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Brussels on Highest Alert over Terror Threat; Cameron Appeals to Parliament to Join Airstrikes against ISIS in Syria; Reports from Near ISIS Stronghold in Syria; Survivor Describes Mali Hotel Attack; Sales Surge in Paris for Hemingway Novel; Trump Sparks New Controversy with 9/11 Comments; Upcycling Transforms Trash into Products. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 23, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, there, everyone, welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center.
We begin with a new show of force against ISIS while police in Europe desperately look for a key suspect in the Paris terror attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): Fighter jets launched from France's largest warship have began flying missions over Syria and Iraq. Strikes come as Belgium's
capital is on highest alert for a third day after fears that terror attacks could be imminent.
Authorities in Brussels say 21 people have been arrested in raids since Sunday but police have still not found Paris attack suspect, Salah
Our Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Brussels.
Hi, there, Fred.
What more do we know about this massive lockdown and manhunt?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, the lockdown is going on and the manhunt as well. As you can see here,
there's a lot of police activity going on. This is actually a subway station here, right in the center of Brussels.
And the subway system, as you know, is closed; however, there are some police officers sort of gathering in front of it.
We're not exactly sure what they are doing here but this is really the kind of scene you see around Brussels throughout the entire day, a lot of
soldiers on the street, a lot of police officers on the street, military armored vehicles on the street, sort of making their presence shown but, of
course, also looking out to see that nothing happens here.
That, of course, is because you have that terror threat level, the highest the country has right here in the Belgian capital still ongoing because of
the imminent threat, as the government here says. That's something that is still going.
I can tell you, Robyn, I was on the streets here late last night and there was a cordon search operation going on, also with a lot of police officers
as well. They were quite nervous and edgy. They told us to move on immediately, simply, because they wanted to make sure that nothing bad
happens here in this area.
Of course, the Belgian government has said they fear there could be attacks similar to the ones in Paris taking place here in Belgium as well. They
are going to give an update very shortly, we're waiting for a press conference from the Belgian prime minister and then we'll wait and see how
long and if they'll give any update as to how long this threat level 4 will be in place - Robyn.
CURNOW: Indeed. We'll keep an ear out for that.
In the meantime, what is the mood like? Ordinary life has been literally paralyzed by fear where you are. Now some might argue this is exactly what
PLEITGEN: Yes, that's a very good point but, at the same time, the authorities are saying, look, for us, of course, the safety of the citizens
of the city, the safety of the citizens of this country is really the paramount thing for them.
They understand, however, that this is the kind of situation that can't stay in place for a very long time. This is a Monday. It's a day,
obviously, when a lot of people come into Brussels. Brussels isn't just the capital of Belgium; it is also, of course, a very important hub as far
as the European Union is concerned and especially on Monday.
A lot of politicians, a lot of bureaucrats come into the city from all around Europe. And that's something that has massively been inhibited by
the fact you don't have a subway system working, that generally transport isn't working very smoothly.
There's much fear of buses that are out there, a lot of businesses are closed. The schools are closed and that's certainly something that the
people here don't want to deal with for an extended period of time.
But at the same time, of course, they need to make sure that they get behind what this imminent threat is, understand what it is and make sure
that it isn't there anymore before they can stop this lockdown that has been really making a lot of people very, very concerned here on the streets
A lot of people that we've been speaking to say they are going out as little as possible; they are saying that they are not afraid but they are
concerned that something could happen.
CURNOW: OK, thanks so much for that update, Fred Pleitgen. Appreciate it.
Well, as France intensifies its airstrikes against ISIS, French president Francois Hollande is busy on the ground trying to build a bigger, more
cohesive coalition to go against the terror group.
He kicked off a whirlwind week of diplomacy with British prime minister David Cameron. They paid their respects to victims of that attacks at the
Bataclan concert hall, the site of the deadliest massacre on November the 13th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: I want to praise the swift and decisive action taken by the French authorities in response and to
prevent further attacks in Paris and, in particular, pay tribute to the bravery of French police officers.
It is absolutely right to take decisive action to stop terrorists when they are threatening the lives of innocent citizens. The United Kingdom will do
all in our power to support our friend and ally, France, to defeat this evil death cult.
CURNOW (voice-over): After now a formal meeting with the French president, Mr. Cameron reiterated that he's ready to make the case to Parliament to
have the U.K. join airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Let's get more on all of this from Jim Bittermann. He's in Paris.
What we're seeing is President Hollande knocking on a lot of doors this week.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. In fact, just one thing to add on the Cameron visit; he may have actually gotten
something concrete out of that in that David Cameron suggested that the British base, the air base on Cyprus, would be at the disposal of the
French if they need it.
Of course, somewhere to the west of where we think that the Charles de Gaulle is operating, so it could be useful for various kinds of resupply
flights and whatnot to the Charles Gaulle. The Charles de Gaulle have brought 26 more planes into action for the French. They now have 38 more
planes in the region and they are starting the strikes, as you mentioned, today.
For Hollande and his diplomacy, he'll be leaving tomorrow to go to the White House to meet with Barack Obama; then on Wednesday he's going to meet
with Angela Merkel here in Paris. And on Thursday it will be Putin he'll be meeting in Moscow.
So it's a whirlwind tour, really kind of pushing on some doors that are already open. After all, Obama and Putin are behind the kind of thing
that's going on; Merkel and Cameron, he's got to do a little bit more arm twisting.
But in any case the idea is to get a really active coalition going and David Cameron said today that things have changed a bit after the attacks
in France, so I think it is something that may be necessary. It's also very necessary for public opinion here in France; the president has to be
seen doing something-- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much, Jim Bittermann there in Paris.
Well, the other major player in the fight against ISIS, as Jim said there, Russian President Vladimir Putin. He's in Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): These are handout photos from the Iranian government of Mr. Putin's meeting with Iran's supreme leader. A Kremlin spokesman
said the two discussed Syria and have, quote, "a unity of views" on the situation there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Well, for days now the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqah in Syria has been pounded by French and Russian airstrikes. Both nations stepped up
their aerial assaults after the attacks in Paris and the bombing of a Russian passenger jet. Our Nick Paton Walsh just returned from Syria,
where he got very close to Raqqah. He joins me now from Irbil in Iraq.
What struck you the most, Nick, while you were there?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: I think really the proximity that these Kurdish fighters, with some American support, have got
towards Raqqah. Almost, I think, very unpublicized, they've moved across the western -- to the west across Northern Syria, effectively isolating
ISIS from much of the Turkish border but also pushed south down towards Raqqah.
A lot of talk now as the airstrikes intensify about the potential for a ground offensive.
WALSH (voice-over): After Paris, the Sinai in the crosshairs is here, Raqqah. Lost in the haze, yet they can hear it, loud thuds, heaviest at
"Three days ago," says Bahus (ph), "we saw 14 airstrikes suddenly hit just nearby. And then the French said they'd started bombing. We'll do our
best to avenge Paris."
He, like the other young Kurdish fighters here, have lost friends but say fighting ISIS is a duty for humanity, rather than vengeance, as they man a
series of trenches and outposts about 20 miles from the city.
WALSH: We have just heard the distant thuds of what could have been two airstrikes. But from where we're standing, here is the Kurdish front line,
a trench dug as far as we can see, and then all in this direction, flat, open land until you reach the outskirts of Raqqah, the capital of ISIS'
WALSH (voice-over): Four Russian missiles hit Raqqah this day activists said. But otherwise, it's the silence of stalemate in the desert.
Weapons here are scant. This man carries the AK-47 of his friend, who died eight months ago.
Out here in the flat, open ground with ISIS in the next village, they still scorn ISIS' leaders and welcome help.
"If French, Russian or American fighters," this commander says, "come here to fight, we'll cooperate with them, as we're all fighting to clean the
area of ISIS for humanity."
WALSH: ISIS left their mark on nearby Ayn al-Issa, as has the fight for it. Even the mosque littered with mines. The silence here is
breathtaking. This is directly the road down to Raqqah and you can just hear the complete absence of human --
WALSH: -- life.
WALSH (voice-over): There is little in victory left to fight for. On the way out we meet these guys, they don't look much like white knights but
that's what the Pentagon hopes they are. The Syrian democratic forces, getting American aid, who explain they secured the major defection of Sunni
tribes inside Raqqah to fight ISIS.
"We weren't expecting this large number to join but there are now 4,000 tribesmen," he says. "When we want to move, all of them are ready and
we've already managed to sneak weapons to them. We're moving forwards."
Western leaders call this a global fight but here, alone, do you feel the dust, death and determination.
WALSH: Now, Robyn, that area just, in the last 24 hours, according to activists, saw clashes between ISIS and the YPG Kurdish fighters.
Clearly, look at the terrain there, it seems to be ISIS moving towards the Kurdish trenches but, at the same time, too, coalition airpower was in
effect there as well. Four separate strikes against ISIS targets in the area around Ayn al-Issa just in the last 24 hours.
Very much a volatile, fluid frontline but one where you get the sense, despite the lack of obvious numbers and readiness, the notion that at some
point soon those forces wish to try and move towards that vital city, Raqqah -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Nick, great reporting there. But I just want to ask you about where you are. I understand that airspace above some of Iraq is closed.
WALSH: Late last night word came through between 8 o'clock local time today and 8 o'clock Wednesday morning, the 48-hour period, all of Iraq's
airspace would be closed. And that actually does appear to have happened.
We've had previous reports in Lebanon, for example, the similar discussion happened but nothing actually came to fruition. It does seem that Iraqi
airspace is closed to commercial traffic.
Now the suggestion from Iraqi officials behind this is potentially there could be a lot of air traffic, militarily, in the next days or so, most
likely cruise missiles fired from Russian naval boats in the Caspian.
That's speculation but you don't see an airspace shut down like this for no reason.
Many, I think, thinking we may see something directed towards ISIS or other targets inside Syria or Iraq, potentially from Russian missile carriers in
the Caspian Sea -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, you'll keep us posted on that. Nick Paton Walsh there, thanks so much.
Here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, when gunmen stormed her hotel, shooting at anything that moved, an American woman managed to survive. We'll hear from
Plus, in the race for U.S. president, Donald Trump makes more controversial remarks. We'll tell you what he said about refugees and Muslims.
CURNOW: Hi, there, welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow.
Mali's president has declared three days of mourning following Friday's terror attack on a luxury hotel that killed at least 22 people. Now we're
hearing from a survivor. David McKenzie is in the capital, Bamako, and joins me now, live with her story.
Hi, there, Dave, what did she say?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Robyn, yes, it's been a terrible few days here for Mali, reeling after these terror attacks on Friday at the
international Radisson hotel.
And I spoke to a survivor; she's a senior member of the Centers for Disease Control there in Atlanta, who said she was here to help set up a new system
of health care, a system of disease prevention here in Mali. She's committed to this country and their mission getting started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHIE FAZEKAS, CDC SPECIALIST, ATTACK SURVIVOR: I e-mailed my husband. I said something like, there is something going on and I want you to know
that I love you.
And then when a few hours later, when the fire down the hallway, I wrote another e-mail and I said, I do believe there are shooters here and if I
don't make it, I want you to know I love you and my family and my sea but I am coming home.
I do this because I love doing this work and where we are in the world that we need to continue on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Well, Robyn, she said also they had a secret code that was communicated to them by U.S. security forces. She credits the Malian
special forces really for saving the day, as it were, moving through that hotel, mitigating the threat and saving scores of people, who, many of them
were barricaded in their rooms like her.
So certainly the response seems to have been effective but now the investigation continues and the threat, of course, hangs over Mali and many
countries in West Africa -- Robyn.
With that in mind, the consequences, the context of all this, you spoke to the president; what did he also say to you about that?
MCKENZIE: Well, President Keita was at that hotel today with the president of Benin as well, touring the scene, discussing with security ministers
and, as well, obviously, the executives of the Radisson hotel.
I asked him what are they going to do to stop this terror and are they looking for the help of the international community.
He said, yes, of course. In the last few years, Mali has dealt with terror and an insurgency; it was the French and the Americans who helped him, he
said, that he is thankful for that.
But he said everyone in the international community has to ban together to get rid of the scourge, otherwise they won't work -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Thanks so much, David McKenzie there in Mali.
Well, there's more deadly violence today in the Middle East. Israeli police shot and killed a 16-year-old girl and wounded a 14-year-old girl as
well after they stabbed a Palestinian man in Jerusalem. Police say it's likely the girls mistook the 70-year-old man for an Israeli. He was not
In the West Bank, Israel's army says a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis and killed one of them before he was shot dead by soldiers.
The incidents following deadly attacks Sunday in the West Bank. Police say two Palestinian men were killed after trying to stab Israelis.
Argentina's new president-elect is beginning his first day since the runoff election, tackling his country's troubled currency and economy.
Conservative and former Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri is calling for his country's central bank officials to step down. He says he wants a new
team he can trust.
His opponent, Daniel Scioli, conceded defeat late Sunday. Scioli was hand- picked by the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, to be her successor.
And the Hatton Garden trial is underway in London at what one prosecutor says is the biggest burglary in English legal history. Four men are
charged with stealing or hiding millions of dollars in jewels and other valuables from Hatton Garden's safe deposit in April. Four others already
have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary.
Still ahead, one particular book is flying off the shelves at --
CURNOW: -- bookstores in Paris. How "A Moveable Feast" has become comfort food for the city's soul.
CURNOW: Well, there's a book flying off the shelves in Paris but it's not a new release. In fact, it was published 50 years ago. CNN's Ivan Watson
tells us why Parisians are finding comfort in an old classic written by one of the world's greatest storytellers.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "All of the sadness of the city came suddenly with the first cold rains of winter."
That's a line from "A Moveable Feast," a memoir about life in Paris in the 1920s, written by Ernest Hemingway. The book is his love letter to the
City of Light, celebrating its cafes and cobblestone streets, immortalizing an English language bookshop, where you can find a first edition copy of
the American writer's iconic book.
Hemingway's book is pretty much required reading for most visitors to Paris. What's unexpected is that it has also become a source of comfort
for many of the French in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks.
WATSON (voice-over): At bookshops across Paris, owners have seen a sudden spike in sales of French versions of Hemingway's 51-year-old novel.
WATSON: What is your number one selling book right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's "A Moveable Feast" -- "Paris est une fete" -- from Ernest Hemingway.
WATSON: Do you have any more copies?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no more. It's sold out now.
WATSON: Sold out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely.
WATSON: Part of the appeal is clearly symbolic; the French title of "A Moveable Feast" is "Paris est une fete," which translates back into English
as "Paris is a party."
WATSON (voice-over): Jean-Paul Saldrine (ph) says he's buying the book to remind himself that the City of Light is also a city that loves to party.
"We have to live, we have to go out," he says "and we have to stick out our tongues at the terrorists."
Shop owners say they've also seen a surge of interest in books about Islamist radicalism but those sales don't compare to the rediscovery of
Hemingway's book, no doubt boosted by the fact that #ParisEstUneFete has also become a hashtag slogan of defiance on French social media.
As many honor the dead, others are determined to live up to Hemingway's immortal words.
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris," he writes, "then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable
feast." -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Paris.
CURNOW: Proving there that words can provide solace. Thanks to Ivan for that beautiful report.
Still ahead, his campaign of controversy continues. The latest comments by U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump. His new poll numbers are released.
CURNOW: Hi, there, welcome to INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): France is launching new airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Warplanes have started flying from a recently deployed
French aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.
Meantime, Belgian police have arrested 21 people in antiterror raids since Sunday. But Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam was not among those
French and British leaders have met in Paris to discuss the ISIS threat. They paid their respects to victims of the attack at the Bataclan concert
hall, the site of the deadliest massacre on November the 13th. British prime minister David Cameron is offering the use of its military base in
Cyprus to help France with its airstrikes.
A three-day mourning period is underway in Mali following Friday's terror attack at a luxury hotel. At least 22 people were killed when gunmen
stormed the Radisson Blu hotel. Two Islamic terror groups have claimed responsibility.
In response, the West African nation declared a 10-day state of emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: The U.S. secretary of state says President Barack Obama is taking new steps to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
John Kerry's comments on NBC's "Today" show come amid criticism the U.S. effort against ISIS is failing. He didn't reveal specifics but at a
weekend summit in Malaysia, President Obama vowed a relentless U.S. response to ISIS. He had pointed words about the terror group and the
threats it's been making across the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are a bunch of killers with good social media. And they are dangerous and they've caused great
hardship to people. The most powerful tool we have to fight ISIL is to say that we're not afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Potent words there.
Meanwhile in the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump remains on top among Republicans following the Paris attacks. New numbers from ABC News and
"The Washington Post" show Trump holding his 10-point lead over Ben Carson among Republicans.
Trump will be campaigning today in the key state of Iowa, while Ben Carson attends political rallies in Nevada.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has made some more controversial comments, this time about Muslims in the U.S. I want to bring in Athena Jones now, who
joins us from Washington.
Tell us about these quite alarming statements.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. He said a series of things that may be alarming to some. He's talked about the need to surveil
mosques in the U.S.; he's talked about keeping a database of Syrian refugees and at one point he even suggested registering all Muslims in the
But he said, interestingly on ABC's "This Week," he defended comments he's made stating that, on 9/11 he saw thousands and thousands of New Jersey
residents, Muslims in New Jersey, celebrating as the Twin Towers fell. Take a listen to what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: People that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations, they were cheering as the
World Trade Center came down.
I know it might not be politically correct for you to talk about it but there were people cheering as that building came down, as those buildings
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Now, PolitiFact, which is an independent fact checking organization, has rated Donald Trump's claim about thousands and thousands
of New Jersey residents cheering as the Twin Towers fell as a "pants on fire," which means absolutely untrue. There is no basis for that and, of
course, we would remember having seen that.
So, police say it didn't happen, PolitiFact says it didn't happen and many Americans who watched lots of coverage of 9/11 would agree that it didn't
But this is the kind of heated rhetoric we've heard from Donald Trump and so far it is not hurting him in the polls -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Indeed, someone on CNN earlier saying he has a curious relationship with the truth.
Meanwhile, what he's saying comes in the midst of very a polarizing debate here in the U.S. about whether to let in Syrian refugees. Tell us about
JONES: It is polarizing. It's very interesting; a lot of this, of course, stems from the fact one of the Paris attackers was found with a Syrian
passport near him but it's still unclear if, you know, whether that person actually came from Syria.
But certainly, the response here in the U.S. has been one of great concern, not just from Republicans, mind you; several Democrats in the House signed
on to a bill that passed last week that would pause that program, put in some stricter rules on bringing in Syrian refugees.
But from the likes of Donald Trump, I've been at several events where he's told the crowd, you know, if I become president, we're going to kick out
all the Syrian refugees who have been let in, we'll send them home.
We've heard from people like Governor Jeb Bush, saying there should be --
JONES: -- potentially some sort of religious test, that we should let in Christian refugees, people who can prove they are Christians but not
We heard Ben Carson, also a leading contender, compare the need to screen refugees to protecting children from rabid dogs. So there's a lot of
heated rhetoric going on.
Meanwhile, you have folks like President Obama, saying, look, this is not who America is. We should not close the doors to refugees, people who are
fleeing ISIS, people who are victims of this terror group.
So it's a very heated moment. There are a lot of Americans and recent polls that show Americans are concerned about these refugees coming in.
But you have the president and others saying, look, this is not what America is about. You've got to bring them in -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Indeed. And many of these Syrian refugees are children. Athena Jones, thanks so much.
CURNOW: Well, still to come, from recycling to upcycling. How designers in Hong Kong are turning the city's trash into high-tech products.
CURNOW: Welcome back. Well, Paris is getting ready to host the U.N. climate conference next week. Now besides security, a focus will no doubt
be on places with the biggest carbon footprint.
Hong Kong is one city trying to be more green. People there are coming up with innovative ways to transform trash into useful products. One designer
shows us the art of upcycling.
KEVIN CHEUNG, UPCYCLING DESIGNER (voice-over): Hong Kong is a very materialistic city and we throw away 13,000 tons of solid waste to a
landfill every single day.
We do have a lot of people. We have a very dense city. Things are moving too fast. Throwing stuff away is the cheapest way to deal with the items.
The plastic recycling center is, I think, almost a football field of size. They collect all different -- all kinds of plastic from different
organizations; even so, they have such a big facility, they are only processing about 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent of plastic waste we are
throwing out every day.
CHEUNG (voice-over): So obviously, this is a big problem that we need to solve.
My name is Kevin Cheung. I'm a project designer and I'm a champion against the waste of Hong Kong. I graduated in 2009 as a project designer. I go
to electronic companies and work for a year.
During that year I found out that the things the school taught us didn't apply in the industry. What I found in the industry, no matter with your
flashlight, no matter with your speakers, we get the components and we draw a new box around it. And that's what we call a new product.
I decided, well, other than keep using new material to make new product, can we use old material and make new product?
This is a boom bottle and it's made out of the plastic bottle from the hospital, it's a medicine bottle and houses all the speaker component and
it becomes a sound box.
And inside is a small pocket for your gadget and it powered by either a battery or USB cables. And you turn this cap for the audio.
We start selling the product back in late 2010. And back then nobody knows what upcycling is. But luckily through these few years a lot of media
covering the idea of upcycling, people started to understand.
If a company approaches and tries to give us their waste material, so hopefully this trend will keep growing and more people will think about the
way they treat waste.
CURNOW: Some interesting ideas there.
Well, the gravely endangered northern white rhino has edged closer to extinction. A 41-year-old female named Nona has died at a San Diego safari
park. She was being treat for a bacterial infection and age-related health issues.
According to the zoo, she was one of only four northern white rhinos left in the world. It says the last three are living in a protected park in
Well, that does it for us. I'm Robyn Curnow. I'll be back in just over an hour with more news from the INTERNATIONAL DESK. In the meantime, I'm
going to hand you over to "WORLD SPORT."