Return to Transcripts main page


RNC to Hold Convention in June 2016; Atlanta Mayor Travels to Davos World Economic Forum; Ukraine Police Tell Protesters They Won't Be Prosecuted if They Clear Out Now; Ukraine Police Accused of Torture; Rat-infested Ghost Ship

Aired January 24, 2014 - 12:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Following a major development at the Republican National Committee meeting; they are going to hold their 2016 presidential nominating convention in June, much earlier than usual.

This vote happened just a couple minutes ago. Want to bring in our Wolf Blitzer from Washington.

Wolf, this really is all about preventing a drawn-out primary fight, which we saw the last time, to allow the candidate here essentially to dip into those general funds.

Give us a sense of why this is important.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's very important, and you've got to give the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, a lot of credit.

They did what they call their "autopsy," their sort of postmortem a year ago, what went wrong? Why did Mitt Romney lose to Barack Obama in 2012? They did a whole postmortem.

One of the things, they thought the whole Republican contest, caucuses and primaries went on for way too long, way too many debates. They wanted to concentrate all of that within a relatively short period of time.

Now they're going to have the first four contests in February. They'll wrap everything up by May. They'll get ready for the convention in June. So they won't be able to beat up on the front-runner, if you will, as much.

And they're hoping that once there is a nominee at the end of June or the middle of June, whenever their convention is, then they'll be able to start using all that general election fundraising money to go after the Democrats.

So it's a significant development, and I give the Republican Party some credit for putting that together. That's what he said he wanted to do, and today, he did it.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Absolutely. It's going to change the game, certainly the money game.

One of the things that they are trying to do, of course, is address the issues concerning women, and it's been quite a debate.

We have seen Mike Huckabee over the last 24 hours making quite a bit of news over some comments that he made, his argument against mandated birth control coverage.

Here's how he put it.


MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: The Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.


MALVEAUX: All right. Uncle Sugar and libido, some of the things that certainly are trending when he made those comments, a lot of people debating whether or not that was very helpful.

The RNC chair also weighed in, talking about watching your words. Here's how he responded.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: But our example matters.

I've said many times before that the policies and principles of this party are sound. However, as we look to grow the ranks of our party, we must all be very conscience of tone and choice of words when we communicate those policies effectively.

We should set the standard. We should set the standard for future RNCs, and also set an example for other Republicans.


MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, he says it's tone. Tone matters as much as the words do, as well.

Do the Republicans you've been talking to, do they see there is a problem when it comes to being disciplined in the message?

BLITZER: Well, they know there is a problem, because they look at the results of the 2012 presidential election and Barack Obama did so much better with women voters than Mitt Romney did. They know they have a serious problem there. They're trying to reach out to not only women voters, but minorities, Hispanics, African-Americans. They're trying to reach out to young people.

And Reince Priebus is 100 percent right. You've got to have a good tone. You've got to discuss these issues in a way that some of those groups that have been alienated from the Republicans and national presidential contests might be more open to.

And I think he's right on that. You've got to discuss it in ways that some of these -- some of these groups who have been disenchanted, let's say, by Republicans, may be willing to come back.

They've got a shot this year in 2014 to do really well in the midterm congressional elections. They probably will retain the majority in the House. They've got a shot of even taking the majority back in the Senate. Let's see how they do.

But presidential contests are different. We'll see what happens then. But they've got to change their tone. Reince Priebus is right on this.

MALVEAUX: All right, Wolf Blitzer, good to see you, Wolf, as always.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: We are talking about a stunning figure. It is still the talk of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The charity group, Oxfam found that 85 of the world's richest people control the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3 billion people, amazing statistic.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, he is among the movers and shakers, one of the movers and shakers, talking about tackling that kind of inequality here, joining us live from Davos.

And, Mayor Reed, first of all, you've been in six sessions already. Is this what people are trying to address?

Have you heard people actually looking at that figure and going, what the heck! How do we change this?

MAYOR KASIM REED, ATLANTA, GEORGIA: There's no question about it. It has been a part of every conversation that I've been in.

There's been a huge focus on youth unemployment, which also goes to that issue, Suzanne, and really some of the leading business leaders in the world are focused on certainly the youth unemployment, which leads to income inequality, and we have 75 million young people between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, who are under-employed or unemployed.

And we have had multiple detailed conversations, led by Atlanta's own Muhtar Kent, in how the world should seek to address these things. I think it's been a good conversation. MALVEAUX: And, Mayor, you are one of about nine U.S. mayors invited to Davos. There are also the mayors of London and Calgary who are there, as well, pretty rare invite there.

REED: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Give us a sense of what you hope specifically to bring back to Atlanta, the city of Atlanta. What are people getting for their money, for this trip?

REED: Well, first of all, you're having detailed-specific conversations about major problems facing cities.

And. Suzanne, we're also making the case that cities are where the action is. In the United States, more than 70 percent of the GDP occurs in cities, and we're getting things done in cities.

So what we've been saying to CEOs around the world, that if you don't want to spend your whole life changing the world, you should start dealing directly with mayors more. That's been the case that I've made directly.

The city of Atlanta, in terms of what I hope to bring back, is one of 30 leading cities in the world for foreign direct investment. We're one of the 10 leading cities in the United States for foreign direct investment.

So this is the place for me to be to continue to make the case that Atlanta is where businesses should invest, because at the end of the day, I want to bring jobs back home.

MALVEAUX: And, Atlanta, we should point out to the audience here, it's the world's -- home to the world's busiest airport and one of the world's biggest companies, best-known brands, Coca-Cola, as well.

REED: Yes.

MALVEAUX: You went with a Coke executive here. Clearly, are there things you're learning from other leaders around the world about what needs to happen to change the inequality, the imbalance that we see in terms of the poor and the rich?

REED: Yes. The social fabric not only in the United States, but globally, is being put at risk, because of the high unemployment that you're seeing in Europe, in the Middle East, in Africa and increasingly in the United States of America.

And what I am hearing and seeing, both in the forums and in private dinner meetings, is that the world's wealthiest and most influential people are getting that, so the real question is, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to move from, one, accepting the notion that we have got to put more people to work, certainly young people?

We have teen unemployment in some parts of the world as high as 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent. We also have countries that are going to have majority youth populations, Suzanne, where the young people aren't trained -


REED: -- and ready to go to work.

So we've got to be prepared to do something about that. That's been what we have been talking about.

MALVEAUX: All right.

And I know there's sidebars with -- there's some celebrities floating around. Have you happened to see Mary J. Blige or Bono?

REED: No, I didn't see Mary Blige or Bono, but I did see Richard Branson from Virgin Airlines. He was a pretty big celebrity the other night. And then -- it was just -- there's been so many people, I can't even start.

MALVEAUX: All right. Hobnobbing with the big ones, the movers and shakers.

Thank you, Mayor Reed, appreciate your time, as always.

REED: All right. I'll be home, soon.


Senator Marco Rubio, he is in South Korea today. The Florida Republican met U.S. and south Korean troops at the DMZ. He also spoke at a forum in Seoul, where he said he wants to see the U.S. military presence increased in South Korea. Rubio pointed to concerns from unpredictable North Korea, which he calls a rogue and murderous regime.

Also in the Korean Peninsula today, an olive branch extended from Pyongyang, the North Korean government sent a letter to South Korea, promising to create an atmosphere in which families separated since the Korean War might be reunited.

That is significant. Cautious South Korean officials say they want to see action, not just words, from North Korea.

And street fighting in Ukraine getting a little bit quieter today, thank goodness, because protesters are giving the politicians a chance to talk out a possible solution.

But some people now say they have seen torture and horrific abuse from riot police. There is video to back up their claims. That, up next.


MALVEAUX: Police in Ukraine are telling protesters, if they clear out and go home, they will not be prosecuted.

It is now quieter, but still a mess in Kiev today after many days of fighting between riot police and protesters who are angry at the government for making a trade deal with Russia.

Now, the opposition wants the president of Ukraine to resign and call early elections.

Today, something new, allegations that riot police are beating and torturing protesters.

Our Diana Magnay is in Kiev.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The charred carcasses of police vehicles exposed to the elements, weirdly beautiful in these bitter temperatures.

Not long ago, this whole area was burning. Now it is the site of a frozen standoff with the protesters behind those burned out vehicles and the police here.

But we're hearing of some very real ugliness that took place behind police lines.

This video, posted on YouTube, must have been shot just meters up the road. A man stands naked, or not quite. He's been allowed to keep his shoes on.

A policeman takes a photo. He's kicked as he gets into the van.

Ukraine's interior ministry has issued an apology for the behavior of those involved in this video which has circulated widely on Ukrainian media. It says it's investigating the incident.

But the reports of abuse in police custody don't end there. Wihlon Nescohos (ph) says he was tortured after he was seized by Bekot (ph) riot police.

"They beat me on my legs and ankles," he says. "They sprayed my whole body with pepper spray and made me lie naked and sing the national anthem. They stripped me and took me through a live corridor of around 40 or 50 riot police and each one of them beat me."

Nescohos' arm was broken and he was stabbed in the thigh. After all this, he's remarkably composed for a boy of just 17.

In an interview in Davos with CNN's Richard Quest, Ukraine's prime minister would not be drawn on Nescohos' this case.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR, CORRESPONDENT: A 17-year-old Ukrainian claims taking pictures of the protest, police detained him, broke his leg, stabbed him in the leg, removed his clothes and badly beat him. Now faces multi years in prison because of the new anti-protest laws. Are you prepared to deal with that side of the equation?

MYKOLA AZAROV, UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The law enforcement officers were given instructions and orders to act within the legislation and not to use any kind of weapon. They do not have firearms with them. And those preliminary reactions, which they have to take when someone is trying, for example, to capture government buildings and institutions. All those measures are not just anological (ph) to those used in all the European states.

MAGNAY: But these demonstrators are unlikely to be satisfied with an answer like that, as this young man prepares for a series of detention hearings to see whether he'll be jailed for taking part in these protests.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Kiev.


MALVEAUX: Conservationists say it is a major move against the illegal ivory trade and the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. Hong Kong now is planning to destroy about 28 tons of confiscated ivory. Officials plan to incinerate it within the next couple of years. Most of it was seized as traffickers took it to mainland China. An animal welfare group says China accounts for about 70 percent of the ivory market.

And the Syrian peace talks look set to fail, but now we are just getting word that government and rebel leaders will talk face-to-face. A live report from Switzerland straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That is a warning coming once again from Secretary of State John Kerry.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Because of the extraordinary havoc that he has reaped on his own country, on his own people, a man who has killed university students and doctors with scud missiles, a man who has gassed his own people in the dead of night, families sleeping, women, children, grandparents, a man who has unleashed extraordinary force of artillery and barrel bombs against civilians, against the laws of warfare. Assad will never have or be able to earn back the legitimacy to bring that country back together.


MALVEAUX: Kerry was speaking this time at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is attending the conference after participating in Syrian peace negotiations that happened earlier this week. Well, those talks started off with very bitter statement from both sides in the conflict. At one point, it appeared that the talks would fail. But we are getting word, just now, that Syrian officials and rebel leaders are going to meet face-to-face. Want to bring in our Nic Robertson, who's joining us from those talks in Geneva.

Nic, how did they work it out?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's not clear, Suzanne. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative, who's mediating with both sides, met separately yesterday and today with both opposition and government delegations. But, you know, both these delegations have been briefing on the side that they wouldn't go face-to-face.

They wouldn't get in the room with the other side unless certain conditions were met. And even Syria's foreign minister had said that they would walk away from the talks if they didn't have face-to-face meetings Saturday.

Now, Lakhdar Brahimi says those meetings are on. They'll meet Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon. They'll meet Sunday, as well. He said no one right now is leaving the talks. For him, that is an indication that he is at least getting this off to a slightly more hopeful start. And as you say, people have been expecting.


MALVEAUX: Well, that's good. They're going to meet face-to-face, finally. We just heard from Secretary of State John Kerry again saying that Bashar al-Assad must go. Is that the issue now that these two sides are grappling with? Is that the one sticking point, whether or not the Syrian president will have any kind of role in an interim government?

ROBERTSON: That's certainly a major issue for the opposition. They said that they wouldn't have these meetings until they heard from the Syrian government side that that wasn't going to be the case. We don't know what's been said privately. But that's still a big issue.

But everything is an issue here. They're so far apart, you know, on every issue. The government says that terrorism is the -- the opposition, they're terrorists. The opposition say the government is working with al Qaeda inside Syria right now.

And, look, one of the things they want to talk about here is getting more humanitarian aid into the country, which will require cease fires either limited in area over time, whatever. But as Lakhdar Brahimi says, they recognize that the people sitting at the table don't necessarily at all control the fighters on the ground. So even what they say at the table, can they even translate that to the ground. So there are so many issues, differences of opinion, one thing, and making what they say impact on the ground a wholly different thing again, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Well, Nic, I mean, at least they're meeting face-to- face. They will be meeting over the weekend. We'll see how that goes. Got to keep them at least at the table talking to one another to try to sort out all of those issues.

Nic, thanks. We appreciate it, as always.

Coming up next, oh, rats. We are talking about rats. People in Britain should be on the lookout for a very large ship drifting their way loaded with very creepy cargo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: This is one heck of a story. A ghost ship rumored to be full of rats might be on a collision course with the British coastline. The former Russian cruise ship has been drifting in the Atlantic ever since it broke free from a tow rope. That happened last January. Well, our Rosie Tompkins is in London with the story.

ROSIE TOMPKINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rumors of a rat-infested abandoned ship drifting across the Atlantic are causing widespread panic here in the U.K. that it could be headed for British shores. The Russian-built vessel was under Canadian control when it was cut adrift a year ago and is now believed to be floating at 8 kilometers an hour, covering 150 kilometers every day, while the rats on board are rumored to have turned to cannibalism.

Now, CNN has spoken to its own experts, and despite these panic- inducing headlines, we are assured by our sources that neither the location, the direction or even the presence of rats on board can be confirmed at this time. So the U.K. needn't panic yet.

Back to you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. We hope so. Thank you.

The Egyptian desert has been holding a secret for more than 3,000 years. But now the secret's out. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered the tomb of a pharaoh that history had forgotten. Pictures and writings from around 600 B.C. call him the king of upper and lower Egypt. Now, all the gold had been taken from the tomb, but the bones and funeral masts were still there. Historians now are having to rewrite ancient history to include him, and his dynasty. Amazing.

And the surf is up in Half Moon Bay, California. Now, this is way up. You want to check this out. Look at the waves here. This is amazing. This is where the famous mavericks invitational surf competition is going to happen. Look at that. Surfers from all over the world, they're going to be there. Organizers wait until the waves and the weather are just right, and apparently the time is now. Surfers get only two days' notice to pack their bags and get to the beach. Pretty cool.

Several stories caught our attention today. Photos, as well. I want you to take a look at this.

In Ukraine, orthodox priests step into the line of fire to stop deadly protests. They braved the bullets. They walked in between pro-European Union protesters and the riot police on the other side. The priests held up huge crosses, carried Bibles and chanted between those opposing sides.

In Afghanistan, children enjoyed themselves riding a Ferris wheel near a cemetery in Kabul. A person on the ground turns the wheel to make the kids move in the circle.

Well, thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Have a great weekend.