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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.

Monday's Connector: Jennifer Hudson

March 31st, 2010
01:20 PM ET

Jennifer Hudson is a relative newcomer to the film and music world, but the American has already won an Academy and Grammy Award.

What do you want to ask Jennifer Hudson.
What do you want to ask Jennifer Hudson.

The 28-year-old first got her big break as a contestant on the reality television series, "American Idol".

Although Hudson was booted off in the middle of the series, she continued to pursue her acting and music career and in the winter of 2005 she was selected to play the role of Effie in the film adaptation of "Dreamgirls".

She starred alongside well known actors and singers Beyonce and Jaime Foxx.

Hudson, who sang all her own songs, was celebrated for her performance and subsequently won nearly every major acting award that year.

On February 25, 2007, Hudson won the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

The actress has also starred in other films including "Sex and the City and "The Secret Life of Bees."

And now she's teaming up with weight-watchers to promote her new health program.

Here's your chance to ask Jennifer Hudson your question.

Do you want to know if she prefers music or acting? Maybe you want to know who has been her favorite person to work with?

Please leave your questions below and be sure to tell us where you're writing from.

Should bullying be prosecuted?

March 31st, 2010
11:20 AM ET

More students have been removed from a Massachusetts school in the investigation of a purported bullying campaign against a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide, a school official said Tuesday.

Phoebe Prince was a victim of bullying.
Phoebe Prince was a victim of bullying.

Nine students at the school have been charged in what a prosecutor described Monday as a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of Phoebe Prince.

"We have taken disciplinary action with an additional small group of students and they have been removed from the high school," Christine Sweklo, assistant superintendent of South Hadley, Massachusetts, public schools said Tuesday in a news release.

She did not provide details on the number of students, their identities or what involvement they might have had in events leading up to the suicide.

Prince's body was found hanging in the stairway leading to her family's second-floor apartment in South Hadley, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel said Monday in announcing charges against nine students.

"It appears that Phoebe's death on January 14 followed a torturous day for her when she was subjected to verbal harassment and physical abuse," she said.

But that day's events were not isolated; they "were the culmination of a nearly three-month campaign of verbally abusive, assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm toward Phoebe on school grounds by several South Hadley students," Scheibel said.

We want to know what you think.

Is bullying a crime? Should it be prosecuted?

Please leave your comments below and remember to leave where you're writing from.

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Filed under:  General

Should video games be restricted?

March 30th, 2010
12:26 PM ET

From a keyboard in Japan to a gamer in Britain, ideas and images are no longer contained by geography in our borderless cyber-world.

Videogames like RapeLay are popular in Japan.
Videogames like RapeLay are popular in Japan.

One only needs to look at the controversy surrounding the video game RapeLay to see how content once contained to a country can outrage activists in another.

The plot lines in the video game RapeLay are not unusual for a gaming genre in Japan called hentai. You can choose your storyline in RapeLay: molest a fellow passenger on mass transit, rape a woman and her two daughters, and convince the victim to get an abortion, or risk being pushed in front of a speeding train.

Learn more about the outrcy Rapelay has created

Lucy Kibble, who downloaded the game in Britain, compares playing the rape-simulation video game to watching a movie that depicts murder or reading a book that details abuse.

“It’s pixels on a screen,” she said. “You don’t have to have those feelings of guilt because the things that you do in a game is stuff you could never do in real life. It’s escapism. That’s why people play it.”

But Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of Equality Now, said other comparisons were more apt: “Let’s say that the player would target African-Americans to lynch and rape and torture… or the player can target Jews, for instance. There would be international outrage.”

The harm, she said, was when these games “promote and normalize sexual violence, and the perpetuation of gender stereotypes of women and girls that lead to violence and discrimination.”

RapeLay has been around for awhile, and the controversy that follows its availability is not new. At the core of the issue seems to be disagreement over the harm that the production, sale, and consumption of various forms of pornography causes women, and the debate around this question has never been more timely.

Just last week, Iceland voted to ban all strip clubs within its borders. Kolbrun Halldorsdottir, the politician who reportedly first proposed the ban, was quoted as saying "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold."

Meanwhile, in China, one of the country’s most prominent women’s rights advocates, Li Yinhe, recently penned a blog post proposing the abolition of the Chinese law making the consumption of “obscene goods” a crime. She argued that such a law violates Chinese citizens’ constitutionally-protected right to freedom of speech, as “obscene goods are the product of human imagination.”

Lucy’s boyfriend, Jim Gardner, said: “I don’t think putting tighter restrictions on the kind of material on what we see in other countries is going to change the fact that there are people like that. There’s a positive side to all the content, media coming out of other countries.”

And where countries have settled for themselves how free speech rights stack up against obscenity laws, the border-less domain of the Internet remains almost unencumbered in its ability to transmit through and around the barriers that national borders seek to build.

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Filed under:  General

Former priest: Clergy should have right to marry

March 29th, 2010
05:36 PM ET

Ed Gerlock has been calling the Philippines his home since he moved there from the United States in 1962 - it was the same year he was ordained.

Ed and Ching Gerlock married in 1981.
Ed and Ching Gerlock married in 1981.

The 74-year-old joined the priesthood to initially get an education. It was also a vocation that allowed him to travel overseas.

He spent many years working with the country’s poor and farmers, learning about a life outside the seminary.

It was during this time he met a beautiful Filipino social researcher called Ching. There was an instant attraction, but it was also forbidden. Their friendship grew and so did their love. It took 13 years before Ed would break his vows to the Church and leave the priesthood.

“This lady and I became close friends”, remembers Gerlock. “When I was working in Parish I was thinking to myself… I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I genuinely love this lady… in a sense she saved my life”.

They married on May 31, 1981 at a home for leprosy patients in Hawaii. Ching says it was one of the happiest days of her life. Two years later she gave birth to a baby girl they named Alay – which means “a gift”.

Ching says her husband has never turned his back on the church. In fact he still works for those less fortunate and down trodden… caring for the elderly who have no assistance and providing them with services.

She says he may not be able to give mass or wear the cloth of the church, but everywhere they go people still call him Father because of the charitable work he still does.

Their daughter Alay is a guidance counselor. She’s very close to her father and defends his actions 28 years ago. “Most people would say your father took a vow and broke the the vow. But he’s a person, he made a choice and I can’t refute his choice or I wouldn’t be here”.

Gerlock is very progressive and liberal in his views when he talks about the Church and the scandals it’s currently facing. He believes that marriage would be beneficial for priests and that the clergy should at least be given the option of having a marital life.

“When I go to Church and listen to priests talk about reproductive health, marriage and children, I think… what does he know? There are some things in marriage that you would find difficult to talk about and here’s this guy, standing there blandly talking about something he knows nothing about”.

Gerlock doesn’t only believe priests should be married. He also supports gay and women priests; something he knows won’t be happening in the Catholic Church anytime soon. Regardless, he believes reform is essential, if the Church is to repair its battered image.

“It’s going to be a very painful transition I’m afraid”, he admits. “I mean because people are so hard line within the Church. You have to go backwards and say how did this happen – like all the cases of sex abuse that are now coming out. How can we prevent this from ever happening again and what’s our obligation to these children … all those questions are not being address.”

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Filed under:  General

Wednesday's Connector: Carrie Underwood

March 29th, 2010
11:51 AM ET

Carrie Underwood was the fourth winner of the singing series "American Idol" and more than five years later, the country singer is still selling millions of records and performing at sold-out shows.

What do you want to ask Carrie Underwood?
What do you want to ask Carrie Underwood?

The 27-year-old American is one of those rare reality show winners that has been able to make it big - she's a multi-platinum selling recording artist and a Grammy winner.

Her first album "Some Heart" was the fastest selling debut country album in history and was certified platinum an astounding seven times.

Some of her hit songs from the album include "Jesus, Take the Wheel," "Wasted" and "Before the Charts".

Underwood's second album, "Carnival Ride" was another huge hit - selling more than three million albums worldwide.

In November 2009, Underwood released her third album titled "Play On".

From humble beginnings to one of country music's most popular artists - Carrie Underwood is your Connector of the Day.

What would you ask country singer Carrie Underwood?

Do you want to know what life is like five years after American Idol? Does she have any regrets? Does country music have a place outside the United States?

Please leave your comments and questions below and be sure to include where you're writing from.

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