will degenerate further unless they allow a little bit of venting the anger through to see where it goes.
That -- the night has now started in Bahrain. It seems there are people who are in -- intending to spend the night over there and there are people who are coming and others are replacing them. They're going and coming, basically.
FOSTER: Right. Well, they've obviously been motivated by what's been going on over in Egypt.
But do you think there's a real sense that a similar outcome can be achieved there in Bahrain?
AL-JAMRI: At the moment, the way I see it, the -- the thrust of the demands are below the ceiling that was -- that we witnessed in Egypt. It appears that these are the people who are calling for a constitutional monarchy.
If you go to the people who are really making the show and they can decide and influence the events, they are calling for a -- an elected government, a parliament with powers to legislate and to monitor the actions of the government. They're calling for a true constitutional monarchy, the release of detainees, end of discrimination, finding just for the unen -- unemployed and solving the housing problem.
These are the -- the demands that are read through -- between the lines and if you meet with people who are prepared to come and say, yes, we are prepared to lead a movement in this direction.
FOSTER: OK, Mansoor Al-Jamri, thank you very much for joining us from Bahrain's capital.
We'll stay with that story, of course, in the coming days.
And later this hour, we'll be hearing from Spain's former prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar. He believes it's wrong to think Islam and democracy are incompatible and will offer up his own theories on how the West should engage with the protesters. That's coming up.
Next, though, to Iran, where some lawmakers are demanding the death penalty for organizers of Monday's anti-government protests. The regime has zero tolerance for such demonstrations and doesn't allow media coverage that it can't control. Iran also sharply restricts visas for foreign journalists.
But our Reza Sayah is staying on top of developments from Islamabad.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Monday, Iran's opposition movement made a big statement with a comeback.
On Tuesday, it was Iran's hard-line leadership's turn to make a statement and it was an angry one. In parliament on Tuesday, dozens of Iranian lawmakers, angry, seething, fists in the air, calling for the trial and execution Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, the two leading opposition figures in Iran, the two men that called for the rally on Monday in support of the uprising in Egypt, a request that was rejected by the government.
Of course, Iran's opposition movement defied government warnings not to come out. They came out anyway in the tens of thousands, according to witnesses. There were several clashes in areas throughout Tehran. A number of people were detained.
The question now, will Iran's regime heed the calls of its lawmakers and go after Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi?
Analysts say if they do, if they put these two men on trial, they certainly risk energizing the Green Movement even more by giving them a rallying cry.
In the meantime, the government says the protesters killed one passerby on Monday. His funeral is on Wednesday. And there's some Web sites that are reporting the Green Movement could show up to this funeral, setting the stage for another possible showdown between government forces and the opposition movement.
Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: So is there a chance that we may see a revolution in Iran?
Well, our next guest says Iran is no Egypt. Its leaders are street smart and know how to put down a rebellion. After all, that's how they came to power themselves.
Afshin Molavi is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.
He's also author of "Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran."
Thank you so much for joining us.
Iran and Egypt are very different because you're not going to see the type of demonstrations in Egypt in Iran. You're not going to have that sort of demonstrations in Iran. There's a key difference there.
AFSHIN MOLAVI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Absolutely. I mean, you know, the one similarity, however, is that, you know, both societies are deeply disenchanted with their ruling elites. Both are seeking dignity. Both are seeking greater liberty and democracy.
And where the differences lie is in the authorities' response to these demands. For example, in Egypt, we saw Mohamed ElBaradei on television talking to CNN just about every night, the opposition leader in Egypt. The Iranian equivalent of Mohamed ElBaradei is already in jail or under house arrest. If he were to have appeared on CNN, he would have been jailed the next day.
These -- the Islamic Republic of Iran, the authorities in power right now, they understand street politics. They understand revolutions because they came to power on the back of a revolution. And they understand that when a leader offers concessions, offers conciliatory gestures, allows the international media glare to be on them, that's a danger zone.
So what the Islamic Republic does is they offer no concessions. They engage in massive repression and they deploy surgical violence on their population. And that has been their modus operandi and thus far, it seems to have worked.
FOSTER: How do you think, then, the opposition movement can somehow capitalize on this energy in Iran that's come out of what's happened in Egypt?
MOLAVI: You know, it's a -- it's a good question. I think, in many ways, we've seen a circle of inspiration. Egyptian activists talked about how the 2009 Iranian protests inspired them. And now Iranians are being re-inspired by Egyptians.
But it is as if this old world in the Middle East, this old world of autocrats is -- is -- is crumbling, to some extent. But the new world has not yet been created. And in that transition period, it is fraught with danger, it is fraught with uncertainty. And -- and in the case of the Iranian protesters, it seems like they still have a very long and arduous road ahead.
FOSTER: Yes. We're just going to have a listen now to what President Obama said on this issue a little earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have sent a strong message to our allies in the region saying let's look at Egypt's example, as opposed to Iran's example. You know, I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt when, in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: We haven't really simplified it very well there, but it is a very complicated relationship, isn't it?
What did you -- do you think he's basically getting the right message across there, though, the president?
MOLAVI: Yes. I -- I think the Obama administration has had the diplomatic equivalent of a do-over, so to speak, because during the 2009 protests, there was some valid criticism of the Obama administration, that they were very slow to respond to the human rights abuses that were taking place in Iran. They were slow to condemn the brutal crackdown on protesters.
And yet this time around, both Secretary Clinton and President Obama seem to have ratcheted up the public rhetoric.
Will it make a difference in the end on the ground?
It's hard to tell. The protesters in Iran are showing breathtaking courage. They're fighting a very powerful machine.
But I think the Obama administration is certainly taking a tougher line this time.
FOSTER: Yes, and they're also looking at this as a Middle Eastern issue, aren't they, which it's difficult to generalize across, but people are doing so.
Are you able to make any general assumptions about what might happen next off the back of all of this across that region?
MOLAVI: Yes. You know, when I look at the demographics of the region and when I look at roughly two thirds of all Middle Easterners are under the age of 29, when I look at under performing economies, when I look at corrupt ruling elites in many of the countries of the region and -- and many other countries of the region are not responding to these aspirations of their young people.
I think there -- there is a danger all across the region, particularly when the Facebook generation of the secular middle class fuses with the laborers and workers who have a whole bag full of economic grievances.
When those two groups come together, it's a very powerful movement. And -- and I think all across the region, we're going to see potential unrest.
FOSTER: OK, Afshin Molavi, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us from the New America Foundation.
Appreciate your time.
Now, we've looked, then, at Iran and we've been live in Bahrain.
Next to Yemen, though, where stones flew through the air as clashes broke out for the fifth straight day there between opponents and supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mohammed Jamjoom looks at the likelihood that the next Arab revolution may well be born on the streets of Sanaa.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rising anger in
Yemen -- it's becoming a common scene in the capital city of Sanaa. Anti-government protesters, emboldened by the events in Egypt, out in the streets, calling for revolution, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down after 32 years in power, leaving many to wonder if Yemen will be the next domino to fall.
ALI MUJAWAR, YEMENI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Yemen's situation is totally different than the situation in Egypt or Tunisia and every country has its own characteristics.
JAMJOOM: Yemen's characteristics are quite different than Egypt's. The most impoverished nation in the Middle East, many felt Yemen was on the verge of collapse well before these demonstrations began. It faces a secessionist movement in the south, intermittent rebellion in the north, a growing threat from al Qaeda and a severe water crisis.
Where Egypt has an educated middle class, around 45 percent of adults in Yemen are illiterate. And while a growing number of anti-government demonstrators in Yemen have been expressing solidarity with Egyptians, so far, the protests here have paled by comparison.
But listen closely and you'll hear Yemen's youth expressing the same sentiments heard from the young Egyptians who took to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere.
(on camera): How old are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-seven years old. I have nothing. There is nothing for the future. Single, frustrated in this country.
JAMJOOM (voice-over): A growing workforce and a shrinking economy. Nearly two thirds of Yemen's population is under the age of 30. Forty-five percent of the people live on less than $2 a day. As in Egypt, huge numbers of unemployed youth and rising poverty levels may ultimately pose the biggest threat to Yemen's regime.
Now, more and more Yemeni students are participating in anti- government demonstrations.
Senior ruling party official, Mohammed Abulahoum, says it's the younger generation that is dictating the course of events in Yemen and that the government should take heed before it's too late.
MOHAMMED ABULAHOUM, SENIOR RULING PARTY MEMBER: Those that are moving events on the street right now, demonstrations or gathering more people, are not the political parties, but, rather, the youth and the independents. And this is another lesson, that if we do not try to catch up with the problems of Yemen and try to solve the problems of Yemen, it will be out of our hands and then the street and the youth will take over.
JAMJOOM: Another concern, clashes between the dissidents and government supporters. Many fear the situation could get far more violent than it did in Tunisia or Egypt if a mass uprising were to take hold in Yemen, since weapons are commonplace here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When it comes to protests, we're not like Egypt and Tunisia. As I told you, we're a peaceful but armed people. But if chaos happens like Egypt, I swear there will be shootings from window to window and door to door. We all have weapons. Every house has at least a handgun, a machine gun and grenades.
JAMJOOM: But the biggest worry, al Qaeda. Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is now the most active wing of the terrorist organization, a huge concern for Yemen's allies, including the United States and the war on terror.
We asked the prime minister if al Qaeda could try to take advantage of political instability caused by growing anti-government unrest.
MUJAWAR (through translator): Absolutely. Everything is possible. Honestly, everything is possible.
Those extremists who are in Yemen found a suitable environment, where there is poverty and unemployment.
JAMJOOM: And a very uncertain future.
Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN, Sanaa, Yemen.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: Well, still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, the views of a man who led Spain for years. Jose Maria Aznar tells me how the West must do more to support popular demand for freedom sweeping through the Middle East.
Later, man versus machine -- who's smarter?
A popular game show puts an IBM computer to the test.
But up next, the private life of Silvio Berlusconi will soon be exposed in court. We'll explain -- explain why a judge is ordering the Italian prime minister to stand trial. That's 60 seconds away here on CONNECT THE WORLD.
FOSTER: This is Karima El Mahrough, known to much of the world as Ruby, the Heartbreaker. She's part of a scandal that is rocking Italy's political world. Today it was announced that the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, will face trial for allegedly paying for sex with her, a charge Mr. Berlusconi vehemently denies.
Stick with us to hear about the latest developments on that.
I'm Max Foster in London.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Here's a look at the other stories we're following this hour.
Officials say around 200 people died during fighting last week in South Sudan, double the number previously estimated. They were killed during clashes in the state of Jonglei between Southern government soldiers and fighters loyal to the rebel leader. Many of the dead are said to be civilians.
It comes as the region prepares for independence after the South voted to split from the North in a referendum last month.
NYSE Euronext and the Deutsche Boerse have announced a merger that would span continents and create the world's largest stock exchange group. The firms agreed to a stock swap deal after several days in negotiations. The new company would have headquarters in New York and in Frankfurt and the deal is expected to face heavy scrutiny, both from U.S. and European regulators.
Chevron is vowing to fight one of the largest judgments ever in an environmental pollution case. The oil giant faces a fine of more than $8 billion for allegedly polluting the Amazon rainforests in Ecuador. Chevron inherited the lawsuit when it bought Texaco 10 years ago. The fine will double unless Chevron apologizes in the next two weeks.
In sports news, Tour de France winner Albert Contador has been cleared of a doping charge by Spain's Cycling Federation. Contador tested positive for a tiny amount of the banned substance, Clenbuterol during last summer's Tour de France, which he won.
The athlete has maintained all along that the small amount was due to some meat tainted with the substance which he ate on a rest day last summer.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Up next, he is one of the world's most controversial leaders, but now Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi will have to face a jury for his alleged dalliances.
Then a special guest on the unrest across the Middle East. Spain's former prime minister tells me why Europe's past could tell us a lot about the Muslim world's future.
FOSTER: Accusations, denials, leaks and now, finally, a trial -- a judge has ruled that Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi will be charged for paying for sex with an underage girl, an allegation he calls groundless.
Dan Rivers has the full story from Milan.
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Silvio Berlusconi is facing the most sensational trial Italy has ever seen. The swirling sex scandals that have engulfed him for months now will finally land him in court.
The case centers around Moroccan belly dancer, Karima El Mahrough, AKA Ruby the Heart Stealer, who he met on Valentine's Day a year ago.
That relationship is now under intense focus. Prosecutors claim he paid her for sex when she was an underage 17-year-old prostitute and that he abused his power trying to get her released from police custody after she was arrested last May, allegations both she and Berlusconi deny.
The anger at his antics has spilled onto the streets regularly. This rally in Milan as organized to protest at the way women are treated by Italian society, particularly by their prime minister.
(on camera): And this is the mansion outside of Milan where Silvio Berlusconi held various soirees. Now prosecutors claim these were the so- called bunga-bunga parties, which involved scantily clad women dancing in a makeshift nightclub in the basement, culminating in Silvio Berlusconi paying many of them for sex.
(voice-over): Berlusconi denies that, as does this woman, Nicole Minetti, here with her lawyer. She was a regular at the evenings, which she insists were innocent. She's also being investigated for procuring girls for the prime minister, which she denies.
NICOLE MINETTI, LOMBARDY REGIONAL COUNCILLOR: I mean the parties is, if we can call them parties, were definitely much different respect of how the press describes them. He -- he sings. He -- he tells stories, any type of story, I mean even personal stories of his experience in politics, humor stories so that that's a little bit how the evenings were. I mean nothing of lurid in any -- in any way -- any way.
RIVERS (on camera): Lots of pretty girls there?
MINETTI: Sometimes even pretty girls, absolutely. Yes. Sometimes pretty girls, yes.
RIVERS (voice-over): But the 74-year-old prime minister remains popular with voters in Italy and he's furiously denied the criminal charges, saying they are politically motivated. Now, three judges will decide and they are all women.
Dan Rivers, CNN, Milan.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOSTER: For many women in Italy, Berlusconi's antics have reached a breaking point, though. And over the weekend, protesters all over the country took to the streets in anger. Thousands of women gathered in the main piazzas of major cities like Rome, Florence and Naples to fight against what they say is the degrading portrayal of women in the country.
But the anger didn't stop there. It spread outside Italy to other European countries. In Madrid, hundreds of women marched with banners reading, "Dignity" and "Enough!"
In Paris, protesters met in front of the Sacre-Couer Basilica.
To show their support, 30 Ukraine members of the women's movement Femem went a step further. They threw underwear and went topless during the protest in front of the Italian embassy in Kiev.
Well, many worry that the scandals associated with the Berlusconi government have significantly damaged gender equality in the country.
One such person is the political scientist, James Walston.
James teaches at the American University of Rome.
And we have technical difficulties with the satellite in Rome so he joins us now on the phone.
Thank you so much for joining us.
I know that you've talked a lot about this issue, you've written about it. And you say it would be a -- a delicious irony, I think you called it, if the people who finally pushed Berlusconi out of power were the women who spent -- he spent so much of his time exploiting, in your words.
Do you think, actually, the women's movement has the power to remove him from his position?
JAMES WALSTON, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: It doesn't have the political power to -- to produce a vote of no confidence, but it does have the power, what we saw on Sunday is the power to wake up, wake up the country and decide that enough is enough. And that -- that the way in which women have been exploited, both directly and indirectly in advertisements and in lack of jobs over the last almost 30 years and -- and this is something which Berlusconi is -- is a symbol of and he is -- he's shown himself to be an active participant in, as well.
FOSTER: So this is about his portrayal of women rather than the particular events he's been involved with?
WALSTON: Well, there are two -- two sides. One is his portrayal of women, his -- his televisions over -- over 30 years. The other is particularly what we've -- we've learned over the last two years, or almost two years, since his wife went public in April of 2009, when she said that -- that he frequents minors and that he's not well.
We have had a continues stream of revelations about his -- his behavior with women and some of them under age, many of them under age, which he doesn't deny.
So this is -- there -- there is two aspects. One that -- one is the broad social aspect and the other is the single personal aspect of Berlusconi's behavior.
FOSTER: And he's survived.
He is a political survivor, isn't he?
He's survived so many political threats over the years.
But do you believe it's different this time, this is a -- this could be a breaking point because it's a criminal trial involving something particularly distasteful, in many people's views, and because it's got this wave of support behind the prosecutors?
WALSTON: Well, you have to distinguish -- we have to distinguish between the political demise of Berlusconi and -- and his lack of support, because, indeed, his -- his support has been waning a lot over the last two months, year-and-a-half. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to stop being prime minister.
If he stops being prime minister, it will be more because of -- of the lack of support from his close ally, Umberto Bossi, in the Northern League, rather than because of -- of a groundswell of pressure.
A groundswell of pressure could have some effect if and when it -- Italy goes to poll -- goes to the polls in early elections. And that could -- that could be crucial.
FOSTER: OK, James Walston, thank you very much, indeed, for your perspective on that.
A fascinating unfolding story.
Well, up next, back to the unrest in the Middle East, because we've seen the protests and we've seen the celebrations. Now the former prime minister of Spain tells me how the West can play a crucial role to help the region regain its freedoms.
FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, the former prime minister of Spain on the uprisings we're seeing across North Africa and the Middle East. The role he thinks the West should play.
Plus, man versus artificial intelligence. How Watson, the robot, performs against humans in a TV quiz show.
And then, the king's music. We speak to the award-winning French film composer behind the British film of the year.
All those stories ahead in the show for you but, first, let's check the headlines this hour.
First, they called for reforms. Now, they want regime change. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Bahrain again on Tuesday. They are furious over the deaths of two demonstrators killed in clashes with police. Bahrain's king is promising an investigation.
Iranian lawmakers are furious after Monday's demonstrations there. They demanded the execution of two opposition leaders who called for the rallies in Tehran. Tens of thousands of people marched, some were chased and beaten by security forces.
The trial of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will start on April the 6th. He is accused of paying for sex with an underage nightclub dancer and abusing his power. Mr. Berlusconi calls the allegations groundless and a farce.
Chevron says it will fight an enormous judgment in an environmental pollution case. The company faces a fine of more than $8 billion for polluting Ecuador's rainforest. Chevron inherited the lawsuit when it bought Texaco.
And US stocks ended lower after a disappointing retail sales report. The Dow closed down 42 points, the NASDAQ and S&P were slightly down.
"The world is changing." That was US president Barack Obama's warning to leaders across the Middle East today as he calls on the region to embrace the will of the people, not stifle it. Holding up the revolution in Egypt as an example, Mr. Obama called on Iranians to express their desire for democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were clear then, and we are clear now that what has been true in Egypt is -- should be true in Iran, which is that people should be able to express their opinions and their grievances and seek a more responsive government.
What's been different is the Iranian government's response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people. And my hope and expectation is that we're going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, my next guest believes the West has a direct role to play to help this year to become the Middle East equivalent of 1989, when Communism fell across Eastern Europe. Jose Maria Aznar is the former prime minister of Spain. Earlier, I asked him what the West actually needs to do next.
JOSE MARIA AZNAR, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF SPAIN: First of all, we must support the people that fight for freedom and democracy in all the Arab countries. We cannot accept a situation like we -- have even after the last Iranian election, when we abandon, we Westerners abandon the Iranian people that are fighting in favor of freedom.
Secondly, the Western world, especially the United States and the European Union, must understand that this opportunity is a unique opportunity, that we can say to the people, "We support your demands. We're helping your demands. And we're trying to organize a policy based on these values of democracy and freedom, and stop the people who are trying to use democracy to eliminate democracy."
FOSTER: I'm just wondering what the ideal outcome is, though, from your perspective. Is it a situation where -- if we look at what happened in Palestinian areas and you had the rise of Hamas, in a way, that wasn't accepted, but it was what the outcome of a free and fair democratic system, wasn't it? But you've got to be careful what you wish for. So, I'm just wondering what it is you see as the ideal outcome?
AZNAR: Exactly, you put an example, and it is true, because people organize and we organize in Gaza and elections that have -- that accept the result that Hamas, that is anti-democratic party, rules this territory. This is a mistake.
The people that don't accept the rules in a secular society, with a division between religion and politics and state, freedom of expression, freedom to believe for the people, don't -- cannot participate in elections.
FOSTER: So, you're saying some parties are acceptable --
AZNAR: Because one thing --
FOSTER: Other parties aren't acceptable. Who's choosing who's acceptable?
AZNAR: No. It is -- if you can hold elections in Germany, it's not possible for Nazi party, the National Socialist Party or Communist Party to be present in the election. One thing --
FOSTER: But that's chosen by that country's rulers, isn't it? It's not chosen by other countries.
AZNAR: No. One thing is to organize elections and support organized elections, and another thing is, I suggest, to avoid that the people that try to eliminate democracy can participate in the election, because one thing is the means, the other thing is the purposes or the goals. But for the freedom of a democracy, both are extremely important.
FOSTER: Former prime minister of Spain talking to me a little earlier. Well, coming up, what happens when you put a robot's reputation in "Jeopardy!"? Up next, a robot challenges humans to a quiz, and find out who's the real brain box.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON, COMPUTER CONTESTANT ON "JEOPARDY": Who is Michael Phelps?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, it is a classic tale of man versus machine. A new robot is taking on the reigning champions of a long-running American quiz show. Who wins? CNN's Jason Carroll reveals all.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Max, IBM researchers fed Watson, that's the name of the computer, encyclopedias, dictionaries, Bibles, movie scripts, you name it. More than 200 million pages of data, and then they taught it strategy. Now, they think Watson's ready to take on "Jeopardy!'s" best, so here's how it all sort of worked out.
In one corner, you've got the challenger, that's IBM's Watson, ten refrigerator-sized racks of IBM computer servers. And then, in the other corner, you've got legendary champions Ken Jennings, holder of the longest "Jeopardy!" winning streak, 74 games.
And then you've got Brad Rutter, undefeated champion and the show's biggest money winner. Last night, the three men -- actually, two men and one computer -- squared off in the first of three nights of competition. How did it all come out? Take a look.
ANNOUNCER: "Jeopardy!" The IBM Challenge.
ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY!": A split personality.
WATSON: Who is Hyde?
Who is Michael Phelps?
WATSON: Event horizon.
WATSON: The last judgment.
KEN JENNINGS, FORMER "JEOPARDY!" CHAMPION: What are the 20s?
TREBEK: No. Watson?
WATSON: What is 1920s?
TREBEK: No, Ken said that. Brad?
BRAD RUTTERS, FORMER "JEOPARDY!" CHAMPION: What are the 19-teens?
WATSON: What is Sauron?
TREBEK: Sauron is right, and that puts you into a tie for the lead with Brad.
CARROLL: Well, we spoke to Ken Jennings and Watson's lead researcher about what it's like to face off against a computer.
JENNINGS: You can't psyche that guy out.
CARROLL: No, you can't.
JENNINGS: It's never going to get cocky, it's never going to get stage fright, it's just implacable. It's like the "Terminator." It just keeps coming.
CARROLL: Can the creator beat what was created?
DAVID FERRUCCI, IBM WATSON RESEARCHER: Absolutely not. I'm one of the worst "Jeopardy!" players on the face of the planet. Not good at it at all.
CARROLL: I'm not either.
Well, Max, we also wanted to see what it would be like for a regular person, a non-champion, such as myself, to take on Watson. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our contestants are Jason from CNN and Watson from IBM.
CARROLL: I'll take "Those animals fright me" for $400.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herpetophobia. Watson?
WATSON: What is reptile?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watson?
WATSON: What is Baghdad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. Watson?
WATSON: What is Birmingham?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Watson?
WATSON: What is Buffalo?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buffalo, yes. Well, you ran that category, Watson.
CARROLL: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Question mark" was not what we were looking for. How much did you wager, Watson? $26,599, bringing you up to just a dollar short of $60,000.
CARROLL: I want you to know, I did know a lot of these answers, but I couldn't -- I couldn't --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The buzzer is hard.
CARROLL: I couldn't figure out how to buzz in. Well, that's humbling.
You know, Max, at the end of the day, that buzzer, I needed some excuse, something, some reason to explain my extremely poor performance against Watson.
But the end results here, there were much larger implications just beyond a game show. Researchers are hoping some day, some sort of a computer can be developed to help doctors, for instance, diagnose illnesses. So, there's a lot of potential, here, for what Watson can become someday. Max?
FOSTER: Well, we all love a good human versus robot battle, of course, especially on the silver screen, where the machines are often depicted as the enemy, though. But as Phil Han reports, we really should be seeing them as our friends.
PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER (voice-over): Hollywood's been depicting the battle between man and robot for decades. "Terminator" terrified audiences with its prediction of a future dominated by machine.
The 2004 film "I, Robot" showed a world where robots were seeking their revenge on mankind for years of enslavement.
CHI MCBRIDE AS LIEUTENANT JOHN BERGIN, "I, ROBOT": How many robots have ever committed a crime?
WILL SMITH AS DEL SPOONER, "I, ROBOT": Now, define "crime."
HAN (voice-over): A not very happy relationship, at least on film. Thankfully for us, though, it's more fiction than fact. Today, robotic technology has paved they way for major scientific breakthroughs.
A number of surgical procedures are performed with the help of robotic technology, from organ transplants to hearty bypass surgery. Robots have also revolutionized the industrial sector, with car factories using robotic technology on the assembly lines.
But experts say the greatest potential could exist in humanoid robots. Honda's ASIMO is among the most technologically advanced, capable of walking unassisted at speeds of six kilometers an hour. ASIMO is also able to recognize faces, avoid hazards using artificial intelligence, and it can even recognize a handshake when one is offered.
NASA has also just unveiled the Robonaut 2, which it will send into space to help real-life astronauts. It features fully functional hands and arms.
Let's just hope these developments don't lead to a future uprising. Phil Han, CNN, London.
FOSTER: Well, the future's certainly bright for the robotic technology sector, but how far can it all go, and is there any cause for concern, as Phil suggests? Well, joining me now from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania is Professor Eric Nyberg, who helped develop IBM's Watson computer.
Thank you so much for joining us. It's an incredible invention you came up with, if I can call it that. How far do you think we can go, if you push things as far as you have already?
ERIC NYBERT, PROFESSOR, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: Well, I think what's interesting about Watson is that it shows that question-answering systems are ready for prime time in more than one sense, not just as a television contestant on "Jeopardy!" but they're now fast enough and accurate enough and they have enough confidence in their answers to solve problems that I think are going to be useful for humans.
FOSTER: A lot of people get confused when they think about thinking, because they can't imagine a robot thinking in the same way as humans do. How do you perceive thinking, and how do you interpret that into a machine?
NYBERG: Well, Watson does a very specialized form of thinking or reasoning that has to do with finding candidate answers and then deciding which of those candidate answers is best supported by the texts that it has available in its knowledge base.
But if you compare that to, for example, the ASIMO robot, which might be asked to perform tasks like bringing you a beer from the refrigerator or going upstairs to fetch something, the robot needs a lot more real world knowledge, and it needs to do a lot more reasoning about how to accomplish tasks, where Watson really has only one specialized task, which is to answer questions very well.
FOSTER: And what could be seen as his weakness? It's also his advantage, isn't it? That he hasn't got emotion. We saw from that report earlier on that emotion doesn't even get involved in the quiz, and that's what works against the contestants. So, that's a big advantage of machines over humans, isn't it?
NYBERG: I think so. I think that, especially in a context where fatigue plays a factor, like in the "Jeopardy!" contest, Watson would definitely have an advantage.
I think if you watch the competition and you look at where Watson does very well and really dominates the humans, you see the strength of Watson, which is where there's lots of rich information available, it gets highly accurate answers and it's very confident in its answers and buzzes in very quickly.
But there's also a lot of questions in the "Jeopardy!" game where Watson is less certain and much more likely to give a wrong answer. And it still gives answers that humans would probably never live. Watson thinks that grasshoppers eat Kosher, which I don't think any of us would believe so readily.
FOSTER: You're making great progress, though, aren't you? All the time, by the month, really. I'm just wondering if you do envision a point one day where you do have a machine which thinks a bit too much and you can't control it anymore and it does get out of control for everyone?
NYBERG: Well, this question has come up quite a bit, and I think that most of the question-answering applications that have been explored to date all have a human in the loop. So I don't think anyone's ready to take the human out of the loop and sort of let the computer do it all on its own.
I read a very interesting article today by Steve Baker where he pointed out in "The Boston Globe" that it really doesn't matter if Watson gets one or two crazy answers as long as it gives you three or four answers that you hadn't though of that might help you to get your work done. And if you're a doctor looking for possible treatments for a rare ailment, that's really important.
FOSTER: OK, Professor Eric Nyberg, one of the masterminds behind Watson the computer. Thank you so much for joining us. Fascinating stuff.
Now, "Time" magazine has come up with the top ten man versus machine moments, including Ziggy the robot taking on the San Francisco 49ers kicker Joe Nedney. Take a look and become a friend of the show. Go to our Facebook page at facebook.com/CNNconnect.
Next up, the musical virtuoso behind "The King's Speech."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL MCCARTNEY, BAFTA PRESENTER: And the BAFTA goes to -- "The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Film composer Alexandre Desplat explains what it was about the film that inspired him to write that BAFTA award-winning score.
FOSTER: "The King's Speech" is proving a star of this year's awards season, the British film picking up seven BAS -- BAFTAS, even, on Sunday night. First amongst them was won by tonight's Connector of the Day. He is shaping up to be this year's king of original music. Let's get you connected, now with Alexandre Desplat.
FOSTER (voice-over): It was the film the catapulted Alexandre Desplat onto the red carpet, and he's been there ever since. The 2003 drama, "Girl With a Pearl Earring" earned the French composer his first Golden Globe nomination, and the acclaim has only grown.
MCCARTNEY: "The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat.
FOSTER (voice-over): So, too, demand for this classically trained, cinema-loving virtuoso. Raised on American jazz and Hollywood film scores, Desplat is prized for a diversity that's seen in composed scores for films across the genres.
GEORGE CLOONEY AS MR. FOX, "FANTASTIC MR. FOX": You've got to kind of feel out the vibe.
FOSTER (voice-over): The quirky "Fantastic Mr. Fox."
MATT DAMON AS BRYAN WOODMAN, "SYRIANA": It's running out, and 90 percent of what's left is in the Middle East. This is a fight to the death.
FOSTER: Oil thriller "Syriana," and fantasy drama "The Curious Case of Benjamin Briton" (sic) are just some of the scores that have earned nominations.
CATE BLANCHETT AS DAISY, "THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON": I've just been talking and talking.
BRAD PITT AS BENJAMIN BUTTON, "THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON": No, no, I've enjoyed listening.
FOSTER (voice-over): It was in 2007 that he too home his first statue, a Golden Globe for "The Painted Veil." Now he has another one under his belt for "The King's Speech," a film that could also deliver him his first Oscar.
Becky Anderson asked Alexandre what it was that so inspired him about the Tom Hooper-directed movie.
ALEXANDRE DESPLAT, FILM COMPOSER: When you see a film that is as well-directed and as well-conceived and is such a compact object, you understand that there's behind that a very strong director. Because it's not only the team of producers, which are very important, of course, but there's one man in charge, and it's the director.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (on camera): I've read that "The King's Speech" was a particularly emotional score for you because it was very much about a man being prepared to rally a nation in the resistance against Nazism, and both your parents, of course, were witnesses to the war. Does emotion -- or did emotion, in this situation, help your work?
DESPLAT: Of course. It's crucial. I'm made of flesh. It's crucial to have emotions. And yes, having my father being a resister or my mother knowing that -- seeing the Nazis in Greece, yes. And being raised with the memory of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, bum-bum-bum-bum, that's what played on BBC, all this resonates with me, of course. And it's important, yes, it's very important.
ANDERSON: How well do you have to get to know the characters?
DESPLAT: I like to investigate when I'm working on a project to know -- to read as much as I can or see as much as I can about the project.
I must say on this one, I was a bit taken by surprise, because it was -- a bit at the very final moment, when the movie was being edited, there were just a few weeks left before recording, and I must also admit that I didn't know much about the king.
Because we know a lot about Churchill, about De Gaulle, of course. But the king was some kind of a distant figure for us in France.
ANDERSON: Marco -- Marcio Santos is a fan of yours from Brazil. Let's get some of these viewer questions in. "How do you create the songs?" And I guess what he's saying there is, how do you get started?
DESPLAT: The question is, what would I write music of this film? What is necessary? What can I bring more that is not on the picture? Is it rhythm, is it intensity, darkness? Is it a melody that will convey the emotions to the film?
(MUSIC - "FANTASTIC MR. FOX")
DESPLAT: And that's the first thing you have to question yourself.
ANDERSON: Let me take you back to "The King's Speech," then. So, just talk me through that process.
DESPLAT: Well, "The King's Speech" is a very tricky one, because a lot of dialogue, but still, you need to bring out emotion and convey what the king cannot convey, his deep emotion. He can't express himself, he can't talk, and he can't speak about his intimacy, his own self, his childhood, because that's not the way a king would express himself. He wouldn't talk about these things.
So, the music has to bring out this deep suffering, this deep pain that he has hidden deep inside him and bring it out to the audience so that they can share and have empathy with him.
ANDERSON: You've said that, and I quote, "over the past 15 years, I've been able to build a voice, something that looks like me." How do you, then, personally define the characteristics of your voice?
DESPLAT: That's something a drama should do, maybe. I would say it's anciently melodic, orchestrally rather refined, rather French. And -- it plays with many influences.
I've dedicated myself to cinema. I've never dreamed of writing for the concert, no. My dream was always as a composer to write for cinema.
ANDERSON: What are your thoughts on collaborations? Is there anybody that you would like to collaborate with?
DESPLAT: Many directors that I think are fantastic. Of course, the old masters like Coppola or Scorsese -- Alain Resnais in France or Stephen Daldry, Paul Thomas Anderson. There's a huge sum, and there's huge -- bunch of directors. Most of them, they have their composers, and they have composers which I love and respect, so I just can hope that one day they change their minds.
FOSTER: Becky, there, interviewing BAFTA award-winning film composer Alexandre Desplat. One note, of course, in that piece, you heard me refer to the movie as "Curious Case of Benjamin Briton." Embarrassingly, fans of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, of course, know that it was "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Apologies for that.
Tomorrow's -- tomorrow night, we're going to change the tune, really, with a Connector who works far from behind the scenes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL STANLEY, LEAD SINGER, KISS: When I was a cab driver, I remember, in New York City driving somebody to Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley play, and I remember thinking to myself, one day, people are going to be pulling up to Madison Square Garden to see me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: KISS front man Paul Stanley is your next Connector of the Day, and he answers the question, will the original band tour again? Find out more, tune in tomorrow night, or head to cnn.com/connect.
In tonight's Parting Shots, the best from CNN's i-Reporters. Peter Reyneke shot these beautiful images of a wintry scene on a beach in South Korea. Peter lives around six kilometers from the Chuam Beach, and normally, he says, he can just get on his bike and cycle there, but because of the snow, it's now a big trek, as you can see.
A great video, right up in the action, here, from i-Reporter Melody Paris.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (chanting): There's no excuse for animal abuse! Free Sara and Nicole! There's no excuse --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!
CROWD: For animal abuse --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Protesters from the animal rights group PETA blocked the door to Atlanta's City Hall. They were demonstrating against alleged cruelty to circus animals.
Since 2006, we've been -- we've seen a submission from every nation on the planet, and you've seen them on air and online, and your i-Reporters also helped us cover the story out of Egypt. Now, it's time to vote for your favorite i-Report of 2010.
Our judges will pick winners in six categories, such as Breaking News and Original Reporting. But you pick the Community Choice Award. Vote for the one you think embodies the best of CNN i-Reports in 2010. Go to ireportsawards. -- cnn.com, and the deadline is March the 7th.
I'm Max Foster, that is your world connected. Thank you for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this very short break.