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Flash Floods Devastate Australia; Unrest in Algeria and Tunisia; The Business of Piracy

Aired January 11, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The Australian state of Queensland is declared a disaster zone, as the worst flooding in decades turns increasingly deadly. For some, the top of their cars are the only refuge. Others can only watch, as even that option is swept away.


I'm Becky Anderson in London.

They are calling it an inland tsunami -- flash flooding that simply came out of nowhere.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prime minister, my thoughts and my sympathies are with you.


ANDERSON: But with more rain forecast, are her words enough?

Also tonight, is the anger on the streets from Tunisia to Algeria part of a wider regional trend?

It's the pride of China's military, but was its maiden flight a provacic -- provocation, coming as it did during a trip to the country by the U.S. Defense secretary.

And piracy on the high seas -- we're following the money trail from Somalia onwards in a CONNECT THE WORLD exclusive series.

That is CNN in the next 60 minutes.

Well, right now, residents in Australia's third largest city are watching, waiting and preparing, I'm afraid, for the worst. Thousands have fled to higher ground after the Brisbane River burst its banks. Officials fear almost 40,000 homes are at risk, as the city braces for what could end up being the worst flooding in more than a century.

Well, no one is taking any precautions after a wall of water swept through the town of Toowoomba on Monday. Take a look at the force of the flood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another one.


ANDERSON: Cars simply swept away like toys. Even a four by four was no match for the torrent of water.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's another one. Look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, there's another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's -- that's thunder.


Did you get that?



ANDERSON: Well, a nearby bridge failed to stop the sea of cars. Vehicles were simply sucked underneath and backed out the other side.

Well, at least 10 people in Toowoomba and the neighboring

Lockyer Valley were killed by the flash flood and many others are still missing and the reason has -- Chris Reason now has the latest on the efforts to find them.


CHRIS REASON, SEVEN NETWORK CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Lockyer Valley town of Grantham today, 100 kilometers west of Brisbane, 400 people, 120 homes, many of them now in ruins -- a scene of utter devastation. At least four people died here, including a mother and two children. There are fears it will be six, as rooftop rescues continue.

Dozens of people spent the night stranded, today hoisted to safety one by one. There are so many -- men, women and children, even pet dogs. This family waves in desperation. Help came, but it took some time. Continuing bad weather is threatening helicopter rescues. It's dangerous for boats, too. And road transport is out of the question.

ANNA BLIGH, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: What this current of bad weather is doing is hampering our search and rescue efforts, particularly into that Lockyer Valley area, where we know we have people stranded in dire and critical circumstances.

REASON: This car lies abandoned, one door flung open. It's hope the occupants escaped, but no one can be certain with so many people listed as missing. The local river is called Sandy Creek. It's an inland see, but it was much higher. This was one house yesterday afternoon. This is the same place today. You can see the tide mark on the roof. It came so suddenly.

People online are calling it mad water. Emergency chiefs went much further.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could perhaps best be described as an inland instant tsunami.

REASON: The rain began early yesterday, became heavy mid-morning, then all hell broke loose. A wall of water crashed down the great dividing range at Toowoomba, sweeping into towns below. Places like Murphy's Creek, Helidon, Gatton, Glenook Row (ph) and Grantham.

BLIGH: We have a grim and desperate situation in the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley region.

REASON: These three were last seen clinging to their car roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We watched as a family clamored on top of the roof of their car. That's when we went and landed and made sure a Queensland fire and rescue officer got in a chopper and went for a look.

They've got three searchers trying to find them. The car was swept down the river.

REASON: Rescue crews are searching.

BLIGH: But given the circumstances, we hold very grave concerns for many of those people who are unaccounted for in this region.

REASON: The Warrego Highway linking Toowoomba and Brisbane is cut, along with most alternate routes. Roads and bridges have been destroyed. This bridge appeared to be OK, but a closer look showed it had been well underwater.

(on camera): But that water is surging downstream, with Brisbane directly in its path. And the Rhine isn't letting up. And authorities say a staggering six-and-a-half thousand homes and businesses in the capital now face flooding by Thursday.

Chris Reason, Seven News.


ANDERSON: That's remarkable stuff, isn't it?

The last time that Brisbane experienced flooding on this scale was in 1974, when 14 people were killed and homes there were washed away. Well, this time, residents have been warned that it could be worse.

CNN's digital producer, Harry Whiteman, is in the city, and earlier told us how some of the wealthiest areas are now at risk.


HILARY WHITEMAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER: Yes, these homes are right along the Brisbane River. They are expensive properties. There are great views that go -- it's right in the city center, so we're talking the suburbs of Newfound West End, where people have lived for years. And these are the same places that were affected back in 1974.

Back then, some of the homes weren't built. I spoke to one person today who said that her block of flats is only relatively new. But they're really going by markers here on the road to show the level of the 1974 floods and also stories of people who have been there for some time, who were quite traumatized by those events.

So -- so, really, I think, also, too, we've seen a lot of flooding in Queensland over the past couple of weeks. And the incident in Toowoomba on Monday really shook people up. I think that a wall of water rushed through the town without warning. The images have been quite shocking and -- and people are worried that -- that something could sneak up on them in a similar way.


ANDERSON: Well, the city council has now issued flood maps showing which areas could be affected. Here is the suburb, for example, of Chelmer. As you can see, much of it is expected to be underwater by the end of Thursday.

Let's speak now to Martin Finbow, a Chelmer resident who is taking no chances and evacuating.

Tell us what's going on.

How are you coping, Martin?


I'm in the suburb of Chelmer, as you said.

I'm looking out of the lance (ph) window now. I'm within 100 meters of the house. We're opposite a park. The -- there is a massive brown, dirty water that's coming toward us. And I'm not taking any chances. We cleared the house last night of all valuables. I stayed last night and in the next hour or two, I'll head for high ground.

It -- it's the most extraordinary thing. I heard the introduction. I moved here in '74 and -- and this house where we live and have lived for the last 26 years went under then. They're forecasting a bigger fod -- flood than '74. I think, Becky, undoubtedly, we'll be in the same situation.

ANDERSON: Martin, how much warning did you have?

FINBOW: Becky, I -- I guess, yesterday, our main emphasis at this time was on the people of Toowoomba and other parts of the state. This -- we had -- we've had extraordinary amounts of rain. I -- I guess it was only yesterday afternoon when the premier, who came onto television -- national -- we were watching the broadcast. It was about 3:00. I had got home by that time from working the CBD.

And -- and the warnings then were, from their projections, that the -- the floods would exceed the '74 levels. And that was when alarm bells absolutely struck. And we -- and the family and some wonderful friends went into action, I guess at about midnight last night. The house was cleared. We took all of our possessions, or as many as we could, to -- to higher ground. And -- and now, we wait for -- for events to unfold.

ANDERSON: Martin, you say you took as much as you could. I mean the house remains there.

What are your expectations?

What's the worst case scenario at this point?

FINBOW: Well, Becky, I guess the worst case scenario, we're -- we're like many houses, built on stilts, which are stumps. And so there's, I guess, about six feet to -- to the actual flooring, if that makes sense, which is where, because we're billed -- built on stilts or stumps. And I - - I guess, undoubtedly, as the projections are that we will, to a degree, get the worst effects of the flood. I don't know how severe that -- that will be.

The -- there will be a kingtu (ph) this afternoon. And the projections yesterday were that Thursday would -- would produce the worst of it.

The irony is, Becky, is that as I look at it, the window, for the first time in weeks, I'm looking at blue sky and -- and absolutely no rain. But the forces of nature are an extraordinary thing.

ANDERSON: Remarkable stuff.

Martin, we do appreciate you talking to us, as you organize yourself and your family to get to higher ground. And stay safe. As far as we're concerned, we do hope that things don't pan out to be as -- quite as bad as you hoped your you think they're going to be.

All right, well, things are pretty bad, aren't they?

But could yet more rain make matters worse?

Guillermo is at the International Weather Center -- and you heard martin say there that the ironic thing, Guillermo, is that, for the first time in some time, he's looking out the window and he's watching this wall of water come toward him, but it's blue sky and there's no rain.

What's the forecast?

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I think it's going to get better. And we see -- we saw, first, the drought, then the rain, then a cyclone, then this low pressure center with a trough and now the trough is moving away.

So gradually, we have one more day of a chance of rain showers and then the weather will improve dramatically to the southeastern part of Australia -- of Queensland.

I'm going to show you -- I'm going to elaborate on the first map that you showed a little bit more. We superimposed here on Google Earth the areas that are flooded on the map. So you see Ipswich there and we are showing some rivers. And then we get into Brisbane. And there are some tributaries, some rivers that become like feeders for the main river that actually is into Brisbane.

Now, the important thing to understand is also that these rivers over here in the southeast are at very high levels. And as our guest was saying, 1974 maybe will be surpassed on Thursday with this. But the weather is going to improve. That system is moving to the west and the clear skies will prevail.

Now, until March, we will be dealing with rain on and off, because this is the time of the year when we see this, especially with the presence of la nina, bringing the chance of rain -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Guillermo.

Thank you for that.

ADRUINO: You're welcome.

ANDERSON: Your forecast from Guillermo Arduino at the International Weather Center.

All right, let's move on, shall we?

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, one of Africa's most stable governments is hit with a wave of unrest. We're going to tell you about deadly rioting in Tunisia and see whether it could be the cause for regional concern.


ANDERSON: And a military man turned crooner -- James Blunt answers your questions as your Connector of the Day.



ANDERSON: All right, welcome back.

An authoritarian country with a low threshold for dissent -- Tunisia is usually one of the most stable countries in Africa. But we are now seeing the worst unrest there in decades.

Dozens of people have been killed in protests over the high rate of unemployment. The demonstrations began in mid-December, triggered by the plight of a university graduate who set fire to himself after police banned him from selling fruit and vegetables to make a living.

Well, the government has cracked down hard on the protests, at times using live bullets to break them up. Well, it says that police acted in self-defense against demonstrators armed with Molotov cocktails and iron bars.

Well, authorities are now taking extreme measures to keep protesters off the streets, closing all schools and universities until further notice.

Well, riots have also shaken neighboring Algeria. It all began over soaring food prices, going onto the streets there last week. The rioting left at least five people dead, hundreds wounded and thousands of others in jail. Dozens of schools and government buildings were damaged in the clashes. And the unrest eased after the government pledged to rein in prices. The cost of some basic goods, like sugar and cooking oil, has risen as much as 30 percent since January the 1st.

Remarkable stuff.

Well, economic frustrations lie at the root of the riots in both Algeria and Tunisia. But the U.S. State Department says it doesn't believe there's any link or reason to fear any regional repercussions.

Have a listen to this.


P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do not necessarily see a connection between what is happening in Tunisia and what is happening in Algeria. My understanding today is that the situation in Algeria has improved to some degree. You know, we continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia. We continue to encourage everyone to exercise restraint. Our ambassador, Gordon Gray, had a follow-up discussion with the Tunisian government in Tunis today. We, again, affirmed our concerns not only about the ongoing violence, the importance of, you know, respecting freedom of expression, but also the importance of -- of -- of, you know, the availability of information. And we will continue that discussion.


ANDERSON: All right, so says P.J. Crowley.

Well, trying to separate the unrest in Algeria and in Tunisia, our next guest, though, says in both cases, the spark seems to be economic issues. But the riots are also protests against political systems.

Elliott Abrams joins us now from Washington.

He's senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

We thank you for joining us.

What is, do you think, at the root of these protests?

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES: Well, the economics is the spark, but the root of it is that these are both dictatorships. They're completely closed political systems. So if the economy is going bad, you can't have an editorial in a newspaper saying that. You can't have a debate in parliament saying that.

And I think these protests are largely, really, against these blocked political systems. These guys have been running these countries for decades without a free election.

ANDERSON: You heard what P.J. Crowley said.

Is his narrative fairly naive, as -- as far as you're concerned, then?

ABRAMS: Well, I think he's trying to be bland and not make any trouble. It's hard to believe that Tunisians and Algerians are not finding out what's going on in the other country and feeling a bit encouraged by it.

One does wonder, also, whether it will have any repercussions in Egypt, where people are, no doubt, watching this.

ANDERSON: Could events, do you think, in these two countries, then, signal the start of something on a broader regional basis?

You refer there to Egypt. In 2008, let's remind our viewers, food riots on the streets in Egypt when prices were not necessarily much higher than they are now, for example. And we live in a much more austere world than we even did back in 2008, don't we, Elliott?

ABRAMS: We do. And this reaction election in Egypt, the November parliamentary election, was a far worse, a far more crooked election than their 2005 parliamentary election, the previous one.

Well, these are all regimes -- Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt -- that are very resourceful and that have gigantic police and military machines that are meant to keep the people down. These are police states. But the police are there to protect the regime, not to protect the population.

So it's hard to bet on the ability of any of them to overthrow one of these regimes.

But I do think these are warning signs that people are just fed up. You know, Tunisia, average income, per capita income, is $8,000. The literacy rate is about 85 percent. This is not a backward country. It's a country that really could sustain a larger political -- a more open political system.

Seventeen or 18 percent of Tunisians have a Facebook page. It's a pretty modern country with a really old and discredited political system that it's hard to see it lasting for decades and decades more.

ANDERSON: What's next?

ABRAMS: Well, the governments are going to trying to put down these riots and the -- the turning point is usually some moment when the police or army refuses to fire on demonstrators. There's about 50 dead in Tunisia. It would suggest that they are willing to fire on demonstrators. So they may be able to put this down.

But I think if you look at Bouteflika or Ben Ali, both of them about 23, 24 years in power, it's hard not to see this at the beginning of the end, which I think, in both cases, it probably is.

ANDERSON: Fascinating.

We thank you for your thoughts.

Your expert on the subject this evening.

You're watching the show that joins the dots on the day's biggest stories for you.

Still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, the Twitter debate -- an English Premier League footballer lands himself in hot water over his Tweet.

Should he and anyone else, for that matter, be free to make uncensored comment?

Next up, though, the business of being a pirate. Find out who wins in this high seas, high stakes game.


ANDERSON: Well, they are a growing menace off the coast of Somalia. Each year, pirates are extending their research, hijacking more ships, taking more hostages and demanding higher ransoms.

Well, all this week on this show, CONNECT THE WORLD, we've been bringing you a series -- a special series on modern day pirates. And so far, we've met a -- a real pirate, a Somalian man, who told us becoming a high seas bandit was his best career option.

And tonight, in part two, Zane Verjee explains why piracy is thriving as a business.


ZANE VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Few know as much about modern piracy than this man. John Burnett's education in piracy began the hard way, while he was sailing solo toward Singapore.

JOHN BURNETT, AUTHOR, "DANGEROUS WATERS": It's as terrifying as -- as being -- waking up in the middle of the night in your bedroom on land and realizing there's a -- an intruder in the -- in the house. It -- it scared the hell out of me.

VERJEE: He was held hostage by pirates in the South China Sea. When Burnett was released, he decided to make piracy his life's work. I asked him how Somali pirates are able to make millions in hijack for ransom.

BURNETT: It's nearly a corporate business plan. They have -- they have -- and it's done -- run in a -- in -- with military precision.

VERJEE: Like any good business, it attracts investors and suppliers. A pirate gang leader oversees the operation, that includes a pirate action group, about eight to 12 men on two skiffs, an on board commander, a logistics manager, an accountant and an interpreter.

(on camera): Pirates will get close in the dead of night to a merchant ship like this one. They approach it. They look for one that moves slowly and is kind of low. They throw a rope with a hook or a ladder and climb up onto it.

(voice-over): Their skiffs have powerful engines, weapons, GPS navigators, extra fuel.

Tim Hart is a Somali piracy expert who tells me pirates are expanding their range, that that they're attacking deeper in the Indian Ocean, using mother ships which can support the smaller skiffs. Mother ships are mostly low tech, like this one, or high end. Pirates captured this ship and used it as a base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll take the ships back to the anchorages off the coast of Somalia and they'll sit there and negotiate with the shipping companies to -- to pay a multi-million dollar ransom.

VERJEE: While they're waiting, a whole new industry kicks in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have to build the boats for the pirate skiffs. You have to feed the pirates. You have to feed the hostages. You -- you set up restaurants.

VERJEE: According to a United Nations report, once the cash comes in, the money is shared out depending on how crucial the pirates' role is in the hijack. Suppliers are paid back and militiamen get about $15,000 each. Investors or financiers get 30 percent, local elders get 5 to 10 percent and the rest is divided among the remaining pirates.

Somali pirates keep their money in cash or use it to make legitimate investments in neighboring Kenya, in places like Kisii (ph) or Mombasa.

Burnett says piracy is big bucks and out of control.

BURNETT: There are many, many men and women who are being held hostage. And no one deals with it. No one cares about it.

VERJEE: Zane Verjee, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: And Wednesday, we look at what's being done to thwart this highly organized high seas crime. That's tomorrow night.

Tonight, we'll be right back with your world news headlines here on CNN.


ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in London for you at just after half past nine here. Coming up, a coincidence? Well, China tests their state-of-the-art stealth fighter jet just as the top UN -- US defense official comes to town.

And then, in trouble over a tweet. What a star striker said to land him in hot water with the English Football Association.

And later, a former British soldier becomes an international singing sensation. We're going to put your questions to Mr. James Blunt, your Connector of the Day.

Those stories are ahead in the next half hour but, at this point, let me get you a quick check of the headlines here on CNN.

Three quarters of Queensland, Australia, has now been declared a disaster zone, with evacuations underway in Brisbane. The flash floods swept through Toowoomba, killing at least 10 people. Nearly 80 others are missing.

Tunisian officials say 21 people have been killed since mid-November - - sorry, mid-December in ongoing riots against high unemployment. Human rights groups and a workers union say the actual death toll is at least twice that number. The government has closed all schools and university, attempting to contain the mass demonstrations.

There are conflicting statements on the amount of debt Southern Sudan would inherit should it vote for independence from the North. Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Monday that Sudan's president offered to make the North shoulder all the debt, but the foreign ministry denies that statement.

Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange say their client could end up in US custody at Guantanamo Bay if he's extradited to Sweden. That is according to papers his attorneys have released. Assange is wanted in Sweden over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.

China is insisting the test flight of a new stealth fighter jet was not timed to coincide with a visit by the US defense secretary. President Hu Jintao has confirmed the J-20 jet did make its first flight on Tuesday, but said it had noting to do with Robert Gates's visit. A US defense official traveling with Gates said President Hu seemed unaware at first that the flight had taken place.

Images of the J-20 jet have been circulating the internet since China reportedly carried out runway tests last week. The jet is designed to evade detection by radar, a potential rival to American stealth technology.

Well, Robert Gates said that he is prepared to believe the timing of the test was not significant. He's in Beijing for talks designed to improve military ties between Washington and Beijing.

Whatever the timing or the motive, this test flight comes as Western concerns over Chinese military buildup are already running high. Stan Grant takes a look at the evidence.


STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is an aviation museum on the outskirts of Beijing. Here, you can get a window into China's military past at a time when some countries in the world are concerned about China's military future.

Now, according to some studies, China has increased its defense spending by more than 200 percent over the past 10 years. Now, officially last year, China spent about $80 billion US on its military, but that, according to some, is way down on other estimates. According to the US Defense Department, China spent $150 billion.


ANDERSON: Stan Grant reporting for you. Well, China's diplomatic efforts continue abroad, meanwhile. The vice premier, Li Keqiang, is in the UK as part of a European trade tour. Now, so far, he has signed $4 billion worth of deals with Britain, adding to a $7 billion package with Spain and $11 billion with Germany.

Now, China has been keen to emphasize its support for Europe as a key trading partner, despite the crisis hitting the euro zone.

All right, I want to talk China with one of our big thinkers on the show. You'll know his name is Gordon Chang. And a multibillion-dollar Chinese military project, all of what you've heard in Europe, and with the project, a possible disconnect between the government and the armed forces. Really?

Well, I want to bring in one of our regular thinkers. And as I say, Gordon Chang joins us now. Gordon, our viewers are well aware of what China is doing outside of its own country at the moment. China Inc. in Africa, China Inc., now, in Europe.

But I want to flick back to this Robert Gates visit to China and your sense of the likelihood that they, effectively, test flew their stealth fighter jet coincidentally at the same time that the US defense secretary was in the country. Is there really any chance that the premier had no idea what was going on?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "THE COMING COLLAPSE OF CHINA": Well, there's some chance he didn't know. But you've got to remember that last week, when the J-20 was runway tested, the Chinese air force let it be known to Chinese military bloggers that the plane was going to be flight-tested this week.

So, if President Hu Jintao and other civilian officials didn't know what was going on, that really raises some questions. So, either they were inept, or they're being duplicitous. And neither scenario makes me feel very good.

If you had to -- If I had to guess, I would say that Hu Jintao was fibbing, because he had to know.

ANDERSON: Which brings up another really interesting question. It's one that I've heard talked about a number of times. And the question is this. Do the -- or does the Chinese military work unilaterally. Does it work outside of a political remit?

CHANG: Yes. I think that a long time ago, the answer was no. But what we have seen over the last two years is the remilitarization of Chinese politics and policy. Senior flag officers are becoming much more assertive. They're talking about all sorts of things that were once exclusively the province of civilian officials.

And so, essentially, we have a very dangerous situation where, basically, generals and admirals are doing what they want to do.

ANDERSON: Which begs the question, how much will Robert Gates achieve while he's there? We understand he's there to try and encourage a dialogue between the Chinese military, the Chinese civilian authorities and, indeed, US military and civilian authorities. Should the US be concerned about, for example, a Chinese military buildup?

CHANG: Yes, I think of course we should be concerned, because China has, over this last year, talked about taking islands away from other countries. We have seen a number of very provocative incidents over the last 18 months. Chinese ships challenging, not only American ones, but also Japanese and South Korean vessels.

China has territorial ambitions that go well beyond its continental shelf. They claim the entire South China Sea as their own. So, it's not only the United States that's concerned, it's countries in the region, around China's periphery.

ANDERSON: Yes, and with reference to what you've said, of course, Robert Gates has said that North Korea's nuclear ambitions put it on a direct path to becoming a direct threat to the United States. How much of what Gates has been talking about, do you think, in Beijing revolves around the issue of North Korea?

CHANG: Well, I'm sure that some of it does. Gates is there primarily to try to put together military-to-military relations, and the Chinese are bringing up the issue of Taiwan arms sales. But when Gates gets a chance to speak, I think that he also, of course, is talking about North Korea.

Because North Korea already has a missile that can hit Alaska, and it's got a missile which would -- maybe 500 miles short of Honolulu. Four or five years from now, they'll be able to hit the west coast of the United States for sure. So, clearly this is something that he's not exaggerating when he says that, within five years, China will be -- North Korea will be able to hit the United States.

ANDERSON: Always a pleasure, Mr. Chang. We thank you for that. Gordon Chang, your expert on the subject this evening.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Up next, footballers are well-known for their tantrums on the pitch, aren't they? But coming up, we're going to find out why this player is in hot water over something he wrote rather than said.


ANDERSON: Now, if we are sensible, most of us watch what we e-mail at work. Now, though, it seems we need to be just as careful with what we tweet. Just ask Ryan Babel.

The Liverpool striker felt the refereeing of Sunday's defeat against Manchester United was so one-sided that he decided to make his feelings known on Twitter.

Babel's followers were treated to a mocked-up photo of referee Howard Webb wearing, what else, but a Manchester United shirt. Well, Babel later apologized, saying his post was simply light-hearted. But the English Football Association didn't see the funny side and charged him with improper conduct.

So, is it surprising that more players don't run into trouble over their tweets? Earlier, I put that to CNN's digital sports producer Ben Wyatt.


BEN WYATT, CNN DIGITAL SPORT PRODUCER: I think it maybe is surprising, if you look at the amount of people that follow some of the stars of the English Premier League. For example, Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United, 400,000 people following his official Twitter account. Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal, 300,000 people following his account. And Ryan Babel, 170,000 people following his.

With this scale of audience, there is an increased amount of scrutiny. And when you are able to have journalists, like you or I, following these players as well, it only takes one controversial comment to be made into a headline news story.

And Ryan Babel in particular has history in this area. He was critical of Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez when Benitez dropped him from the squad, and said that on his Twitter account, and had to apologize to get back in the team.

The danger is, these players, via these social media websites, have the ability to communicate directly and instantly to a global audience. And there are risks that go with that.

ANDERSON: I bet he won't be rude about Dalglish. Either this weekend or next. That's his new boss, of course.


WYATT: Well, you wouldn't think so, especially because Kenny Dalglish is one of the few managers in the Premier League who has a Twitter account himself. He could respond.

ANDERSON: All right. We all have got to know what the FA's going to do about this later this week. Can you, though, see this prompting more clubs and managers curtailing the communication of their players online, do you think?

WYATT: I think it's a potential problem, and you have some organizations who are already moving in that direction. The Scottish Football Association, the day after Babel tweeted that picture of Howard Webb, they sent a letter out to all of their clubs in all of the divisions, reminding them that for any player to criticize a match official in the public domain is something that they see as bringing the game into disrepute. And they highlighted the fact that they see blogs and personal social networking sites as part of that remit.

ANDERSON: Listen. Journalists love all of this, don't they? This is non-PR speak, which is really unusual in the game. It's like straight from the horse's mouth. So, what's in it for the athletes themselves if all they do is get into trouble?

WYATT: Well, this is it. You're always running the potential of getting into trouble. That's why Manchester United this time last year banned all of their players from using Twitter and Facebook. They even stopped the accounts of Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs.

I think what's in it for the players, well, potentially, if the celebrities are big enough, there could be financial gain. You have celebrities in the US, like Snoop Dog and Lindsey Lohan, who have been paid to promote certain products and brands via the millions of people that follow them on Twitter.

But I think more broadly, the players really are interested in just speaking more freely direct to the public. And I think that desire to have that freedom is probably not something that's going to go away soon.


ANDERSON: "Watch what you tweet" is the message.

Flying high in the music charts, one soldier turned singing sensation on how to make a major career change pay off. James Blunt is your Connector of the Day, next.


ANDERSON: Now, few can say that they've secured their place in their country's military history books and its music charts as well. But our Connector of the Day today is one of those few.

James Blunt spent six years serving as a captain in the British army, then eight years ago, he left to pursue a music career. Three albums later, the gamble seems to have paid off. Take a look at this.


(MUSIC - "You're Beautiful")

ANDERSON (voice-over): James Blunt's 2005 hit "You're Beautiful" took the world by storm and made the British-born musician an instant household name.

His soulful yet catchy tunes were a departure from the popular rap and R&B from the decade and earned Blunt five Grammy nominations.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, SINGER: For Best New Artist, the nominees are James Blunt --


ANDERSON: But the award-winning singer had anything but a normal path to musical success.

(MUSIC - "No Bravery")

ANDERSON: Raised in a military family, he served as a captain in the British army for six years, at one point, overseeing 30,000 troops in Kosovo, an experience that motivated his famous song, "No Bravery."

Soon after retiring, he produced his first album, "Back to Bedlam," which sold more than 18 million albums worldwide. Blunt is now out with his third album, entitled "Some Kind of Trouble." He explained to me why this new album is different.

JAMES BLUNT, SINGER: I have made two kind of miserable albums before, and I -- it wouldn't have been very fulfilling to do anything like that again. So instead, I really just went in and wrote songs that meant a hell of a lot to me, but at the same time, I really enjoyed.

The difference was I didn't just have an acoustic guitar. Instead, I picked up electrics and basses, and I suppose these are the songs that I always wanted to write and just didn't have the opportunity to do.

ANDERSON: You entered the music scene with such a bang, James, with your first album. Do things feel a little flatter since then, to a certain extent?

BLUNT: You know, it came hard and fast when that first album arrived. But there'd been my own buildup for years. But you know, I'm lucky. When that came out, it was a great foundation for it. And now, I've been out on two world tours, I've got my third world tour coming up, and the audiences have been growing steadily. But with each one, you get used to that growth and that development, and I'm really comfortable with what we're doing now.

ANDERSON: One of our viewers, Sarah, asks, "What songs mean most to you, and can you tell us why?"

BLUNT: Yes. I love all the songs on this album, but there are some real highlights along the way. I love "These Are the Words," it's an old- school -- sounds like the 70s, it sounds like the Bee Gees. I think I'm a lost Bee Gee.

And there's a song on there called "Turn Me On," as well, which my record company didn't want on the album, but I've managed to keep it on there.

ANDERSON: OK, all right, well we look forward to it. You're a very private celebrity. Who do you trust most and why?

BLUNT: Who do I trust most in life is a difficult -- in a public world, I think absolutely no one. I think it's a weird industry where we put out music, and yet, people do just want to know about private lives instead. It seems a strange balance. But I'm lucky, I have a very close family and they look after me pretty well.

ANDERSON: How would you describe your musical journey so far through these three albums? And this is a question from somebody called Swapna.

BLUNT: Yes, well, it's been a really interesting one. My first album was innocent and, in many ways, naive. And I didn't fully expect to happen what has happened. And since then, that second album I put out was a response to that, and it was quite a dark album. "All the Lost Souls," you can kind of tell by the album that something was going on there.

But since then, I've managed to close the door on that and I am really comfortable with what I do, and this album, "Some Kind of Trouble," you can see that I'm coming my own path, and I'm loving it. And I'm lucky to do what I do.

ANDERSON: What or who has helped you out?

BLUNT: My parents have been a pretty good basis for anything. In this weird and wonderful world, I think it's family and friends who keep you on the straight and narrow. And they are abusive to me on a daily basis to try and keep me grounded.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. All right, from one of our Facebook fans, John, who says, "Your first album dealt with a lot of what you saw while you were stationed with the British army in Kosovo and Bosnia." He says, "Do you still follow events there?"

BLUNT: Yes, I do. My own time in the army, of course, was hugely formative. I spent six years in the army. I felt really lucky to have that time, because I come from a protected country and background, and I worked with people from all across my own country, but worked with different armies, as well, be they Scandinavian or Italian army or the American army.

And each army reflects the politics of that particular country. And so, I'm really grateful for those experiences.

ANDERSON: I hear what you're saying. Given your army background, might we expect you to be part of the lineup for the royal wedding?

BLUNT: Yes, I'm asked about the royal wedding a lot, and I think that perhaps they would have been put off more. My first two albums I would have been, perhaps, better to do funerals. I don't think they've got any of those planned at the moment.

ANDERSON: All right. Robert wants to know for his own purposes if you'd ever consider writing lyrics to a song someone else wrote. And he says he's got a few up his sleeve.

BLUNT: Are you saying would I cover anyone else's songs? Yes, I do. On the tours, I cover other people's. I think, probably, my favorite cover are the Pixies, who people would sometimes accuse that of being a crime that I should cover the Pixies, but they have a great song called "Where is My Mind?"

I think maybe my next cover I'm going to do Slade, "Merry Christmas." That seems appropriate for me.


ANDERSON: That's good.

BLUNT: My future summer tour.

ANDERSON: And I was going to finish with who your musical inspirations are, and I do hope you don't tell me it's Slade. You're more than welcome to if you want to, but --

BLUNT: No, I think probably I love the music of the late 70s. I listen to a lot of the music nowadays and some of it is really exciting, but there are a lot of people who are singing about their fast car and their fancy watch, and I think maybe they're missing the point of what music's about.

And so, from 70s, I thought there were some phenomenal bands, like Fleetwood Mac. Musicians like David Bowie and songwriters like Neil Young, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, and Paul Simon, to mention a few.


ANDERSON: He mentioned just few. James Blunt for you as your Connector of the Day. And tomorrow, a Hollywood veteran of more than 40 years. Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon talks to us about her favorite movies and how she uses her success for good. Do send us your questions for your Connectors of the Day, is how you can do that. Tonight, we'll be right back in a couple of minutes.


ANDERSON: Time for our Parting Shots this evening. And I want to focus on Haiti, still struggling to rebuild and recover a full year after a devastating earthquake, as you'll remember. Everywhere you look, you see evidence of the trauma.

This is a birds-eye view of tent cities in Port-au-Prince. More than 800,000 people live in these squalid camps.

Some orphanages also forced to operates out of tents after their buildings were flattened. These two orphans are cooking dinner.

Here, this little girl is fanned by another orphan while she sleeps.

This group of quake survivors lost limbs when walls crushed them a year ago. They're just now getting prosthetic help.

And here a man walks for the first time with his new let.

Here, amputee football players square off on a pitch in Port-au- Prince.

And perhaps our favorite shot tonight, this player celebrating a goal. He's a reminder that natural disasters may devastate, but they cannot destroy the spirit.

I'm Becky Anderson, that's your world connected here on CNN. "BackStory" is up next right after I get you a very quick check of the headlines.