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Residents Flee Syria; Extreme Force?; Violence Escalates in Misrata

Aired June 10, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Risking their lives to protest -- people took to the streets across Syria, as government forces storm the north. Desperate to escape, refugees trying to reach safe ground pour across the border into Turkey.

Dry skies over Europe -- the alarming effects of an unusually arid spring on the continent.

And emerging market -- why the makers of Viagra have chosen to launch the new chewable version south of the U.S. border.

These stories and more tonight, as we connect the world.

And we begin in Syria, where a dangerously precarious situation is now teetering on the edge of chaos. Thousands of terrified residents have fled to Turkey following a widening military crackdown. That has spread to the -- spread to the volatile northwestern town of Jisr al-Shugur. The Syrian government says it was invited in to restore order after armed gangs and terrorists killed dozens of its officers.

But the pictures tell a very different story. Scared and weary refugees, mostly women and children, huddling together, facing an uncertain future. Activists, meanwhile, strongly dispute the government's account. They describe a city under siege, where security forces are indiscriminately opening fire on unarmed civilians.

It's not just Jisr al-Shugur under the threat of attack. The protests took place throughout the country on Friday, including the flashpoint city of Daraa, where two people were reportedly killed. Activists say two others were shot dead in Damascus.

CNN isn't allowed into Syria, so Arwa Damon is following developments closely from Beirut.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, this Friday was dubbed the Friday of Kinship, with thousands of people going out to demonstrate, according to activists, eyewitnesses and videos that we also saw uploaded to YouTube. But again, CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of those videos.

We also heard from activists and eyewitnesses that on numerous occasions, Syrian security forces once again opened fire indiscriminately on unarmed protesters chanting for the downfall of the regime, chanting for the unity of the nation.

Interestingly, though, on this Friday, we, for the first time saw Syrian state television also reporting on these demonstrations. They were not, however, calling them demonstrations or protests, but instead small and sporadic gatherings. And they were also saying that they were deviant groups -- that is what state TV is calling them -- who are trying to foment unrest.

They also said that these deviant groups had snipers and other masked men who were then firing on civilians and on Syrian forces themselves.

In the areas where we've heard activists reporting casualties that they were blaming on Syrian forces, state television instead saying that those were being caused by armed masked men.

In the northwestern part of the country, Jisr al-Shugur in particular, that area largely deserted, residents having fled days ago, fearing that imminent military crackdown.

Instead, according to one activist who is based outside of Syria but has an extensive and what has proven to be a reliable network inside the country, the bulk of the Syrian security forces' offensive appeared to be concentrated on an area close to Jisr al-Shugur called Maaret al-Nouman. There, according to this activist, tens of thousands of people went out to demonstrate and were met by, again, indiscriminate use of fire by Syrian forces to include, he was saying, the use of an attack helicopter firing down, he said, on unarmed civilians.

Well it certainly does seem at this stage as if this crisis in Syria is nowhere near a resolution, with the opposition determined to hold onto its momentum, determined to topple the regime and the regime determined to stay in power -- Max.

FOSTER: Well, nearly 3,000 people have already crossed into Turkey. And those numbers are expected to go much higher. Ankara says it's bracing for the worst.

Ivan Watson reports from the border on Syrian refugees who are caught in the crosshairs and literally running for their lives.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what happens when Syrians try to protest peacefully against their government. On June 3, thousands of demonstrators walk up a road in the northern town of Jisr al-Shugur. All of a sudden, gunfire. Unarmed men scramble for cover. Bullets crack and whistle overhead. And then, the wounded. CNN can't verify the exact location and date of the video, but the images of brutality were filmed by this activist on his cell phone.

(on camera): You must have been terrified when this was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they were loud. Loud.

WATSON: Yusuf Mohammed Ali Hassan (ph) smuggled himself across the border to Turkey to talk to journalists banned from working in Syria.

"I want the world to know, we want human rights and democracy," Ali Hassan says. "This is not a government that governs people, it's a militia that kills and destroys."

This 23 -year-old Syrian says he was shot in the leg and arm by Syrian security forces at another protest, now one of more than 30 Syrian gunshot victims being treated at a hospital in Turkey.

"We're oppressed and we want our freedom," he says. "We want this president to be overthrown."

He can't show his face because he's terrified of his own government. So are these people -- Syrian forces emerging from the orchards, heading toward the Turkish border. More than 2,700 have fled. More are probably on the way. The first wave staying in tents at this abandoned tobacco factory. The Turkish government is already building two more camps. If the killing in Syria doesn't stop, Turkey stands poised to become the next home for a generation of terrified Syrian forces.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Yailidi (ph), Turkey.


FOSTER: And we just had this in to CNN. And eyewitness tells -- eyewitnesses tell us that Syrian security forces in helicopters sprayed automatic weapons fire at thousands of protesters demonstrating after Friday prayers. This occurred in the northwestern town of Maaret al- Nouman, not far from Jisr al-Shugur. An activist has given CNN the names of at least four men he said were killed in the attack.

We'll have more on the developments as details become available to us.

While Western powers and their Arab allies have expressed concern to the situation in Syria, there doesn't seem to be any move toward military- style action like that taken in Libya.

So why isn't the world doing anything?

Well, Sarah Leah Whitson is the executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division for Human Rights Watch.

And she joins us now from New York.

Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

They've got a lot on their hands, haven't they, world leaders right now and Sila -- Syria is probably just one added situation that they can't get into.

SARAH LEAH WHITSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It's an added situation, but it's an extremely critical situation. The brutality of the Syrian government has probably been the worst in the region. And it's one that really begs for international action.

FOSTER: But, actually, we don't know, do we, because we can't get in there. We can't get in there as reporters and you can't get in -- in there either, can you?

WHITSON: We have been in there, actually. We have been on the ground. And, of course, we've also talked to numerous refugees. The last report we produced was based on interviews inside Syria, with over 50 victims and numerous other doctors and -- and people involved witnessing the atrocities of the Syrian government.

FOSTER: So at what level would you describe the atrocities in terms of the sort of things that we've been seeing in the Middle East recently?

WHITSON: I would describe them as among the worst, if not the worst. I think the death count in Syria now probably exceeds the death count in any other country in the region where the government has used lethal force on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.

FOSTER: But the view of experts generally seems to be that there isn't the same disdain for President Assad as there is, for example, of Colonel Gadhafi. It's not the same sort of situation. You don't have this uprising in Syria that you do in the other countries. So it's not as easy to get involved in.

WHITSON: I'm not sure, though, if that's a really scientific way of measuring that or if the view of the experts, whoever they are, is based on any scientific criteria, because, of course, there has been no way to truly poll or survey this -- the Syrian people.

I think the seriousness of the Syrian people's resistance to the government is pretty clear demonstrated in the number of Syrians who have been killed by the government, who sacrificed their lives to stand up in opposition to a government that has treated them with great indignity and brutality.

FOSTER: What are you suggesting, though?

What do you want the world to do?

Do you want them to go in there and carry out some sort of attack?

WHITSON: No. I think at minimum -- at minimum, what they should do and what the U.N. Security Council should do is pass a very strongly worded resolution making clear that they condemn the government's conduct and that the government's conduct is unacceptable to the world community, unacceptable to the leading powers of the Security Council.

At minimum, there should include a serious investigation of the Syrian government's abuses, of the torture, the arrests, the killings that have taken place and a real strong message that there will be accountability for not only the president of Syria, but those Syrian officials who are standing behind him and following out his orders to terrorize the population.

FOSTER: And just give us a bit more of a sense of the stories that you've managed to gather from within Syria.

WHITSON: From within Syria, when we were on the ground in Syria, we very much focused on the government's conduct in Daraa. The governor is aware there were such large numbers of killings at the beginning of the uprising in the country. And what we were able to document, what our evidence suggested is that the government had undertaken the systematic and deliberate policy of attacking unarmed demonstrators and attacking, beating, and in some cases, killing demonstrators that had been detained by the government.

The -- the -- the cumulative review of these practices, the widespread nature, the systematic nature of the killings in the Daraa government suggest crimes against humanity.

FOSTER: OK, Sarah Leah Whitson, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us from New York.

Well, while no concrete steps have been taken, international pressure is mounting on Syria's embattled president, Bashar al-Assad. Western powers have begun pushing for a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council, demanding an end to the violence, saying Syria's treatment of protesters may amount to crimes against humanity.

Well, still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, the casualties flood in as Gadhafi's forces launch a new offensive on rebel-held Misrata. We have a live report from Libya in just eight minutes.

Then the little blue pill gets a makeover -- why Mexicans are getting their own version of Viagra. That's coming up in 15 minutes.

But first, a roundup of stories that caught our eye today, including a medical breakthrough for a woman nearly killed by a chimpanzee. That's straight ahead.


FOSTER: I'm Max Foster in London.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

And here's a look at the stories we're following this hour.

Demonstrators have rallied in several cities across Yemen a week on from the attack that injured President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Groups of anti- government protests and supporters of the injured president both took to the streets of Sanaa and Taiz, according to witnesses. This footage apparently shot today and was posted on YouTube. But CNN can't independently verify when it was taken.

A government spokesman says President Saleh is recovering and will be returning to the country within days.

Officials in Germany say four people have died in the E. coli outbreak that spread across Europe. That brings the total death toll to 31. Nearly 3,000 people have been infected, though.

This comes as scientists say interviews with victims and other evidence confirms bean sprouts were indeed responsible for the outbreak. But they acknowledge tests have not identified how or where the sprouts were contaminated.

Three months on from the Japanese tsunami and radiation from the country's crippled nuclear plant has been found in new places. Officials have detected high levels of radiation in another four areas in Northern Japan. All lie outside the 20 kilometer evacuation zone you see there.

And authorities have admitted for the first time that leaks from the plant have also contained -- contaminated Japan's biggest tea growing area. Farmers affected have been asked to recall their products and halt shipments.

The lingering effects of the earthquake and tsunami are making life even tougher for Toyota. The car giant says it could lose more than a billion dollars in profits in the current fiscal year. Toyota is still struggling to restore production to the level it was before the disaster struck in March.

Shot by soldiers after pleading for his life, one man's final moments were caught on tape by a television cameraman in Pakistan. The victim's funeral was held on Thursday, the same day Pakistan's president ordered an investigation.

Phil Black has more.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video shows Sarfraz Shah being handled roughly. He's quickly surrounded. He's unarmed. He begs not to be shot.

"I am helpless," he cries. "Please do not fire."

Bleeding, screaming, he begs to be taken to hospital. Sarfraz Shah bled to death.

The shooting of this 17-year-old, and his funeral, have been broadcast across Pakistan's TV networks. "My son was innocent," his mother says. "They killed him."

His sister cries repeatedly, "We need our brother."

There is grief and anger here too strong for authorities to ignore. Pakistan's government has promised justice for Shah's family, while also telling the country he was accused of using a handgun to rob people in a park. Police say the gun was confiscated before he was shot.

"He could not do this," his sister cries. Her painful scream is a demand for justice.

Last month, a paramilitary force opened fire on five people in the western city of Quetta. Three women, two men, all from Chechnya, all killed. The security forces then said they were suspected suicide bombers, but none was armed. That incident is still being investigated.

(on camera): All of Pakistan's security forces have a reputation for behaving above the law. And many people here believe extrajudicial killings are common. But Pakistan's highest court has now taken charge of this case and authorities here insist the death of Sarfraz Shah will not go unpunished.

Phil Black, CNN, Islamabad.


FOSTER: In India, a popular yoga guru has been taken to hospital after a week long hunger strike. Baba Ramdev, as he's known to his fans, has been fasting against government corruption. Last Sunday, police wielding batons tried to break up his protest in Delhi, injuring 70 people. But the bearded guru responded by threatening to train an army of followers for self-defense.

Two years after she was mauled by a neighbor's enraged chimpanzee, a Connecticut woman is getting a brand new start. Charla Nash has become the third American to receive a full face transplant. In a 20 hour operation, a medical team replaced her nose, lips, skin muscles and nerves. Doctors are hopeful and they're calling Charla's surgery a success.


DR. ELOF ERIKSSON, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: I'm happy to report that the team has achieved tremendous success in providing Ms. Nash with a full face transplant, a face that her brother, Steve, has described as simply beautiful.


FOSTER: Well, if that weren't enough, doctors were also trying to give Charla a double hand transplant. But because of an infection, they were unsuccessful with that.

Well, thousands of e-mails Sarah Palin sent and received while she was governor of Alaska were released today -- 24,000 pages worth. But the former vice presidential candidate says she's not worried. The state of Alaska released the documents hours ago.

The media has been asking for these records for years now. There are still close to 2,300 pages that haven't been released.

Coming up in 60 seconds, Misrata, Libya -- a rebel fighter says simply, "It's horrible out there." And hospitals are under pressure as new battles take a deadly toll in the western city.

And later in the show, parched wheat fields and low river levels -- a story which may well come as a shock to many living in England.


FOSTER: More than 30 people have been killed in the Western Libya city of Misrata, as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi try to retake the city. According to a doctor in a local hospital, the casualty numbers today are the worst suffered in the past month.

Sara Sidner is in Misrata and joins us now live -- Sara, it's frightening to think that matters seem to be getting worse in Libya, not better.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's what's happening, though. And every Friday, there seems to be a push by Gadhafi forces. We've heard that over and over and over again from rebel fighters who are on the front line.

We went out to the western front, which is 25 to 35 kilometers outside of Misrata. And what we saw there was absolute pandemonium today at the field hospital. One after another, the patients were coming in every few minutes. And the horrific injuries that they sustained. Some of them did not survive.

At this point, we know that 31 people died and 150 people were injured. And that is on the opposition side alone.

There was massive, massive amounts of gunfire and blasts and mortars being -- going off throughout the day. It started very early this morning. We'd hear it when we woke up, all the way through the day and into the night.

Not long ago, we heard a few more blasts.

So there's a lot of fighting going on. What we understand is from those who were there on the front lines is that on two fronts, the Gadhafi forces again tried to push in with tanks and were pushed back, as they have been throughout this past couple of weeks. So the rebels are holding strong in their position, but the fighting was absolutely, according to doctors today, the worst that they've seen in a month's time -- Max.

FOSTER: And yesterday on the program, Sara, we were talking a bit about how children are often the innocent victims in these conflicts.

What's the situation there in Misrata?

SIDNER: That's certainly true here in Misrata. That, though, happened over the -- about 90 days, when the fighting was actually inside the city. And we do want to be clear that this fighting is happening on the outskirts of the city. And pretty much, the opposition has been able to hold off Gadhafi forces from trying to get back into the city center.

But, of course, the youngest among them have no way to protect themselves against the shelling that was coming into the city back a few weeks ago.


SIDNER (voice-over): Five-year-old Malak (ph) is cranky. She just woke up from an afternoon nap. "I used to be able to play and run around," she says. For Malak, life will never be the same again.

At the height of the siege of Misrata, a rocket, almost certainly fired by pro-Gadhafi forces, blasted through her mother's bedroom wall and left this massive hole. Malak, her 3-year-old brother and 1-year-old sister were asleep inside.

"My mom's room, which we were sleeping in, was damaged and it had toys," she says. The toys are still there, but her brother and sister are gone forever.

"I lifted them up one after the other. I kept praying, god, give me patience. And then I found Malak alive. But Muhammad (ph) and Ridina (ph) looked dead. One -year-old Ridina and 3 -year-old Mohammed were dead. They were wrapped in white sheets on the hospital floor, as doctors tried to save Malak.

Her left arm was broken, her left leg fractured, but the worst injury was to her right leg. It was ripped to shreds from her ankle to her thigh.

DR. AHMAD RADWAN, VASCULAR SURGEON: It was gross. It was -- it was nearly totally amputated. It's just -- it was just the skin and some muscles keeping the limb attached to the body.

SIDNER: Dr. Ahmad Radwan made the decision to amputate, but he couldn't go through with it himself.

(on camera): So this was so disturbing to you that you couldn't actually do the procedure?

RADWAN: Yes, I couldn't do it. Yes. I couldn't do it for a kid. I did it for -- for young guys and for rebels at the front line, but I couldn't do it to Malak.

SIDNER (voice-over): So he asked two other doctors to perform the amputation. They all knew that even when Malak heals, the hospital doesn't have a prosthesis that would fit a child. Dr. Ahmad is now in touch with a global medical relief fund to try to get her to a country where she can be fitted for one.

For now, this once very active little girl, who loved to play, climb, slide and giggle, is bound to a wheelchair after being bedridden in the hospital for weeks.

Though she's grown to love the staff there, she is sick and tired of living here. "I think the hospital is bad. I really want to leave," she says, frustrated.

(on camera): For the month that Malak has been in the hospital, she's been asking again and again to come to the beach. And she's finally getting her wish. But her parents and doctors and nurses have another dream for her and they are hoping that she'll be able to travel to a country that can give her the absolute best treatment possible so that Malak can run and play like she used to.


SIDNER: Now, I do want to let you know some good news in Malak's case. The doctors released her from the hospital this week. She was able to go home and sleep at home with her family for the first time in nearly a month. And so she was very happy about that. We -- we asked her exactly what she wanted now, now that she was able to go to the beach and able to go home.

And she says, I want to go to America, get my leg and get right back here to home -- Max.

FOSTER: A wonderful story, Sara.

Thank you very much, indeed.

Well, coming up next, millions of men around the world use them. We'll tell you why the next generation of Viagra tablets could be easier to swallow.

Then, it's a country that's not exactly renowned for its sunny skies, but England, would you believe, is officially in drought.


FOSTER: And is this man South Korea's answer to Susan Boyle?

We've got a week of the Web coming up.



FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. Let's check the headlines this hour.

The government crackdown in Syria may be escalating. Witnesses say security forces in helicopters showered automatic weapons fire on thousands of protesters in the northern town of Maaret al-Nouman. Activists say at least four people were killed. The violence took place after the military launched an operation in a nearby city.

Friday brought more demonstrations to Yemen, with protesters taking to the streets in several cities there. Many are calling for an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the creation of an interim transitional council.

The Libyan city of Misrata is seeing new battles between Moammar Gadhafi's forces and opposition fighters. Gadhafi's soldiers are trying to reenter the city. More than 30 people have been killed and many more are wounded.

Four more people have died in the E. coli outbreak in Germany, pushing the death above 30. And for the first time, German health authorities have found the bacteria in produce. They traced it to sprouts found in a house in the western part of the country after two people there got sick.

Nominations close on Friday for the top spot at the International Monetary Fund. Right now, there are two candidates, French finance minister Christine Lagarde and Mexico's Central Bank governor Agustin Carstens.

And those are the headlines this hour.

Thirty-five million men worldwide have reportedly popped the little blue pills though, perhaps, fewer would admit to it. Now, it's been 13 years since Viagra was first sold, but there are signs the popularity of the sexual enhancement drug could now be waning in their biggest market, which is the United States.

A new report from health care data research firm IMS Health indicates prescriptions in that country were down five percent last year.

But it's a different story south of the border in Mexico. With three million tablets sold every year, that's where the pharmaceutical company chose to launch the new chewable version of its hugely popular pill. CNN's Rafael Romo explains.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): In the land of mariachi, machismo, and tequila, talking about what happens in the bedroom has been taboo for generations, and a gamble very few ever tried.

But that attitude has been gradually changing, especially in the last 13 years since the introduction of a certain blue pill that has become very popular among Mexican men.

HUGO RESENDIZ, MEXICO CITY RESIDENT (through translator): I know a lot of people that use it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. They don't see anything wrong with it, either.

ROMO: According to Pfizer, after Brazil, Mexico is the largest consumer of Viagra in Latin America, with annual sales of roughly three million pills per year.

ADRIAN FELIPE, MEXICO CITY RESIDENT (through translator): To be honest with you, I don't have a need for that. But for those who do, I'm sure it's very important.

ROMO: The Mexican Association of Urology says 40 to 50 percent of Mexican men over the age of 40 report that they've suffered from erectile dysfunction at least once. Statistics that mirror developed countries.

ARTURO TIBO, MEXICO CITY RESIDENT (voice-over): A time will come when using the pill will become a necessity. And if it's available, I think it's a good thing.

ROMO: Doctors say the explosion of obesity in Mexico in recent years has dramatically increased the number of men with conditions associated with erectile dysfunction.

VICTOR GARCIA, UROLOGIST (through translator): To begin with, conditions such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, triglycerides, and alcohol and cigarette use are contributing to the problem.

ROMO: Viagra was first introduced in Mexico in 1998. Last March, Pfizer launched Viagra Jet in Mexico, the first country in the world in which the chewable pill is available. Jet is supposed to act faster than regular Viagra.

ROMO (on camera): Doctors say when the blue pill was first introduced in Mexico, patients were ashamed of asking questions about it and afraid of openly talking about their condition. Those cultural barriers have come down, and many now are requesting appointments to ask for the prescription. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


FOSTER: Well, let's find out a little bit more about Viagra Jet, then. Pfizer decided to develop a chewable pill because it found up to 60 percent of people were grinding tablets or opening capsules to make it easier to take. The company claims the chewable pill is faster-acting than regular Viagra. At this stage, though, it is only available in Mexico.

Pfizer's getting creative because Viagra is about to take a hit in its biggest market. The US patent is set to expire next year, meaning anyone will be able to make a generic version and sell it for less.

Next up, drought's declared in an unlikely country. It's a nation known for its gray days and long wet spells. So why are farmers and residents now facing water restrictions? Find out, right after this.


FOSTER: If you were in London today, you may, like this policeman, have had a bit of a soaking in a downpour over the city. Well, these locals also got caught out taking shelter under a rather lush tree, as you can see.

Not unusual for England, you might say. Well, you might be surprised but what we're about to tell you, because England isn't exactly known for its warm, sunny weathers. Rain clouds again dominated the skies today. So, here's the shock anyway.

It's been declared that parts of the country are in drought. The British government is holding crisis meetings, and Brits are being urged to use water wisely. This report from ITV's Richard Pallot.


RICHARD PALLOT, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Instead of the usual showers, spring brought us record levels of sunshine and, now, we and much of our land are paying the price.

In some parts of the country, less than three centimeters of rain fell in three months. The result, failing crops, lower yields and, in parts of East Anglia an official drought before summer has really started.

ADRIAN PECK, FARMER: Well, at the moment, we're predicting about 20 to 25 percent of the yield down from last year. If we get the rain, then that's where we will end up. If we don't get the rain, then the grain will shrivel up and just wither away. And therefore, the harvest will be a lot less.

PALLOT: British retailers are warning the dry conditions could lead to upward pressure on the price of your food basket, but it is farmers such as Jim Collins who will be hardest hit.

JIM COLLINS, FARMER: It is frustrating, because actually, the prices were quite high anyway, and this was a year we thought we really would do ourselves some good.

PALLOT: With reservoirs still at reasonable levels, there is no immediate implications for domestic use. However, Severn Trent are warning their eight million customers in central England they could face restrictions on the use of water unless normal levels of rainfall resume.

IAN BARKER, BRITISH ENVIRONMENT AGENCY: Across much of Britain, there's less water per person than most Mediterranean countries, so it behooves us all to use it carefully, but companies are saying that at the moment, they're not foreseeing any need for restrictions. Although, there are some concerns in the midlands, where it's been particularly dry.

CAROLINE SPELMAN, BRITISH ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY: Previous decisions made to ban hosepipes can sometimes have unintended consequences that have knock-on impacts on, for example, horticulture businesses and garden centers. So, I think the water companies will be discerning.

PALLOT: Over the next few days, many areas will have welcome showers to add to their sprinklers. But with the next month forecast to again be warmer and drier than average, the drought could yet spread significantly. Richard Pallot, ITV News.


FOSTER: Well, the drought crisis isn't just a British problem, it's a European one, actually. Large parts of the continent are suffering devastating drought conditions.

A spring drought has parched fields in France, for example. The government is spending up to $1.5 billion to help affected farmers there.

In the Netherlands, they're also suffering. Water levels in the country's rivers have fallen to a 90-year low. And over here in Germany, there are concerns the rapeseed harvest will be affected, which could force bio-diesel producers to cut outputs.

For more evidence of this big dry, though, we're going to bring in the expert. Guillermo has been looking at things from the Weather Center's perspective. Hi, Guillermo.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And actually, I'm going to put into graphics what you were saying in words, and it's quite clear.

So, here we see the monitor, that is -- it indicates where the severest of the droughts are. You see, it is in England, particularly. Britain, especially in the north, it's not that bad.

France is in worse shape. Germany's bad, also the Netherlands and, here, parts of Belarus and the Baltics are under an extreme drought. There is a severe drought in some other spots that encompasses a larger area.

But when we look at the forecast, so what we can expect and, again, focus on the countries, and France especially, hard hit. When we look at what we are going to see here in the next month, actually, France comes in at a good position, and England remains a little bit dry in here, and the Netherlands and Germany.

But in Scotland, I must say, that the situation has been much better. When we compare the rainfall in the spring, we got a lot in Scotland, 43 percent in England, and Northern Ireland also looking good.

In this case, when we compare Britain with France, then the loser is France, and Germany, too. Needless to say, on the other side, not only do we have dry conditions, but the outlook temperature-wise for the next months here in the summer is bad for the areas that also have, now, a severe drought.

So, I think that this is a player that is losing big time. Then, we have France, that is not expected to receive good amounts of precipitation. England continues to be quite dry. Scotland in good shape.

And a little bit better for Germany, because here we're going to see temperatures are going to be a little bit milder, and the same into Spain all the way to the south where, in fact, we do not have a big problem in terms of the drought.

Now, look at this time-lapse from April 1st into the 27th of May. You see how the moisture that is contained in the soil is going down, so it's not actually very moist at all. And Germany was at the beginning of the loop in much better shape, and then it turns actually quite dry.

So, again, if we focus England and France are not in very good shape when it comes to the moisture available and the forecast, especially taking into account that summer is about to start officially and we have hot conditions and dry weather up ahead. Max?

FOSTER: Guillermo, thank you for that.

ARDUINO: You're welcome.

FOSTER: Well, are we dealing with a freak event here, or is this a sign of a more troubling trend? I want to bring in, here, a prominent figure in the climate change debate, now. He is the Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg.

He's the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which aims to identify what global threats should be prioritized, and also the author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist." Bjorn is currently in Brazil for a sustainable energy conference and joins me, now, from Sao Paulo.

Thank you, as ever, for joining us, Bjorn. You basically think we're overly concerned about how important this is in the grand scheme of things, right?

BJORN LOMBORG, DIRECTOR, COPENHAGEN CONSENSUS CENTER: I mean, listen, it's definitely a problem for people who are caught in this drought. But we need to be a little concerned about the idea that we always, whenever something happens, blame it on global warming.

We call it the CNN effect because, back in the days of old, lots of bad things happened, but we just didn't see them, we didn't talk about them. Imagine if the great dust bowl had happened now. Of course, everybody would be saying, that's because of global warming.

There's a lot of variability in the system. This does not mean that our models don't tell us that we'll probably see a little more drying out as well as more water in the atmosphere.

So, it's likely that this could be an indication, but it's not something to say oh, my God, we're going to see terrible things happening in the future from global warming.

FOSTER: But perhaps you're missing a trick. Maybe there is a trend, here, which is going to be very damaging long term, and you're ignoring it at the cost of the world.

LOMBORG: I think there's another point here. I was definitely pointing out, the models are indicating that we will probably see a little more drought.

Now, it's actually hard to see, when we look at the data, if we look across the 20th century, that the wettest year was 1950 and the driest was 1947. It was not up in these years that we're talking about right now.

But also, we need to recognize, even if it is caused by global warming, if we want to help people who are suffering from drought, how do we tackle that? Not by cutting carbon emissions, but by making sure we get better reservoirs, we get better planning.

And of course, also, that we change our impacts of this agriculture, that we get more drought-resistant varieties and that we change the patterns of where we put our agricultural product -- produce.

FOSTER: It all costs money, though, doesn't it? Those are huge, expensive infrastructure projects you're talking about, and I thought your argument was that we should be focusing on other things and putting our money elsewhere.

LOMBORG: Well, certainly in Europe, we do care about being well-fed and we do care about having enough water, and the point is simply to say, if we want to have more water in a situation where we have drought, we need to have reservoirs.

It's not about cutting carbon emissions. Because even if there is a tiny link, whatever we do over the next two, three, four decades will have virtually no impact before the end of the century.

So, again, this is about spending money smartly. If you care about droughts, make sure you deal with the root problem, which is the ideas that you're lacking water and that you have problems with your agriculture.

And then also remember, and I think this is something that's left out in the conversation that, while some people are complaining, and definitely agriculture's complaining, let's remember that much of the tourism industry is actually enjoying this.

Now, this is not meant to say we shouldn't listen to the farmers, that we should just be ignoring their complaint. But it is to say there's always going to be winners and losers, and there is a tendency for us always only to hear the losers complaining.

FOSTER: Are you talking about countries where they're traditionally cold -- a bit colder in the summer, they're going to get warmer, and that's going to attract more tourists, is that what you're arguing?

LOMBORG: Well, actually, that was exactly what the European Union showed, that we were going to see more tourists, for instance, in Northern Europe.

Now, we have known for a long time that there is going to be more of a water problem in the Mediterranean as well as in the southwest US and Australia, and those are the places that you want to start thinking about putting in more reservoirs and having more drought-resistant agriculture.

But again, make sure you focus on the things that will actually work and help real people rather than first saying let's cut a few tons of CO2 at a rather high cost that will have virtually no impact even in a hundred years.

FOSTER: Bjorn Lomborg, thank you very much, indeed for joining us. I can hear the e-mails coming in already.

Still to come in tonight's show, from living on the streets to standing in the spotlight.




FOSTER: The young man being hailed as the next Susan Boyle. What does he think of that, I wonder? Coming up after this short break.


FOSTER: He's known around the world as Queen Elizabeth's other half, but today, the man who's arguably the most famous husband in the world took center stage.

Britain's Prince Phillip is celebrating his 90th birthday. He chose to mark the occasion by hosting a reception at Buckingham Palace for hearing loss charity. Hard to say whether the Duke of Edinburgh liked the gift of headphones, though. One of his often quips.

Now, the day wasn't without its British pomp and ceremony, with a 62- gun salute near Tower Bridge on the River Thames.





FOSTER: So, not quite as an elaborate an occasion as the royal wedding, then, but Prince Phillip doesn't like a lot of fuss. We take a look back, now, at the life of a prince who married the world's most famous princess.


FOSTER (voice-over): Prince Phillip doesn't want to make a fuss on his birthday, so he'll be marking it with some low-key public engagements.

Born prince of Greece in Denmark, Phillip was effectively a prince without a home or a throne. His life reads like a storybook. His family was exiled from Greece when he was a toddler. He joined the navy as a cadet at the age of 18, rose through the ranks, and served in the second World War.

It was at this time that he met the future queen and his future wife, Princess Elizabeth.

LADY MOUNTBATTEN, PRINCE PHILLIP'S COUSIN: He was very good-looking, very -- he was a naval cadet and then a naval middleman, looked very good in his uniform, and was full of life and something, but a little bit different, too. It was the usual atmosphere in which he lived.

FOSTER: The dashing prince captured the heart of the young princess, and their wedding in 1947, the first big occasion in the UK after the second World War, captured the heart of the nation.

Since that day, Phillip has become patron of some 800 organizations, including serving as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund. He's been credited with having a big impact on encouraging the royal establishment to move into the 21st century.

He's also a man well-known for offering his opinion, in some cases, offending or shocking. On a trip to Australia, he reportedly asked Aborigines, "Do you still throw spears at each other?" And he asked a female sea cadet if she worked in a strip club.

LADY MOUNTBATTEN: I think he is somebody who's always been very outspoken, very direct and, like a lot of people, maybe speaks his mind a bit too quickly without necessarily having thought about it.

FOSTER: Some of Prince Phillip's words have been quoted all over the internet by people finding them amusing. To the Paraguay dictator Alfredo Stroessner, the prince allegedly said, "It's a pleasure to be in a country that isn't ruled by its people."

During a visit to Canada, a Commonwealth country, he declared, "We don't come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves."

As for Chinese food, the prince believes that, "If it's got four legs and it's not a chair, if it's got two wings and it flies but is not an airplane, and if it swims and it's not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."

Whatever the public think of Prince Phillip, only one person's opinion really matters.

HRM QUEEN ELIZABETH II, UNITED KINGDOM: He has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years.


FOSTER: Prince Phillip is, indeed, credited with moving the royal family into the 21st century, as well, so I'm sure he'll appreciate our Week on the Web segment this week. Our Phil Han takes a look at the stories you've been clicking on.


PHIL HAN, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER: If you think you've missed anything from the social media world over the past seven days, this is the place we want to catch you up with everything, from the best viral videos to the weirdest stories out there.

But fist, let's bring you South Korea's Sung Bong Choi. He's been dubbed the next Susan Boyle.


HAN (voice-over): The 22-year-old manual worker stunned judges with this song that has more than four million hits on YouTube.

But it was his personal story that had people in tears. He told the crowd he ran away from an orphanage at the age of five and sold gum on the streets to survive.


HAN: Choi is the front-runner of Korea's Got Talent and says all he wants to do is sing.

DARREN CRISS AS BLAINE ANDERSON, "GLEE" (singing): Now every February, you'll be my valentine.

HAN: Off to another singing sensation. Many of us are familiar with the show choir The Warblers from the TV show "Glee,"

THE WARBLERS, "GLEE" (singing): No regrets, just love. We can dance --

HAN: Well, this video of mini-Warbler Kellen Sarmiento singing "Teenage Dream" has become a viral hit. More than 1.5 million people have viewed this in less than a week. Complete with dance moves and the outfit, could Kellen soon have a guest role on "Glee"? Well, we'll have to wait and see.

HAN (on camera): Nobody likes shampoo in their eyes, but imagine if you couldn't get shampoo out of your hair. Well, that's just what happened to this young kid in this unfortunate prank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, time to go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not moving!

HAN (voice-over): The prank involved pouring shampoo over and over again onto their cousin's hair. All the while, he never noticed a thing. Now, that video has become a huge hit with more than five million views.


HAN: Speaking of clean, even elephants want to cool off every once in a while, like these two baby elephants at the Houston Zoo. Baylor and Tupelo are seen flopping about in this inflatable pool, which zookeepers say only lasts about five uses.

A video game getting lots of hype on line is the new "Halo 4," which is coming out next year on Xbox. A trailer of the game was released on Monday, and already has 2.2 million hits.


And finally, the most popular video from YouTube this week is Rihanna's new song "Man Down." The Bajan-born singer ruled YouTube with 17 million hits. I'm Phil Han for CNN in London.


FOSTER: The figures are unbelievable, aren't they, the number of the hits? But next week, our Connector of the Day returns. We've got a great lineup for you, from iconic architects and Hollywood legends to a beauty queen. Lebanon-born Rima Fakih was the first Arab-American to be crowned Miss USA, and as her yearlong reign comes to an end, she talks to us about the controversy surrounding her win.


RIMA FAKIH, MISS USA 2010: Actions speak louder than words. Being able to travel internationally, do more things, volunteer, work with my platform with breast and ovarian cancer, show that exactly it doesn't matter what you are, what background you have or what religion you come from, we're all under the same sky.


FOSTER: Well, American beauty queen Rima Fakih is on the show next week. To find out more about all of your upcoming Connectors, do head to Don't forget, this the part of the show where you ask the questions, so send them in.

Now, before we go, our connection with animals in tonight's Parting Shots. Take a look at these furry little creatures. They're known as Great Hamsters of Alsace. Only a few hundred are left in a small enclave in eastern France. And now, the country's facing fines and penalties after Europe's highest court found the government has failed to do enough to protect them.

In the US, you call the case of over-protection. Trotting alongside a busy highway, a Canada goose and her goslings. It's a dangerous situation, but help is at hand. Just behind them is a police escort. Washington state troopers helped the gaggle to safety after motorists alerted the authorities.

Two lanes of traffic were closed whilst the family of geese were guided to a highway exit by not one but three cars. The operation to get the little guys cleared took around 20 minutes.

I'm Max Foster, thank you so much for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break.