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Collateral Costs of Afghanistan Policies; BP's Static Kill Successful

Aired August 4, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET



BEBE AIYISHA: When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out, "Aiyisha (ph) says. "In the middle of the night, it felt like there was cold water in my nose. I opened my eyes and I couldn't even see because of all the blood."


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The story of Bebe Aiyisha (ph), her scars the legacy of a failed marriage in Afghanistan. Her treatment is a reminder of a woman's woeful position under the Taliban. Tonight, as Washington attempts to reconcile with the enemy, we ask just who is paying the price for peace in the region?

On CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Bebe Aiyisha's story is shocking, and even more so because she is by no means unique. Tonight, the collateral costs of the world's policies in Afghanistan. Joining the dots for you from London, I'm Becky Anderson.

Also tonight, a significant milestone for BP. Operation "static kill" appears to be working, just as a new report says that much of the spilled oil has disappeared. We find out how that is possible.



ANDERSON: She is one of the world's top pop stars. Natasha Bedingfield is in the hot seat tonight, answering your questions. And you can shape our issues and our Connectors of the Day on the Web site on Twitter. My personal address is atbeckycnn. Do log on and join the conversation.

Well, one picture of unspeakable suffering symbolizes the repression of thousands of women under the Taliban. "Time" got the world's attention recently when it featured Bebe Aiyisha on its cover. Well, she is now getting a chance at a new life, heading right now to the United States, far from those who tortured her.

Let's keep up with her story from Atia Abawi.


ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An iconic picture of an Afghan girl that will resonate around the world for years to come -- reminiscent of another Afghan portrait from another generation. This is 19-year-old Bebe Aiyisha. It was her husband who cut off her nose and ears. Forced into marriage at 16, she ran away from a life of abuse, but was caught. After a trial by the Taliban for bringing shame to the family, this was the punishment. Her husband carried it out and left her to die on a mountainside in Oruzgan Province.

"When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out," Aisha says. "In the middle of the night, it felt like there was cold water in my nose. I opened my eyes and I couldn't even see because of all the blood."

She barely survived. But thanks to an American provincial reconstruction team and this woman's shelter in Kabul, she is now getting help and on her way to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery.

ESTHER HYNEMAN, WOMEN FOR AFGHAN WOMEN: Bebe Aiyisha (ph) is only one example of thousands of girls and women in Afghanistan and throughout the world who are treated this way, who suffer abuses like this, like this and worse.

ABAWI: In 2001, the situation of Afghan women and Taliban brutality received plenty of attention. Now, organizations like Women for Afghan Women say the international community is strangely silent on the issue and with plans of negotiating with the Taliban, many fear it will be the women who will pay the price.

United Nations officials here estimate that 90 percent of women suffer from domestic violence and they have very few places to turn to. Women for Afghan Women has helped nearly 1,400 victims in the past few years. It says ignoring women's rights plays into the hands of the insurgencies.

HYNEMAN: When you have a population, 50 percent of a population on their knees, it is very easy for extremists, tyrants to take over a country. They have a ready made enslaved population.

ABAWI: Aisha is reminded of that enslavement every time she looks in the mirror. But now, at least she is getting a chance for a new life in America.

Atia Abawi, CNN, Kabul.


ANDERSON: Well, we've seen the report. If this brutality could happen when the Taliban are out of power, just imagine what might happen if they are brought back into the fold. Well, the Afghan government is considering reconciliation as a way to end the war. But some believe women would pay the price for that kind of peace.

I talked earlier with the Afghan lawmaker, Fawzia Koofi, asking first whether Bebe Aiyisha's case is isolated.


FAWZIA KOOFI, AFGHAN LAWMAKER: The government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people have paid a high price to pave the way for women's issues for the past eight years or the support of the international community. But unfortunately, that simply the mood is basically to -- to -- to bring Taliban on board. And as we all know, Taliban are against (INAUDIBLE) issues. First of all, they are opposing a woman's political and social participation. And we have experienced of life under the Taliban, which includes the deprivation of women from education, as well.

And second is the constitution of Afghanistan, that they don't agree. And -- and it goes on.

I think that the first victims will be women and children of this country. We all need peace, but that's also important that we bring peace with justice.

ANDERSON: So am I right in saying that you -- you suggest that women and girls will be paying the price for peace going forward if the West decides to talk to the Taliban?

KOOFI: Yes. Basically, the peace talks are held behind the curtain, behind the closed doors. The people of Afghanistan are not a pic -- in the picture of what will be their future and it's not a transparent process. Women are not involved in the peace process. And so when they are not involved, their voices will not be heard. And that is an -- a major concern for us.

ANDERSON: So are you saying that the West shouldn't be talking to the Taliban?

KOOFI: No. What I am saying is that the conditions for talks should be, first of all, transparent; second, I think the world is in a hurry to just bring peace and bring the Taliban on board. We cannot compromise women's rights. And I think for any government, it's very easy to compromise women's issues, because women cannot destruct -- cannot (INAUDIBLE) destruction.

ANDERSON: So how would you...

KOOFI: So I think it's...

ANDERSON: I'm sorry. How do you react, then, to Hamid Karzai's thoughts, which are simply this -- he's made a choice, he says. He is choosing to save lives, not to send girls to school.

KOOFI: You forget that 60 percent of this country -- how can you do that and what the -- what -- ignoring 50 population of this country?

Secondly, that it will not the economy grow. There will not be a social, you know, progress. We will just have a peace, but that is a -- for me, that is not a clean peace. That is a very dirty peace. Certainly, people of Afghanistan don't want to go back to the dark period. And I think this is what people -- people of Afghanistan want. This is something that basically President Karzai and his team are following on that.


ANDERSON: An Afghan lawmaker speaking to CONNECT THE WORLD.

And, of course, Afghanistan isn't just dictated by policies made in Kabul. They are made around the world, of course, aren't they, at the moment?

US peacemakers also are debating the wisdom of talking to the Taliban, eager for the end of the war but also aware of the Taliban's record.

Our next guest is a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan who knows the region of South Asia extremely well.

Wendy Chamberlin joining us now from Washington.

Wendy, we thank you for joining us.

You've listened to Atia's report. Shocking as it is, it -- it tells a story. It seems to be that choosing a path to peace by talking couldn't be more damaging for women and children of Afghanistan.

Is -- it's the price of their lives, it seems here, that is at stake when this talking to the Taliban seems to be the only strategy out there.

WENDY CHAMBERLIN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN: Well, I -- I quite agree. But I -- but I do think that the path to peace does begin with negotiations. But I agree completely with Fawzia that as you -- the assumption going into the -- those negotiations is that it doesn't have to be on the backs of women for the sacrifice.

Why not go into those negotiations quite clear that the Taliban also have to make compromises, also have to sacrifice?

And that means upholding the existing constitution of Pakistan, laying down their arms. And that constitution accepts the humane treatment of women.

ANDERSON: Is that realistic?

CHAMBERLIN: Listen, when -- talk about realistic, I think it's extremely realistic. Study after study after study has shown that the -- the fastest, surest way to developing an economy and the prosperity of a nation is by educating women and including them into the affairs of the state and the economy. It's the best way to get there.

Now, most Afghan men understand this. There's a small minority of these Tali -- Taliban groups that do not.

ANDERSON: All right, Bebe Aiyisha...

CHAMBERLIN: They do not represent Pakistan.

ANDERSON: Bebe Aiyisha's story is a shocking one, her treatment meted out by members of the Taliban. What we also heard from the Afghan lawmaker is that the Taliban are simply not prepared to talk to women full stop. I mean we've seen the treatment at their hands.

But you talk about strategy going forward, would it be realistic to believe that there would be a government in Kabul which had members of the Taliban incorporated into it who would be prepared to talk to women full stop?

CHAMBERLIN: I think it's completely realistic that you should expect the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. The Taliban that will come to the table -- now, there will be those that are irreconcilable, of course, who would not be prepared to treat women humanely. They should not be at the table. They should be excluded and they should be dealt with in forceful ways.

But those that are prepared to lay down their arms, as Secretary Clinton has said, and to follow the constitution, which respects women, ought to come and be dealt with at the negotiating table.

ANDERSON: Well, we...

CHAMBERLIN: They should make the compromises.

ANDERSON: what we're talking about here is reconciliation, what the states have been talking about for a long time is rehabilitation -- rehabilitation of the lowest orders of those who might consider themselves Taliban. I'm not even sure, to be honest, that the -- the state is yet talking about reconciliation with the Taliban that matter, those that need to be rehabilitated, that need to be re-enfranchised, as it were, for any strategy to work going forward.

So I ask you again, are we being realistic in this strategy, talking to the Taliban?

CHAMBERLIN: We might be premature rather than use the word realistic. Obama's strategy is to show force both in Marjah and preparing now for -- in Kandahar in order to bring those Taliban that do want to come to the table and make sacrifices by putting down their guns and treating women and following the constitution.

But that might -- might be premature at this point. And that was probably where I stand as president of the Middle East Institute.

ANDERSON: Yes. All right. A question that perhaps many of our viewers are asking as they listen to us talking tonight and think about what international lawmakers are up to at the moment.

Many will be asking this, are those in charge of strategy going forward turning a blind eye to women's rights in the region?

CHAMBERLIN: Certainly, Secretary Clinton is not. Secretary Clinton has said four square and quite recently when she was out there that she expects the -- those that go to the negotiating table to respect the constitution, which includes the respect for women's person and safety and ed -- right to education.

ANDERSON: And with that, we're going to leave it there.

We do thank you very much, indeed for joining us, somebody who knows the region extremely well and has worked with those who have been disenfranchised in South Asia for many, many years.

Wendy Chamberlin, it's an absolute pleasure to have you talking to us about what is an extremely important story tonight.

Well, we began this segment talking about Bebe Aiyisha. And if you would like to help her or any other women in Afghanistan -- and let me tell you, there are millions -- head to our special section of the Web site, You'll find a series of reports there on child brides in Afghanistan and how you can also change their situation. And, of course, you can also find out how you can give money to the victims of the floods in neighboring Pakistan. Get involved on for that.

Coming up next, some shockingly good news from the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. government says that a huge portion of the leaked oil has already been cleaned up or has been dispersed. We're going to tell you how much is left, just ahead.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end.


ANDERSON: U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington earlier today. He's saying what people in the Gulf of Mexico have been waiting to hear for more than three months -- the oil leak appears to be over.


Well, CNN's David Mattingly has been covering this story from the very beginning and he joins us now live from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Music to everyone's ears, I assume.

What do we know at this point?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a great day, 107 days into this disaster and now, for all practical purposes, this well is dead. BP, last night, successfully was able to fill that well full of mud and drive that oil back down below into the reservoir, back into the hole that it crawled out of and when it exploded to create this disaster back in April.

They had the cap on it. They have it filled with mud. All they need to do now is put a cement cap on there and seal it off permanently.

But at this point, for all practical purposes, that well is completely under control, technically dead. All that remains now is to fill in the lower portion with cement, which they plan to do with that relief well. That is going to occur some time in the middle of this month.

So, again, today a very big day -- a huge step forward in the final days of this disastrous well.

ANDERSON: Well, let's hope they are the final days.

David, we thank you for that.

David Mattingly on the spot for you.

Here's the latest breakdown of where oil there -- all that oil is right now.

First up, a figure many of you may find surprising. A U.S. government report out today says about three quarters of the oil that leaked out has already been removed from the Gulf. A quarter of it evaporated, we're told, or dissolved naturally and another quarter was removed by cleanup efforts, including burning, skimming and otherwise recovering the oil.

Well, 24 or 25 percent -- about a quarter of the oil -- was dispersed naturally and chemically. And that leaves just over a quarter of it, about 26 percent, which is still in the water or on the shore. And it's important to note, though, that nearly five millions of barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico since the oil rig explosion in April. So while though three quarters has been removed, that still leaves about a million barrels of crude in the sea or on shore.

Well, the fact that the vast majority of the oil that leaked out is now gone is a rare bit of good news in this disaster. But there's still a lot of cleanup and restoration to be done.

Let's discuss that, shall we?

Joining me now from the University of Houston for some perspective on that report and these numbers in Don Van Nieuwenhuise, a professor of petroleum geoscience at the university there.

Let's -- let's start with this report before we talk about how we might affect a decent cleanup of what is left. Three quarters of five million barrels of oil has now dispersed -- evaporated or -- I don't know - - vanished into thin air.

Have we over played this story at some point?

DON VAN NIEUWENHUISE, PROFESSOR OF PETROLEUM GEOSCIENCE: Well, you know what, I think it's being overplayed just a little bit, but not too much. They now have numbers. They've -- they've done an oil budget to figure out where most of this oil is. Some of it is estimated. But I think what people need to remember is that a quarter of the oil there's been dispersed is still in the Gulf of Mexico, as well. And that oil is dispersed into smaller droplets. The bacteria that eat it will be able to digest it much more quickly because more bacteria can attack broken up and smaller particles, because there's more surface area. So more bacteria can be applied to that.

So it will go away relatively quickly. But it is in the Gulf. A lot of that dispersion happened when we had the tropical depression, Bonnie, come over...


VAN NIEUWENHUISE: -- and agitate the water.

ANDERSON: All right. August the 4th today. Back on May the 13th, a man whose name is pretty much mud out in the -- in the Gulf, Tony Hayward, the BP chief at the time, wrote -- and I quote, "that the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

The concern at that point was that the dispersant would be as damaging as the oil was, I guess.

Will I -- was he right back then?

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: I think in -- in a good sense that he was right. I think he could have chosen his words a little bit more carefully because everyone is concerned about oil. I mean one just one drop of oil in the water is not a good thing. But in a -- in essence, though, there are natural processes -- those bacteria, the tropical storms, all of these things actually contribute to dispersing and destroying that oil. Also, the Gulf of Mexico is an awful lot warmer than, say, up in Alaska, where we had the big Valdez spill. And down here, where you have warmer water, the bacteria can act even quicker.

Also, the volatile components will evaporate quicker and can even be dissolved a little bit quicker, those that can be dissolved or emulsified into the water can happen quicker when you have higher temperatures.

ANDERSON: Let's remember that this is the worst oceanic disaster, if not ever in the world, at least in the United States of America. It is -- it's been an awful story. It's 107 days in. It's caused a lot problems and grief to -- to people in the region. And yet, as we talk tonight, it seems to me that there's some -- some decent news and perhaps some news that we might not have expected, the fact that some three quarters of this oil is beginning to disappear.

That leaves more than a million gallons of oil still to be cleaned or cleared up.

How does that happen now?

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: Well, a lot of that oil actually happens to be along the -- the marshes and it's trapped in the marsh. And, actually, this spartina grass actually is like straw that actually collects a lot of the oil. And it is a little bit upsetting to see it in the marsh, but in some of the areas where they've actually stripped the spartina grass, say, a month ago, has already grown back. They already can see new shoots coming up.

So, again, the -- the marsh environment actually has its own defense systems and they are working. And I think, again, it's important to underscore, in a warm environment like this, not only does the bacteria grow well...


VAN NIEUWENHUISE: -- but the spartina grass can come back very quickly, as well.

ANDERSON: Don, I've got about 20 seconds. I just want to get from you, what's the lesson learned from this for any other -- any other place around the world that might suffer the same disaster?

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: Well, I think the response, actually, was very good. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into both capping the well and also trying to capture the oil. And I think the size of the response, it was very slow at first and it started to trickle and then it started to become a stampede. And at that point, they had a lot of people out there. They were collecting a lot of oil. And the dispersants being applied early on really made them much more effective. I think a lot of people were upset about that, but that's what makes those dispersants work. When they get on the oil very quickly, they break up the oil a lot faster.

We will have to study this in the future to make sure that we don't have any long-term effects. And the biggest danger that we have right now is to -- to not think about this and not do future research studies.

ANDERSON: You're expert on the subject tonight, the oil leak and some perspective.

So, Don, we thank you very much, indeed, out of the University of Houston for you this evening.

Up next, our week long theme on extreme tourism -- plenty of sun, sand and camels for you this evening.

What more could you want from a holiday?

Well, how about a hot shower or maybe some water to wash your clothes and crockery with?

Well, you can't get either where we're going to take you. That is up next here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Well, all this week here on CONNECT THE WORLD, we've been - - or are taking you on vacation, not necessarily the most relaxing kind, though. We are exploring the growing market for extreme tourism, from South America to West Africa. And we began our journey in Liberia, the West African nation better known for its civil war than its surfing. But we showed you how the lure of its unspoiled beaches could be about to change all that.

We are really going back to basics with our next trip, camel trekking in Tunisia.

CNN's Ben Wedeman discovers that you can't get much further away from civilization than, well, the middle of the Sahara Desert.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's time to pack up. We're going on a trip with camels into the Sahara. We're outside Douz in Central Tunisia. Douz is known as the gateway to the Sahara.

(voice-over): We're with a group of French tourists. They're going to be going for 14 days, walking with these fully loaded camels through the Sahara Desert.

Before setting off, the trekkers don their headgear and get acquainted with their companions, some of whom aren't thrilled at the prospect of a very long walk.

These are seasoned trekkers. At the head of the pack, retired insurance agent, Joelle Fuiete (ph), who lives in the French Alps. For Joelle, this isn't tiring, it's just a walk in the desert. "For me, it's a new experience," she says. "I'm used to the high mountains, but I've heard so much about Tunisia, so I thought to go for a change and see what it's like in the desert."

This is the ultimate no frills holiday -- plenty of sand and sun. The sea and a hot shower, however, are nowhere in sight.

(on camera): This kind of adventure tourism is becoming increasingly popular in places like Tunisia, with some tourists going for as much as a month into the Sahara on camelback and on foot.

(voice-over): In the desert, there's no housekeeping, no room service. You set up your own tent, you do your own washing up -- soap and water not included.

(on camera): When you're in the desert, there's not a lot of water. They have to conserve their water because they're on a long trip.

So how do you wash your silverware?

Well, in fact, there's a lot of stuff you can do it with. You just fill it with -- your bowl with sand. You scrape it all around like this and that's how you do it. You just scrape whatever gunk might be in your bowl and then you just wipe it with the napkin that you've been provided with -- clean.

(voice-over): The bread is baked daily on the premises. Camel driver Abul Hassan (ph) mixes the dough -- nothing fancy, just flour, water and salt. It then goes into a bed of hot coals in the sand. He covers it up and 20 minutes later, the bread is ready.

You don't come all the way out here for creature comforts. The Sahara is the ideal getaway, says veteran desert guide, Mohammed bin Sahd (ph). "People who have tired of civilization come here to the Sahara," he says, "to get away and forget pressures and stress. Here, there's calm. There's nature."

Out here, you can't make out even the faintest echo of the cacophony of modern life.

"I adore the desert," says gym teacher Marie Paul Lucaz (ph). "It's a change of pace. There's no hustle and bustle, no cars. It's a rest for the body and the soul."

At the end of each day, tea is brewed over the fire. Dinner is simple. Song and dance by campfire the only entertainment. These people aren't looking for more.

"I would recommend Tunisia to anyone. The scenery is magnificent. Whoever loves the sand will be happy to come to the sea of sand, the sea of dunes."

It's a holiday with only the bare essentials, lacking for absolutely nothing. Ben Wedeman in the Sahara Desert.


ANDERSON: Fabulous. Well, next stop for our themed week this week -- I'd just like to remind is extreme tourism -- beautiful Buenos Aires in Argentina for a tummy tuck and a tango. Thousands make the trip every year to soak up the sun and go under the surgeon's knife. We're going to find out why they do it, this time tomorrow night.

Tonight is Wednesday. We will be right back with your headlines.


ANDERSON: Well, you are back with CONNECT THE WORLD at just half past nine in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up, appeal for aid. The UN urges world leaders today to relief efforts in Pakistan as the country struggles to overcome the terrible flood damage to its infrastructure.

Plus, we're going to link up your Connector of the Day. Today, it's Natasha Bedingfield, who was the first British woman to steal the number one slot on the US singles chart in almost 20 years. She's going to answer your questions for you.

And meet mini Monet. He can't legally drink, he's still in primary school, but little Kieron Williamson has got the deft brush strokes of a seasoned artist.

These stories are coming up in the next 30 minutes. First, a very quick check of the headlines this hour here on CNN.

Iranian officials are denying reports of a possible assassination attempt against president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They say a blast near his motorcade in western Iran was caused by a firecracker tossed in celebration by a spectator. Earlier reports said it was a handmade grenade.

Ballot-counting has begun after Kenyans lined up today to vote on a new constitution. Amongst other things, it would reduce the president's powers, abolish the prime minister's post, and cut the number of government ministers. There have been fears that violence might break out, but so far, there are no reports of unrest.

Officials say BP's static kill operation does appear to be working, and there is now high confidence that no more oil will leak into the Gulf of Mexico. BP still must finish relief wells to permanently seal the busted well. A final round of drilling should begin tomorrow.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in London. The United Nations issued a global appeal for aid today to help Pakistan battle its worst flooding in living memory. Some 3 million people are suffering, almost half of them are kids. Many flood victims now face a dangerous journey, as Dan Rivers found out when he was in northern Pakistan.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the queue to get across the bridge in Chakdara into Lower Dir. The main road bridge has been swept away, and so the army are here, and they have built this temporary suspension bridge, which people are very carefully walking over. I think we can walk over it as well, and that will give you an idea of how precarious it is.

You can see the river down here is still raging away. Still very swollen, as you can see. And all these people are a mixture of people sort of trying to get back to their homes. They've been cut off. Or people trying to get out. There's traffic going either way. So we'll wander over and just give you a feel for it.

So, it's pretty precarious. But the problem with this whole area is that this is just one of 91 bridges which have been swept away. They say that this bridge over here, they're going to have back up and working in some form in just two weeks. That's what the army are claiming. They've already got a lot of equipment and a temporary bridge that they're going to erect over this gap in the highway.

But it's going to be, obviously, quite a big challenge. You can see how strong the current is. And we've been watching as they've been dumping huge quantities of rocks and earth there to build up this side of the bank. And they've been doing the same right here as well.

This bridge actually, they're still sort of making while we're on it. I don't know -- up here, you can probably see this guy who's still sawing away and still finishing off the edge of the bridge that we're on.

The big challenges now for the authorities here is getting food and water to all these people, because a lot of areas, electricity's been cut off, which means the water pumps aren't working. Or where there are wells, the wells have been polluted. So, that's one of the big challenges, getting food and water to all these people, as well as getting the communications open.

And this is just one bridge that they've now got at least some traffic going over. But as I say, the task is massive ahead of them. And it's going to take them, I would imagine, many months to get this area back to normal. Dan Rivers, CNN, Chakdara, Pakistan.


ANDERSON: Dan Rivers and his very deft-like cameraman there. Amazing work for you.

Well, there's a very different type of bridge-building going on in Washington. The White House announced a long-term aid commitment to help flood-ravaged areas rebuild. It's part of the Obama administration's efforts to strengthen ties with Pakistan's government and, indeed, with its people.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is responding to this crisis in a number of ways. We immediately committed $10 million in aid. US humanitarian relief experts have been deployed to the field. US helicopters have already airlifted hundreds of people out of danger and delivered critical supplies, including hundreds of thousands of halal meals.


ANDERSON: Hillary Clinton for you.

Pakistan's prime minister called an emergency meeting today to defend his government's response to the crisis. Some residents say the only aid they've gotten is from extremist Muslim groups. A story that we did here on Monday. There's also anger if not downright outrage over the Pakistani president's diplomatic mission here in Britain.

I want to talk about that with Khalid Mahmood, a UK member of Parliament. He's pulled out of an event with Asif Ali Zardari. And I believe you're either in Birmingham or Bradford tonight. Certainly north of London. Why did you pull out of this meeting, sir?

KHALID MAHMOOD, MEMBER OF BRITISH PARLIAMENT (via telephone): Well, I'm in Birmingham, where my constituency is.

I pulled out of the event tomorrow lunchtime to have lunch with the president, and then an invitation for Saturday at the meeting of -- the political meeting they're holding in Birmingham. Mostly because I think if he had any sense of decency, that your reporter just tried to explain, the tragedy that's going on at the moment in Pakistan. A huge environmental catastrophe.

And you've got the president swatting (ph) around in five-star hotels with a huge delegation of people. Not bothering about a single person whose life's been lost and the people who will lose their homes for a generation. And no absolute concern at all.

And so, therefore, I don't want the association with that.

ANDERSON: Why do you think he's made the decision to come?

MAHMOOD: It's beyond me, to be honest with you, why anybody would do that when you have such a huge catastrophe in your own backyard. When your people are suffering so greatly. I couldn't imagine any other politician doing that, and then at least not having the sense to go back after receiving so many warnings from so many people, including within the country and outside of the country. It's just absolutely bizarre.

And to hold one meeting with David Cameron, and then mostly the meeting adopted the meeting of his own interest. And to leave the people suffering the way they are.

And you're quite right to break the story where the extremists are capitalizing on this, saying, "Where is your president? We're the only ones that are standing by you." And the work that we've -- that the military had done over the last two years to try and push out the militancy is really not going to be aided by what he's doing at the moment.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff. Khalid Mahmood, a lawmaker here from Birmingham, just north of London in the UK. We thank you very much indeed for joining us. And let me tell you, viewers, we are reaching out to President Zardari while he is in the UK for an interview. You'll get that on this show if indeed we get it in the next couple of days. Certainly the requests are there.

Painting prodigies, chess champions, and computer whiz kids. Just what makes a child prodigy? Nature or nurture? We'll find out next, here on CONNECT THE WORLD.


ANDERSON: A question to you. So what did you do with your time when you were just eight years old? Well, chances are, you weren't wielding a paint brush like a mini Monet. But Kieron Williamson is. He is celebrating his eighth birthday today, and his paintings are selling out. And let me tell you, they're selling out for tens of thousands of dollars each. As Ayesha Durgahee now reports, if you want one of his artworks, get in line.


AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perspective, poise, and composition. The fact that a seven-year-old is behind the strokes and scenes of this exhibition in Norfolk had art collectors scrambling to buy Kieron Williamson's work. All 33 pieces were sold in 27 minutes, for a total of $237,000.

ADRIAN HILL, PICTURECRAFT ART GALLERY: They camped outside for up to two days beforehand, traveling as far as South Africa, from Arizona in the States, and New Jersey, even New York. We have quite a bit from Hong Kong. Certainly going from the States and parts of the UK. It was a very dramatic 30 minutes. It's been absolutely remarkable.

DURGAHEE (voice-over): There's already a waiting list of 700 people who want an original Williamson. Many of Kieron's paintings feature landscapes of his hometown, Norfolk, in the east of England.

Kieron didn't start painting like this straight away.

MICHELLE WILLIAMSON, KIERON'S MOTHER: He didn't use to spend very much time drawing and painting. Although he did use to enjoy painting his body. He used to enjoy painting pieces of paper. But his favorite color as a toddler was black. And he would just paint whole sheets of paper in black poster paint, which we were a bit concerned about.

DURGAHEE (voice-over): Kieron's parents plan to buy him a beach house in Cornwall, where it all started, and invest the rest of his earnings for him until he's in his 20s.

At just four feet tall, this painting prodigy has extraordinary presence, and a strong opinion about being compared to the impressionist Claude Monet.

KIERON WILLIAMSON: No, I don't think I'm Monet at all. Because Monet would do anything. Like paint pictures of girly flicks. And I'm more egalitarian (ph), internal.

DURGAHEE (voice-over): One day, Kieron hopes his work will be hanging along side the greats in a particular place.

WILLIAMSON: The Queen has lots of pictures, and most of them are of seagulls (ph), and I'd like one of the pictures to be mine.

DURGAHEE (on camera): How often do you paint?

WILLIAMSON: Oh, every day. Even if I don't feel like it.

DURGAHSEE: Are you quite hard on yourself?

WILLIAMSON: I'm hard with myself in football and other sports, but I'm not hard with myself at painting, because you can always change things.

DURGASHEE (voice-over): As his brisk brushstrokes quickly form a picture, there's enough time for another.

WILLIAMSON: Why don't you try? And put it down there. Yes. Post here. Get a bigger brush. Done.

DURGRAHEE (voice-over): And it's my picture that looks like it's been painted by a child. Better leave him to it.

For someone so young to paint with such delicate perception, Kieron Williamson is more than just a mini Monet. Ayesha Durgahee, CNN, Norfolk, England.


ANDERSON: Kieron's story got us wondering about other child prodigies. Like, for example, Britain's brainiest kid, Elise Tan Roberts. She became MENSA's youngest member ever, joining at the tender age of two. Don't let her youth fool you, though. She boasts an IQ of 156.

And there's Marco Calasan from Macedonia. You may remember this guy. We talked about him a couple of weeks ago. This nine-year-old computer whiz kid is the youngest Microsoft systems engineer in the world.

While his later years were spent in relative obscurity, Bobby Fischer made his mark, remember, on the chess world early on. Not as you see him now. But at the age of 13, he won what became known as the game of the century. Two years later, he was the world's youngest chess grand master.

And don't forget Mr. Tiger Woods. He's a golf legend, of course, at age 34. But Tiger started showing off his golf skills very early on at just two years old.

So, what makes someone a child prodigy? Is it nature, nurture, or something else? Joan Freeman joins me now here in the studio. She is a child psychologist and author of the book "Gifted Lives." And you've spent some 35 years, I believe, following prodigies. So, how are they made? Or are they?

JOAN FREEMAN, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST: You've got to have the basis to start with. You can't take somebody really stupid and make them gifted. You've got to have that potential. And then you've got to have the opportunity. You can't play a violin without a violin. You can't play it without a teacher. You can't get that potential into giftedness without the means to do so.

ANDERSON: How about this little -- this mini Monet, then? How do you start with him, working out why or how he became a child prodigy?

FREEMAN: I don't know his story, but I know that unless he had that talent to start with, he's not going to be able to put it on canvas. But also, child prodigies remain child prodigies until they grow up. So that he can do amazing things, but they're still not what an adult would do.

ANDERSON: They have to have an influence, surely, which pushes them in a certain direction.

FREEMAN: Well, who'd be an influence? It is an influence, but it is an opportunity. It's an open door, which enables you to go that way. And if you fancy it, and you got the means, you go for it.

ANDERSON: There will be lots of parents watching, wishing that their kids were prodigies, I guess. Or hoping that they will be one day. What do you say to parents?

FREEMAN: I would say, provide the opportunity, provide the encouragement. Say, "Yes, yes, well done!" when they do things. And enable them to feel good about themselves so they can try something new.

ANDERSON: An IQ of 156 at two years old. That's pretty unique, isn't it?

FREEMAN: No, it isn't, actually.


FREEMAN: I test a lot of children who've got at least that amount. I test many with more than that, actually. She's not the most gifted child in the country. But she is the youngest member of MENSA, which is not quite the same thing.

ANDERSON: Give me an example of somebody that you've met, and I know you do gifted and talented children and young adults. Somebody who's really surprised you. Really surprised you.

FREEMAN: Oh, I've tested very tiny children who've been over the top of the scale. I've tested a lot of people who are not actually measurable. And when I've followed them through, as I have done, these children right through to adulthood, I can see why some make it good.

Luck is a lot of it. Chance. And personality. The kind of person who will take a chance.

ANDERSON: Does the child perceive their own gift and the world's admiration of their brilliance? And, very briefly, we've had many, many awful situations when kids have seemed so incredibly bright when they're younger, and they've had a terrible time in young adulthood.

FREEMAN: Oh, that's different. When you're being used in some respect. The young sports prodigies, for instance. And they're not allowed to have a childhood, they're not allowed to have friends, they're not allowed to be normal. It does something to a child.

ANDERSON: Fantastic. It's so good to have you. I could talk all night. We're going to take a short advertising break, otherwise this show won't go on. We thank you very much indeed. We'll be back in touch. We'll have you on again.

Coming up next after this very short break, our Connector of the Day is one of the world's top pop singers. I wonder whether she would have been called a child prodigy. British superstar Natasha Bedingfield is going to tell us what she loves about her work and her charity. And how she became a California girl.



ANDERSON (voice-over): Natasha Bedingfield's rise to stardom was anything but gradual. "Unwritten," off her debut album of the same name, was the most played pop song on the radio in the US in 2006. And when it was adopted as the theme song for the hit reality TV series "The Hills," Bedingfield became an instant household name.

NATASHA BEDINGFIELD, SINGER: I love when a song becomes bigger than you. It's like, that song is everybody's now. It's not just my little song.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Since then, she's gone on to make two more albums, with hits such as "Pocket Full of Sunshine" and "Soulmate."

In addition to selling more than three million albums worldwide, Bedingfield has had four singles in the US Top Ten. And recently released her latest single, "Touch." Making fame look easy, Natasha Bedingfield is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: She certainly is, and I interviewed her while she was in Atlanta, Georgia -- Georgia, let me start that again. She was in Atlanta, Georgia recently, and I got to interview her. And I began by asking about that just-released single. This is what she told me.


BEDINGFIELD: My single cut has just started playing on American radio, and the song is all about how our lives touch each other. Just through living, just through choices, little random decisions. Seemingly random decisions, sometimes big, big things can happen to other people's lives. Kind of like the butterfly effect. It's just a fun summer tune, just the kind that you can dance to.

ANDERSON: Where did the inspiration, Natasha, for the album come from?

BEDINGFIELD: I felt like getting back to my roots, because the first music that I ever worked on was dance-techno music, just like a drum beat, a very digital drum beat. And I wanted to get back to kind of what I was doing when I was 17. And then I added a guitar to it, and I was just thinking about how our lives are so interconnected. These random things just happen, and they seem like they're coincidence. Yes. I don't know. That was the inspiration, really.

ANDERSON: One of the producers working on the album said, and I quote, that "listeners can expect quirky and weird stuff." What do they mean by that?

BEDINGFIELD: About my album?


BEDINGFIELD: Or about me? Quirky and weird? Probably both.

I just want my album to represent me. That's what every musician wants. Every singer-songwriter. And we're always trying to develop ourselves. I think that the album will be more quirky, but also more concise as a body of work. The songs really match each other, and it has just a whole theme to it.

The album's going to be called "Strip Me," which is about peeling back the layers and just being who we are. What happens if all the things that we depend on are pulled out from underneath our feet, what do we have to rely on?

I think a lot of people have been asking that question, especially with the way that the recession's been, and everything like that. And we've all gone through times of things that we love being taken away from us, or things that we depended on. So that's one of the themes in the album, too. The more serious theme. But apart from that, everything else is very quirky.

ANDERSON: Listen, if you peel back the layers, you are indeed from London, not LA. When are you coming back?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I got married to an American, so I wanted to be in America for a while. The writing time is where you're able to be in one place for a while instead of touring all the time, so LA is just kind of a perfect base for me. It's also halfway between England and New Zealand, which is where my family is from, New Zealand. So I just like LA as a hub for songwriting.

ANDERSON: Right in the middle for you. Listen, I've got some --

BEDINGFIELD: But I really miss London. I really miss my home. I miss Europe, yes. A lot.

ANDERSON: Good. Then you're in good books as far as we're concerned.


ANDERSON: Some viewer questions for you. Michael from London asks if you ever regret that fact that your most famous song is the theme song to the reality show "The Hills."

BEDDINGFIELD: Oh. No, not at all. I think that, for me, I just make music. And I can't really control who listens to it, who the audience is. It's like, really, you just want as many people as possible to hear your music. You'd never complain about who your audience is, you know?

ANDERSON: Nicole wants to know who's been your favorite artist to work with so far, because you've worked with a lot of them, of course, haven't you?

BEDINGFIELD: My favorite artist. I worked with Brandy last year. We wrote a song together. Brand and a guy called Brian Kennedy. I really have always been a fan of her, so that was definitely a treat for me.

ANDERSON: This is a good question from Angela. She says, "What was it like performing for President Obama at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony?"

BEDINGFIELD: He actually wasn't at the performance. But I did get to meet him, and, you know, he's such an icon.

ANDERSON: Oh, bless you. Hang on. What was he like in person?

BEDINGFIELD: He's just amazing. He's so charming. I was very impressed and kind of speechless. So I was a bit embarrassed at myself because I didn't really have much to say.


ANDERSON: How embarrassing. Natasha Bedingfield for you. Now, tomorrow, you're going to meet one of the world's leading ballet dancers. This is one of your Connectors. You asked for us to interview this man on your behalf. It's Carlos Acosta, who has an amazing story to tell about his journey from Havana, Cuba, through Houston, Texas, to right here in London. This giant of modern dance will answer your questions.

And do remember, it's your part of the show. Head to That's for Carlos Acosta for tomorrow. Tonight, we'll be right back.


ANDERSON: In London, I am Becky Anderson. That's your world connected this Wednesday. Do, though, stay connected with us online, on our website, That's it from us for the time being. "BackStory," though, is next, right after I get you a quick check of the headlines.