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Protests in Syria; Crackdown on Tibetans Protesting Chinese Rule; Big Interview: John Goodman

Aired January 30, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, ANCHOR, CONNECT THE WORLD: Tonight on CONNECT THE WORLD, on the doorstep of Damascus --


ANDERSON: -- protesters make an unprecedented push towards the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: As the war in Syria escalates, Arab League monitors head to the United Nations, which may be their last chance to stop the violence. Also this hour --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really get the sense here that this price is not (inaudible).


ANDERSON: Tracking down Tibetans in China, a CNN crew struggles to cover a story the Chinese authorities don't seem to want us to see.

And one of the most recognizable faces and voices in Hollywood tells me what he learned from acting in a silent film.


ANDERSON: First tonight, a fierce pushback is underway in the suburbs of Damascus, where rebel soldiers have been moving ever closer to the power base of the Syrian regime. Government troops are reportedly using tanks and artillery to try to regain control of several neighborhoods.

Opposition activists now saying at least 100 people have been killed today alone. The vast majority died in the city of Homs. Eight children are reportedly among the dead. The U.N. estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising began last March.

(Inaudible) activists put the toll as high as 7,000 (inaudible) the relentless violence finally convinced the Arab League to quit its monitoring mission over the weekend. Instead, it will push for United Nations' support of a league peace plan that calls for a transfer of power.

The Arab League chief, Nabil Elaraby, is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council Tuesday on the mission's findings. Well, behind closed doors at the U.N. 11th hour negotiations on a critical draft resolution underway. We're going to get live update from there in just a moment.

First, though, a rare look at the risks protesters are willing to take to defy the Syrian regime. CNN's Arwa Damon follows along as activists use the cover of darkness to stage daring demonstrations.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We drive in tense silence, the opposition activists we are with, checking to make sure we're not being followed. Down a dark alleyway, we change vehicles.

We're in Carthasusa (ph), in the heart of Damascus. This 21-year old goes by the pseudonym of Umar Wan (ph). He's a first-year medical student. What he's witnessed, haunts.

UMAR WAN: A lot of horrible things, and it's shown (ph) my friend that you know, what does it mean when your friends are hurting and you can't do anything. So some people dead, between my two hands, and that was really very hard to me, especially my friends, my friends, which I growed up with them since I was one year old. And he died because I couldn't do anything, because I have nothing to do.

DAMON (voice-over): The loss has fueled his determination. Eleven months into the uprising, the activists have it down to a science. Spotters are prepositioned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 20 people, we put them around all the area, in the neighborhood, to watch if any polices or (inaudible) are coming here.

DAMON (voice-over): There are posters and other materials hidden in a safe house, along with tiny printed leaflets ready to be scattered.

DAMON: So this is your message to the people that have basically been staying silent, saying, isn't it about time, haven't they, the regime, filled the land with enough bad things?

DAMON (voice-over): Demonstrators move in groups of two or three to avoid attracting attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They came very carefully, now they will go to the other streets and hide.

DAMON (voice-over): At the signal, the street erupts into activity. Everyone has a duty. The revolution's flag ripples above the crowd. It's the Syrian flag before the Baath party took over more than 40 years ago. The leaflets rain down like confetti.

DAMON: One of the chants that we have been here is (inaudible), which loosely translates to mean, "We are slaves for you, o Lord." That chant, the activists were saying, has become especially prominent because they feel as if the Arab league, the United Nations, the international community has all abandoned them.

They say at this stage, all that they have left is their courage, their determination, and their faith in God.

DAMON (voice-over): Every night the protesters do this. Their numbers are small. Their determination is not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not just people think a symbol of raw (ph) demonstration. This is a very big deal. We are facing bad regime so we have to do this. And this -- one of the hardest things that we have to do daily.

DAMON: "Oh, how nice is freedom," the crowd chants. But every night the protest is short-lived. Just 10 minutes after it started --

DAMON: That the government might actually be coming in. So now, everyone, obviously, is rushing away as fast as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to go faster, right?

DAMON (voice-over): They leave the flag behind to make a point, that even if just for a while they did it.

DAMON: They are just telling us that we have to go faster. The government is moving in from all sides right now.

DAMON: Another deadly game of cat and mouse in the Syrian capital -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Damascus.


ANDERSON: Well, 11 months into the uprising and the U.N. Security Council still hasn't passed a single resolution on the Syrian crisis. The council will try again this week, taking up a draft that calls on Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Well, a few days ago, I asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon if he, too, wants the Syrian president to resign. He didn't exactly take a stand. Have a listen to this.


BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: That I leave to the people of Syria. Syrian people have the stop enough that there should be a reform, and I believe that today there is a matter of principle. The leaders should listen very carefully and sincerely to the aspirations of their people.


ANDERSON: I was speaking to the secretary-general when he was at Davos last week. And he said he wasn't prepared at that stage here on CNN to call for Assad to stand down. Well, Western nations are sending top diplomats to the United Nations in New York to put pressure on the Security Council to act.

One veto-wielding council member is threatening to stand in the way. Let's get details now from our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth.


RICHARD ROTH, SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Becky, the yearlong simmering dispute between a more aggressive Russia and members of the Western nations is probably going to be on display again in the next few days, as it has been regarding Syria and what to do there.

The Russians have been saying verbally that they don't want any resolution that they think would push President Assad out of power and to go along with the Arab League agenda that has now been sent to New York here.

The Arab League, secretary-general, as you mentioned, will brief the Security Council Tuesday afternoon. Then the Security Council in the next hours and days will resume discussions on a resolution which calls for President Assad to step aside, delegate authority to a vice president.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, in her comments to the press, certainly made it clear that this is still an open situation. What's going to happen with this resolution?


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We have seen the consequences of neglect and inaction by this council over the course of the last 10 months, not because the majority of the council isn't eager to act. It has been. But there have been a couple of very powerful members who have not been willing to see that action placed. That may yet still be the case. We'll see.

I don't want to prejudge where this will end up. But we certainly think that it's vitally important for the council to stand up and support a process that the neighboring states all have come to us and said please support, because the alternative is more violence and intensified chaos.


ROTH: Some ambassadors on Friday seemed a bit more optimistic because the Russian envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said that they didn't like the resolution, but they were willing to engage on it, which is a lot further than they've gone in recent months on any Syria piece of paper. One ambassador said he didn't think there would be a vote this week.

Now across the street from the U.N., within the last few hours, the opposition group for President Assad, the Syrian National Council, held a press conference. And the interpreter for the president of the Syrian National Council said they need Russia on board to let this resolution be approved.


BURHAN GHALIOUN, PRESIDENT, SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): I appeal to Russia, which has a long historical ties with the Syrian people to prevent Assad regime from exploiting the Russian support in order to continue its oppression of the Syrian people.


ROTH: That's actually the translator for the president of the Russia -- of the Syrian National Council. In the -- and the -- this group also said they don't want to sit down as Russia wanted, with the representatives of the Syrian government. They said precondition, Assad's got to go. Becky, back to you.

ANDERSON: All right, Richard, thank you for that, 11th hour negotiations then as I said, behind closed doors at the United Nations, some press conferences of course going on. We're getting some sense of just what the dialogue, the narrative is there.

Let's get some perspective now on these developments from our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who recently spent some time in Syria, not by any means his first time there.

Before we move on, the Syrian opposition there, Nic, alluding to these long, historic ties that Russia has. I just want to join the dots, as it were, for our viewers on these sort of so-what, why does Russia care about Syria? Let's remind our viewers of this.

The Syrian regime is a big weapons client for Russia, with an estimated $4 billion in sales. Moscow also signed a $550 million deal with Syria for combat training jets in the face of European Union sanctions and the Syria port of Tartars (ph) houses Russia's largest overseas naval base outside of the former Soviet Union.

The longer the Assad regime continues it attacks on the Syrian people and stands in the way of a peaceful transition, the greater the concern that instability, of course, will escalate and spill out throughout the region. And yet you've heard what Richard has been reporting from the U.N. What chance that Russia stands in the way at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's every possibility it may still stand and then, for one, Russia is a huge oil producer in and of itself, which means in the context of these Arab nations that are going to the U.N. Security Council to pressure for their position, Russia doesn't feel under the same pressure as other countries in the West might to support these Arab countries.

They're not going to suffer. They don't buy their oil from these countries, so they've got a sort of a degree of freedom there. They certainly feel that whoever is going to remain in power or come to power in Syria needs to be somebody who's going to support their interests.

So it's kind of interesting to hear a sort of olive branch being thrown out there in a way for the Syrian National Council. It's kind of, OK, if we get in, we're not going to ignore you. But there's a big red line here for Russia.

Let me just mention Libya. Russia felt that the West sold it a pup, if you will, on Libya, that it was to protect the people. That was NATO's involvement. They didn't really believe it would have resulted in regime change. It did. And they don't want to have a repeat performance in Syria.

ANDERSON: I just want you to have a quick listen to what, again, the secretary-general said to me, when he was at Davos last week, when I interviewed him, on whether he thought that Russia was getting in the way. Let's have a listen to this, and I want you to respond.


BAN: I know that there is some difference with -- differences of positions in -- among Security Council members. The League of Arab States has taken issues, initiatives and I'm fully supporting the League of Arab States.

I have been constantly in contact with the secretary-general Nabil Elaraby of the League of Arab States, and we are now discussing a possibility of some consultations among the regional organizations.


ANDERSON: Yes, all right. So equivocating to a certain extent. The Russian fear, of course, and again, I allude to what you said on Libya here, is that the Arab League plan leaves open the possibility of intervention.

Is that an option, do you think, at this point?

ROBERTSON: It will be a incredibly difficult option for anybody to engage in. I mean, what Western diplomats are hearing from their military commanders is that to get in on the ground, let alone sort of do a no-fly zone a la Libya, you would need to neutralize assets, Air Forces, surface- to-air missiles. There are many of those sites around the country.

Let's not forget Assad's father served in the -- served in the Syrian Air Force. So it's well imbued with surface-to-air missiles, radar defense systems. They have a lot of money invested there. And a lot of targets.

And the calculation is to hit those targets would cause -- would need many, many, bombing runs, and therefore cause potentially many civilian casualties, collateral damage, international community could not withstand that. That's before we get to the position of putting in troops.

ANDERSON: Crystal ball, it's yours. A draft resolution, one assumes, we'll see at some point this week. We're looking at Tuesday before the Security Council. We have learnt tonight where the Russians stand. We've analyzed that position to a certain extent. You've got the crystal ball. What happens next?

ROBERTSON: What happens next is the huge sort of debate behind the doors at the U.N., is do we do something weak enough, i.e. not verbalizing that Assad must go, i.e. not fully endorsing the Arab League proposal, that's weak enough to allow Russia not to veto it, and the calculation is if the U.N. does that, is that enough of a message sent by Russia to Assad? But he does need to step aside.

That's the calculation, soft to keep Russia on the side or tough to send a tough message, but where's the teeth to back it up? The things Assad fears, there's strength of his army, the unity of his army, not losing it, not getting defectors and international intervention. If you go too far down the road of threats and no carry-through, you lose his -- he loses one of those things that actually holding him back to a degree.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Nic Robertson, always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed, Nic, who's also, as I say, been in Syria, and want to see him (inaudible) going back there at some point in the near future.

Our top story tonight, the world's response to the Syrian crisis enters an important new phase this week, with the Arab League monitoring mission reaching a dead end. There's now an awful lot of pressure on the United Nations to take action. We're going to be watching as the Arab League chief delivers a critical briefing to the U.N. Security Council this time tomorrow. You'll get that here on CNN.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London. Still to come, a family sentenced to life in prison. A look at the next legal set in Canada's honor murder case. And a crackdown on ethnic Tibetans in western China. CNN crews detained as they try to cover the story. That and more coming up here on CNN. Stay with us.




ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson for you. This is the world's news leader. Welcome back. China is cracking down on unrest ahead of the Tibetan new year holiday in February. Thousands of Chinese security forces have descended on Sichuan Province, an ethnically Tibetan area of southwestern China.

The move follows large protests by Tibetans, demonstrating against Chinese rule, some of which have led to deadly clashes with police. Now tensions are high after several incidents of Tibetans setting themselves on fire. Under the cover of darkness, Stan Grant went to Sichuan Province to cover the story, but came up against definite resistance.


STAN GRANT, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. We're being pulled over by the side of the road here, and we've been traveling for about two hours from Chengdu. We're heading up into the mountains, to where the Tibetan communities live, and, of course, there was a police checkpoint. Our producer is now outside talking to police, and they're now going to look at our passports.


ANDERSON: We'll find out what happened to Stan in a year (ph) CNN team just under 15 minutes right here on CONNECT THE WORLD. Before that, a look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world tonight.

Member of an Afghan family says they will appeal their conviction in four honor murders in Canada. Now Mohammad Shafia, his wife and son were sentenced to 25 years in prison on Sunday for the murders of Shafia's three daughters and his first wife.

Jurors heard wiretaps of Shafia enraged over his daughters' behavior, calling them, quote, "whores." The woman and three teenaged girls were found dead inside a submerged car in a canal in 2009.

Well, once again, Nigeria's second largest city is a target for militants. They launched attacks at two Kano police stations earlier. Two people were killed. There's been no claim of responsibility, but Boko Haram is suspected. The militant Islamist group conducted a series of attacks on January the 20th that left at least 211 people dead.

Well, no matter who comes out on top in Florida's presidential primary on Tuesday, all four remaining candidates are vowing to stay in the race. The new poll shows Mitt Romney with a 14 point lead over Newt Gingrich, two front runners trading blows over the negative turn in the campaign. Gingrich calls Romney's ads dishonest.

Romney describes Gingrich's attacks as desperate. And CNN, of course, for that live coverage and analysis with the results, as you would expect, from the Florida primary. That's early Wednesday, starting at midnight London, 8:00 in the morning in Hong Kong.

Still to come, tonight on this edition of CONNECT THE WORLD, from London, the sporting headlines, you know Novak Djokovic basked in the glow of his third straight grand slam title, plus standing shoulder to shoulder, Europe's leaders attempt to breathe some life back into their economies. That and more after this short break. Stay with us.




ANDERSON: Here watching CONNECT THE WORLD, live from London, 25 minutes past 9:00. I'm Becky Anderson. Now Novak Djokovic thrilled us all with his epic triumph at the Australian Open at the weekend.

And he remains very much the man of the moment. And why not? After only a few hours, Djokovic was back in front of the media Monday, parading the Norman Brookes trophy that he won for third time when he outlasted Rafael Nadal in Sunday's pulsating final, almost six hours long. It was the longest final in grand slam history.

Let's bring "WORLD SPORT's" Alex Thomas for some reflection. Let me tell you, I was listening to it on the radio. I ended up seeing that five hours, this dog needs walking, which is why, so I'd (inaudible) otherwise, so I had to walk the dog, came back and the game was still going on till the end of the last set.

ALEX THOMAS, SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It was one of those snowball sporting moments, wasn't it. The longer it went on, the more people got sucked into it. And so at one stage, it felt like the whole world was watching.

And when Novak Djokovic won after nearly six hours of extraordinary tennis, and then ripped off his shirt, you almost expect to see a big S written on his chest.

What a superhuman effort it was, and what extraordinary game of tennis, just 48 hours after what we thought was the best game of tennis we'd seen in a long time, which was Djokovic's semifinal win narrowly over Andy Murray, not to mention the other semis between Federer and Nadal.

So extraordinary tennis, kudos off Djokovic, who, as we saw in that video, was rather weary but happy in Melbourne Park the morning after, after a few hours' sleep, because this match finished in the early hours of Monday morning (inaudible).


THOMAS: Parading the trophy, not many people have heard of its name, but all the talk now is whether Djokovic could possibly become the first was (ph) Rocket Rod Laver, an Aussie himself, in 1969, to win all four grand slam titles in one year. A bit early for the man himself to be talking about that. He was still reflecting on the epic from Sunday night.

ANDERSON: Oh, I thought we were going to hear from him.

THOMAS: No, I'm sorry, I wasn't (inaudible). You know.

ANDERSON: (Inaudible) looking into the camera. Listen, so we heard from him and we'll -- on WORLD SPORT, of course, in a hour's time.

THOMAS: Yes, you can hear it then.

ANDERSON: And you'll be reporting on exactly what he said. Apologies for that technical glitch on that, but it's on eliminating match, and let's just leave it at that.

An amazing golf match. I was -- this is -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to spoil this --

THOMAS: A meltdown, I mean, we call it, Becky. And let's --

ANDERSON: From hero to zero, as you were.

THOMAS: Let's let the video do the talking. This is Kyle Stanley. You know, his second full season on. So his approach shot to the final hole, with a three-stroke lead, surely it's in the bag for his first-ever PGA tour title. But no, the ball spins back towards the water in front of the 18th green. For a moment, the ball hung on the bank.

We thought it was going to be safe, but it dropped in the water. He then takes three to get down from there, a triple bogey, suddenly a playoff out of nowhere. And Brandt Snedeker, who was all ready to go home, comes back, starts playing.

And in the end, it results in Snedeker winning second extra hole and so poor old Kyle Stanley joins the likes of Jean Van de Velde, Greg Norman and others when it comes to meltdowns on the final (inaudible) --

ANDERSON: I was going to say -- I hate to say this, because it was awful for him, but anybody who plays golf has had a round like that. (Inaudible) hole like that regularly.

THOMAS: And he was actually reduced to tears, and you've got to see that in "WORLD SPORT", as well as live from the Super Bowl venue of Indianapolis (inaudible).


ANDERSON: (Inaudible) in a hour's time. (Inaudible) will be with you, too.

Do not go anywhere else. Stay with us for that here on CNN. Still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks, Alex.

And how one of our crews went in search of Tibetan protesters, and landed in trouble with Chinese authorities.


GRANT: Our producer is now outside talking to police, and they're now going to look at our passports.


ANDERSON: We'll bring you more on a lockdown which is hiding an escalating conflict. Plus going nowhere fast, Europe's leaders descend on Brussels to get their economies, or at least to try and get their economies into gear.

And the actor with roles in not one but two films nominated for an Oscar this year, my big interview with one of Hollywood's hardest working stars still to come.



ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. And if you've just joined us, welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson. Just after half past nine in London. Let's get you a check of the world news headlines.

Some opposition activists now say at least 100 people have been killed in Syria today, the vast majority dying in the besieged city of Homs. They Syrian Interior Ministry says security forces are going after, quote, "terrorists."

Iran's foreign minister says a visiting delegation from the UN nuclear watchdog agency can extend their stay if they choose and inspect any nuclear facilities they wish. The six-person inspection team arrived on Sunday on a three-day mission to clarify Tehran's goals for its controversial nuclear program.

The Swedish prime minister has told CNN that the Czech Republic will not sign a pact to enforce budgetary discipline. He joins the UK in refusing to do so. EU leaders meeting as we speak in Brussels to try and find a solution to the crisis. More on that in about five minutes time here on CNN.

And with the key Florida primary less than a day away, the top Republican candidates for the US presidential nomination are hammering away at each other. Mitt Romney is surging in the polls with a 14-point lead over his closest rival, Newt Gingrich.

Well, violence escalating across western China as security forces crack down on Tibetans protesting against Chinese rule. CNN's Senior International Corespondent Stan Grant traveled to Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Covering the story, it seems, was far from easy.


STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the dark, icy back roads of western China, a deadly conflict is being hidden from view. In villages nestled into these mountains, Tibetan nuns and monks have been setting themselves on fire.

Tibetans and human rights groups accuse Chinese security forces of brutally putting down protests, and we, the media, are being locked out.

GRANT (on camera): OK, we're being pulled over by the side of the road, here, and we've been traveling for about two hours from Chengdu. We're heading up into the mountains to where the Tibetan communities live. And of course, there was a police checkpoint. Our producer is now outside talking to the police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stan, they want your passport.

GRANT: And they're now going to look at our passports.

GRANT (voice-over): In the darkness, our camera picks up the police. Eventually, we're ordered back. They say it's for our safety. It won't be the last we see of the police.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said yesterday, no checkpoint. Today, checkpoint here. There's something that must have happened.

GRANT: There are reports of fresh violence. Our driver speaks to a Tibetan contact inside the exclusion zone.

The area is surrounded by police and Chinese military, he says. Later, media reports say two Tibetan protesters were shot dead.

At dawn, right across Sichuan Province, police are moving in. A security net has fallen across parts of Chengdu. In this Tibetan Buddhist neighborhood, authorities are tightening their grip.

GRANT (on camera): So, we're having to stay in the car here because there are police literally every few meters here, absolutely crawling with police. I think you can probably see one through the window, just over my shoulder.

A lot of Tibetans here, a lot of Buddhist monks that we can see walking around. You really get the sense, here, that this place is in lockdown.

GRANT (voice-over): It's hard to get people to talk here. These young monks say they are verbally abused and harassed by police, pushed to breaking point.

"I cannot bear it any longer," he says. "I can't bear it anymore."

They live here in this tiny, one-room apartment. They are far from their home in the mountains, cut off, they say. They cannot even make contact by phone.

"We want to go, but we cannot. You can see all the security out there," he says. "Wherever you go, they see you. You cannot go anywhere."

"Are you afraid?" We asked.

He just looks to a picture of the Buddha. "I can't explain," he says, "that I'm not afraid."

In their pouch, they hold a keepsake of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, too sacred to even show us. This pouch, they say, carries a dream.

"We wish what all Tibetans wish for the most. For the Dalai Lama to return to the palace in Tibet."

They know about the self-immolation of other Buddhists. They support them and vow it will continue until China leaves Tibet.

For the Chinese government, these are dangerous men. China claims more than a dozen people have been killed in what they call Tibetan terrorist attacks. Throughout our reporting, we've been watched, our vehicle is followed, our driver says his family has received threatening phone calls.

At the airport, we are detained by plainclothes police, held and questioned for five hours before being released. Police keep some of our video.

There are plenty of claims and counterclaims in this dark conflict, all played out behind a veil of state secrecy in the mountains of western China.


ANDERSON: Stan Grant reporting, there. Well, more than 87 million people live in that province. Most are ethnic Chinese, but there is a large Tibetan population, and Chinese authorities say Western governments and the media are distorting the truth. They accuse the Dalai Lama of abusing his religious reputation.

Well, I spoke a little earlier to Stan and asked him about those claims.


GRANT: This has been a long-held complaint here in China, in saying that the Dalai Lama whips up anti-Chinese fervor wherever he goes. And of course, there has been retaliation in the past for countries that have -- the Dalai Lama or political leaders that have met him.

However, when you talk to the Tibetan population here, of course, they long for the day when the Dalai Lama is able to return to a free Tibet.

And that's really what's at the heart of this, Becky. There were protests in 2008, which gathered worldwide headlines in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, and they're now comparing the latest protests to those.

Over the past few months, we've seen more than a dozen nuns and monks who've died from self-immolation, who have set themselves alight in protest. There have been further protests on the streets.

We've seen the crackdown from the Chinese security forces. Tibetans and human rights groups say that a number have been wounded and killed.

The government, though, says that Han Chinese have also been attacked by Tibetans, and putting the number of their dead well over a dozen, as well. So, a claim and counterclaim from both sides, Becky.

ANDERSON: What do you expect to see next?

GRANT: You know, the problem here is just how quickly this could escalate, and the real issues is trying to get a handle on what is exactly going on. As we saw in the story, it is almost impossible to get there and to be able to talk to people on the ground.

We were fortunate enough to be able to speak to some monks, who are living in Chengdu, and they told us about the oppression that they say they're suffering.

But the lockdown can not be underestimated. There are police everywhere. There are roadblocks right around the mountains areas where the Tibetan population lives. And because the media is not getting access because we're not getting to be able to see on the ground firsthand what's happening. The fear is that a lot worse is taking place behind this veil of state secrecy, Becky.


ANDERSON: Stan Grant speaking to me earlier.

Up next, forced into retirement at the age of 48. A former Greek airline attendant tells me how his country's austerity has brought him to breaking point.


ANDERSON: No trains, fewer planes, but plenty of automobiles. Belgium was going nowhere fast today, with public transport crippled by a general strike against austerity.

Welcome back, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. This as Europe's leaders gathered in Brussels trying to get the region's economies moving once again. More jobs and more budget discipline were the topics up for discussion.

There hasn't been a lot of agreement, though, has there, amongst these EU leaders? Jim Boulden is in the Belgian capital this evening. Have we got any sort of agreement one what happens next at this point to help these struggling economies?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, after six hours of talks, these meetings are now over, and we're now in the spin room. Everybody's in their little briefing rooms explaining to the local media what exactly has been agreed to, Becky.

And we just heard from Jose Manuel Barroso, and he said it's all about jobs. It's all about creating jobs. A little bit of growth, helping youth unemployment.

Of course, that's not really what the markets wanted to hear about, is it? They really want to hear about Greece. A little bit about that later.

But one of the interesting things is the fiscal compact has been agreed by 25 of the 27 countries. What is this? This is the idea that they would tightly integrate their economies. It would be the 17 countries that use the euro and then eight more.

The two that aren't in, the UK we already knew about, but also the Czech Republic has said they cannot join this. And President Nicolas Sarkozy of France explained just a few moments ago his view on why the Czech Republic has not joined in with the other European countries.


NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Well, the Czech prime minister told us that for constitutional reasons, he did not wish to accede to the future treaty. We have taken note of that decision.

Clarification, if you like. I'm not sufficiently familiar with the ins and outs -- of what's going on in Prague to be able to understand why what was acceptable in December is no longer acceptable now.


BOULDEN: Now, Becky, the Swedish prime minister told me it was very good that they could get 25 of the 27 countries to agree on that. All of the countries have also agreed on the permanent firewall, the ESM, as it's called. It will start in July.

This is the idea that if you put a lot of money into this firewall, then maybe you won't need to use it. In other words, the markets will see that you're serious about saving the euro, and so they have this full-time ESM, European Stability Mechanism, come July, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, OK, I get all of that. That's the fiscal compact and that plan. Has anybody come up with a cunning plan to boost growth and jobs while at the same time insisting on this whinging austerity. Because the two just don't go together, do they?

BOULDEN: It's really hard to see how the two go together, and very clearly, we heard people here say don't call this stimulus, we're not going back to what we were doing just two years ago and putting a lot of stimulus into the economies, which of course caused the huge budget deficits.

What they're saying is that there is some unused funds, several billion euros of unused funds, Mr. Barroso says, that can be reallocated into things like youth unemployment.

So, they want for the next month or so governments to come up with ideas of how they can use this money to help with youth unemployment, as an example, and that that money would be released from the Commission into govern -- national governments, and they will try to push --

I can tell you, people are really worried here, as we know, in the UK as well about youth unemployment. It's very, very high.

ANDERSON: As is unemployment across the eurozone and -- well, indeed across the euro -- the European Union as a whole. Jim, thank you for that. Jim's in Brussels for you, this evening.

While growth and balanced budgets topped today's agenda, once again, EU leaders couldn't ignore the elephant in the room, that being Greece. The government and private investors are still struggling to come to an agreement over cutting its debt and the prospects of a disorderly default still looms large.

Now, over the weekend, a German proposal for Greece to cede control of its finances to Brussels, well, that went down like a lead balloon in Athens. This headline from a Greek newspaper needs no translation.


ANDERSON: Yet without a long-term solution to keep Greece from going under, its people are struggling just to stay afloat.

Take the case of Yiannis Pantzos, a former chief airline cabin attendant for the then-state-owned Olympic Airline. He was forced into early retirement at the age of 48 when the airline was privatized recently.

When we spoke to Yiannis last September, he told us that his income had been cut by 40 percent, four-zero, and he believed that that was just the start. Yiannis joins us now from Athens.

Yiannis, we talked back in September when things were rough. What's your state -- or what's the situation now, as it were?

YIANNIS PANTZOS, FORMER CHIEF ARLINE CABIN ATTENDANT: Things now are more difficult than last time we spoke together because Greece has been coming to a ledge and has to take a big and very rough decision for its people.

I believe that we have to find a solution right now, because whatever starts from Greece, it will flow to all over Europe.

ANDERSON: You're 50 years old, now. You've been forced into retirement, which -- I've got to say, some people in Europe would probably quite fancy the idea of retirement, but your pension is so low at this point that it's hardly covering the cost of what are four kids, I remember you telling me?

You've got four kids, two of whom are at high school. Some of their books are having to be photocopied at this point because the classrooms and the schools can't afford the sort of resources to actually teach efficiently at this point.

What's your sense, Yiannis, of what happens next?

PANTZOS: My sense regarding me with my four kids and my two daughter that are in the high school and they receive photocopies this year to go to school is that the next step of the measures should not be only on the economic basis, but also on the social basis.

Because whatever Europe is regarding now as a problem at this summit only economic and nobody cares about the society and what happens here. So --

ANDERSON: So, Yiannis --

PANTZOS: -- this is --

ANDERSON: Sorry, let me just stop you there, because we have heard sort of noise from these European leaders both at Davos at the World Economic Forum last week and in Brussels at the summit today, as Jim was reporting, that suddenly, it seems, the word "unemployment," particularly the word "youth unemployment" is top, front, and center of the narrative.

You must be delighted that at this point, so far down the road, at least people are beginning to talk about those who are behind the numbers, aren't you?

PANTZOS: I believe that this is something that we cannot say in advance. We have to see in our life. What I'm seeing in my life is that people that were working here in Athens, Greece, six months ago, now they're homeless and they're sleeping out in the streets with zero degrees Celsius. It's snowing outside now.

And people that used to work three months ago, now they're homeless, and the society is called to help them, and nobody else is caring for them. Everybody is caring about the economic numbers.

ANDERSON: You heard it here first on CNN, the story behind the stats, as it were. Yiannis, as ever, keep in touch. We'll talk again and, of course, everybody here hopes that things will improve, not just for you, your family, but of course for everybody else.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. When we come back, my Big Interview with a star of the surprise film of the year.


JOHN GOODMAN, ACTOR: I am stunned. But I'm over the moon about it. I mean, I said earlier that nothing surprises me in this business, but this did. And it's a very pleasant shock.


ANDERSON: John Goodman tells me how "The Artist" says so much by saying nothing at all.


ANDERSON: Most actors perform their entire careers in the hope of working on just one Oscar-nominated film. Well, this year, there are nine movies in the running for Best Picture, and the star in tonight's Big Interview has roles in two of them. Here's my conversation with John Goodman.


GOODMAN AS SULLY, "MONSTERS, INC.": Let's just check the schedule.

BILLY CRYSTAL AS MIKE, "MONSTERS, INC.": This is very embarrassing. Let me see.

ANDERSON (voice-over): He's got one of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood, from Sully in "Monsters, Inc."

GOODMAN AS SULLY: That's Mongolia. Mike, does this look like Mongolia to you?

GOODMAN AS BALOO, "THE JUNGLE BOOK 2" (singing): Now, when you pick a paw paw --

ANDERSON: To Baloo in "The Jungle Book 2."

GOODMAN AS BALOO (singing): And you pick a raw paw, well, next time beware!"

ANDERSON: But in one of his latest films, John Goodman is mute. So, too, the entire cast.

ANDERSON (on camera): What made "The Artist" such a great movie to work on?

GOODMAN: It was by definition a labor of love. And the fact that we shot it -- a lot of it in a studio that was built for 1911 on Cahuenga Street in Hollywood, I thought that was really unique.

ANDERSON (voice-over): "The Artist" has been described as a love letter to Hollywood, and it certainly wooed the industry, emerging as a front-runner this awards season.

ANDERSON (on camera): What is it about the film, do you think?

GOODMAN: I think it's just a basic story. It works on a lot of levels. A love story, a story of success and failure, and the fact that all of us are replaceable, especially in this chapter of this business, when things are just exploding now. Personal videos, personal stories are being told automatically and immediately. The rules are changing.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Goodman himself has been going at pace since the early 1980s. He has more than 70 films to his name. There is, of course, this year's Oscar-nominated "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," but he's also done everything from children's movies, such as "The Flintstones" --


ANDERSON: To several Coen Brothers classics, including "The Big Lebowski."

GOODMAN AS WALTER SOBCHAK, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI": Why should we settle for 20 grand when we can keep the entire million?

ANDERSON (on camera): How does a comedian, whose narratives are the tools of his trade, get on with a silent movie?

GOODMAN: One of the first things I learned was watching Marlon Brando, and you can watch Marlon Brando with the sound off and know what he's talking about. And I -- and that goes for people like Buster Keaton, for Babe Hardy, for all the silent greats. They didn't need dialogue to tell a story, and I've kept that in the back of my mind.

ANDERSON: But I'm still, I think, amazed at just how successful this can and possibly will be. Are you?

GOODMAN: I am -- I'm -- I am stunned. But I'm over the moon about it. I mean, I said earlier that nothing surprises me in this business, but this did. And it's a very pleasant shock.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Goodman was equally surprised by the success of hit TV series "Roseanne," which broke new ground in its portrayal of a working-class family and fetched him several awards, including a Golden Globe.

ANDERSON (on camera): Your role as Dan Connor, of course, in "Roseanne" is what a lot of the international viewers are going to know you for. Turned you into a global star. Did you enjoy working in that sort of format?

GOODMAN: Yes. It was -- doing -- we were performing in front of a live audience, and that -- that really gave it an extra boost. And we had something to say at a time when we had a chip on our shoulder.

GOODMAN AS DAN CONNOR, "ROSEANNE": You only married me for my cooking.

ROSEANNE BARR AS ROSEANNE CONNER, "ROSEANNE": Nuh-uh. I married you because you needed a date for your wedding.

ANDERSON: Do you miss it? Because it looks -- it looked great fun.

GOODMAN: Yes, I do. I do miss that time. Because it was like a -- like going to a family every day. A highly dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless.

ANDERSON: Your career path actually began, of course, as a footballer. But then injury scuttled that dream, and you turned to acting.

GOODMAN: An injury and no talent.


ANDERSON: Good for you!

GOODMAN: The injury of being born with no talent.

ANDERSON: Was that a blessing in disguise, though, do you think?

GOODMAN: No, absolutely. It -- provided me with an avenue where there were more women involved.


GOODMAN: At an early age, that's important.

ANDERSON: Throughout your career, you have, of course, made millions of people laugh. What makes you laugh, John?

GOODMAN: The shock, surprise. There's a -- I'm a sucker for the easy laugh, a cheap laugh, anything usually gets me going, unless people are trying too hard.

ANDERSON: What inspires you?

GOODMAN: Less and less these days.


GOODMAN: And my daughter. My wife.

ANDERSON: The funniest project you've ever worked on.

GOODMAN: "Big Lebowski."

ANDERSON: Worst project you've ever worked on.



GOODMAN: I'm not telling.

ANDERSON: Most favorable interview you've ever had?

GOODMAN: This one!

ANDERSON (simultaneously): This one!


ANDERSON: They say never work with children or animals. What or who would you rather work with, children, animals, or give me the name of somebody.

GOODMAN: Oh, golly. I don't have any favorites, but I like working with children and animals. Except for one -- there was a dog on "Roseanne," we thought we were going to have a dog one time, and the trainer for the animal was just off camera, and we'd be having our dialogue, and all of a sudden, "Up!"

This guy would scream at the dog, and we'd -- it made us very nervous. And you don't want to get Roseanne real nervous, so the dog went. Yes.



ANDERSON: What a joy. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" are up after this very short break, don't go away.