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Massive Protests in Egypt; Lebanon Political Upheaval; Al Jazeera Leaks; Preview of President Obama's State of the Union; Contraction in the U.K.

Aired January 25, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: We're getting the first word of casualties in Egypt, as thousands braved tear gas to demand a change at the very top.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

First, Tunisia, now Egypt -- two dead in clashes on the streets, but the U.S. thinks it's too early to worry.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable.


ANDERSON: Not if you ask these people, or, indeed, the opposition leader that we spoke to. That interview coming up in the show.

Barack Obama gets set to make one of the most important speeches of his presidency, with the economy center stage.

And making sense of extreme weather around the world -- a CONNECT THE WORLD special coming up this hour. That's CNN in the next 60 minutes.

But we begin with the largest public outcry for democratic reform in Egypt in decades -- some say ever. Young and old, Christians and Muslims, students and professionals all came together for protests inspired by Tunisia's recent popular revolt. Demonstrators want to seize on the momentum for change -- a moment in history they don't want to let slip by.

The tens of thousands in Cairo and other cities demanded the ouster of long time president, Hosni Mubarak. Many are fed up with poverty, corruption and life under Egypt's emergency law, which limits freedoms and allows police to arrest people without charge.

Well, some protesters threw stones at riot police, who fired back with tear gas and water cannon. In the past, fears of police retaliation have largely kept a lid on these kinds of protests, but not today.

Our own Ben Wedeman was right in the thick of it and he called the demonstrations unbelievable, like nothing he's ever seen in all his years covering the country.

And he joins us now live from Cairo with more -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, this really shocked everybody -- the press, the protesters. Nobody really imagined that they would get this big. In fact, I had that moment of realization. We were driving in a taxi under one -- underneath one of the bridges that comes across the Nile. And then I looked up and the bridge was full of thousands of people, mostly students, crossing over into the heart of Cairo.

They joined other protesters in Tahrir Square, which is the main square. There were well over 10,000 people there, all of them calling, as you said, for the ouster of the government of President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981.

We saw, as they clashed with the police just two blocks from the Egyptian parliament, protesters throwing rocks, the police throwing rocks back and then starting to fire with some very strong tear gas.

Now, even now -- and it is 11:00 at night in Cairo -- there are still thousands of people in that main square saying that they're going to continue to protest until their demands are met.

But what's really interesting is that these protests have had no religious overtone. We've seen Muslims and Christians, farmers and students, office workers, factory workers, men and women, all sorts of people, joining in this demonstration, which has got to be the biggest one many of us have ever seen in Egypt -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben, social media reportedly playing a part in galvanizing support for today's protest. On Twitter, for example, the Egypt protests one of the most popular topics and people are using the hash tag @jam25 and @egypt to communicate with each other.

Is it clear how significant a role the online world has played in rallying people onto the streets today?

WEDEMAN: Becky, the -- the online activism has always been an interesting part of Egypt. But until now, we would tend to see a lot of online activism that never really got translated into street action. And today, though, I think they've really crossed that rubicon.

What we've seen is that this demonstration was, indeed, organized by two online groups working together that spread the word, as you said, through Facebook with one of those Facebook groups getting more than 300,000 followers. And word -- it spread, also, by word of mouth, by SMSes, so that, you know, we were really expecting little, small pockets of demonstrations, 200 or 300 apiece. So when I saw thousands of people pouring into the heart of Cairo, I realized that this was not your run of the mill demonstration.

And clearly, Twitter, Facebook, SMSes played a huge role in helping organize this -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben, you've been recently in -- in Tunisia, covering what has become known as the Jasmine Revolution.

How does what you've seen on the streets and what you're hearing in Cairo compare to what you heard and saw in Tunis?

WEDEMAN: Well, I worked in Tunisia during the time of the old regime, of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. And it was a much more repressive regime than the one in Egypt. You know, there, you really couldn't talk in public about politics. The press was very strictly controlled.

Here, you have a much more liberal press. Egyptians are free to say whatever they want. The line is drawn when they start doing what they want, when they start holding demonstrations. So there's -- there's a big difference.

On the other hand, you do have many of the same ills of society, so to speak, in Egypt that existed in Tunisia. You have a declining economy. You have rising costs of living. You have a lot of corruption within the government and, of course, you have a president who's been in office for longer than most Egyptians have been alive.

So there are important differences, but important similarities, as well -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman reporting from Cairo.

Ben, thank you for that.

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman said it's important to put these protests into perspective. He says the demonstrators represent only a fraction of Cairo's population. And he says it's telling that they were even allowed to openly protest against the government.


HOSSAMI ZAKI, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: This country has known freedom much unprecedented in this region, in Arab countries, at least. This is something that has not been seen -- protesters being protected in the street, not being harassed, not being killed in the streets, like we have seen recently by -- by other regimes. This is a totally different situation.

So we have to put things in perspective and not allow over zealots to qualify the situation by things that they're -- that it is not.

So we have to be very careful here.


ANDERSON: Why don't we just qualify what was said there after that interview, in fact, reports that one protester has died and another policeman has died to date in those protests.

Well, the United States, an ally of the Egyptian government, says it believes the country is stable despite the unrest. Security -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded confident today in Egypt's ability to address the people's grievances.

This is what she said.


CLINTON: We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people. And we urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence. But our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.


ANDERSON: Well, one of Egypt's top opposition leaders takes issue with Hillary Clinton's remarks that the Egyptian government is stable.

I talked earlier with Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog who is now at the forefront of a push for political change in his country.


MOHAMED ELBARADEI, FORMER IAEA CHIEF: I was stunned to hear, you know, Secretary Clinton saying that the Egyptian government is stable.

And I asked myself, at what price is stability?

Is it on the basis of 29 years of martial law?

Is it on the basis of 30 years of a codified regime?

Is it on the basis of rigged elections?

That's not stability. That is living on a borrowed time. Stability is when you have a government that is elected on a free and fair basis. And we have seen, you know, how the election has been rigged in Egypt. We have seen how people have been tortured. And when you see today almost over 100,000 young people getting desperate, going to the streets, asking for their basic freedoms, I expected to hear from Secretary Clinton stuff like, you know, democracy, human rights, basic freedoms -- all the stuff the U.N. is standing for.

ANDERSON: I want to just show our viewers a Tweet from you from a couple of days ago. And I quote: "Threats of violence against participants in peaceful demonstrations reveal the ugly face of a regime terrified of its own people."

Mohamed, you've been encouraging people to take to the streets.


ELBARADEI: Because I've been, Becky, trying for a year to engage the regime through peaceful means by collecting signatures on demands for free and fair elections, for opening the door for Egyptians to run for the presidency, for having a parliament that's representative of the people. When you have a parliament right now that have opposition of 3 percent, you're already insulting the intelligence of the people by trying to say this is a democratic system.

ANDERSON: I wonder whether it's responsible to encourage people to took to the streets in protests that could cur -- turn deadly and also wonder why you haven't, Mohamed, taken part?

ELBARADEI: Well, I didn't ask for people to took to the street, Becky. This was completely initiated by the young people. I haven't taken part because, you know, I have -- we have to have a division of labor. I - - I can't get access to the media while I'm in Egypt. I'm completely blocked from getting access to the media. And I think it's important for me to continue to speak about the plight of the Egyptian people. And, unfortunately, I have to get out of Egypt to be able to speak about the plight of the Egyptians.

ANDERSON: Mohamed, let me bring up a Facebook site here, ElBaradei for presidency of Egypt. There are more than 200,000 Facebook fans there, which begs the question, will you run for president?

ELBARADEI: Becky, the priority for me is to -- is to shift Egypt into a democracy, is to catch up with the 21st century, to get Egypt to be a modern and moderne -- moderate society and respecting human rights, respecting the basic freedoms of the people.

Whether I run or not, that is totally irrelevant. And I made it very clear, I will not run under the present conditions, when the deck is stacked completely.

ANDERSON: Mohamed, was the Jasmine Revolution that we've seen in Tunisia just the start of things to come in the region?

ELBARADEI: It sent a message everywhere to the -- to the Arab world, Becky, that, to quote Barack Obama, "Yes, we can," you know, that it is -- it is doable. Then that we can be empowered as people to change a system that is ossified, that is completely repressive of our own basic rights.

ANDERSON: Do you fear for your own safety at this point?

ELBARADEI: Well, that's a good question. There was an edict against me, you know, a couple of weeks ago basically saying that my life should -- should be dispensable because I am defying the rulers, you know. So I have no security when I -- when I go to Egypt. I -- I'm going to Egypt in the next few days. And this is a good question, Becky.

But, you know, you have to be with your people.


ANDERSON: Mohamed ElBaradei speaking to me earlier from Vienna.

Now, a new prime minister in Lebanon backed by Hezbollah. His offer of inclusion met with outrage by critics. A look at Lebanon's uncertain future and present day fury, up next.

Also this hour, U.S. President Obama's second State of the Union Address just hours away. By the end of the day, they just may be calling his speech the state of the U.S. economy.

And then a half hour CONNECT THE WORLD special from the bottom of the hour on the world's wild weather. We're going to ask experts if this current period of weather extremes is the new normal.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

We're back in 60 seconds.

Don't go away.


ANDERSON: Well, in just under five hours from now, U.S. President Obama will deliver his second State of the Union Address. Yet while the president will talk of investing in America's future, many will be looking to see whether he can reverse the debilitating spending patterns of the past.

It's a tough balancing act. In just a few minutes, we'll look at whether Mr. Obama has what it takes to achieve it.

I'm Becky Anderson in London for you.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD this hour here on CNN.

And a look at the other stories that we are following for you.

And a dramatic shift in the balance of power in Lebanon triggers a day of rage. Hezbollah's choice for prime minister has been tapped to form the next government. He says he's extending his hand to all factions.

But as Nic Robertson now reports, that didn't stop Hezbollah opponents from taking their fury to the streets.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, within minutes of being announced as interim prime minister, Najib Miqati came on television saying that he was extending his hand to all political leaders to join him in a government he says he wants to focus on people's issues and economic issues.

But we've already heard from outgoing prime minister, Saad Hariri, that he will not be part of that government, which throws into question how influenced will this government be by Hezbollah.

Hezbollah's leader appeared on television today, saying that if Hariri doesn't want to be in this government, that means he only wants power to himself.

But what we've seen through the day is Saad Hariri's supporters coming out on the streets in some violent demonstrations in the north, in Tripoli, burning a satellite truck belonging to the news network, Al Jazeera; in Beirut, as well, clashes between the army and stone-throwing Hariri supporters.

But this evening, it seems that the temperature is going down on those demonstrations. Not far from here, early evening, a relatively peaceful demonstration of Hariri supporters, several hundred of them.

But they're all saying that they're not going to give up on their support for Hariri and what they want, the investigation into the -- his father's, Rafik Hariri's death.

However, under this new government that's been proposed by -- that's being proposed by Hezbollah, it does seem very likely that Lebanon will end its support for the U.N. special tribunal on Lebanon and the investigation into Rafik Hariri's death. It's not fixed yet, but that's the anticipation here.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Beirut, Lebanon.


ANDERSON: Well, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, says lax security at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport allowed a suicide bomber to sneak in and kill 35 people on Monday. A hundred and fifty-two others were wounded.

Well, Mr. Medvedev says airport officials in charge of security must be punished. He adds: "Russia will step up security measures at airports, employing tactics now used in the U.S. and in Israel."

President Vladimir Putin vowed harsh retribution for those who planned the attack. There are reports that investigators believe a woman from the Muslim North Caucasus Region set off the bomb, but that cannot, as yet, be confirmed.

Well, first we heard reports that Palestinian Authority negotiators had offered to give Israel a significant part of East Jerusalem. Now it is a big concession over what's known at the right of return. Al Jazeera news network is reporting more leaked documents uncovering secret peace talks, documents the Palestinian Authority characterizes as -- and I know that -- "distortions and lies."

Kevin Flower with an update for you.


KEVIN FLOWER, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: The second wave of leaked documents dubbed the Palestine Papers by the Al Jazeera news network were released late last night and their impact continues to be felt in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and beyond.

The most recent documents appear to show that Palestinian negotiators privately agreed to accept a very limited right of return for the some five million Palestinian refugees and descendents who were forced or fled from their homes in the 1948 war that created the state of Israel.

Specifically, the documents suggest that Palestinian Authority officials agreed to a, quote, "symbolic return of refugees numbering at just 1,000 a year for the course of 10 years."

The right of return is a hugely sensitive topic for both Palestinians and Israelis and it remains one of the key sticking points in achieving a peace deal. So making concessions on the issue from either side carries huge political risk.

Kevin Flower, CNN, Jerusalem.


ANDERSON: Well, a British football commentator has been acknowledged after making sexist comments about a female match official. In a statement, Sky Sports said Andy Gray's contract had been terminated for what they say is unacceptable behavior. The football pundit was caught twice on tape making derogatory comments about assistant referee, seen here, Sian Massey.

And the Oscar nominations are out. And "The King's Speech" leads a crowded field, with 12 nods. The movie chronicles King George VI's struggles with stuttering and the Australian man who used unorthodox methods to treat him.

And a look for you at all 10 nominees for best film. You'll see "The King's Speech" up there at the top. Moving down, you've got "The Fighter," "True Grit," "Black Swan" in there, "The Kids Are All Right" and right down to "Winter's Bone".

Here are the best actress nominees. Among them, Nicole Kidman and Natalie Portman and dark horse choice, Jennifer Lawrence.

Best actor nominees including Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth and the Academy Awards co-host, James Franco. The winners will be announced in Hollywood on February the 27th.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

I'm Becky Anderson in London for you.

Up next, he walks to the podium later tonight with some Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side.

But will President Barack Obama's second State of the Union Address be well received by both parties?

And what about the Tea Party?

We'll have a preview from the White House for you.

After that, batten down the hatches -- extreme weather across the globe. You've seen it. You've heard it. We ask if it's here to stay.


ANDERSON: Well, how do you keep America competitive in a changing world?

Well, that is the question that U.S. President Obama will attempt to answer tonight when he delivers his second what's known as a State of the Union Address. Now, Mr. Obama is expected to call for new investment in education and innovation to help create jobs.

Yet the president will also have to prove to a divided Congress that he is serious about cutting the deficit.

Let's kick off with Dan Lothian for you.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, this is a very important speech for the president, which he will be delivering later tonight. The broad themes that the White House says the president will be focusing on, job creation, not only in the short-term, but in the long haul.

The president also will be focusing on deficit reduction. And then two key words that they've been throwing around here at the White House quite a bit we'll also here during the president's speech -- innovation and competitiveness -- how to help the United States succeed and win on the global stage.

I'm told by a senior aide that the president will be rolling out a plan on how to win. Some of those things we've heard before. Others, though, I'm told will be new concepts.

And then one other thing in tradition from these State of the Union Addresses the president will always honor some guests by inviting them to sit in the first lady's box. This year is no different. We're being told that the family members of the 9-year-old girl who was shot in Arizona have been invited, along with one of Representative Giffords' doctors from Arizona and also a young man, an intern for Representative Giffords, who's being hailed a hero. His name is Daniel Hernandez. All of them have been invited to watch the speech from the first lady's box.

Dan Lothian reporting from the White House.

Now back to you.


ANDERSON: Thanks, Dan.

Well, CNN, of course, will have live coverage of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address. For our European viewers, it all starts at 2:00 in the morning London time, 3:00 a.m. In Paris. And wherever you are watching in the world, you can work out the time from those, at 2:00 GMT, of course, in London.

Right. While the U.S. continues to talk of investment, in Britain, the government is pursuing a very different policy. Yet even before a severe program of spending cuts could take effect, there was some worrying news today for the U.K. economy.

Unexpectedly, the nation's GDP shrank by 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Britain's finance minister blamed the weather.


GEORGE OSBORNE, U.K. FINANCE MINISTER: It was the coldest December for 100 years. People couldn't get to work. Businesses were closed. And that's had a bigger impact than anyone forecast.

But if you look at areas not so affected by the weather, like manufacturing, they are growing. There's an important part of rebalancing the British economy. And if we were to abandon our budget plans and not face up to the debts, as the way that Labour suggests, then we would be back in a financial crisis that would be a disaster for Britain. And this government is not going to be blown off course by bad weather.


ANDERSON: All right, well, despite Mr. Osborne's defiance, some fear the U.K.'s economy may not be strong enough to withstand the government's tough austerity measures.

Richard Quest is at the World Economic Forum all week in Davos in Switzerland.

And earlier, we talked about the significance of today's contraction in the U.K. ahead of these pretty severe spending cuts.

This is what he said.


RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: The U.K. is the laboratory rat, the experimental territory, if you like, for austerity, the poster child for measures designed to cut budget deficits. That's why everybody is looking at the U.K. economy, which is by no means the most important in the world. But what Cameron's governing coalition has done is put such strong austerity measures in place and now, potentially, seeing even the reaction of -- on confidence, that that's been the big question and talking point.

Having said that, this weather anomaly, Becky, is so unusual and so congenital (ph) and so obscure that we really don't know what the long-term effect would be.

ANDERSON: What we do know is that we will hear from President Obama today, much talk of not austerity, but stimulus measures again.

Is that correct, do you think, at this point in the economic cycle?

QUEST: I think President Obama's job is to walk this very difficult line between talking up the economy but also recognizing, as both sides do, that there has to be some form of cutback. Now, once you've said that cut, we can all -- they can all agree on that. And then the differences of opinion begin.

Interestingly, Becky, you may -- it may not have been noticed too much today that the IMF, in its latest revision to global economy, does say that the stimulus package and the increased quantitative easing from the Fed has played an important role in keeping the U.S. economy going.

But on the political front tonight, with the State of the Union, it really is a case of everyone saying something must be done but I'm not going to do it.

ANDERSON: Fascinating.

Davos really sort of kicking off tomorrow morning, Wednesday, in Switzerland.

What do you expect to be the key talking points, Richard?

And how will this austerity versus stimulus argument play, do you think?

QUEST: I don't think it will. I don't -- I think the -- the issue now is quite clear. There has to be cuts to government spending. There has to be a transference of debt from government back to the private sector, as the private sector has to start pulling economies out of the mile (ph) that they're in. There's pretty much agreement on that. The timing may be the issue.

Where I think Davos is going to play a major role is how -- they're going to talk, obviously, about the food crisis; but also, handling this shift in global growth from the developed to the developing economies, the -- the, if you like, from the West to the East, North to the South. Big global issues. But that is going to be what people are talking about here.


ANDERSON: Richard Quest in Davos.

Do remember, you can see the State of the Union Address, of course, here on CNN.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Up next, a topic that we all talk about -- the weather. It's made news headlines worldwide in the past 21 months, as it brings destruction and death at frightening levels.

Are we simply experiencing freak weather events or is this the future?

We're going to ask the experts, up next, a special program here on CNN.


ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. 2010 has been a deadly year of natural catastrophes. And already, 2011 is seeing its fair share of historic flooding. Why, and what's being done about it?

Well, in the next 30 minutes, we're going to take a spin around the globe to look for some answers for you. That is coming up here on CNN in the next half hour. Before we do that, let's get you a very quick check, as ever, of the headlines at this point.

Egypt's interior ministry says one demonstrator and one policeman were killed during anti-government protests across the country on Tuesday. Thousands of people demanded more freedoms and the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, inspired by Tunisia's recent revolution.

Anger, also, on the streets of Beirut. Hezbollah opponents declared a day of rage after the group's choice for prime minister was tapped to form a new government. Billionaire businessman Najib Mikati says he will reach out to all Lebanese factions.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev blames lax airport security for the suicide bombing that killed 35 people and injured 152 at Moscow's busiest airport. He says airport security officials should face punishment. Prime minister Vladimir Putin vows harsh retribution for whoever planned the attack.

And mixed economic news led to a flat finish on Wall Street. The blue chips slid ever so slightly, dropping 3 points to close at 11,977. Watch out for the State of the Union address later tonight. And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: La la la la la --







ANDERSON: A scene from "The King's Speech," which has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Support -- Supporting Actress, Actor, and Supporting Actor. I got that one wrong, didn't I? Other films to get a Best Picture Oscar include "The Social Network" and "Black Swan."

Those are your headlines this hour.


ANDERSON: From Australia to Brazil, Pakistan, and more. In just the last few months, the world has endured weather events that are historic in their extremes. So, is it a trend, or are these events near outliers, a matter of coincidence over time? Well, welcome to a half-hour special on CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson.

In the next 30 minutes, we'll have a report from CNN's Weather Center examining the data, and perspectives from our correspondents in New York, in Islamabad, and in Rio. And I'm happy to say, tonight, that we're joined by two experts, here.

Robert Watson charged -- or, chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for five years. He now teaches at the University of East Anglia, a major player in climate research. And from Copenhagen, this evening, we have Bjorn Lomborg. He's best-known for his book "The Skeptical Environmentalist." He believes that global warming is serious, but not the end of the world.

Gentlemen, we thank you for joining us. I'm going to come to you very shortly. To make sense of what's been going on around the world, first, let's take a quick look back, shall we?


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Record monsoon rains and landslides continue to wreak havoc in Pakistan, and the death toll and destruction continue to increase.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Summer 2010. The rainy season that's also the lifeblood of Pakistan became a killer. The Indus River, swollen by two months of incessant rain, broke its banks, sweeping everything in its path, homes, villages, livelihoods.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Nearly 2,000 people were killed, and a further 20 million were affected in what became Pakistan's worst natural disaster. So sever were the floods, they caused an estimated $9.5 billion damage. And today, more than six months on, two million people are still dependent on aid and waiting to rebuild their lives.

At the same time, record rainfall in China caused floods and mudslides, which killed more than 3,200 people. All told, some 117 million people were affected. The damage bill, almost double that of the Pakistan flood disaster, estimated at $18 billion.

According to the United Nations, summer 2010 was deadly for some 56,000 people in Russia for an entirely different reason. An unprecedented heatwave, abnormally high temperatures wilting crops and sparking wildfires.

Then, in December, extremes on the other side of the scale.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's more travel misery for anybody trying to catch a flight out of Heathrow Airport, today. More than half of the scheduled flights have been canceled today.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A rare, icy blast hit Europe and the United States, grounding flights in the lead-up to the holiday period, stranding motorists on highways and residents in their homes.

And just this month, more devastating floods. Queensland in Australia has been hit by what authorities described as an inland tsunami. Entire neighborhoods were swamped in rising waters, which to date have claimed 35 lives. The deluge washing away memories of a decade-long drought in a matter of days and leaving thousands with an uncertain future.

ANNA BLIGH, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: We're the ones that they knock down, and we get up again. I said earlier this week that this weather may break our hearts, and it is doing that. But it will not break our will.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Australians are still bracing for more floods. The agony continues, too, for Brazil.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the landscape that the rescue workers are having to deal with. As you can see, the rivers still fill up quickly with rain. They have to dig through this mud. They've got some sniffer dogs out here. But what they're looking for are bodies.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Days of torrential rains have caused floods and mudslides that, so far, have killed more than 800 people. Rescue efforts continue, and sometimes there is success.


ANDERSON (voice-over): But the toll is expected to climb in this Brazilian disaster, just one of many around the world caused by severe weather events. Events the United Nations warns we can expect more of in the future, due to factors including climate change, making it critical to put better plans in place now.


ANDERSON: Remarkable stuff when you see it. We've also seen severe flooding, of course, in the past six months in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and various other places. South Africa, Thailand, the list goes on.

So, what is happening? Let's bring in our guests. Robert Watson of the University of East Anglia and, of course, Bjorn Lomborg from Copenhagen. A simple question, Robert. What is going on?

ROBERT WATSON, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA: Well, the climate's always variable. And, indeed, climate change caused by human activities might make it both more variable and more extreme in the future. But as early as last October, there were projections that we would have a cold, early winter in England. And projections there would be intense rainfall throughout Australia or the northern part of Australia, through southeast Asia all the way to Sri Lanka.

It's called a so-called "La Nina." What that does is it -- the waters get very cold off of Ecuador, the Pacific. And this is the probably the strongest La Nina in 100 years. So, this very cold water three, four, five degrees colder than normal, sort of moved towards Australia, but there was warm water up by Australia, lots of evaporation. What goes up must come down, very, very heavy rainfalls in place. Exactly understandable.

ANDERSON: Yes, all right. You're referencing La Nina. You also alluded, there, to global warming. Bjorn. La Nina, global warming, or something else?

BJORN LOMBORG, AUTHOR, "THE SKEPTICAL ENVIRONMENTALIST": Well, it's definitely consistent with global warming in the sense that we know that there's going to be more extreme precipitation, as we saw in Pakistan and Rio and many other places.

But what we have to remember is, in our rush, in many green groups and also some of the media's rush to blame global warming, we neglect the fact that many of these catastrophes certainly have a very large manmade element in the sense that, for instance, in Pakistan, they cleared the upper riv -- forests, which makes flooding more likely.

The population of Pakistan has quadrupled over the last 60 years. A lot of people moving in on the flood plains, making it much harder not to have rivers flow over somewhere because they are diked in everywhere. And also, you have poor water infrastructure in Pakistan and many other places.

And this is important, because if we say "this is due to global warming," then our tendency will be, as your reporter just said, we should do something about global warming, we should cut carbon emissions. Now, this is a good idea.

But trying to help Pakistan and Rio by cutting carbon emissions is an incredibly bad way to help them, fundamentally, because it's infrastructure that's the most important part. And because cutting carbon emissions is rather expensive and will really only help a tiny bit in a hundred years.


WATSON: Bjorn's right. It's a combination of natural climate variability, possibly more extreme events because of human-induced climate change, and bad infrastructure. In many places of the world, we've denuded our forests, let our hillsides erode and, therefore, it's a combination of weather and the way we've managed our infrastructure.

So, Bjorn's absolutely right. We need to take a more holistic view of looking at infrastructure and looking at climate change together. It's not one or the other, it's how we manage the system holistically.

ANDERSON: We can forecast some of the weather cycles, one assumes. And as Bjorn says, and Bjorn, I'll bring you in, here, we could probably gauge what will happen if we have, as you say, denuded these areas where people live. Are we doing a good enough job at either of those at this point?

LOMBORG: No, of course we're not. One of the great examples where there was the hurricane that hit Myanmar, Burma, a couple of years ago. Had these people been informed, they would have had a much better chance at dealing with this, and probably we wouldn't have seen more than 100,000 lives being perished.

So, we need to make sure we get much better information, as Robert also said earlier, we had good indication that much of this was going to happen. We certainly know this for Europe, for instance, in Britain, there was good indications there was going to be a cold winter. And yet, there was very little preparation.

Very clearly, this is about saying, in the first instance, let's prepare better. In the second place, let's make sure we deal with our infrastructure so we're much more robust. And, of course, in the third sense, we also need to tackle global warming. But let's not try to say that that's the way to help Pakistan or Rio or the other places in the first instance.

ANDERSON: And Bjorn and Robert, our viewers have been debating the issue of climate change on our blog at Let's take a look at a couple of those.

Paul writes, "Just more hype," he says. "The weather is the weather and is chaotic as ever. The difference between today and former times is that we now know instantly about something happening on the other side of the Earth." This is a very good point, I guess.

David believes "It is just the Earth going through a cycle. All the environmentalists want to blame global warming on everything. You can't have it both ways." Briefly, your thoughts.

WATSON: Climate is variable, but there's actually no doubt the Earth is warming, and we cannot explain it on natural phenomena. The only we can explain it is invoking human-induced activities, the way we produce energy and use energy, putting greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the way we've deforested large parts of the world.

There's no question that we humans are starting to change the Earth's climate. As you do that, we would expect more of these extreme weather events. More floods, more droughts, more heatwaves.

So, it's a combination of manage your energy, managing our land, as Bjorn says, managing our infrastructure. And countries have realized that when you denude a forest, for example, in the Yangtze River in China many years ago, they got the same rainfall as they might have had earlier, but when it was just bare ground, there's only one thing that can happen, and that's major floods, displacement of people. So, we have to look at an integrated land-management with the way we deal with climate and weather.

ANDERSON: You're both making very good points tonight. Stay with me. I'm going to take a very short break. I can see you wanting to jump in at this point, Bjorn. We're going to talk about the future coming up next. Then, we're going to ask, historically, how bad are these pictures that we are seeing. Jenny Harrison from the Weather Center looks at some of the key data to break it down for us.

Plus, holding government to account. What are people in power doing in response to all this extreme weather? Our team of correspondents on the ground and our guests in the studio will have something to say on that. That coming up on CNN. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Japan on their way to beating South Korea on penalties in the semifinals of the Asian Cup in Qatar. Now, organizers have announced that they will donate the money from Tuesday's matches to flood victims in Australia, in Thailand, and in Sri Lanka. They hope to raise $300,000 to help people rebuild their lives after the devastation.

Just a few of the powerful images that we've seen from around the world as heavy rains and mudslides take their toll. But historically, how bad are things at the moment? I want to bring in meteorologist Jenny Harrison from the CNN Weather Center, who's going to walk us through some of the data.

I'm here for you, Jen. We're all here for you. Away you go.

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you're right. Let's take a little look back and actually, let's start out with, perhaps, the most recent event, which is, of course, the flooding in areas of Australia.

We're heading first of all to Rockhampton. This is the before image, one of those very useful Google Earth images. Here is after. This particular image taken on the 9th of January. And just look at all this brown area. This, of course, is the areas that are, indeed, under water.

But again, when you look at historically -- this is what, of course, we're trying to discern and talk about right now -- in the year 2011, 9.2 meters, that was the level of flooding, that was the flood reach -- the flood levels as the reached in along the Fitzroy River.

But when you go back historically, not quite as high as years before. 1954, 1918, both two very memorable years for the amount of flooding that took place. However, what we saw in the lead-up to the event in 2011, an extremely wet December, where we saw five times the average amount of rainfall and a tropical cyclone that also came ashore, bringing, of course, those extra amounts of rainfall.

Then, in Brisbane, a similar sort of story. Again, a very, very wet December, so some very saturated ground. And then, the Brisbane River, these lines you can see here, the green, the blue, the red, showing you the red line is the major area of the flooding. What happened in 2011? This was the level, again, that flood -- that the river actually reached.

But you'll notice these blue areas, these lines here, just above that red. So, six times, as far as we can tell in the last 150 years, the river actually did reach a higher level than that.

Now, I'm going to take you on to Brazil. Now, this, perhaps, more of an event that takes place, shall we say, during the summer months just about every year. We have to the south is the inter-tropical convergence zone. This, here, which is the convergence zone, the South Atlantic. And so, we see these thunderstorms forming along this line just about all throughout the summer months every year.

As they tend to, of course, the strongest in the afternoon and the evening hours, the locations can vary very much, but what happened is we saw some very heavy amounts of rain, very, very mountainous topography, of course. And these are the numbers that were affected, in fact. Killed over 800 just recently, you go back to 2010. And then, 1967, in a similar region, estimated over 400 people.

From there, we just look at Pakistan. This was pretty much an unprecedented amount of rain that fell. During 1956, in the entire month they didn't see as much rain that came down in 24 hours, 274 millimeters, nearly six times the average amount of rain. Flash floods, of course, but then, that rain had to go somewhere, into the Indus River and, my goodness, it takes a while for that rain, of course, to flow southwards into those open waters, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, and you've got our guest, here, nodding away at those facts. Jenny, thank you very much for that. Our two experts with us tonight, Robert Watson, who chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for five years, now a professor, of course, at the University of East Anglia. And Bjorn Lomborg in Copenhagen, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and a professor at the Copenhagen Business School.

As I say, you were nodding sagely at what Jenny had said. Your thoughts.

WATSON: Yes. These extreme weather events do occur. They're natural phenomena. So, we've seen large floods before, we've seen heatwaves before. The way we've changed our landscape, as Bjorn said, has actually made us even more vulnerable to these floods when you have heavy precipitation.

What we're also saying is, in a warmer world, potentially caused by human activities, these types of events will become more frequent. So, we've seen them in the past, they're natural events, we'll se them in the future. The question is whether they'll become more extreme or more frequent.

ANDERSON: Bjorn, what happens -- what do you say when people say to you, "Hang on a minute," you're talking about global warming, you've heard what Robert said here, but what about me trudging through the snow this November and December? I've never seen anything of the like in the UK. It was one of the coldest winters we've ever had.

LOMBORG: And I think this very well shows the problem of us launching into saying, "Oh, this is all global warming." While Robert is right, that this is partially consistent with what we would expect to see in a warmer world, telling every time we see a heatwave or every time we see a particularly hot summer or a lot of flooding, "this is global warming," then, of course, every time it snows really much, you're going to have people say, "Oh, see? There's nothing to this global warming thing."

We've got to stop having weather as a way of arguing global warming. Global warming is real, it is a problem that we'll need to face up with. But likewise with -- I don't know if you remember. Back in 2005, the big story was Hurricane Katrina and the way that global warming had affected that. But partly, of course, remember we virtually haven't seen any big hurricanes since then.

Now, this doesn't mean that global warming will not probably slightly affect the impact of really large hurricanes, but it also shows that we end up focusing on the wrong thing. Because if you wanted to help people in New Orleans, should you try to cut carbon emissions -- ?


LOMBORG: Or should you build better levees?

ANDERSON: Robert, I'm going to leave the last point to you. I -- for our viewers' sake, what is in store in the future?

WATSON: Well, we need to do both, in my opinion. We need to build better infrastructure and address global warming. We need to do that. But he was also right. We cannot attribute every heatwave, every storm to climate change. All you can say is, these events occur naturally, and more will occur in the future.

So, I believe what we need to do is address the issue of global warming, we do need to cut our carbon emissions, we do need to start to prepare for a warmer world, we need to adapt our road systems, our infrastructure, our agricultural systems, et cetera, so it's a balanced portfolio of development, both in developing and developed countries, and addressing climate change all at the same time.

ANDERSON: And better forecasters?

WATSON: Yes. And, in fact, as I said in October of this year, we did project it would be a cold, early winter. We did project the floods, the types of floods you might see in Australia. The point I would also like to make is, even in a warmer world, human-induced climate change, we will see very heavy snowfall. There'll still be more precipitation into the atmosphere and it will still be cold enough to snow, so heavy snowfall is still consistent with a warmer world.

ANDERSON: Work that one out. Guys, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us tonight.

Devastating floods hit Pakistan in 2010, what's the government there doing to limit death and destruction in the future. And what about in Brazil? Have officials there learned anything from the recent floods and mudslides? Some lessons for the future, coming up next, here on CONNECT THE WORLD.


ANDERSON: With floods threatening human lives around the world, how are animals faring? In Brazil, this dog lost its owner in a landslide. Ever loyal, it didn't leave her graveside for two days.

In Brisbane, this koala is one of the lucky ones. It's recovering in an emergency shelter while officials race to save other affected wildlife.

This baby elephant in Sri Lanka wasn't so lucky. Officials believed it drowned when heavy monsoon rains caused a river to rise nearly six meters. And it ended up in a tree.

These images from Pakistan, where locals scramble to save their livestock following the deadly floods last August. And this goat leaping to dry land.

When severe weather strikes, how does government react, and how are people in power planning for the future? I'm going to leave the last word to our reporters from around the world who've been taking a look for you.


DARLINGTON (on camera): I'm Shasta Darlington in Rio de Janeiro. In response to recent floods and mudslides, the Brazilian government says it's going to create a nationwide system to prevent disasters and to alert the population quickly when they do occur.

They plan to spend $6.7 billion to stabilize hillsides and improve the water drainage system. They also want to map out high-risk areas and improve data collection on weather, so they can let people know quickly.

Now, obviously, it's too late for the residents of Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo, these hillside towns north of Rio that were hit so hard. And that was part of the problem, the drainage system. A month's worth of rain dumped down on these towns in just 24 hours, and the rivers filled up quickly. They overflowed, and the barriers didn't hold.

Part of the problem was also illegal construction. Many homes were built illegally on these steep hillsides, and they were just too vulnerable to the mudslides. Part of the solution local authorities have come up with is cutting off the water supply to these regions so that people won't be tempted to build there in the future.

Nobody denies that the government simply wasn't prepared for what's shaping up to be the worst natural disaster in Brazil's history. What's left to be seen is if they will be prepared if there's a next time.

WHITNEY HURST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hi, I'm Whitney Hurst in New York. Just one month into winter and New Yorkers are already feeling the extreme weather. The National Weather Service says the city has received four times the normal amount of snow, and the city has already exhausted their snow budget for the year.

The winter weather has been so bad that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has instituted a new 15 point plan to deal with the heavy winter snow. Two of the new measures will include GPS communication devices in every snowplow truck, as well as live video monitoring of troubled spots across the city.

With all the snow, ice, and wind, what do New Yorkers make of this extreme winter weather?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crazy. I guess it's the global warming. Things have changed, the weather's changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's winter, isn't it? So --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A change in the rotation of the Earth by five degrees, which is supposed to happen by 2012.

HURST: No matter what your opinion is about why we've seen such brutal weather here in New York, as far as the calendar's concerned, we still have another two months of winter to go.

SAYEH (on camera): I'm Reza Sayah here in Islamabad. The Pakistani government says they've learned a number of lessons from the 2010 floods. Among them, the importance of the federal government to work more closely with local and provincial governments.

The importance of the civilian government to work hand-in-hand with the army. You'll recall the civilian government was heavily criticized for not being on the same page with the army during disaster relief work.

The government has also taken steps to minimize damage the next time a flood hits. They're working on an early warning system, they're bolstering disaster response teams in local communities. And they've also come up with a motto. "Build back better." They want to build stronger structures that will withstand the next flood.

But there's very little time here in Pakistan to think about all these lessons learned, because this disaster is far from over. The Red Cross says four million people are still homeless, millions of others still going without the basic necessities. And the concern here is that much of the world's attention has shifted away from these millions of people who still desperately need help.


ANDERSON: With such extraordinary weather, it's only natural that we've seen some extraordinary images during these past months. And that's what we're going to leave you with in tonight's Paring Shots. I'm Becky Anderson. Thank you for watching this CONNECT THE WORLD special. Your headlines follow this and a short break.