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CONNECT THE WORLD
Relations Between Britain and Iran Worsening; New Film Highlights Growing Underground Rebellion in Iran; Myanmar Still Has Long Road to Democracy; US Secretary of State's Historic Visit to Myanmar; Activist Calls Myanmar's Reforms "Cosmetic"; Going Green: US State of Georgia Gives Old Trash New Life; CNN Ecosphere; Parting Shots of Fire Alarm During NBC News
Aired November 30, 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, CONNECT THE WORLD: Stocks surge, markets race higher after central banks across the globe join forces to pull the economy back from the brink. But on the streets of London, austerity anger boils over.
Tonight, efforts to calm the chaos.
Live from London, I'm Becky Anderson. Also this hour, Iran increasingly isolated. The West retaliates after Britain's embassy comes under siege. And touchdown -- the U.S. Secretary of State on an historic visit to Myanmar, 50 years in the making.
The world's stock market got a dose of good news today, and investors jumped on it. Six central banks announcing a coordinated move that'll make it cheaper for banks around the world to borrow money. It's an effort by the U.S. Federal Reserve (inaudible) central banks of the Eurozone, Britain, Canada and Switzerland to get more money flowing through the global financial system.
Well, the markets liked it, and this was the result. The Dow Jones Industrials just closing in the last couple of minutes, and there you see up through that magic 12,000 number, 4.5 percent higher on that market. And the European market's having a decent day of it. The DAX some 5 percent higher, the (inaudible) 3 percent and Paris up 4.2.
Well, Richard Quest joins me now to explain how today's move will help get more money flowing through the system. If you say the word "index" or "swap," I'll shoot you.
RICHARD QUEST, HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": (Inaudible). Substantially the financial system has just about gummed up again. Seized up, banks will not lend to each other. They are frightened of what will happen. So what the central banks basically have to do was put money into the economy so the banks feel confident.
Now in some cases, it might be a German bank that needs dollars. It might be a French bank that needs yen. It might be a Japanese bank -- you get the idea -- that needs Swiss francs. And what the central banks have agreed to do is make that money available between themselves and, in some cases like the dollar, that's a cheap rate or cheaper rate of interest.
ANDERSON: Now this is about confidence, (inaudible) soaring confidence in the markets. It doesn't, though, address the crisis in the Eurozone per se, does it?
QUEST: Not one little jot. This is treating the symptoms. Banks unwilling to lend each other and needing liquidity. And I, frankly, the fact that somebody is doing something is why we have seen such a remarkable move in the market today. For the Dow to go up 4 percent on the basis of what is, frankly, a rather technical aspiration on what took place today, is quite remarkable.
ANDERSON: It's pretty good labor market numbers as well out of the (inaudible).
QUEST: I think that had a much.
ANDERSON: . European market.
QUEST: . much bigger (inaudible).
ANDERSON: . (inaudible). All right. The point is this, that the governments still need to come up with a plan to address what is going on in Europe. Of course, (inaudible) economics commissioner, Olli Rehn said, after a meeting with finance ministers in Brussels. He said, "We are now entering the critical period of 10 days to complete and conclude the crisis response of the European Union."
Mr. Quest, your response?
QUEST: I am just amazed after all they've been through, they set themselves up with these sorts of statements. We had it before with Merkel and Sarkozy. We had it with Olli Rehn. We've had it with Barroso. They keep saying, 10 days to this, two weeks to that.
Now we've got a 10-day deadline until the European summit on December the 9th in Brussels. We know what's going to happen. They're going to try and start the process of opening up the treaties, to try and make the E.U. work better, or the Eurozone work better.
But Olli Rehn's comments do nothing to actually solve the crisis. And that crisis is still the same. It too high borrowing costs for certain countries, a dysfunctional environment and a lack of -- a lack of confidence. And finally, a stability bailout fund that's not big enough or powerful enough.
ANDERSON: Which all creates a market for speculators to speculate against what we have seen.
QUEST: And that's what we saw today.
ANDERSON: (Inaudible) Eurozone.
QUEST: That's what we saw today.
ANDERSON: Buying, not selling, though. Good, thank you, Richard Quest for you, and he moves to calm the Eurozone crisis won't come fast enough for striking public sector workers in Britain, I've got to tell you.
Tensions flared when Occupy London protesters stormed the offices of a mining company in the central part of the city now. They timed their actions to coincide with the biggest strike in a generation, up to 2 million teachers, nurses and border security staff walked off the job today. They're fighting tough government austerity measures that will see their pensions (inaudible).
Erin McLaughlin spoke to some of those frustrated workers marching through central London earlier today.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN REPORTER: Thousands of public sector workers participating in this march, they are heading for a rally not far from here. At the center of this entire strike has been public sector pensions.
Quite simply, the government wants to see these workers putting more money towards their pensions and working longer. It's something that union leaders say will leave their members fundamentally worse off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My lifestyle is -- has been extremely affected. Utility bills are going up. We have a mortgage to pay, and I have to look after my daughter. I think it's asking far too much of public sector workers to take pay freezes, to have our pensions reduced just so that the government can force out the deficit without taxing other parts of the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work at a college, and we have the government last year cuts one of the main sources of support for students, which was the Education Maintenance Allowance, and that means that we will get -- you cannot afford to come into college. I get students calling me up, saying they don't have the bus fare.
MCLAUGHLIN: Government officials say this pension plan is necessary, but the public -- average public sector worker is living longer, and therefore the current pension plan is becoming more and more expensive, that expense being borne by the average taxpayer here in the U.K.
Government officials also say this is an expensive distraction from the negotiating process at a time when the U.K. economy can ill afford it. Union leaders say this is just clearly a manifestation of the overarching anger and frustration being felt by public sector workers in the U.K. today -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right (inaudible) public sector march was somewhat overshadowed by another protest group today, Occupy London, claiming they targeted the office of mining company Xstrata because the CEO Mick Davies was paid almost $30 million last year. Well, Xstrata reportedly disputes that. Have a look at this CNN exclusive footage of the confrontation between protesters and police.
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ANDERSON: Well, a reminder of our top story this hour, on a day protesters rallied against authority measures in the U.K. up and down the country.
Markets in the U.S. and Europe made significant gains after six central banks announced that they will make borrowing to each other cheaper now. That, in turn, of course, will flow onto retail banks. But the Eurozone crisis is far from over. It's yet to be seen if today's news will really make a long-term difference.
So you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London, still to come, ordered to leave. (Inaudible) all Iranian diplomats from the U.K. following an attack on its embassy in Tehran. We'll bring you the very latest on deteriorating relations, up next and the (inaudible) of a Welsh (inaudible).
From the football world, tackle a hidden scourge (ph) and a beautiful game. And America's top (inaudible) match follows up on (inaudible) progress in Myanmar. And (inaudible), a true movement for democratic change. That's (inaudible).
ANDERSON: It's CNN, the world's news leader, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome back. Now British foreign secretary William Haig is giving the Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
That follows the story of Britain's embassy in Tehran yesterday. Well, Germany, France and the Netherlands have all recalled their ambassadors now from Iran as well. William Haig said Britain is taking immediate and drastic action to protect its diplomats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY WILLIAM HAGUE: The safety of our staff and of other British nationals in Iran is our highest priority. We have now closed the British Embassy in Tehran. We have decided to evacuate all our staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, Hague is also ordering Iran to close its embassy in the U.K. But the foreign security said Britain was not severing relations with Tehran entirely. I'll have much more on this story coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD a little bit later this hour. We want to look at some of the other stories connecting the world today.
One of Syria's main trading partners is setting sanctions on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Turkey says it wants to be on the right side of history.
Accusing Syria of choosing brutal repression of its own people over democratic reforms. Well, Turkey's foreign minister announced the sanctions earlier. They include freezing all financial transactions and Syrian government assets and stopping the transfer of weapons from the Syrian army.
Well, (inaudible) says a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers over the weekend was not a deliberate attack, rejecting Pakistan's suggestion that it was a premeditated act of aggression.
Well, the Pakistani military released these pictures today, showing the aftermath of the attack near Afghanistan. These (inaudible) Afghanistan to close the Afghan border to NATO and boycott an upcoming international conference on Afghanistan's future.
An industry of spin doctors: that is how Alastair Campbell has described the British press. The former communications chief of British prime minister Tony Blair was the star witness on day 10 of the Leveson inquiry, which is that the press behavior in the wake of the U.K. phone hacking scandal.
Campbell, who's often been called a master of spin himself, produced a 55-page statement outlining a series of stories he claims were inaccurate, misleading and politically motivated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, FORMER Director of Communications AND STRATEGY, DOWNING STREET: What I think we should defend is a genuinely free press. And at the moment, I feel we have a press that has -- that has just become, frankly, putrid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, police in Los Angeles have arrested some 200 people involved in the city's Occupy Movement. Officers in riot gear began dismantling tents in the early hours of Wednesday morning after protesters refused to obey a court order to vacate the site by Sunday. The L.A. camp has been in place for 60 days, and was the largest still-remaining in the United States.
A 29-year-old man has filed a lawsuit against Penn State University against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the charity Sandusky founded, claiming that he molested him more than 100 times in the early 1990s.
This lawsuit is the first to be filed since horrific sex abuse charges were brought against that coach by a grand jury earlier this month. But, today, the attorney for the man who filed it said her client is not one of the victims described in the grand jury report.
Well, (inaudible) used to help guide the damaged space craft Apollo 13 safely home sold for 15 times its estimated value. A collector paid almost $390,000 which shows calculations that gave the crew key information about their location.
An oxygen tank on Apollo 13 exploded during its mission to the moon in 1970. The three-man crew had to use their lunar module as a lifeboat of sorts, and landed safely back to Earth three days later.
(Inaudible) CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, Becky Anderson there for you in London. Still to come tonight, a (inaudible) death a wakeup call. We'll look at how the Gary Speed tragedy could save other lives. And the secret life of rebellious young Iranians, how a new underground film is speaking out about the country's taboos.
ANDERSON: You're with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN, live from London. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome back now. Three days ago, a sporting hero died from an apparent suicide. The death of Welsh football manager Gary Speed came as a shock to friends, family, fans alike.
The question remains: were there any signs? It's a tragedy that has prompted the Professional Footballers Association to try to take action and try to help other members who may be battling depression in silence. And for more, I'm joined now by Alex Thomas.
Alex, (inaudible) book that raises awareness about mental illness, and also going to set up a hotline, I believe.
ALEX THOMAS, CNN REPORTER: Yes, they are. They're just trying to use the sad case of Gary's death to try and spread awareness. And already there are signs that more players than ever before are contacting the PFA, saying, look, we think we may have a problem with depression, and we'd like some help.
Of course, depression still isn't necessarily the cause of Gary Speed's apparent suicide. We may never know that. Certainly won't know any more until the inquest into his death reopens in the new year. But, Becky, you were asking me to sort of spread this net slightly wider.
Of course, we look further afield in the U.K. One of the most football suicides is Robert Enke, all set to be Germany's goalkeeper at the 2010 World Cup. But the year before he stepped in front of a train.
His close friends, a journalist, Ronald Reng, wrote the book about it with the full authorization of Robert's wife, who, unlike some (inaudible), decided to come out immediately, again, to help spread awareness of depression. And Ronald's book actually is now an award-winning book here in this country, every Christmas (ph), just completely ironically in connection with Gary's death.
In the NHL, in ice hockey, we've had three suicides of so-called end forces (ph), the guy that gets stuck in the fights on the ice, three in the space of a few months, big, burly men. Was concussion at fault? Certainly the authorities are looking into the problems of growing suicides amongst those players.
And I spoke to Pat Cash at the tennis on Sunday, actually. And we can hear a sound bite from him now, because he suffered depression in his career, even that year in '87 when he won Wimbledon. And he said, amongst young Australians, the suicide rate is on the rise. Have a listen to what he said about sports, athletes and the pressures they're under.
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PAT CASH, TENNIS PLAYER: I think one of the things that people don't realize about sportsmen is that they're putting their self, their ego, on the line every single day, and sometimes several times during the day. You go out and you train and you play, you put yourself on the line.
Things don't always go well, and it -- and it gets -- it can get into a real depressing run. And the pressure builds up on you and the media, you're -- you know, you don't want to let your fans down. You don't want to let your family down or your teammates and whatever happen to be (ph).
So, you know, it's a double-edged sword, certainly fame and sport. It's absolutely no doubt there's great highs, but, boy, there can be some serious lows as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: (Inaudible) I know you'll do more on this on world sport. Of course, it's about an hour from now here on CNN. Do stick around for that.
(Inaudible) coming up.
THOMAS: Yes, well, coming up on the show, we've got a one-on-one interview with Andriy Shevchenko, famous Ukrainian footballer, ex-Chelsea, ex-Milan star, just one of the many interviews that our boys on the ground in Poland and the Ukraine have been mopping up ahead of the Euro 2012 draw. Let's just give you a flavor of that interview now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): I think this country did everything possible to prepare well. And I think there is much more we will do to welcome the players. But what is more important, to welcome the fans. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to show the world how beautiful the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your expectations for the team, and how much pressure is there since you're playing at home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): Well, of course, it is a great responsibility for us. And everybody is expecting a good result. For us, it will be great to get past the group (ph) stage. But personally, I dream about final.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: (Inaudible) brushing up on his Ukrainian there. It's good stuff.
Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, this hour relations between the U.K. and Iran sink to their lowest in years. Why the British foreign secretary has ordered the Iranian embassy in London to close its doors.
A high-profile trip puts the international spotlight on a rogue state struggling to emerge from decades of isolation. And how the sun is turning trash into energy. Our going green special report showing (inaudible) tonight on one way to deal with mounting rubbish.
ANDERSON: Just before half past nine in London. You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Let's get you a check of the headlines this hour.
And global stock markets have surged after an effort by six central banks to make lending cheaper. The Eurozone crisis is far from over since E.U.'s economic commissioner Olli Rehn says political leaders in the region have 10 days to agree on a plan to save the euro.
Occupy London protesters clash with police. They're coinciding with a national strike. Thousands upon thousands of public sector workers are opposed to government plans to restructure pensions.
Turkey has announced tough sanctions against Syria. Ankara plans to stop selling and providing weapons to the Syrian army. (Inaudible) halting transactions to Syria's central bank and freezing government assets.
And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun a two-day visit to Myanmar. She scheduled to meet with the president and with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She says she wants to see first-hand if Myanmar's political and economic reforms are sincere.
All right. Well, the already tense relations between the U.K. and Iran are getting worse. The British foreign secretary has expelled all Iranian diplomats following the storming of its embassy in Tehran. (Inaudible) with Zain Verjee's got the very latest.
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ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: British foreign secretary William Hague says all British embassy staff have been pulled out of Iran and the embassy has shut down. The UK's also ordered the Iranian embassy in London to close and Iranian staff out in 48 hours. Just listen to how he put it.
WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Iran is a country where opposition leaders are under house arrest, where more than 500 people have been executed so far this year, and where genuine protest is ruthlessly stamped down.
The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without a certain degree of regime consent is fanciful.
VERJEE: Relations between Iran and the UK are at their lowest level now. All diplomatic ties, though, have not been severed, because there will be some contact still, possibly through other European missions.
Now, this is happening after hard-line Iranian students attacked the British embassy in Tehran, busting down the door, breaking windows, lighting documents on fire, and even tearing down the Union Jack.
Last week, the UK had cut all financial ties with Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program, and in response, the Iranian parliament voted to downgrade relations with the UK and kick out the British ambassador.
William Hague says he'll consult with his European counterparts over the coming hours and, in fact, Germany has already recalled its ambassador to Iran for now, calling the storming of the British embassy unacceptable.
Zain Verjee, CNN, London.
ANDERSON: Well, protests in Iran, like ones that we saw this week, don't happen often, not without, at least, permission of the government. Many have condemned the country's repression, a state where, for example, media is censored, alcohol is banned, and women are not allowed to be musicians.
Well, the new film called "Dog Sweat" highlights these kinds of taboos and, as Max Foster, my colleague reports, tells a story of a growing underground rebellion.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Partying, forging careers, exploring their sexuality. It could describe any young person.
But the characters in acclaimed film "Dog Sweat" have attracted particular attention because they're living in Iran, brought up under strict religious law.
HOSSEIN KESHAVARZ, FILMMAKER: "Dog Sweat" is basically moonshine. It's homemade alcohol. And as you know, alcohol in Iran is prohibited. And so, the movie is about young people in Iran who want to -- who basically are fighting to be free and live the way they want to. And in one of the stories, a bunch of guys want to track down some alcohol, some dog sweat.
And so, the film in itself is different stories of people looking for their own version of dog sweat, whether it's a female singer who wants to be heard or a young couple that just want to find a place where they can be alone together.
FOSTER: It's a rare view of Iran. Keshavarz is painting a portrait of a mounting underground rebellion.
FOSTER (on camera): How widespread are all of these taboos, do you think? Or did you find very unusual cases and you're highlighting them?
KESHAVARZ: For me, I wanted to show kind of everyday life in Iran, and I wanted to make a portrait of this generation. So, I don't think any of these stories are unusual, but I think they haven't been seen before.
And I think the reason why they haven't been seen is because we have very -- I would say we have kind of a skewed -- we get skewed images of Iran. In Western media, it's always about Iran as a threat. Iran as a country of fundamentalists.
And in the Iranian media, Iranian films, it's often because of censorship, it's about the idealized family or it's films that are kind of exotics, films about happening in far away villages.
But the truth is that Iran is mostly urban, and two thirds of the people live in -- two thirds of the people are under 35 years old.
And so, there -- I felt like there wasn't really anything that kind of evoked the experience of living in Iran and the experience of young people.
So, that's why I wanted to make this film, because Tehran's city of 20 million people, and it's a crazy city and there's so much energy and I feel like, coming back to New York, I feel like New York is such a tranquil place compared to Tehran.
FOSTER (voice-over): But just as the young people depicted in "Dog Sweat" are forced to pursue their desires and dreams underground, so, too, the film was shot in Iran amid great secrecy and at great risk.
FOSTER (on camera): Presumably, the authorities wouldn't have allowed this, they wouldn't have given you a permit to film this stuff. So, how did you get away with it?
KESHAVARZ: The thing is, we shot this before the elections, and so I think the situation has changed so much since the elections that I don't think it would be possible to even get anything -- even get a scene, now, because if you take a camera out now, then they're going to really be very suspicious.
FOSTER (voice-over): Iran has recently detained several filmmakers, the most prominent being Jafar Panahi, who has publicly supported the opposition Green movement. The award-winning director is facing a six-year jail term and has been banned from making films for 20 years.
KESHAVARZ: I just want to say that I think he's a fantastic filmmaker and I think it's always sad when someone's put in jail for something -- for a film being made or for a book they write or for a speech they make.
And I think this a problem not just in Iran, but in a lot of places in the world. And I think people don't realize how critical free speech is. And it's not just a Western value.
I think it's something that is really critical around the world because in order to progress as a culture, you need to foster an exchange of ideas. And the way you do that is by being able to speak freely and express yourself.
FOSTER: In Iran at least, Keshavarz believes those freedoms will come.
KESHAVARZ: As I mentioned before, two thirds of the people in Iran are young people, so I think just demographically, it's inevitable that change will happen. And I think change is happening. A lot of stuff is happening in a perceptible way, but I think things have changed so much since two or three years ago.
And so, I think the question is, is how is this -- what shape is this going to take, because young people are increasingly going to be in positions of power and so hopefully that change could happen in a peaceful way. But I think everyone does want change.
FOSTER (on camera): Do you think that change should happen slowly and organically or do you think there should be some sort of international intervention? What do you think is --
FOSTER: -- the solution? What -- from your experience, how should change come about?
KESHAVARZ: I think change has to kind of come within the people, and I think the people are pushing for change. But this -- this idea that you can -- you can do it militarily has kind of been debunked through what's happened in Iraq.
And hopefully with my film, hopefully we can kind of promote this idea of kind of what the young people want in Iran.
And I think it's always easier to kind of think of a military solution where you actually don't realize these are people just -- who have the same aspirations, fall in love, fall out of love, try to get a good job, a good career. The same aspirations that people would do anywhere.
ANDERSON: The director, there, talking about the new film "Dog Sweat," highlighting many of the taboos that we hear about in Iran on a regular basis.
Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD here tonight, testing Myanmar's commitment to democratic reform. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins what she sees as a groundbreaking mission. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: Welcome back. Now, the United States is expanding -- "expanding," let me start that again. The United States is extending a hand of friendship to Myanmar, hoping a policy of engagement can succeed where decades of sanctions have failed.
Hillary Clinton arrived in the capital today, becoming the first US Secretary of State to visit Myanmar in half a century. Well, she's there to encourage recent steps towards reform and to test the new government's true commitment to democratic change.
Her visit could also help restore some international credibility to the country, long considered a rogue state. It turned the corner on decades of military rule just ten months ago, choosing a president after landmark elections there. As Anna Coren now reports, it's still a far cry from a real democracy.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After decades of being a pariah state, shunned from the international community for its human rights abuses, Myanmar, also known as Burma, is being brought in from the cold with an historic visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Burma fails to move down the path of reform, it will continue to face sanctions and isolation. But if it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail.
COREN: These tentative steps towards democracy have been a long and painful journey. The Southeast Asian nation, one of the poorest in the world, has been under military rule since 1962, the Junta and its generals suppressing all dissent and wielding absolute power.
Aung San Suu Kyi was the only figure able to stand up to this brutal dictatorship. The daughter of independence hero General Aung San, she became an icon during the student protests of 1988.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR OPPOSITION LEADER: It's a form of apartheid. It's an apartheid based on ideas. In Africa -- in South Africa, it was apartheid based on color. And I think here there is apartheid based on ideas.
COREN: Gaining national popularity and perceived as a threat, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in 1989. The following year, her party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory in the elections. The Junta ignored the results.
But in 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for being, quote, "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless."
COREN: It took many years for the people to find their voice again, but in 2007, they took to the streets, protesting poor living standards. This act of defiance was met with a brutal military crackdown.
International condemnation reached fever pitch levels after Myanmar was hit by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. With millions of people affected, the government refused to allow in foreign aid. Nearly 140,000 people perished.
Last year, Myanmar held elections for the first time in 20 years. The National League for Democracy boycotted them, describing the process as a sham.
COREN: Six days later, Aung San Suu Kyi was released after spending 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest.
SUU KYI: I am for national reconciliation, I am for dialogue, and whatever authority I have I would like to use toward that and, and I think and hope that the people will support me.
COREN: In a stunning turnaround, Myanmar's new president of the military-backed civilian government, Thein Sein, met the democracy leader in August this year.
COREN: Two hundred political prisoners were later released, although more than 2,000 still remain behind bars. As a reward for these steps towards reform, ASEAN approved Myanmar's request to chair the 2014 summit.
COREN: Aung San Suu Kyi has announced she will now run for parliament. It's a move that could help legitimize the government's push for political and economic reforms, providing real hope for the millions who spent their lives fighting for democracy.
Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.
ANDERSON: Well, Aung San Suu Kyi says that she hopes Hillary Clinton's trip will lead to continued reforms and improved relations, saying that she's always been in favor of engagement. CNN's Jill Dougherty is traveling with the US Secretary of State and has more, now, on her mission.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could call it the Show Me trip. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Myanmar, the first by a US Secretary of State in half a century since a military Junta took control of the country in 1962.
Clinton says she's here to test the seriousness of a new civilian government that's introducing new and surprising steps toward political and economic reform.
HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: I am obviously looking to determine for myself and on behalf of our government what is the intention of the current government with respect to continuing reforms, both political and economic.
DOUGHERTY: Clinton, according to a senior State Department official, comes with a list of very specific steps the US would like the Myanmar government to take, including releasing more political prisoners and holding free and fair elections. If reforms continue, US officials say Washington can take further steps.
One key concern, what a senior State Department official calls "surreptitious military contacts with North Korea in the past related to missile technology." Clinton will be discussing that with Myanmar's president.
A major sign of reform, Myanmar's government is meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy advocate who was held in detention for much of the past two decades.
Clinton and President Barack Obama have spoken to her by phone. Clinton will be meeting with her face-to-face for the first time during this visit.
American officials say Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one of the countries, along with North Korea, that they know the least about, given its years of military rule and isolation. "We're in listening mode," they say, still concerned about the country's human rights record and other issues, prepared for reversals and backtracking.
DOUGHERTY (on camera): But they also quote Aung San Suu Kyi, who thinks a genuine effort is taking place in her country, and that this could be an historic opportunity.
Jill Dougherty, CNN, Naypyitaw, Myanmar.
ANDERSON: One prominent opposition activist doesn't share the enthusiasm about Myanmar's reforms, calling them "cosmetic changes that don't affect average people."
Well, let's get more perspective now from Zoya Phan, who's a refugee from Burma who now lives in London. She works for human rights organization Burma Campaign UK and wrote an autobiography called "Little Daughter" recently. Zoya, thank you for joining us on the show.
You're the daughter of freedom fighters. You were 13 when the Burmese army torched your village. You fled to the UK, I know, back in 2005. You've been campaigning against the regime since then. Is the US, do you think, perhaps being a little too optimistic about the transformation in the country?
ZOYA PHAN, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, BURMA CAMPAIGN UK: Well, it is a sign that the US is taking the situation in Burma more seriously, which is good. And actually, I think it is welcome to see that.
But on the other hand, if you look at the situation on the ground, unfortunately for the dictatorship in Burma, it is not about democratic reform for them. It is about international legitimacy. And it is about lifting sanctions.
So, to get genuine reconciliations and democratic reform in Burma, I think what the US government should demand for the regime is to release all political prisoners in Burma, for the regime to commit to a nationwide cease-fire, and then stop attacking civilians in ethnic areas, and then get leaders of the ethnic groups into the negotiation table.
ANDERSON: You are not welcome in Burma these days. I hope one day that you'll be able to go back. Meantime, you do have a lot of contact with people there. Just describe living conditions, if you will, for the average person.
PHAN: Life is so desperate, for ordinary people, life is so difficult. We have contact with people in the central Burma area and also in the different parts of Burma in ethnic areas.
For a political prisoner's life, it is so desperate where they face torture and they are denied medical treatment and they suffer severely because of the mistreatment of the prison authorities.
At the same time, in the jungle out of sight, the Burmese army continue their attack against military -- against civilians. And since last year in November, the Burmese army has broken three cease-fire agreements with ethnic armed groups.
Their army continues raping women, mortar bombing villages, and forcing people to work for them and forced relocations. The number of internal displaced people has increased and has doubled in the past year.
And we are talking about serious human rights violations in Burma. It's about crimes against humanity and war crimes. And the international community seems not to pay much attention to this.
So, the US government needs to look beyond the cities and then look into different parts of Burma and make the right decision for Burma.
ANDERSON: You wrote in your memoir, "Little Daughter," "My father and mother never had a peaceful life. It was one long sacrifice and struggle. They lived in fear. They showed us how to survive and be strong." What's your message to the world tonight give your parents' story and your own?
PHAN: I think what I would like to say is to get governments around the world to be united for the people of Burma, to demand the dictatorship to end human rights violations in my country immediately so that people like me and millions of people from Burma who have been forced to flee from their homeland, we can go back home and we can live in peace and we can start the development of our country.
ANDERSON: Fascinating. We thank you very much, indeed, for giving us your time this evening. Thank you, Zoya Phan.
Well, the US Secretary of State has a big day ahead of her in Myanmar. The first full day of her visit, she'll meet with the president on Thursday, then travel to Yangon for talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, whom she has called a personal inspiration.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. When we come back, turning junk into juice. We're going to show you how one community is putting a stinking pile of rubbish to good use.
ANDERSON: Well, it's the environmental equivalent of creating a feast out of leftovers. The US state of Georgia, they are squeezing fresh juice out of a rotten pile of trash. As Pedram Javaheri now reports, old garbage is getting a new lease on life.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within view of planes landing at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta, Georgia, sits Hickory Ridge Landfill, once a mountain of trash sitting idle, it is now covered with ten acres of solar panels. The idea, give an old landfill a new, greener life.
DAVID STUART, REPUBLIC SERVICES OF GEORGIA: When a landfill is through taking waste, it basically is dormant. There's not a lot of other uses for the property. Just the natural attributes being a very tall structure, kind of out of the shadows of tree lines and just the way it's situated gives it a unique advantage to a solar project.
JAVAHERI: The Spectral Power Cap, designed by the Carlisle Group, is lined with 7,000 flexible solar strips. That's enough to produce one megawatt of energy.
STUART: Electricity that is generated here is collected in each solar panel, much like your solar calculator would. However, rather than going and powering a keyboard, it actually goes and powers part of the grid that Georgia Power supplies service for.
JAVAHERI: Gas pumps that are drilled deep into the ground provide yet another energy resource.
STUART: Any landfill that has taken municipal solid waste like this landfill, generates gas as a natural byproduct, and that methane is a resource that we will ultimately use as a beneficial project for local industry.
JAVAHERI: US companies are required by law to maintain landfills for 30 years after their closure. The liner made of thermal plastic polyolefin is similar to that used on commercial rooftops. It is designed to keep water out and methane gas in.
As the waste breaks down, the liner flexes to maintain a snug fit. Initially more expensive than the usual method of closing landfills, the solar liner pays off with lower maintenance costs.
STUART: If there's any problem that comes with the landfill liner system, it's very visible, very easy to repair, done actually a lot faster because of ease of access.
JAVAHERI: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there are about 100 closed landfills in the United States, thousands of acres of property that could be used for renewable energy development. Many are close to urban areas and power lines.
A similar solar landfill project is underway in New York, where the energy from the panels is used to run the recycling center next to it. And New York City is planning to build more of these solar installations, and these landfills are constant reminder of the waste we produce. This project is helping to throw those old ideas away.
Pedram Javaheri, CNN, Atlanta.
ANDERSON: And sticking with our green theme here, take a look at this. It's an interactive representation of online conversations about climate change, specifically COP 17, part of the annual UN climate change talks.
Now, we're calling this the CNN Ecosphere, and we want you to get involved. It's all about tweeting. All you've got to do is tweet about the environment and include a hash tag #COP 17. Your message will be populated here as a single leaf on one of these trees or one of these clouds.
For example, this is climate. And if I just press these, you'll see that these tweets will come up. Your branch will grow, your cloud will grow, and one of your tweets will be here. It's as simple as that. Read what others are saying, get involved, and plant your own conversation at cnn-ecosphere.com.
Well, finally tonight, our Parting Shots, and a situation every journalist can sympathize with. Take a listen to what happened on the American news program "NBC Nightly News" on Tuesday. Just seconds after the broadcast began, the fire alarm went off in the studio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Good evening. Perhaps it's because of its name. For all the bankruptcies we've --
(FIRE ALARM GOES OFF)
WILLIAMS: -- covered in this grim US economy, this one gets your attention.
(PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCEMENT IN BACKGROUND)
WILLIAMS: You'll forgive us, we have a fire alarm announcement going on here in the studio. While staying in the air --
(WARNING SIREN GOES OFF)
WILLIAMS: -- though perhaps not something special anymore. Again, we have an announcement going on here in the studio. Tom Costello, we should advise our viewers, there's no danger to us. We'd love to make this stop. Why don't you take it from our Washington Bureau.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Didn't stop. The alarm continued to ring on and off for nearly the entire 30-minute broadcast. The anchor, Brian Williams, well, he kept his cool and repeatedly told viewers that everything was fine. A spokeswoman for the network tweeted that they are working out some kinks in their new studio. That's what they call them these days.
I'm Becky Anderson. Thanks for watching. Up next, the world news headlines and "BackStory" will follow that. Stay with us.