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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.

Can Afghans Profit from Natural Wealth?

August 24th, 2010
03:09 PM ET
An aerial view of part of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.
An aerial view of part of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.

In the mountains of Bamyan Province, 80 miles from Kabul, the Hajigak Iron Deposit is said to be the largest known undeveloped iron ore deposit in the world.

In the mountain range stretching 15 miles there are almost 2 billion metric tons of amazingly pure iron ore.

This September, the government of Afghanistan will offer a tender for mining rights here hoping to attract international companies.

On Connect the World, at 2000 GMT, we look at the vast array of minerals Afghanistan has and a recent discovery: 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil, plus natural gas.

The Minister of Mines says it could be as much as three trillion. And only 30% of the country has been explored.

But can the Afghan government assure its people will reap the benefits the potential benefits? Or will this siphon into the hands of corrupt groups and government leaders?

Leave us all your thoughts on this subject in our comments section below and we'll feature some of them on tonight's program.

Tuesday's Connector: Andrew White

August 24th, 2010
10:49 AM ET
Canon Andrew White is your Connector of the Day..

Canon Andrew White is your Connector of the Day..

There aren’t many Anglican vicars who wear bullet-proof vests. Canon Andrew White is one of them.

Known as the "vicar of Baghdad", he works at Saint George’s - the only Anglican Church in Iraq.

In the past, the building and the clinic next door has come under attack. But despite the tough working conditions, Canon White says there's nowhere he'd rather be.

White, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is also the chief executive of the foundation for relief and reconciliation in the Middle East –an organization which aims to bring together political and religious leaders in the region.

Recently, he brought a group of Iraqi children back to the UK with him for a holiday.

A man who many admire, Canon Andrew White is dedicated to uniting people of different faiths.

Want to know how he feels about the current situation in Iraq or about his life living in Baghdad? Here's your chance to quiz Andrew White. Leave your questions below and be sure to include where you're writing from.

India's Forced Labor

August 23rd, 2010
07:43 PM ET
Many villagers, like these rolling tobacco in to beedis (South-Asian cigarette), have no choice but to work for the owner of the land where they live.
Many villagers, like these rolling tobacco in to beedis (South-Asian cigarette), have no choice but to work for the owner of the land where they live.

By Siddharth Kara;  Special Contributor & Human Trafficking Expert

Kolkata, India: I have spent the last two weeks transecting north India, from Rajasthan to West Bengal, gathering data relating to numerous forms of labour exploitation in numerous industries, from beedis to rice, to carpets and bricks.

One of the forms of bonded labour I researched for the first time during this trip was stone crushing in Haryana. Try to imagine lifting an 18 kg metal hammer over your head, then flailing it down with all your strength into hard stone.

Now try to imagine doing this in 40 C heat, with minimal food and water, twelve to fourteen hours a day, for a wage of $0.02 per square foot of stone you manage to crush. Finally, imagine you may receive half this wage now and then, or half of it may be deducted for debt repayment.

I tried this work for ten minutes and could barely lift the hammer over my head. I was drenched in sweat and felt breathless with exhaustion. With each crashing blow, I thought my shoulders would pop out of their sockets.

This man shows me how he breaks rocks with an 18-kg hammer in 40C heat for $0.02 per square foot of crushed stone.

This man shows me how he breaks rocks with an 18-kg hammer in 40C heat for $0.02 per square foot of crushed stone.

Thousands of men like “Sameer” are involved in this work throughout India, and many of them work in slave-like conditions. This, despite the fact that the first Supreme Court victory in India against this type of exploitation all the way back in 1983 involved a claim by bonded labouers who were crushing stones, in a quarry in Haryana.

I asked Sameer if he were ever injured doing this work. He offered a wry smile as he pointed to scars and gashes all over his legs, feet, and hands. Frail and grizzled, Sameer was forty-two years old, and had been crushing stones since the age of twenty.

Beedi rolling is another industry I explored for the first time during this trip. In West Bengal, entire villages are caught in forced labour in the beedi rolling industry.

In one village about three hours north of Kolkata, I met several villagers who showed me how they roll upwards of one thousand beedis per day. Contorted fingers and respiratory ailments from incessant tobacco inhalation are just a few of the maladies that plague these people.

“Amina” was five years old when she started rolling beedis. She is now twenty-two. Her grandmother still rolls beedis. The villagers have no choice because the landowner’s agents bring the dried kendu leaves and tobacco each week, and they know how to make sure the villagers roll the beedis.

Forced labor can easily give rise to human trafficking, where people like Amina who are desperate for better wage-earning work succumb to offers from traffickers for better jobs in big cities.

Throughout rural West Bengal, I met numerous young girls who fell prey to offers for domestic work in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. They ended up working for well-to-do families around the clock, and after several months they were paid perhaps ten or twenty percent of the promised wages. Eventually, they are returned home, where they are just as desperate as before.

I asked one such girl, “Khadija”, if she would ever take such an offer again.

“Yes,” she replied, “There is no other work for me. What choice do I have?”

The absence of alternative is a deeply underestimated force of coercion for countless victims of human trafficking and forced labour across India, South Asia, and beyond.

It is a complex matter involving extreme poverty, socio-economic disenfranchisement, bias against minorities and females, lawlessness and corruption, government apathy, and many other factors that consign millions like Sameer and Amina to lives of slave-like exploitation.

These people spend their painful years quietly tucked away behind the shadows of the globalized supply chains that provide low-cost materials to producers, and cheap end producers to you and me.

We want to know what you think. What form does human trafficking take where you live? What do you think needs to be done to stop this practice? We'll be putting your questions and comments to Siddharth Kara each week.

Was it right to free al Megrahi?

August 20th, 2010
10:30 AM ET
Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Pan Am 103 bombing 1988  boards a plane in  Scotland to make his final trip home Libya,  Thursday August 20,  2009.

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Pan Am 103 bombing 1988 boards a plane in Scotland to make his final trip home Libya, Thursday August 20, 2009.

Abdel Baset al Megrahi is the only person convicted for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In 2001 a special Scottish court in the Netherlands ordered al Megrahi to serve 27 years in jail, but one year ago today Scotland's government freed him because he’s suffering from prostate cancer and was apparently in the last months of his life.

The British government urged Libya on Friday not to celebrate the anniversary of the convicted Lockerbie bomber's release, saying it would be "offensive and deeply insensitive to the victims' families." Last year at this time, al Megrahi returned to Libya greeted by celebrating crowds.

Tonight on Connect the World we look at the effects this story has had from Scotland to the U.S. to England and Libya, and we ask you: Was it right to free al Megrahi? Should society allow convicts to go free at the end if they suffer illnesses? Does the fact al Megrahi is still alive change your opinion from what when he was freed last year?

Leave us all your thoughts on this subject in our comments section below and we'll feature some of them on tonight's program.

Future Connector – Herbert Nitsch

August 20th, 2010
09:21 AM ET
Herbert Nitsch is your Connector of the Day.

Herbert Nitsch is your Connector of the Day.

He’s known as the 'deepest man on earth'. Austrian Herbert Nitsch is the undisputed freediving world record champion, an extreme sport where competitors plunge into the depths on only one breath without any scuba diving equipment. He took the title in 2007, diving down to a record depth of 700 feet off the Greek island of Spetses.

His record-breaking career started with a fluke when, in 1999, Nitsch lost his diving equipment on the way to a scuba dive safari. That forced him to take up snorkeling instead, and he quickly discovered his natural talent for freediving.

His progress was rapid: a few weeks later, he was only two meters short of the Austrian national record. And just two years later he set his first world record.

Since 2001, Nitsch has set 31 worlds in all eight official disciplines recognized by the International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA), the ultimate freediving authority in the world. The self-taught freediver puts in a meticulous amount of planning before every dive. He can even hold his breath for a staggering nine minutes.

But his biggest test is still to come. In November this year Nitsch will attempt to break his own world record, as he tries to reach a depth of 1000 feet. He’ll do it on only one breath, shrinking his lungs to the size of a tennis ball.

When he’s not diving deep, he’s flying high, working part-time as a pilot for Austrian Airlines.

Here’s your chance to ask Herbert Nitsch your questions. Write in and don’t forget to let us know your name, and where you’re writing from.

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