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Mudslides Kill Hundreds in Brazil; Floods Devastate Australia; Good Economic News for Spain

Aired January 13, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Terrifying tales of heartbreak and survival from two countries world apart.


ANDERSON (voice-over): In Brazil, hundreds of dead out of the mudslide caused by weeks of heavy rain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I expected it to be over the roof anyway. It's just hot when you see it.

ANDERSON: And in Australia, they're desperately searching for homes submerged by the worst flooding in decades.


ANDERSON: We know the wild weather can ruin the crops and sent prices soaring. Now, one analyst says we're just one more disaster away from a food crisis. Joining us on the "Global Impact." I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Also tonight -


ANDERSON: As Lebanon attempt to tackle a political mess. We'll take a look at what's at stake and how Israel is reacting.

Plus -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were very unusual with these guns. It was a bit scary because they were sort of wild and irresponsible and robbed up.

ANDERSON: Terror on the high seas. A former hostage speaks out as we continue our special series on Somalia's pirates.

And -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And getting a film made is not as hard as finding something that you really connect with.

ANDERSON: Actress, activist and ambassador. Susan Sarandon is your "Connector of the Day" on CNN in the next 60 minutes.


ANDERSON: Well, a massive rescue operation is now underway in Brazil, but things may still get worse. So authorities in Rio Janeiro and Sao Paulo states are warning thousands more lives maybe at risk from flooding and landslides there.

Now close to 400 are confirmed dead. Several thousands are homeless and more rain is forecast.


ANDERSON: We're giving those numbers. This one maybe considered lucky (inaudible) managed to pull her to safety before it was too late. We want to get a local view of the crisis. Luciani Gomes joins me now on the line from Rio.

As we look at what are desperately sad pictures. Give us a sense of what's going on in your region.

LUCIANI GOMES, JOURNALIST (via telephone): Well, Becky, so far more people died in this tragedy than in the two biggest tragedies we have last year. Also consequences of heavy rain, but this time it was not only poor people.

(Inaudible) today - and when there's not enough lighting to do it. There are just some people trapped because of mud and water in places (inaudible). President Dilma said today that federal government is willing to give really all the help needed to reconstruct the cities and roads and help find people.

ANDERSON: But it's horrifying as we - how are authorities doing?

GOMES: Authorities are working together, the state and federal, and the federal government actually sent already some help. Soldiers are coming to help. Helicopters, we have already the Red Cross here. Everything is working. The biggest problem is access to some places.

ANDERSON: That's sort of what is going on there from Luciani Gomes. Well, floodwaters in Australia have started to recede. The death toll there rose to 15 on Thursday and more than 70 people are still missing. Gradually, Queensland is facing up to the emotional trauma of losing their homes and in some cases their communities. Our networks Sarah Harris joins some of those on their first painful trip home.


SARAH HARRIS, NINE NEWS (voice-over): Michelle and Richard Smith knew going home would be hard, but they didn't expect it would hurt as much as this.

MICHELLE SMITH, FLOOD VICTIM: I expected it to be over the over roof anyway, but it's just hard when you see it.

HARRIS: They'd only bought it in August and it hopes to build a life with their four young sons here.

RICHARD SMITH, FLOOD VICTIM: -- 40 years of something -

HARRIS: The people of (inaudible) were once proud of their quiet suburb. Now, they barely recognize it. The only way to get around is by boat.

After the Brisbane River swallowed streets and front yards and homes almost the entire neighborhood has disappeared underwater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, but look, the stuffs are still here. It's muddy, but the stuffs are still here. Thank you, God.

HARRIS: It's only by a good fortune this woman still has a house to come home to. She tells us she feels blessed knowing so many of her neighbors are now homeless and heartbroken.

DENISE METS, FLOOD VICTIM: It's just unbelievable. I cannot believe that I've never had the privilege of living there. And what's going to be lived with nothing. We'll have to rebuild -

HARRIS: So much of the Brisbane River is bleeding and the people who lived on it and any way near it are hurting badly.

(on camera): Seeing the devastation from the air is one thing, but actually being this close and seeing home after home after home drowning in brown murky water. It's just a whole different story all together.

Over there that used to be a tennis court and somewhere under all of that water, that's the local path where the - kids used to play. No amount of preparation could have saved any of these houses. There is just so much water running through these streets. They simply never stood a chance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a pretty proud man certainly, yes.

HARRIS (voice-over): It took this man a year of blood, sweats and tears to renovate his dream home. It's now ruined, but he won't be beaten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here for the long haul. You can replace stuff. You can replace furniture. We've got our lives.

HARRIS: Everyone here is determined to take back what the river stole from them once the shock and the water finally subside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rebuild, start lives again, you know - that's what we do so we can live.

HARRIS: Sarah Harris, Nine News.


ANDERSON: Well, Queensland can rebuild, but one thing it cannot bring back are the season's harvest. Just last week, we told the United Nations reported food prices that hit their highest level in December since 1990. Weather has played no small part in that.

Taking a closer look at Australia for you. The floods there have destroyed crops ranging to wheat to sugar to fruit and vegetables and shop prices are starting to reflect that. Some reports, for example, estimated tomato prices are up around 200 percent since December.

Well, bad weather also led the U.S. Agriculture Department got it estimates on Wednesday for its 2010 corn and soybean harvest so less than prices for those crops with their highest level in 30 months.

I'm going to take you to India where food inflation eased to the last week of 2010, but still stands at a crippling 17 percent partly due to unseasonable rains. Vegetable prices have risen 70 percent in the last year alone.

Soaring food prices have already played a part in sparking some violence. Tunisia's president promised on Thursday to reduce the price of staple foods after days of deadly riots. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali also ordered security forces to stop using live ammunition on demonstrators. Twenty one people have died as violence are up to the recent days also fuelled by unemployment and alleged corruption. The president said he will not stand for re-election in 2014.

Well, food prices have also (inaudible) in neighboring Algeria, but it's not a full blown food prices, not yet at least. The question now is this where we're headed. Johanna Tuttle is the director of CSIS Global Food Security Project. She joins me now from Washington.

If this isn't a crisis at this point, what is it, Joanna?

JOHANNA TUTTLE, DIRECTION, CSIS GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY PROJECT: Well, I think it's a resurgence of high food prices in the Middle East, in Tunisia and Algeria. The riots are not just riots about food prices. The riots are about general dissatisfaction with young people's prospects as they grow into adulthood and about a whole post of governance issues.

Now, remember that FAO's food basket prices have risen especially around oil and sugar. Grain prices are not quite as high as the other areas so we don't see this really dramatically affecting poor people as of yet.

ANDERSON: What do we mean then when we talk about a global food crisis?

TUTTLE: Well, what we mean is that we may see that either there's not enough food in store for everyone to have enough food or more likely countries maybe imposing export bans on food. So food is just not getting to people who need it.

ANDERSON: (Inaudible) of the weather, there are other things to blame for spikes in prices. A billion went hungry last year in the world. How many people need to go hungry this year before the world wakes up and realizes that trade tariffs, the benefit of the rich, the determent of the poor are literally killing people aren't they?

TUTTLE: Well, if you look at it, the G20 and the wealthier countries have done a tremendous amount for 2008 to invest in the prospects of poor people so that hunger starts to drop. And in 2010, you did see the number of hungry people actually dropped. That number is going to fluctuate, but some of these long term efforts by the U.S. government, by Europe, Japan and others to invest in agriculture internationally. We hope we'll make a difference.

ANDERSON: Nevertheless, on a scale of one to 10 given what happened in Russia, in Canada, in Pakistan, in Australia and now in Brazil although I'm not sure that's affecting commodities a lot. On a scale of one to 10 how bad have things been in the last six to nine months when it comes to encouraging these spikes in food prices?

TUTTLE: Well, they haven't been as bad as they have in 2008. We haven't seen fuel prices be as quite as high. In 2008, fuel prices just added tremendously to the food prices because corn was going to biofuel instead of to people to eat.

And then secondly, the cost of transporting food and the cost of fertilizers and other inputs was sky high so that made food prices just incredibly high. So oil prices are down considerably now so we're not going to see - at this point, we're not going to see the same kind of really detrimental effect as we saw in 2008.

ANDERSON: Oil prices down from the peaks of 150 bucks on the barrel, but still not particularly low at (inaudible) so let's hope they stay low in order to keep these prices as low as they can be. Johanna, we thank you for that. Johanna Tuttle for you.

Rising food prices there as a result of extreme weather to a certain extent, but what about the cause of these wild weather patterns. Well, some scientists point to a major upheaval in Pacific Sea temperatures and this is known as La Nina.

Guillermo Arduino joins me to explain. Well, I'm glad you're with us tonight because I know I'm not the only person in the world, Guillermo, who has really no idea of La Nina. Can you explain?

GUILLERMO ARDUINO: Yes, let me expand a little bit of a concept. The sea surface temps. In this case, the cooling of the waters in the eastern Pacific and usually this is what we see in the Americas. Now notice that in Brazil, we don't see the influence of La Nina, right? So that's very important to point out.

On the contrary, it's usually dry because of La Nina, but here, in Australia, in the Philippines and certainly we can stretch it all the way Sri Lanka is where we see an impact of more rain because of La Nina. So what is La Nina?

So we have the eastern Pacific here. When we usually - when we have cold water, we don't have so much rain, right? When we have warm water, it's when we have convection, thunderstorms and a lot of rain. So the normal conditions are these.

But when we have La Nina, the winds are emphasized. The high is more potent and the low on the other side is even more potent and we get more of that warmth in there. Therefore, we get the rain. We get the storms. We get more cyclones and that's what we have seen in the Philippines. We have seen that also in Australia.

Now what about Brazil? What is ITCZed that is seasonal? We have storms in this part of the world seasonally moving to the north in other times of the world. July and August is the dry season, July and August in Brazil, but now we've got wet season. So what times and this is a meteorological coincidence. We got more rain because of that low pressure center. The same with the Philippines and that's what happened in here, Becky.

We see the effects of the La Nina as we see in Brazil, the effect of ITCZed.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Guillermo at the Weather Center for you.

ARDUINO: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, Lebanon in political limbo after months of Hezbollah trying to force the prime minister to choose political instability or the profuse justice. Something had to give and where did all the aid go?

Millions of dollars later, Pakistani (inaudible) targeted for rebuilding a still in ruins.


ANDERSON: Back to a bargaining has begun in Lebanon as politicians jacking to fill a leadership vacuum. (Inaudible) from creating a new government on Monday meeting with lawmakers to hear their choice for the next prime minister. Will the unity government of Saad Hariri, now caretaker prime minister collapsed on Wednesday after Hezbollah and its allies withdrew.

Now, Hezbollah tried for months and failed to convince Hariri to reject the U.N. investigations of the assassination of his father, a former prime minister himself. Mr. Hariri made a quick stop in France today part of his effort to sure up international backing his coalition. He now heads for Turkey.

Hezbollah wants the U.N. tribunal discredited because it's expected to implicate Hezbollah member in the bombing that killed Rafik Hariri. Dan Rivers explains. You don't have to look that far back in history to figure out why many people are concerned about Lebanon's future stability.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the fare. Another upsurge and violence in Lebanon as different factions take their political differences on to the streets with deadly results. These were the scenes in 2008 when the Shia militant party Hezbollah last felt pressured and attempted coup, which saw Hezbollah fighters take over half Beirut. Now Hezbollah has quit the National Unity Government plunging Lebanon into crisis.

DAVID HARTWELL, ANALYST, JANE'S ISLAMIC AFFAIRS: I supposed the worst case scenario is the country deciding into (inaudible) right down in law and order and you know, the potentials of the war. I mean, as if we're looking in already worst case scenario.

RIVERS: The current crisis stems from the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim in this - work of different religions. Now, a U.N. tribunal is expected to indict senior members of Hezbollah for Hariri's killing.

Backed by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah is supremely powerful in Lebanon. It outguns the army and until a few days ago formed a significant part of the power sharing government led by Rafik Hariri's son, Saad.

Now the prospects of an indictment at the U.N. tribunal has prompted Hezbollah and its allies to quit the government leaving a dangerous power vacuum, but one that optimists think could end in a deal.

NADIM SHEHADI, CHATHAM HOUSE: One has to wait for the horse trading to happen amongst the parties and what sort of agreement will come up, what sort of bottom line will be reached. Hariri is in a strong position, much stronger today than he was three or four days ago.

And the opposition would need a strong person because only a strong person can do the compromise.

RIVERS: The month long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 showed how tenacious the movement had become.

HARTWELL: Well, Hezbollah bluntly is the most effective (inaudible) force in Lebanon. It's much more effective - military than the Lebanese Armed Forces. Numbers are somewhat debatable. They probably have about 15,000 men in the field. What we call regular troops.

RIVERS: And this is about so much more than just who runs Lebanon.

SHEHADI: It's a powerful struggle also for influence in the region between the United States and its allies, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and this so-called moderate Arab countries and between Iran and its allies, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas.

RIVERS: The U.S. is clearly furious with Hezbollah's tactics.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We view what happened today as a transparent effort by those forces inside Lebanon as well as interest outside Lebanon to (inaudible) justice and undermine Lebanon's stability and progress.

RIVERS: The people of Lebanon are hoping their country won't once again be the battlefield for regional tensions, which has suddenly thrown into such stark relief. Dan Rivers, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Profound goal of Hezbollah was to repeal Israel with invasion of Lebanon back in 1982 and they've been bitter enemies ever since. Well, now, Israel is taking a wait and see approach to Lebanon's current political crisis.

KEVIN FLOWER, JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: I'm Kevin Flower in Jerusalem where officially there's been no Israeli government reaction to the political chaos in neighboring Lebanon. That said, officials here are following events in Beirut closely and keeping a watchful eye on the northern border.

For now the conventional wisdom among Lebanon observers is that the recent political turmoil is not likely to bring about a sudden start of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel, and that each side has a greater interest in keeping that border quiet.

As for the deepening political instability, one former Mossad agent told us, quote, "all the parties will do their best to avoid a civil war and I think they will succeed in avoiding it."

ANDERSON: And we'll keep a close watch on the story for you here on CNN Kevin Flower reporting for you from Jerusalem.

Well, still to come on the show, we are connecting you with Susan Sarandon, the Oscar winning actress is often among the best dressed on the red carpet. So what's with her latest fashion statement, a milk massage. Find out about that in the next 30 minutes.

Next stop though, show me the (inaudible) pirates. They're calling the shots from the high seas.


ANDERSON: Back with the CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson. It's about 25 past 9 in London now. High seas high stakes and highly organized, that is the business of modern piracy.

And all this week on the show, we're investigating what is a growing menace to ships and sailors around the world. So far we've met a real pirate, a Somali man. He told us becoming a high seas bandit was his best career option.

We've also seen how piracy has developed into an industry run with military precision and the pretty desperate measures shipping operators are taking to become pirate proof.

Well, tonight, in part four of this series, why piracy is such a thriving business. Zain Verjee explains pirates have little to lose and a ransom to gain.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lillian Omondi has no news. She doesn't know when her husband, a hostage is coming home or even if he's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard because I have children.

VERJEE: At her home in Mombasa, Kenya, she tells me Somali pirates hijacked a Korean-owned ship in September 2010 and her husband was on it.

LILLIAN OMONDI, WIFE OF HOSTAGE: I'm just praying for him. There's nothing I can say, but praying for him.

VERJEE: Her neighbors say their husbands are hostage too on the same ship.

(on camera): How hard has it been for you? How hard?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) coming back -

VERJEE: I met Bocaria Mancife, a Kenyan fisherman who tells me Somali pirates held him hostage for five days.

BOCARIA MANCIFE, FORMER HOSTAGE (through translation): I was scared. We suffered a lot. They mistreated us, he says. They wouldn't give us water. I was lucky, a Spanish ship eventually rescued me.

VERJEE: But most of the more than 400 hostages have to rely on negotiations to deal with the pirates money for their freedom. Stephen Askins, a Maritime lawyer says the pirates have the leverage.

STEPHEN ASKINS, PARTNER, INCE & CO.: They're not under any pressure of time. They're under no real threats of intervention by the military. They're unlikely to be arrested. They're not losing money by sitting on the ship.

VERJEE: A long process of haggling over ransom starts and could take six months or more to make a deal.

ASKINS: They will use somebody who speaks English, who will not necessarily be a pirate himself. He'd be brought in by the gang because of his - his own expertise in negotiating.

VERJEE: British Captain Colin Darch was a hostage for more than a month. His ship was captured 70 miles off the Somali coast.

CAPTAIN COLIN DARCH, FORMER HOSTAGE: Everyday, I had to use the ship's satellite telephone to call the owners in Copenhagen and the main purpose was for me to relay the ransom demands and the threats.

VERJEE: Once they tried to escape, but failed.

DARCH: They were very casual with these guns. It was a bit scary because they were sort of wild and irresponsible and drugged up. You know, so they weren't reasonable people.

VERJEE: In the end, most ransom money is parachuted down to pirates. This is a rare look at a ransom drop in action. Look at the upper right screen, see that red canister. It's water tight and it's filled with ransom money.

Pirates count it on the ship then release the vessel with the hostages. For Lillian and her neighbors the wait is tough and the money running out. They say they will try and start small businesses so they can survive without their husbands. Zain Verjee, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: A little bit later, Zain tells us how she got a rare interview with a former Somali pirate. That is back story about 30 minutes from now. Immediately following CONNECT THE WORLD, which is the show that you're watching here on CNN at present.

Three European countries go to the markets, three hit their targets. We're going to look out how Europe's (inaudible) the raising what is much needed cash and could the European crisis be a painting?


ANDERSON: You are back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in London. Coming up, the Spanish economy got some great news earlier today. But does that mean the country's debt woes are over?

And then, bureaucratic red tape, catastrophic floods, or government corruption. We're going to try to figure out what's really been blocking the rebuilding of Pakistani schools after a huge influx of international aid.

And later, she's not just a Hollywood actress, she's also a political activist. We're going to see how Susan Sarandon balances those roles when she takes your questions as your Connector of the Day.

That is CNN in the next 30 minutes. As ever at this point, let me get you a quick check of the headlines this hour.

Heavy rain, floods, and mudslides have killed nearly 400 people in Brazil. In the hard-hit states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, thousands of others have been evacuated. Officials fear many more are dead or buried in the mood. Frantic rescue efforts are under way.

Tunisia's president offers concessions in an effort to end unrest. In a speech, he said he would not seek another term in office in 2014. The president also ordered security forces not to use firearms against protesters and promised a reduction in food prices.

Embattled Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri has met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. Mr. Hariri's government collapsed on Wednesday after Hezbollah ministers resigned over a UN probe into the assassination of Saad's father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Talks on a new government begin on Monday.

Italy's top court has partially struck down a law shielding the prime minister from prosecution. The decision will allow individual judges to decide whether Silvio Berlusconi can be forced to face trial. It also means Mr. Berlusconi can't say his official duties exempt him from attending trials in progress.

Well, fears over the future of the euro zone eased slightly on Thursday after the markets, at least, gave a resounding thumbs up to a Spanish bond auction. Spanish stocks surged more than two and a half percent, not necessarily a surge, I guess, though they're up two and a half percent in the news. But as Al Goodman explains, passing this first test of the year doesn't mean that the debt crisis there is over.


AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF (on camera): Joy on the Madrid stock market, and what some analysts are calling some very necessary breathing room for the beleaguered Spanish economy after the first bond auction of the year.

The Spanish government raised 3 billion euros, or about $4 billion, in the sale of five-year bonds. And it was over-subscribed. About twice as much demand as for what was offered.

The downside, in order to attract investors to the troubled Spanish economy, the government had to pay a higher yield, 4.6 percent marginal rate this Thursday, compared with a 3.6 percent rate just two months ago, the last time there was a five-year bond auction.

Moody's, the ratings agency, estimates the Spanish government will need to raise 170 billion euros, or about $220 billion from the markets this year. They're off to a good start, but there's a long way to go. Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.


ANDERSON: Yes, there is. Italy, hot on the heels of the Spanish with its own auction on Thursday. It sold $8 billion worth of 5 and 15-year bonds. Demand healthy, but the price was slightly higher than at the last auction in November.

Portugal also came in on target a day earlier, selling $1.5 billion worth of 3 and 10-year bonds. Both auctions were over-subscribed. Yields on the 3-year bonds arose slightly, but actually fell on the 10-year bonds. And that's important, taking some of the heat out of the speculation that Portugal may need a bailout.

Bond sales are a short-term fix, of course. But longer-term plans are afoot. The European Commission, though, is in talks to double the European bailout fund to 1.5 trillion to help member nations in crisis.

Well, let's get a closer look at where we stand. Kevin Dunning from the Economist Intelligence Unit joins us. Now, I think the first point, here, needs to be simply that who's buying this debt? Do we know?

KEVIN DUNNING, ECONOMIST, ECONOMIC INTELLIGENCE UNIT: We don't know, exactly, but we do have a bit of an idea that it's not all coming from within those countries, especially in Portugal. A lot of it's coming from outside.

There's lots of speculation before the actual auction that China was interested, Japan was interested. There's not a neat breakdown, but certainly it's not all coming from, say, Portuguese residents, Spanish residents.

ANDERSON: Which is important. All right. What's the message from what is being -- let's call it a decent uptake on these bond auctions?

DUNNING: I think it's a bit of a qualified success in the sense that, yes, there was very high demand for the bonds. But, at the same time, they still had to pay quite a lot for it. So, I think it's a start. But also the problem is, you get one away, and you have to start and speak about the next lot of money you have to raise, so --

ANDERSON: Yes, and effectively, you're offering people more and more and more to, effectively, make these things work. In an article in "The New York Times" this week, the influential economist Paul Krugman argues that the pace of recover in Europe is being slowed by a single currency. He says that Europe lacks the institutions to make a single currency workable.

Now, we've heard that argument before. But coming from a man as informed as Krugman is, does that worry you? Or should it worry those who use the single currency? Of course, we don't here in the UK.

DUNNING: Well, I think that, regardless of what Mr. Krugman says, we should be a bit worried about how fast the economy's going to grow over the next years because, given how tough the cuts are that they're implementing, which are -- have to be very fast and very steep to actually make a difference, the economy is, inevitably, going to slow.

And places like Portugal have had a poor growth rate for a long time, so at the same time as you're taking a lot of money out of the economy, households and companies are struggling, as well, under their high debt load. So, really, we're asking a lot of these countries to do it all on their own. And that's why I think it's good to have the bailout funds standing behind them.

ANDERSON: Will it be used? That's the question. People will be asking tonight, they see the bond auctions, they say, "Oh, Europe may be out of the woods." Is it? Do we need these bailout funds?

DUNNING: We absolutely need them, there's no doubt about that. And we're not out of the woods at all after one bond auction. These countries have to raise a lot of money this year. And I -- for my money, I think Portugal is going to have to access the bailout fund, if not now or the next time, some time in the coming year they're going to have to go for it.

And it's not the end of the world to do that, now, seeing as the money that's run off of that is a lot more stable. It will allow them to go for fiscal cuts without worry about where the next chunk of funding's going to come.

The worry after Portugal is, does Spain need the same thing? And I think that's still unsure, but they need a whole lot more money, and that's partly why the European leaders are thinking about raising the match money that's available.

ANDERSON: That's a lot of money. All right, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.


ANDERSON: Well, the Taliban are gone from the Swat Valley, we're told, but a troubling legacy of their rule remains. Schools destroyed and waiting to be rebuilt. It's supposed to be happening, but it's not. We're going to explore why, next, on CONNECT THE WORLD.


ANDERSON: Well, first came the guns, and then came the money. But where are the schools? That is a question asked by the kids of Pakistan's Swat Valley. The Taliban destroyed hundreds of schools before Pakistani forces drove them out. Well, after that, the US pledged millions of dollars to rebuild. But as Chris Lawrence tells us, that money appears to have been lost in what is a political vacuum.


RIDA SALMAN, SEVENTH GRADE STUDENT: The youth should guard their education if it is man or woman.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First, the Taliban threatened Rida Salman.

SALMAN: And the terrorists said to us that, "If you go to school, we will kidnap you and we will kill you."

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Then, they bombed her school. And nearly two years later, it's still rubble.

SALMAN: Listen. Don't you hear her screams? Pakistan is in intense need of our love.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): So, this seventh grade girl is not happy.

SALMAN: We have to unite. We have to fight. We have to become a great nation.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Rida and some of her old classmates go to a new school, now. But it's a lot further away and more expensive.


LAWRENCE (on camera): Why is it taking the civilian government so long to rebuild some of these schools?

ZAUDDIN YOUSEF, PRINCIPAL, KUSHAL SCHOOL AND COLLEGE: This must be the top priority of the government but, unfortunately, it's not.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Zauddin Yousef is principal of Rida's new school. He says there 150 destroyed schools just like Rida's old one, Sangota.

YOUSEF: US has given a lot of money. But still, the schools are in rubble.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Nida Jan also went to Sangota. Now, she's out the door extra early. Nida's got to walk more than a kilometer to the local bus stop, and then it's an hour's drive to her new school.

NIDA JAN, NINTH GRADE STUDENT: We're very lucky because from -- you have seen the distance. It is very long to come to school, but I am trying to come to school and I want to because I want to make my future.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Her old school was close enough to walk, but is it hard to see your school like this?

JAN: Yes, it's very hard to see our school this much destroyed.

LAWRNECE (voice-over): Some educators claim local politicians haggled over contracts, steering them to certain companies.

YOUSEF: Their top priority are their pockets.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Zauddin says they raise the bids, then skim the profits.

YOUSEF: And everywhere, they poke their nose to have some money. How to drag and extract some monies.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): A Pakistani official says politicians follow the rules. He says it takes time to hire engineers, and the recent floods slowed down the process. But even Pakistan's military, which pushed the Taliban out of Swat, is getting frustrated with the slow pace.

RASHEED DULA, MAJOR, PAKISTANI ARMY: Eventually, the civil government has to take over the area from the army.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Do you miss your school?

SALMAN: I miss my school so much. I can never forget education of Sangota, and I miss it too much. There are so many schools, but there cannot be a school like Sangota.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The school can come back, but the clock is ticking. Chris Lawrence, CNN, Swat Valley.


ANDERSON: Up next, she is one of the most outspoken celebrities in Hollywood. Five-time Oscar nominated actress Susan Sarandon dishes on everything from politics to family, and she answers your questions, up next.


ANDERSON: Forty-seven minutes past nine in London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Now, she is a Hollywood A-lister and an Oscar winner and, tonight, she's talking to us. The famed actress covers a variety of topics from how she chooses a role to her often outspoken politics to her kids. Here's Susan Sarandon.




ANDERSON (voice-over): She's one of Hollywood's golden girls, but that has never stopped Susan Sarandon from standing up for what she believes in.

SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: I'm very proud to be asked and to be able to join you.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The Academy Award-winning actress first captured the world's attention in films such as "The Front Page" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."



ANDERSON (voice-over): But it was her later rolls, in films like "Thelma and Louise," and "Dead Man Walking" that solidified her as a star of the silver screen.

GEENA DAVIS AS THELMA, "THELMA AND LOUISE": You drove from Oklahoma, but you don't want to go from Texas?

SARANDON AS LOUISE, "THEMLA AND LOUISE": Thelma, you know how I feel about Texas. We're not going that way.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A vocal Democrat, Sarandon is famous for many of her outspoken political views, including her staunch anti-war stance. And as the new face for Got Milk?, she is championing child nutrition across the world. She spoke to me about this latest campaign.

SARANDON: The idea behind this campaign is that you have nine essential nutrients in milk, and if you take one extra glass of milk, then you'll get more of the calcium and the vitamin D and the potassium and all the other things that you need in your diet.

The other thing to realize is that every six seconds, a child dies somewhere in the world from malnutrition issues, things related to malnutrition. And so, hunger, as a UN ambassador that's now assigned to agriculture and dealing with hunger and nutrition around the world, I've become more aware of this. And so, this was the perfect tie-in with that and trying to end hunger. But also, trying to make sure that people are getting what they need.

ANDERSON (on camera): Of all the issues, Susan, why did you choose hunger to focus on?

SARANDON: I'm a mom. I've been through -- I've had a wonderful time raising my kids. I mean, it's not over yet, my youngest is 18. But it always breaks my heart when I see moms struggling to house their kids or to feed their kids, and I think that it's -- it's a basic, fundamental right, water and food and nutrition.

And you can't expect people to have hope, you can't expect them to grow up wanting to make the world a better place, you can't expect them to be anything but angry when they're not -- their bodies aren't getting what they need to function at 100 percent. And so, as a mom, I just am drawn to anything that deals with kids and women.

ANDERSON: All right. You're very vocal about the issues that you care about, and Saadiqa has written to us. She asks, "Do you think your stance on any controversial political issues has had an impact on your career in Hollywood?"

SARANDON: I'm sure, but I have no complaints. I always feel as if that's worrying if your slip is showing when you're fleeing a burning building. The reason that you ask questions and the reason that you get involved is because you feel that it's worse not to.

Maybe that's -- an inflated sense of self. But I always think that you regret the things that you don't do, not the things that you do do. You can always adjust to whatever the outcome of asking a question is if it's an unpopular question.

I think the only really upsetting thing is death threats, and when they put stuff in publications about your kids that aren't true, because you know that it's something that's being done to hurt them to hurt you. And that has always had an effect, but -- when my kids are frightened or something. But the career thing isn't that important.

ANDERSON: All right, well, you did mention regrets. I've got to ask you, do you have any over the course of your career?

SARANDON: There are some mistakes I wish I'd made faster, but --


SARANDON: No, I have no regrets. I really have none.

ANDERSON: We've got a viewer, Maritza, who says, "'Dead Man Walking' was just a dream of a film. Do you have a film that was your favorite to act in?" she says.

SARANDON: Well, that's such a "Sophie's Choice" question, to take one film among -- I mean, "Dead Man Walking" was very important to me because I found the book and Sister Helen and I had a relationship before Tim filmed it and it was a family affair and a lot of friends were involved, and it was a real labor of love.

And the fact that it turned out so brilliantly and Tim did such a great job and Sean was so incredible. That was the first time that I'd actually found a property and saw it through. So, that was very rewarding.

"Bull Durham," though, I had a great time on "Bull Durham." I try to really enjoy myself, or else I don't want to do it anymore. So, a lot of films I've had a really good time with.

But, certainly, if I had to win an Academy Award, I was happy to win it for "Dead Man Walking," because we were so involved in such a way. And I'm still so, so close to Sister Helen, and she's such a -- an incredible influence in my life.

SARANDON AS SISTER HELEN, "DEAD MAN WALKING": If you do die, as your friend, I want to help you die with dignity.

ANDERSON: Annette asks what advice you can offer to aspiring actresses who would like to be female role models like yourself?

SARANDON: I think you just have to tell stories that really mean something to you, and if you find -- you have to be proactive in finding them. And I think you just have to decide every time you work that you know why you're doing something. Because there aren't perfect roles out there all the time, that every time you do work, you learn something.

I think the collaboration is what is addictive to me. I like the family that you make when you make a film, and I like to be able to have so many incarnations and play so many different people. But -- there are a lot more parts for men, and there's a lot more pay for men. But they're not great, those parts for guys, either.

So I think you just have to know why you're doing something. And then, if you find a story that really talks to you, then there's lots of ways to find money that -- getting a film made is not as hard as finding something that you really connect with and that you're passionate about, really.


ANDERSON: Some advice for young, aspiring actors and actresses out there in the world. Next week on CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm going to sit down with Russell Simmons. From his record label, to fashion house, to reality TV star, to goodwill United Nations ambassador, what hasn't this entrepreneur done? We're going to hear from this vary successful, very wealthy man.

Send us your questions. Do remember this is your part of the show. Tell us where you're writing from, is where you can do that. Tonight, a couple of minutes left, we'll be right back.


ANDERSON: Now, before we close out tonight, I want to return to one of our top stories, the recent spate of flooding around the globe and the impact of this year's La Nina pattern on food supplies. Here are some of your comments.

Solidoak tells us, "Flooding in Brazil and Australia, snowstorms inundating the US, volcanoes erupting, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Mother Nature is telling us something."

Ikebrazil believes "That's clearly a signal of global warming. The rain is so strong that we had in four hours the total amount of rain of several months. Global warming is making its victims."

But saneNsound, somebody who goes by that moniker, says, "I live in Brasilia, and every time it rains hard, the streets are flooded with water. Global warming? No. It's just inefficient city planning."

Pedro adds, "Rain in that area hasn't really changed. The problem is overpopulation in the Brazilian cities, causing people to build houses where they don't belong."

Some good points tonight. Get your voice heard on CNN. Head to the website,

I'm Becky Anderson, that is you world connected. "BackStory" is next, right after a quick check of the headlines. I'm going to leave you tonight with some spectacular parting shots, courtesy of some of our iReports in Italy. They've captured the latest eruption from Mount Etna. Enjoy.


SHAWN MCCARTH, CNN IREPORTER: That's January 12th, 2011. I'm interested in some kind of (INAUDIBLE).