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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Separating Fact from Fiction – The Propaganda War in Sri Lanka?

May 14th, 2009
06:02 PM ET

Here are the latest stats on CNN’s I-Desk Poll from Monday on Sri Lanka. It asked: “Should the international community intervene in Sri Lanka?” As of this writing, 1,329,016 votes have been cast (77% say yes – 23% say no). Only one vote can be cast per computer.

There is no doubt that this story has touched a raw nerve. And to be honest so it should. It’s too late to warn of civilian slaughter. The predicted bloodbath in Sri Lanka is a reality. According to the UN’s estimate, over 8,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting since January 20th.And some 80,000 have been killed since the war began over a quarter of a century ago. Add to those grim numbers the hundreds of thousands of innocent people caught up in the crossfire; tired, homeless and ill, and it’s clear something more must be done.

Behind the Numbers…

Three quarters of those who participated in the CNN poll agreed that “the international community should intervene” (whatever that means these days). Analyzing the responses, you get a clearer picture of where much of the support is coming from:

athirvu.com
facebook.com
ibctamil.net
mail.google.com
mail.yahoo.com
pathivu.com
sankathi.com
tamilnaatham.com
tamilskynews.com
tamilwin.org

Some, though not all, of these are Tamil-supportive sites. I’m not suggesting that discredits the poll, but it is important to point it out. Why? Well, because there’s a propaganda fight going on here – a fight which is doing the innocent victims, dealing with the reality of life on the ground, no real good at all.

Tonight, we’ll be asking: what role does propaganda play? And what about the innocent victims…?

It is nigh on impossible to do any first-hand reporting in the conflict zone which means it is almost impossible to get a real sense of what is going on. There has been much written on the fact that the Tamil Tigers early on recognized the power of influencing public perceptions, and have only improved during the 25-year war, using their own reporters, cameramen, video and websites to publicize their cause. It’s also well documented that since the current government came to power in 2005, it has taken the propaganda war right back to the LTTE. Reuters today reports that: “The defence ministry's http://www.defense.lk website is one of the islands most popular and draws a third of its viewers from outside the country. It publishes video and images from the battlefield, government statements, and pro-government news stories culled from across the world. Each page has a Facebook posting link. The government also has state-controlled TV, radio and newspapers, and a phalanx of spokesmen.”

Join us at 9pet for Connect the World with this story tonight. Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN will be joining us.

Our lead, though, is about White Phosphorus and the use of the deadly incendiary agent in war. Help us make the connections that count on this story – what are your thoughts? No matter where you live or what you do, email us at connecttheworld@cnn.com; twitter us, send us a blog.

See you there.

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The Trauma That Will Last A Lifetime

May 13th, 2009
07:51 PM ET

The show tonight leads with a report from our man in Islamabad – Reza Sayah.

Here's a taster: "At a hospital in North-western Pakistan, the sounds of agony that come with war. Behind each cry, a story of pain and loss. Doctors say no-one there has lost more than Shaista, an 11 year-old girl who watched as an explosion instantly killed much of her family. Shaista and her family were among thousands who fled Pakistan's Swat Valley on the day the army launched an all-out offensive against the Taliban. Doctors say she was walking along a road with her mother, her two sisters and brother when a mortar shell suddenly fell from the sky."

Also on the show, as millions of students worldwide get ready to graduate, we look at the prospects for their futures. I remember it being tough enough when I graduated back in 1990 – and then times were pretty good in the job market. Right now, graduates are entering one of the worst recessionary environments for a century. Reports tonight from Richard Roth, who attended a huge graduation ceremony in New York City, and we visit Baghdad's Mustansiryah University to talk to students there. Is the recession a top concern for them? Or are money worries overshadowed by the need to simply stay alive?

Tomorrow, we'll be taking a look at the latest report from the Pentagon suggesting Taliban fighters have been using deadly white phosphorus munitions – some of them manufactured in Britain – to attack Western forces in Afghanistan. We'll be in Washington connecting you to the story from there and we'll get you the Kabul connection with Our Man on the Ground, Stan Grant. And, leaving aside the allegations as to whether either the Taliban, or the indeed the U.S. army, has used white phosphorous munitions recently: we ask who manufactures these munitions, what is the market for white phosphorus and why?
We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and connections on these and all our stories.

Becky.

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War and Stress

May 12th, 2009
09:40 PM ET

During World War I, they called it Shell Shock. In World War II, it was Battle Fatigue. These days we call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – and today a shooting spree at a "stress clinic" on a military base in Baghdad makes the top of the show as we ask: what do we know about the incident in which an Army sergeant is accused of murdering five fellow troops? And what is the U.S. army doing to reduce the stigma of combat stress, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and how is it encouraging soldiers to seek treatment? Our connections take us from Baghdad to Washington for the personal story of how one soldier has coped and then to London for the consequences for soliders returning from battle zones... and those who don't. Do you know anyone with PTSD? How would you better Connect the World to a story that resonates throughout communities all over the world who deal with the blowback of combat stress as war veterans return home....

Join us at 10pm GMT!


Filed under:  General

Loyalties – what Loyalties?

May 8th, 2009
03:53 PM ET

Tonight: the very real consequence of this week's "get tough" message from Washington. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, a million people have been affected by the offensive in Swat; 200,000 have fled the battlezone; 300,000 are on the move or about to go; and some 550,000 have been displaced by earlier fighting in the tribal belt and across the province. That's a million men women and children whose lives have been thrown into turmoil - or far worse - by the fighting. To steal a line from Paula Newton, one of our brilliant reporters here at CNN: "...if you want a glimpse of the battle raging in the Swat Valley…look no further than the dusty roads of Musa Kala in Southern Afghanistan. For years it's been a pawn between NATO and the Taliban…Civilians there never know who to back. A few years ago British soldiers came in…but then left them...once again to the mercy of the Taliban. Loyalty here shifts on a dime because survival depends on it." (Paula's full report on the show tonight). We'll explore who's backing who, and why - tonight.

The Pope's on the move – and we're on the move with him. We'll look at the state of Catholicism around the world and the connections that bind people through religion.

And - They are some of the most rabidly recognizable fans anywhere in the world - 'trekkies' - devotees of the 'Star Trek' series and the many movies and other series it spawned. For them, the future begins today. I know, I know, seen the movie, bought the t-shirt. The wait is ending for trekkies around the world with the release of the latest film release Friday. And even if - like me - you frankly don't get what the big deal is, let me tell you, your life is actually influenced the ideas the original series introduced.

Just a taste of the show tonight.

Lot's of connections – don't be late

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Becky's Briefing: On the 'Af-Pak' strategy

May 6th, 2009
05:25 PM ET

Well I hate to say it but on hindsight Mr Obama, I think you know you got your strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan wrong. The high profile strategy of driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan by littering the country in the months to come with U-S troops is backfiring in exactly the way many said it would. Pushing the Taliban into Pakistan was always asking for trouble. And the evidence is clear on the ground. The war in the Swat valley in Pakistan now threatens to make refugees of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Add to that news today that US forces are accused of killing up to 100 civilians in an air attack close by in Afghanistan, and the picture is looking decidedly dodgy.

The story tonight is in Washington where Barack Obama is meeting the presidents of both Afghanistan and Pakistan in Washington. But the connections are squarely based not just in Kabul and in Islamabad, but across the region between the two countries where the war is now being fought.

Washington needs an Af-Pak strategy 2.0 and it needs it fast. The re-election of Karzai is but a forgone concluson (and to be honest, at this point, that's probably not a bad idea). What Washington needs to re-evaluate is its relationship with the administration in Islamabad. Zardari is the man with the talking stick at the moment. But for how long? In private we hear the U.S. administration is talking to Riyadh. New CONNECTION? In deferring to the Saudis for advice, are they not, by default, deferring to Zardari's nemesis and rival, Nawaz Sharif? We live in interesting times. The connections are fascinating; the outcome unsure.

What is clear in all of this is that the security of not just the region, but the world is at stake.

Your thoughts and connections? Where else should we go in better connecting the world on this story?

Tune in at 9pm BST - don't be late!i

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