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Can the U.N. Help in Syria?; Religious Violence in Iraq; Permission to Shoot; Australian Batsman Hits One for the Record Books

Aired January 5, 2012 - 16:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Violence in Syria rages as the Arab League acknowledges mistakes in its mission. Tonight, how the United Nations could step in to help.

Live from London, I'm Max Foster.

Also tonight, inside Myanmar -- the British foreign secretary makes a high profile trip to the isolated country and he's not the only one. Why thousands of tourists are suddenly doing the same.

And the Duchess of Cambridge makes big decisions about her future role -- what her charity choices say about the kind of royal she's going to be.

First tonight, though, the Arab League is admitting mistakes and asking for help in monitoring a crisis threatening to slide into civil war. The League's observer mission in Syria has come under widespread criticism for failing to stop the deadly violence. Activists say just today, another 24 people were killed across the country.

Qatar's prime minister says the Arab League wants technical assistance from the United Nations for its mission. He's not specifying what mistakes monitors have made, but Syrian residents and activists have a long list. They're criticizing the monitors' reliance on government transportation, saying they're being manipulated by minders. They also say observers aren't verifying all government claims of compliance with the peace deal.

One activist group is urging the monitors to visit Syrian detention centers, accusing the regime of widespread torture. And a new report of our says security forces are abusing government opponents in overcrided -- overcrowded prisons and makeshift jails. It says, quote, "Abbas has compiled the locations of these dungeons, which even include schools and the names of regime loyalists running the facilities and the torturers-in- chief set the detention policy at the very highest level."

These types of statements aren't coming just from activists.

CNN spoke with a high level Syrian defector, who says the regime is guilty of horrific acts. The former official told Arwa Damon the killings have reached the level of genocide.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Syrian capital, the defense ministry is the nerve center of the regime's efforts to stamp out unrest.

MAHMOUD SULEIMAN AL HAMAD, SYRIAN GOVERNMENT DEFECTOR (through translator): My office is on the twelfth floor of the Ministry of Defense.

DAMON: Mohamed Suleiman Al-Hamad worked at the Ministry for years. His official ID describes him as a financial inspector -- not part of the regime's inner circle, but in a position to see the wheels of repression at work.

AL-HAMAD: During protests in Damascus, armed gangs filled the green public transport buses and dispatched from our offices flanked by four wheel drive vehicles filled with weapons.

DAMON: And those they didn't kill, they brought back.

AL-HAMAD: On a daily basis, I used to see them bringing in blindfolded and handcuffed detainees on buses. They were kept in underground prisons, some even built under streets.

DAMON: And he makes this chilling allegation.

AL-HAMAD: What is more horrific is the intelligence vans carrying the Red Crescent insignia labeled "Syrian Red Crescent" drive through the protests as ambulances and fire at the protesters.

DAMON: Al-Hamad says he oversaw spending at the Defense Ministry. He tells CNN that the regime hired hit men, paying them $100 a day. It spent so much on the security crackdown that the budgets of other ministries had to be cut by a third. Al-Hamad says for a while, he hoped there would be compromise.

AL-HAMAD: We were hoping the killing would stop and the regime would understand that the revolution will win and maybe find a way to appease the people. There was no hope.

DAMON: As a climate of fear took hold, he decided to get out.

AL-HAMAD: So I traveled to Egypt through the airport, normally, with the excuse of registering my son in college in Egypt. When the rest of my family followed me, I announced my defection in protest of what is happening in Syria.

DAMON: Much of the carnage he blames on the intelligence services and armed gangs, not regular troops.

AL-HAMAD: Bashar Al-Assad is no longer able to control these human monsters.

DAMON: Two weeks after he fled Syria, Al-Hamad has this message for the outside world.

AL-HAMAD: We have reached a phase of genocide and this can't be tolerated under any circumstances.

DAMON: Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut.


FOSTER: Well, let's take a look back at how things got to this point, then, in Syria.

Now, inspired by uprisings by Egypt and Tunisia, anti-government protests first took to the streets of Daraa in March demanding change and reform. Security forces quickly broke them up, but the demonstrations spread to Damascus and then to other cities across Syria, including Hama, Jisr al-Shughour and Homs.

Now, according to AVAST, nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the past nine months. They estimated that 40 percent of those deaths were in Homs. And late last month, Syria finally agreed to allow Arab League observers into the country to monitor whether the regime is ending the crackdown after initially saying they saw nothing frightening, the monitors now say a longer investigation is needed. The Arab League has called an emergency meeting in Cairo for this weekend to discuss the mission.

Now, our next guest says there's no end in sight to the conflict, partly because there's no viable alternative to the al-Assad regime.

Fawaz Gerges is director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. The Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

And, Fawaz, you say, actually, that the Syrian opposition is deeply divided, right?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIRECTOR, THE MIDDLE EAST CENTRE, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, absolutely. It has come a long way, no doubt about it. But it's deeply divided along ideological lines, political lines and generational lines. And the Syrian National Council is one of the most progressive and one of the most organized elements within the opposition.

FOSTER: Is there any sense that it's getting more organized?

GERGES: Absolutely. I mean I think, if you look at the -- where the opposition was five, six months ago, and where the opposition is, I think it has made a major, major progress. But the reality is, make no doubt about it, the opposition is and remains deeply divided.

FOSTER: And they wouldn't be able to take over power right now?

GERGES: Well, first of all, the Syrian crisis is unfolding. I don't think it's a matter of days, I don't think it's a matter of weeks, I don't even think it's a matter of months. The situation, Max, is highly complex. And we -- really, we are basing our reports on very partial information.

The uprising continues. The Assad regime has failed to silence the opposition. But the reality is President Assad retains a sizeable public support inside Syria itself. The major urban centers in Syria, in particular Aleppo and Damascus and Latakia have not fully joined the protests.

Still, regime maintains a solid regional support. Iran is fully behind the regime. Russia blocks any kind of Security Council resolution. And Syria and Iran remain in the same boat. That's why it -- it -- it's counting on Iran.

FOSTER: Is the support for the regime support for Al-Assad or is it because people are concerned about the alternative, they would rather have that stability?

GERGES: I think we don't know, the truth is, Max, why millions of Syrians have not fully joined the protests. We don't have the information. We're speculating a great deal.

But when we talk to Syrians, they provide several answers. First, they're terrified of the Iraq option. They say look what happened in Iraq after the American invasion -- all-out sectarian strife, millions of refugees. They're terrified of the Lebanon example against sectarian war. And they believe that they don't see a light at the end of the tunnel.

And, of course, Assad has some support. He has his own base, basically a minority base, the Alawites, most of the Christians and a sizeable Sunni community. Few people know that some of -- some of the elements of the Sunni community, the majority community, have benefited from the economic liberalization under Assad.

FOSTER: He's got support outside his own group, though, hasn't he?

So what's that support based on?

GERGES: Well, I mean, again, the Assad regime, Max, has really portrayed itself or branded itself as the protector of minorities. It's not just the Alawites, the Shiites. That's its own base.

FOSTER: The minorities.

GERGES: Absolutely. So I mean I was shocked and surprised that the Christians, most of the Christians I talk to, they are as supportive of Assad as the Alawites. And they give the -- they say, well, look, what will happen to us?

Like what happened to the Christians in Iraq. The reality is this is not a sectarian conflict. The reality is, this is an essentially political conflict. The uprising is real and genuine. Millions of Syrians basically would like to have change, serious change in Syria.

But, also, the reality is that Syria is deeply divided, not just the opposition.

And I think, at the end of the day, we don't know what's happening within the regime itself. That is, we might wake up tomorrow, Max, and see...

FOSTER: It might break down.

GERGES: -- a coup d'etat. Absolutely.



FOSTER: Fawaz Gerges, thank you, as ever, for joining us.

This weekend could be critical for the future of the Arab League's mission in Syria. League representatives will meet on Sunday in Cairo to discuss the monitors' preliminary findings. They could decide to continue on or change the mission or perhaps end it entirely, the option its own advisory body recommended, actually, after declaring it a failure earlier this week. now, you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

Still to come, a bloody reminder of Iraq's deepening sectarian crisis. New attacks today leave dozens of people dead.

Plus, democracy campaigner, Aung San Su Kyi, on why Myanmar finally has a chance for real change.

And from art to addiction, the Duchess of Cambridge announces a charity she'll support, taking on a defining royal role.


FOSTER: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN, the world's news leader.

Welcome back to you.

Now, new attacks in Iraq are raising fears that sectarian violence could once again spin out of control. At least 60 people were killed on Thursday in a wave of bombings across the country.

Jomana Karadsheh reports on the violence that targeted Shia Muslims.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Only five days into the new year, this was the scene in Iraq -- another bloody day, like countless others before it, reminiscent of the worst days of the country's sectarian war, what seems to be a coordinated bombing attack struck Shia targets.

In the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, four bombs detonated near day laborers waiting for work. In Khadamiyah, in Northern Baghdad, two car bombs detonated moments apart, killing and wounding dozens during morning rush hour. The worst attack on Thursday was in Shia pilgrims at an army checkpoint outside the southern city of Nasiriyah. A suicide bomber struck, leaving more than 100 people dead and wounded.

Residents in these areas, enraged by the attacks, blame the violence on their politicians.

RAZZAQ SAHEB, WITNESS (through translator): What is being said freely?

Who is to blame?

Who is responsible for this?

We hold those who fight for power and authority responsible for this. They have to sit and have dialogue to solve problems plaguing the country or everyone will be drowned and fall into the abyss.

KARADSHEH: Iraq has been gripped by one of its worst political crises since 2003. Its fragile unity government is teetering on the edge of collapse after an arrest warrant was issued for Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, by authorities in the Shia-dominated administration. He remains in hiding in the country's semi-autonomous north, under the protection of Kurdish leaders.

Al-Hashemi's Sunni-backed Al-Iraqiya bloc, which accuses Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of consolidating power, is boycotting cabinet and parliament meetings and is threatening to walk out of the government altogether.

Political instability in Iraq has historically created a vacuum filled by acts of terror. And on both sides of the conflict, Sunni and Shia, there are extremists who believe in violence, not dialogue, as a means for grabbing power.

The spokesman for the military in Baghdad says the timing of attacks like those on Thursday is calculated.

GENERAL QASSIM ATTA, BAGHDAD OPERATIONS COMMAND SPOKESMAN (through translator): Terrorist groups choose a specific time and location to achieve certain gains and the political situation plays a part in such incidents. These terrorist groups take every chance they get to incite sectarianism and prove their presence.

KARADSHEH: As politicians continue their meetings to try and find a way out of this crisis, a helpless nation is paying the price.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Baghdad.


FOSTER: Connecting our world tonight, the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took a dramatic turn on Thursday. An attorney says the chief prosecutor declared Mubarak and five other defendants should get the death penalty. The demand came as the prosecution wrapped up its three day presentation to the court.

Twenty-five people are dead after the landslide in the Southern Philippines. Rescuers are scouring this muddy mountain on the island of Mindanao for signs of life. More than 100 people in the small mining community are still missing. The water-soaked soil collapsed earlier on Thursday, crushing many shanty houses.

Spain's new government is hoping to recover more than $10 billion in undeclared taxes. The crackdown on fraud comes just a week after the government announced spending cuts and tax hikes worth $20 billion. Spain needs to fill a gap in its budget, which the country's deputy prime minister says requires extraordinary measures.


SORAYA SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA, SPANISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There will be no problem. Pensions will be paid. But this situation is very reminiscent of what we lived through in 1996. And that government took on the situation and made timely payment of pensions. And the same will be done here.

But this shows us that this country needs extraordinary measures because the situation is extraordinary. The reality is more difficult than we had thought, as will be the measures that must be adopted.


FOSTER: In the U.S. state of Oklahoma, police say a young mother will not be charged for killing a man who tried to break into her house. The 18 -year-old was home alone on New Year's Eve when she heard burglars trying to get in. She put her bottle in her baby's mouth, grabbed a shotgun and called 911.

Adam Mertz (ph) reports.


PHIL GAST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sarah McKinley, with her three-month-old baby in her arms, just days after she feared for her life.


SARAH MCKINLEY, KILLED INTRUDER: I've got two guns in my hand.

Is it OK to shoot him if he comes in this door?

DIANE GRAHAM, 9/11 DISPATCHER: Well, you have to do whatever you can do to protect yourself. I can't tell you that you can do that, but you do what you have to do to protect your baby.

I knew she was scared because she was whispering. So I knew she didn't want him to know that she was on the phone with me.

GAST: Diane Graham was one of the dispatchers on the phone with McKinley just before an intruder entered her home. Sarah was alone with her son. No one else was there to protect her.

GRAHAM: Do you have like an alarm on your car that you could set off with your remote control that might scare him?

GAST: the support, Justin Martin, made his way into the home where McKinley shot and killed him. In the moments leading up to the shooting, 911 dispatchers from Grady County and Blanchard remained on the phone with the scared mother.

GRAHAM: Anything could be serious in a moment's notice. So you need to believe what they say when they call and get the help to them as quick as you can.

MCKINLEY: The 911 dispatcher was awesome. She was.

GAST: Sarah is still very shaken about what happened, but says she may have not made it through this without the help of the dispatchers, who never once got off the phone.

MCKINLEY: I guess I was feeding off her and she was calm, so I could be calm.


FOSTER: Well, under Oklahoma law, the alleged accomplice of the man who was shot and killed will actually be charged with his murder.

Positive news on the U.S. jobs front, private sector companies significantly increased hiring in December, according to a report from the payroll processing firm, ADP. The report states that employers added 325,000 jobs in December. That's much stronger than the 180,000 jobs economists had predicted.

Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims fell by 15,000.

One of the world's top cricket match shots produced an historic performance. Pedro has the details for us after the break.

And nature or nurture -- we'll meet a man who has quit his day job to test the theory that anyone can master a skill, it just takes 10,000 hours of practice.


FOSTER: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.

Welcome back.

I'm Max Foster.

Now in cricket, an Australian bats man gets his name in the record books, as Michael Clarke hit a superb unbeaten 329 against India, putting the home side in great position for victory in the second test.

Pedro is here.

And Clarke's triple century was good, but it could have been better, right?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN "WORLD SPORT" ANCHOR: It could have been better, because he actually put his team's interests in front of his own. And I guess he's the captain, so he's supposed to do that. But the all time record for runs scored by a bats man is 400. That was by Brian Lara. Michael Clarke was on 329. He could have kept on going. It was already the largest ever score at the Sydney cricket ground, as they were playing in the second test against India. And as you mentioned, they were on their way to victory. He could have gone on. But he said wait a minute, I'll declare -- they had a huge total already, a huge lead over India. This means that the team has more time to wrap up victory in the second test. They already won the first test in Melbourne.

So, Michael Clarke, I -- I really respect him for what he did. He showed that there's no I in team, as far as he's concerned.

Let me show you the top scorers ever by Australian batsmen. He had the fourth best total of all time. Matthew Hayden with 380 still leading the way. And, Max, if in cricket, a century is good, a double century is fantastic.

What can you say about triple centuries?


FOSTER: Unbelievable.

PINTO: It is. That's a good word. Let's go with that.

FOSTER: Yes, let's go with unbelievable.


FOSTER: All right, let's talk about s soccer, as well.


FOSTER: Manchester City, because the -- there's two rather expensive brothers that play there.


FOSTER: But they're not getting their money's worth, right?

PINTO: Yes. Yes. Kolo and Yaya Toure, the Ivory Coast brothers, they have been forced, I guess we could say, to travel to meet up with the Ivory Coast national team to prepare for the African Cup of Nations. Forced is maybe a little bit too strong a word. But the -- the manager there, Francois Zahoui, said that the FIFA rules are clear. The players need to meet up on Saturday. That's the date. So they're meeting up in Paris then they're flying to Abu Dhabi to get ready for the tournament, which kicks off on the 21st of January.

You can understand why Manchester City are quite upset about this. They won't be...

FOSTER: Because they're paying them.

PINTO: Exactly. Together, the two brothers a week, they pay around $500,000. So they're thinking, hey, we're paying for them, we should be able to use them, at least for one more game. They had asked for...

FOSTER: They haven't got any money back, right?

PINTO: No. No.

FOSTER: Um-hmm.

PINTO: They still have to pay their salaries and they won't be able to -- the big thing is, they -- they're playing Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup.


PINTO: They were hoping to have at least Yaya, who's been a huge contributor for them this season. But that won't happen. He's going to travel and meet up with Ivory Coast.


Pedro, thank you very much.

You'll be back later.

PINTO: A pleasure.

I will, in about an hour. I'm supposed to, anyway.

FOSTER: OK. Good luck.


FOSTER: Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, he's the first British foreign secretary to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years.

So why is William Hague making the trip now?

Carving out her own royal role -- the Duchess of Cambridge reveals which charity she'll support with one of her passions at the heart of her selection.

And the amateur golfer who's out to prove he can turn pro with just 10,000 hours of dedication, repetition and patience.


FOSTER: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. Time for a check of the world headlines.

The Arab League is admitting mistakes in its observer mission in Syria and is asking for technical assistance from the United Nations. A UN spokesman says its human rights experts could provide training.

At least 60 people killed in Iraq when bomb blasts hit parts of Baghdad and Nasiriyah. The attacks targeted Shias who were preparing for the Arbaeen, one of the holiest days for Shiite Muslims.

US president Barack Obama is streamlining America's military. The number of US forces will shrink a bit as the Pentagon scales back on its spending. The new plan hints at a reduced American military presence in Europe, with Asia now a bigger priority.

Rescuers in the southern Philippines are scouring a muddy mountain for signs of life. The water-soaked soil collapsed, killing at least 25 people on the island of Mindanao and crushing many shanty houses.

Now, for decades, she's dedicated herself to bringing democracy to Myanmar, risking her life and spending 15 years under house arrest. Now, Aung San Suu Kyi says she finally believes there's a real chance for change.

Underscoring her new-found freedom, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was able to meet with William Hague today. He's the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Myanmar for more than 50 years. After holding talks with the country's president, Hague welcomed recent reforms and promised to reward further progress.

Hague's visit comes just after a month since his American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, was dispatched to Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. Speaking to John Irvine, Aung San Suu Kyi urged both countries to keep up the pressure.


JOHN IRVINE, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Neither the famous house nor its iconic owner have changed very much.

IRVINE (on camera): How do you do?


IRVINE: Nice to see you again.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: How do you do?

IRVINE (voice-over): But the circumstances certainly have. This time, we were here openly and lawfully. How different from 14 months ago when, in darkness and in secret, we broke the rules for a first interview after her release.

But since then, Burma's rulers have been reforming, and we can talk freely now.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: There is a chance for real change, but I don't think we can say that we got to a point when there is no need anymore to worry about whether or not the government is serious about reform. I'm totally convinced that the president is serious about reform, but he doesn't represent the whole government.

We would like Britain and other countries to watch the situation very carefully.

IRVINE: After 15 years out of sight and supposedly out of mind, she's visible everywhere here. Just seven months ago, selling her picture was a jailable offense. Soon, she will stand for Parliament. She's paid a heavy price for change, but doesn't dwell on that.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Yes, I think one has to look forward. I have always said that the past you should look back to only for the lessons that you can learn from it, but not to wallow in feelings of vengeance.

IRVINE (on camera): Before the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, filming openly in the streets of Rangoon like this would have been unthinkable. But it now seems Burma's rulers want to advertise the changes they have instigated, and they're using the lady's profile to do that. They ended her isolation, now she's helping to end theirs.

John Irvine, ITV News, Rangoon.


FOSTER: Well, Myanmar's new civilian government has been credited with recent flickers of progress, changes started last month after this man became president in controversial elections. Since then, Myanmar has eased media restrictions, and in October it released 200 political prisoners, although thousands more are believed to be still behind bars.

Now, Myanmar's neighbors have also acknowledged its progress. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations said in November it will let Myanmar chair the group in 2014. And on Thursday, Myanmar's government announced Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party is approved to run in upcoming April elections.

Now, for years, Myanmar has been a no-go area for many foreign travelers, but as the country begins to open up, there are signs that it's earning its place back on the tourist trail. CNN's Paula Hancocks visited the city of Yangon at the end of last year to see what's attracting all the interest.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Shwedagon Pagoda, 2500 years old, it's said to enshrine strands of the Buddha's hair and other holy relics.


HANCOCKS: In any other country, such a site would be swarming with tourists. But this is Myanmar. Still considered off the beaten track and, until earlier this year, off the list of desired places, due to the brutal military Junta.

But with a new civilian government, albeit still strongly linked to the military, and tentative reforms, comes new travel interest.

HANCOCKS (on camera): There are definitely more tourists coming here to Myanmar. According to the ticket office, around 1,000 foreign visitors every single day on average come to see this pagoda.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): For a country isolated from the rest of the world for so many years, these images are pure gold. If the top US diplomat, Hillary Clinton, is happy to visit, then why not tourists?

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism says around 790,000 people visited last year. That's expected to rise to 900,000 this year.

GLADYS BLANK, ISRAELI TOURIST: Hillary was coming before us. I figured if it was good for her, it would be good for us. So, we're fine.

BARBARA AUER, GERMAN TOURIST: You recognize that it's changing. We've been there in January this year and now it's getting more modern.

HANCOCKS: Myanmar has a long way to go before it can consider competing with neighboring Thailand. The infrastructure has been neglected for decades and the economy is cash-driven and riddled with widely differing exchange rates.


But with little outside influence for so long, the heritage of the country has been preserved, making it one of Southeast Asian tourism's last frontiers.


HANCOCKS: Paula Hancocks, CNN, Yangon, Myanmar.


FOSTER: This isn't the first time we've seen signs of progress in Myanmar. It all comes to nothing -- if it all comes to nothing, it won't be the first time for that, either.

Now, my guest tonight, my next guest, has spent his life studying the region and is the author of the book "Turmoil in Burma." David Steinberg joins me, now, from Washington.

I know, David, you're in constant touch with Myanmar. You know Aung San Suu Kyi very well. When she talks about real change in the country, what specifically is she talking about? What's she looking for?

DAVID STEINBERG, MYANMAR SPECIALIST: I think there is a very clear indication that the government, at least the president of the country, is terribly concerned about a whole variety of changes, not only to get the economy back going, but also to revive the reputation of the military, which has suffered so much under the previous government.

FOSTER: In terms of political prisoners, I presume she wants them all out of prison, right?

STEINBERG: Well, we all want them all out. The problem is, how many are there? There's varying numbers. Each group has a different set of numbers.

And they're not called "political prisoners" there, they're called "security prisoners," perhaps. They didn't admit to political prisoners earlier, but they now understand that there are these people who are there for political reasons.

FOSTER: Am I right in saying that the US won't move on sanctions on the country until they've had the go-ahead from Suu Kyi?

STEINBERG: I think Suu Kyi has a very important role in determining US policy. She does not make it, but her views are reflected in US policy.

So, I think that when Senator Mitch McConnell this month will go to Myanmar and he, I'm sure, will talk with her, that perhaps there can be an easing of the sanctions. They won't be eliminated quickly, but they may be eased, and that will be very important, because that's what the Burmese are looking for.

FOSTER: And in order for her to give her clearance, what sort of level of change -- that's what I'm trying to get at -- is she looking for? What will be enough for her to say to the Americans, "OK, ease the sanctions. Start it clearing up"?

STEINBERG: Well, this is a process. The political prisoner issue is the most -- the primary one. We will also want to see relief from some of the minority problems, we need to see a peace with minorities that have been in rebellion.

And the need for economic reforms. They are beginning to take place, or they're beginning to be discussed. The IMF has been working on that with the Burmese. And I think that there is a very important effort to try and change the situation.

It is not like the past, where there had been minor efforts of reform. But this is far more comprehensive, and you have a different leader, who is at least open to discussion and meeting with people and listening to different views.

FOSTER: OK, Professor Steinberg, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us for your perspective.

Now coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, a glimpse into the heart of Britain's newest Royal. The Duchess of Cambridge announces charities she'll support, giving us an insight into the issues she really cares about.


FOSTER: Prince William's mother was known around the world for her tireless charity work. Now, his wife is preparing to follow in Princess Diana's footsteps. The Duchess of Cambridge has named a number of charities she plans to support. For the chosen organizations, her patronage is certain to generate valuable publicity.


FOSTER (voice-over): Until now, the duchess's official public appearances have been in a supporting role to her husband, here visiting the Duke's homelessness charity. But now, she's decided to carve out her own public role. After months of research, Catherine's chosen the causes she wants to support in her own right.

The Art Room is a tiny charity that taps into one of the duchess's key interests, which is art therapy. Children from the sidelines of society help to express themselves through art, and with remarkable results for their self-esteem.

JULI BEATTIE, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, THE ART ROOM: Well, it's completely overwhelming, I have to say, to have someone like the duchess to come and see what we're doing and agree that this is something she'd like to put her name to.

FOSTER (on camera): The duchess is fascinated by art. She studied art history at university, which is why she's also chosen to support London's National Portrait Gallery, the largest and oldest gallery of its kind in the world.

SANDY NAIRNE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY: Well, when she spent time with us, it was very clear that she was showing a close interest in our collection and the way we work with young people, how we develop our research, how we make exhibitions, all of those things, she wanted to know more about. Clearly, she'd done her studies well at St. Andrews, and that was absolutely showing.

FOSTER (voice-over): The Portrait Gallery has a famous collection of royal paintings and photograph. She's already in talks to have her fist official portrait commissioned.

Away from the glamorous London art scene, Catherine will also become patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices and Action on Addiction, which has a network of addiction treatment centers across England.

The hope is she can help remove the stigma from addiction in the way that her late mother-in-law, Diana, did with HIV/AIDS.

NICK BARTON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ACTION ON ADDICTION: It's not an easy subject for some people, but I think, as you say, this sort of patronage will change that.

FOSTER: The duchess has also announced that she's hitting the outdoors as a voluntary helper with the Scouts.

BEAR BRYLLS, CHIEF SCOUT, SCOUT ASSOCIATION: I think what's lovely is that she's going to feel exactly the way that lots of young scouts feel when they first join. Just a little bit nervous walking in and they're all kind of there. But that's what scouting's about. You're part of a big family.

FOSTER: Catherine's predecessor, Diana, was defined by her charity work. Images like this helped redefine the causes that she supported, in this case, the harm caused by landmines. Now, though, it's over to Catherine.


FOSTER: For more on Kate's choices, I'm joined by royal biographer Mark Saunders. And Mark, you were following Princess Diana as she addressed this landmines issue. Hugely powerful. What sort of effect did she have on the cause?

MARK SAUNDERS, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: It was tremendous. I mean, at the time -- we have to remember, Princess Diana had effectively left the royal family when she got involved with landmines, so it was something she took on of her own initiative.

I was in Geneva with Diana when, as part of her work with the Red Cross, she first learned about the horrors of landmines. So, it was -- it wasn't that surprising when she did embrace it as much as she did.

But let's not forget, it was a very delicate issue and politically, Diana was on very dodgy ground. A lot of governments, the British government and the American government, didn't actually like what she was doing. And so, I think --

FOSTER: But that was the making of her, wasn't it? It defined her.

SAUNDERS: I always felt that it was the AIDS thing that actually defined her. That was back in 1985. At that time, I mean, it's 25 years ago now, people tend to forget how taboo a subject AIDS was, and for Diana to embrace that as she did, many people even today still say that was her finest moment.

But for Catherine, the problem is, we're kind of comparing to Diana. We knew the triumph of Diana's work, her charity work. With -- Catherine is a novice. And I don't think that's particularly fair. I think that the charities that she's decided to work with reflect her and her interests. In particular, her art -- her love of art, as we know.

But I think that it's a good choice, a sensible choice, and a safe choice. And especially --

FOSTER: It is safe, though, isn't it?

SAUNDERS: Yes, it is --

FOSTER: The choices are safe.

SAUNDERS: When Princess Diana first joined the royal family, her job was to be Prince Charles' wife. That was her job. They didn't have a clue about what her role would be.

When they actually finally got around to it, what is she going to do? Her royal advisor doodled on a bit of paper and handed it to the queen, "Something in Wales, something with children?" That was it.

FOSTER: Well, that's what Catherine's doing now, isn't it?


FOSTER: I doubt it's going to be in Wales, but there are some parallels already.

SAUNDERS: Yes, yes.

FOSTER: I just wonder, do you think Catherine can do for addiction what Diana did for AIDS?

SAUNDERS: I think it's a very different time. We confront addiction, now. There's a very few celebrities that haven't been in rehab. That is - - it's a constant story on the news.

FOSTER: So it's less taboo?

SAUNDERS: It's far less taboo. How many taboos are there, now, that Catherine could actually get involved with at this early stage? But I think addiction, especially the addiction clinic that she's involved with doesn't just help the addicts, it helps the families of the addicts, as well.

So, you could say that was safe, but I would say that was a good one for her alongside the other ones.

The most difficult for her, I think, will be the children's hospice. The East Anglia Children's hospital, because again, referring back to Diana, she had an empathy with the ill, and she did sterling work.

But nobody ever actually stopped to ask, does a young woman in her 20s who's had no formal training whatsoever really have the emotional capacity for this? And that was one thing that Diana used to go home at night and she would cry her eyes out and say, "I'm having no help. I'm expected to just do this, and I don't know how to do it."

So, Catherine, I think, by involving herself with one hospice, it will be hands-on, and she has got support.

FOSTER: What's interesting is that she went on these visits just with security. She didn't have her private secretary or any advisors. These were her choices. Do you think -- well, what do you think we've learned about her? What she cares about? Because this is the first real taste that we've had about how she's going to define her public role, right?

SAUNDERS: Yes. It's early days, and we've only had eight months since the wedding. We saw the glory it did to America, and I noticed then, and several jobs I've been on with Catherine, I've noticed that she has an ability of looking at the person she's speaking to, very much the same way Diana used to, and making that person feel important.

So, I always felt that the work that she does do will involve meeting people, which she seems to be very good at very quickly.

FOSTER: I want to ask you quickly about a story that's bubbling up as we speak, which is this story about -- they've got a -- they're renovating an apartment at Kensington Palace, aren't they? Which will become their marital home.

And so, the planning details are sitting in the Council office, which are free for everyone to see, and security experts saying this is a disaster because you can see all the security details. What do you think of that?

SAUNDERS: I don't think it's too much of a disaster. You can see inside Kensington Palace from the Royal Garden Hotel, most of it. We -- it's pretty much, we know what's there and what isn't there.

But this is just one of those planning issues where there's not really a great deal you can say about it. They're moving into Kensington Palace, we know Kensington Palace well.

I remember on the days when the paparazzi, for instance, knew every single gate and every door and where every camera was. And they were regularly spoken about. Princess Margaret's apartment, if you walked past it, you weren't -- the cameras couldn't get you. So, these things have always been known.

FOSTER: OK. Mark, thank you very much, indeed.


FOSTER: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Next up, genius. Is it a case of nature or nurture? In just two minutes, we'll introduce you to the amateur golfer who is testing the theory that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is 10,000 hours of practice.


FOSTER: Tonight, we're going to introduce you to the man who is hoping to prove that with a bit of work, he can be extraordinary. Dan McLaughlin has set out to prove a theory promoted by author Malcolm Gladwell that the key to success in any field is just lots of practice, a theory that has never specifically been tested until now.


FOSTER(voice-over): Meet Dan. At the age of 30, he gave up his job as a photographer, he put down his camera and picked up a putter on a mission, dubbed the Dan Plan, to become a professional golfer.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH, GOLF INSTRUCTOR, PGA: I made it pretty clear to him that he might want to think about doing something else, like tiddly winks or bowling.

FOSTER: But Dan had something to prove, the theory that anyone can master a skill in 10,000 hours.

DAN MCLAUGHLIN, AMATEUR GOLFER: To reach 10,000 hours is actually going to probably take a little over five years.

FOSTER: The test began in April 2010, but 18 months on, after six hours of practice a day, six days a week, Dan is a fifth of the way into his commitment.

FOSTER (on camera): Any good yet?

MCLAUGHLIN: You know, golf is one of those games that it's really hard to say. Fifty percent of the time, I feel like I know what I'm doing, and fifty percent of the time, I feel like I'm just out there moving dirt. So, I think it's all relative.

But being so into the process, it's hard for me to stand back and really judge my progress, and there's nothing to compare my progress to, because nobody's really attempted something quite like this at this stage in their life.

FOSTER: What was your motivation behind this? What gave you the idea in the first place?

MCLAUGHLIN: Growing up, I was in a mathematical family. We always thought that -- or we were told that we were good at math and that we weren't exactly creative people.

And I kind of had that idea in my head my entire life until I got up to university level. And that's the point where I actually changed from physics to photography to kind of test my limits.

And then I did photography for a long time, and I was kind of in this zone where people kept telling me or people around me always had an excuse for something. They always said they're too old or they're not a creative- type person or they're not a mathematical-type person, and I kind of wanted to just dispel the myth that we are a type of person, or that it's too late to start something new.

FOSTER (voice-over): His coach and physical therapist are all dedicated to the test but have yet to be convinced.

SHAWN DAILEY, PHYSICAL THERAPIST, NORTHWEST GOLF PERFORMANCE: I've seen some really good golfers who've played their whole lives who have not been able to even do well at some of the futures tours.

SMITH: Well, is he a PGA Tour caliber player from 50 yards and in right now? And honestly, I'd say no. Not yet. He could be.

FOSTER: Dedication, repetition, and patience, they're the keys to the plan.

MCLAUGHLIN: The first month, I only putted from one and then three feet, and just kind of learned that little teeny stroke.

FOSTER: Baby steps for a grown man who has until 2016 to achieve greatness on the greens.

FOSTER (on camera): Before you went into this, you probably thought, "Oh, that's what I'm going to find difficult," or "that's what I'm going to find difficult." But is there something about the sport that you -- that surprised you? What's the difficult bit about it? What have you discovered?

MCLAUGHLIN: Going into it, everybody always said that golf's a mind game. It's -- a sport that's played in the five inches between your ears. It's such a cyclical thing, and you have ups and downs.

So, the days or the weeks or the months where you can't do what you could do last week. So, you kind of bring expectations to the table, and that's been the most difficult thing.

But through this entire process, I've learned that it all comes in waves, so all you have to do is really just wait it out, get through it, and there'll be another highlight and another peak.

And I made this from over there on the first try. After about 140 attempts.


FOSTER: You really are testing the nature versus nurture theory, here, aren't you? Because as you say, you've tried it with academic subjects and switched between them, but here with sport, a lot of people would argue that nature's a huge part of it. Something like a balance or having a good eye or just this intuition playing into it.

But are you finding that you can learn those things?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. I -- I don't think that there's any reason why you can't. I haven't been -- nothing has proven impossible so far. I've just made little baby steps, but I continuously push forward. And I don't really see why you can't learn something like balance.

I think that it can perhaps come easier to a child, the brain's a little bit more open. But we're not like old dogs. You can teach humans new tricks throughout their life.

FOSTER: I'm wondering if I can burn a hole in your theory by suggesting, though, that you were born with a real determination and a really sort of a drive that other people haven't got. Even a certain level of concentration other people haven't got, which allows you to test all of these things and work across talents, as they're known.

MCLAUGHLIN: That's one of the things that how -- how do you prove whether or not somebody is born with passion. Is that an innate ability or something that's actually just for some unknown reason, some people are born with passion and some people are just passionless?

I don't really agree with that. I think that as long as anybody finds whatever it is in life that they really love, then that -- they'll become obsessed and they'll just want to do that and nothing would get in their way.

6:35 and the sun's already down.

So, perhaps people that -- perhaps the having passion is just -- understanding what your purpose in life is.


FOSTER: There you are. Good luck to him, he's got some way to go.

Now, join us tomorrow for a TV exclusive, Becky's interview with Margaret Thatcher's former official photographer. Jason Fraser took his first photograph of the former prime minister -- British prime minister when he was just 16. Now, he shares dozens of long-list images of her, giving us remarkable, rare insight into Mrs. Thatcher. That's tomorrow on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Now, in tonight's Parting Shots, it might be hard to find a parking spot sometimes, but there's no need to resort to this. The driver of this car loss control and ended up on the roof of an apartment complex. Yes, a roof.

Police in California say the driver was speeding in foggy conditions, he missed a turn in the road, hit some large rocks and a tree stump, sending the vehicle into the air and landing on the roof. Apparently, the driver fled the scene wearing only boxer shorts, the strangest part of the story, if you ask me.

Now, police caught up with him a short time later, and incredibly, no one was injured. The roof is currently being fixed.

I'm Max Foster, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" are up next after a short break.