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Syria Talks in Moscow; Trump to Take Center Stage in CNN Republican Debate; Typhoon Melor Restrengthens in Philippines; Fed Expected to Raise Interest Rates; Los Angeles Schools Closed over Threat; The Bitter Face-Off between Trump and Cruz; Muslims Accuse Trump of Sparking Hate Crimes. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 15, 2015 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade.

We begin in Moscow, where crucial talks are underway, aimed at ultimately bringing the long and devastating war in Syria to an end.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to sit down this hour with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Earlier, Kerry met with his Russian

counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. They are working to bridge gaps on important issues, including the future of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and how to

battle the ISIS threat.

CNN's foreign Moscow bureau chief joins me now. Jill Dougherty, she's a researcher with the International Center for Defense and Security.

Jill, Secretary Kerry says the most pressing goal is to find some common ground on how to solve the Syrian war.

What will it take for them to reach some unity?

JILL DOUGHERTY, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR DEFENSE AND SECURITY: Well, I think there are a couple issues that are really crucial.

That is one reason why Secretary Kerry wants to sit down with Vladimir Putin himself and hear it from the president, what his view of this -- what

is the political transition period that everyone hopes will happen. And those issues would be the fate of President Assad in Syria.

Does he remain in power for quite a while, through that transition period, as perhaps Russia seems to think?

Or could he eventually move out of the picture and some other type of government structure, along with the opposition, take place?

And then speaking of the open circumstance they want to define, they have to define, who the opposition will be, who can take part in those talks or

in the political transition. So I think those are really the key issues.

As you mentioned, the secretary sat down with his counterpart, minister Sergey Lavrov, and after that meeting, he went for a walk in Moscow and was

asked what kind of progress you're having. So we can take a look at that pool video.

KINKADE: And as you mentioned, the key to these talks is what to do with the Assad regime. We know that Secretary Kerry is hoping that Mr. Assad

will send a representative to talk the talks in New York this Friday.

He also wants full negotiations between the Syrian government and opponents to start in January.

What's the likelihood that will happen without Moscow's support?

DOUGHERTY: You know, without Moscow's support, that's why he's here. It probably isn't going to happen. That's one of the issues, because if

anyone has any type of influence with the president of Syria, it happens to be Russia, President Putin.

And that is one reason that Secretary Kerry is here.

Also, what they're really pushing for, Lynda, is this meeting that the United States definitely wants at the end of this week, Friday in New York,

with a group that deals specifically, the Syria support group, that deals specifically with this issue.

And so they're trying to work out as many issues and also find clarity in terms of hopefully meeting on Friday. It's one thing that we're going to

be watching closely to see whether President Putin believes that Friday in New York is a good idea.

KINKADE: And, Jill, the other matter on the agenda was Ukraine. No doubt Russia is keen to get the sanctions lifted.

But is it willing to give any ground?

DOUGHERTY: Well, right now, it's really kind of stalled. What they need is a cease-fire. And so that is one thing that they'll be discussing.

Without that, without a real cease-fire, the sanctions will not be lifted. So that has been on the back burner, at least publicly, but it's very much

still an issue of trying to resolve what is happening in Ukraine.

KINKADE: OK. Great to have your analysis on all of that, Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thank you very much.

In U.S. politics, the Republican presidential candidates are getting ready to face off in a final debate of the year. With just seven weeks before

the critical Iowa caucuses, Athena Jones brings us up to speed on where things stand going into today's debate and tells us what to watch out for.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Light that (INAUDIBLE) on fire.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outrage overnight during Donald Trump's rally in Las Vegas. Tensions high, just hours before

tonight's final GOP debate of 2015.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

JONES (voice-over): Multiple protesters forcibly removed while trying to interrupt the front-runner's speech.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Get him out.

JONES (voice-over): Trump taking shots at his Republican competition --

TRUMP: The other candidates should be thankful because I'm giving them a chance to make total fools of themselves.

[10:05:00]

JONES (voice-over): -- and bashing the media.

TRUMP: I've learned two things, more than anything else, how smart the people are and how bad and dishonest the president is, because it is really

dishonest.

JONES (voice-over): Trump's GOP rivals going after the billionaire businessman, who, for the first time, has topped 40 percent in a Monmouth

University national poll of likely GOP voters. That's more than the next three competitors combined. And Trump towering 23 points above his closest

rival in this new "Washington Post" ABC poll.

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I cannot imagine Donald Trump becoming president because he would never win. He would never win.

Hillary Clinton would clean him.

JONES (voice-over): This as Texas senator Ted Cruz surges into 2nd place in national polling and tops Trump in several polls in Iowa.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: God bless the great state of Iowa.

(APPLAUSE)

JONES (voice-over): Which means all eyes will be on center stage to see if the two former allies will go after each other.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: They are strong and very decisive and if someone would take the initiative, that is what we need today and

both those candidates fit that bill.

JONES (voice-over): Tonight's debate is the first for the GOP contenders, since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks and comes about a week

after Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. The debate will keep national security at the forefront.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: The vast majority of people that are trying to come are people that we just don't have information on. This is an issue

that you have to be right 100 percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: Coming up in a few minutes, we'll have a more in-depth look at the debate with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein live from Las

Vegas. And of course, be sure to tune into the final debate of the year among Republican candidates. Our Wolf Blitzer will moderate. Coverage

starts Wednesday at 7:00 am in Hong Kong. That's 8:00 am in Tokyo. And if that's a little bit early for you, you can tune into the replay that night

at 7:00 pm in Hong Kong, 8:00 pm in Tokyo, right here on CNN.

Four people are now confirmed dead in the Philippines from Typhoon Melor. The storm restrengthened unexpectedly on Tuesday morning and it's currently

drenching Central Luzon. Melor currently has top wind speeds of around 185 or 195 kilometers per hour, equivalent to a category 3 hurricane.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers joins me now.

Chad, how is it looking right now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it is back over land, so, therefore, disintegrating, getting smaller. But it's the disintegration that causes

the disruption on land. So we're back over water for a while earlier today and late last night. That was when the storm reappeared to be almost a cat

4 storm. It was a big storm when it made re-landfall.

Understand here, the Philippines, there is some land. And then there is water in between and then there are more islands. Well, as it moved on

shore in Southern Luzon, the very southern tip of Luzon island, only about 20 kilometers across, it didn't lose a lot of power. It gained more steam

when it got back into the warm water.

This water is very warm. This is just, as warm as we get here in the West Pac, the Western Pacific. And there is the eye again; yesterday and last

night the eye reemerged and is still there even at this hour, although dissipating as the storm is kind of gliding up toward Manila but not on the

way to Manila because it will turn back to the left and away from the big cities there.

That's the real threat of how many people in Manila could be affected. Yesterday we thought about 60 kilometers per hour, today, because it's

closer, maybe 100 kph. That could certainly bring down some power lines. You have to watch out for some flying debris at that type of wind speed.

Back to you.

KINKADE: OK. Chad Myers, thank you for bringing us up to date with that.

Well, you are at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Still to come, how stocks are reacting to an expected decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve. We will get

a live update from the New York Stock Exchange just ahead.

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KINKADE: Welcome back.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates on Wednesday for the first time in nearly a decade. The decision comes amid growing

confidence about the health of the American economy. And analysts say Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen wouldn't make the move if she did not think the

economy could weather the impact.

Alison Kosik is following the story and joins us now from the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, the Fed have agreed to this two-day meeting. It just started.

What will they be taking into account as they make this decision?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you think about, Linda, its dual mandate that the Fed has. It is to promote maximum employment and

keep prices stable. That's really what its mission is. So you look at the employment picture. It's brighter. Inflation, though, is persistently

low. But many think that the Fed is going to go ahead and raise rates tomorrow anyway.

The reality is the Fed really does look at other factors or at least considers them. Like weak wage growth, that plunge that we're seeing in

oil prices, GDP only at 2 percent, and some actually think it's a bad time for a rate hike because economic data isn't great. And Janet Yellen all

along has said she will let the data tell her what to do. But you look at GDP, 2 percent, that's pretty lackluster. Manufacturing in the U.S. is

weak. Wages are weak.

So we really -- if you look at the total picture since the recession, we haven't seen the economy really have that breakout moment. It just hasn't

happened since the recession ended. It's almost as if America's economy is stuck in low gear.

But here's the thing, the Fed's handled tight, it's been almost 10 years since we've seen a rate hike. These rates can't stay low, at these

historic lows forever. The Fed has to raise. They've really backed themselves into a corner, making investors wonder if the economy is worse

off than everyone realizes, they are sitting and kind of putting it off, putting off raising rates.

So for those reasons, all signs and all bets point to, yes, the Feds will go ahead and raise tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

KINKADE: Alison, some actually suggest that not raising rates might have a negative impact on investors.

Why is that?

KOSIK: And that's a good point because it's the not knowing that really caused a lot of the volatility that we've seen in the market. You look at

last week, we saw the sell-off in the Dow, the S&P.

A lot of that is being caused by the big question mark, the big elephant in the room. And some are concerned about the negative impact if these rate

hikes happen quickly. Now some are suggesting that the Fed will go ahead and raise very small increments and very slowly.

That will keep the market at least at peace for a little while.

(CROSSTALK)

KINKADE: OK. Alison Kosik, thank you so much for joining us.

We now just have some breaking news in. There is a news conference underway about --

[10:15:00]

KINKADE: -- a threat in schools in Los Angeles. Let's listen in.

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[10:36:47]

KINKADE: Welcome back to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade.

We are following a developing story out of California. All schools within the Los Angeles County district have been closed today because of an

unspecified threat that affects more than 600,000 students.

Parents have already dropped their kids off at school are being asked to collect their children from the reunion gates at their school. We will

continue to follow this story throughout the day and bring you updates as we have them.

To now to other news, Donald Trump will be taking center stage in Tuesday's U.S. Republican presidential debate. It is the final one of the year, just

seven weeks before the critical Iowa caucuses. Trump will be looking to cement his front-runner status but a certain Ted Cruz will want to position

himself as the true conservative challenger.

Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny takes a closer look at the intensifying rivalry between Trump and Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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TRUMP: Thank you very much.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump still on top but a new pecking order in the Republican race and a new line-

up on the debate stage.

Ted Cruz suddenly gaining ground nationally and in the key state of Iowa, even overtaking Trump by 10 percentage points. The front-runners will be

standing next to each other, the first time they've come face-to-face since the personal attacks started. Trump giving CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" a

preview.

TRUMP: Because I'm more capable. Because I have a much better temperament. Because I actually get along with people much better than he

does.

ZELENY (voice-over): He took it one step further on FOX News Sunday.

TRUMP: When you look at the way he's dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a -- you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac.

You're never going to get things done that way.

ZELENY (voice-over): That generated a most unusual response from Cruz, responding on Twitter with the 1980s flashback to "Flashdance."

"In honor of my friend, Donald Trump, and good-hearted maniacs everywhere."

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ZELENY (voice-over): So far Cruz refuses to hit back publicly at Trump. But behind closed doors, he took the first swing.

CRUZ: People are looking for, who is prepared to be commander in chief? Now that's a question of strength but it's also a question of judgment and

I think that is a question that is a challenging question for both of them.

ZELENY (voice-over): Cruz may be the top target. And not just for Trump. Senator Marco Rubio is drawing attention to Cruz's voting record, accusing

him of being weak on national security.

RUBIO: So I guess my point is each time he has had to choose between strong national defense and some of the isolationist tendencies in American

politics, he seems to side with the isolationists.

ZELENY (voice-over): Rubio is trailing Trump and Cruz in national and state polls. He hopes to convince voters, he's more electable.

In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, Hillary Clinton crushes Trump 50 percent to 40 percent. She's 48 percent to 45 percent over Cruz.

But a different story for Marco Rubio. He leads her 48 percent to 45 percent.

ZELENY: And that is the underlying question in this entire campaign.

Which Republican is best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton or --

[10:40:00]

ZELENY: -- whichever Democrat happens to win the nomination?

That's what worries some Republican leaders and the party establishment.

Is Donald Trump strong enough to take on Hillary Clinton in a general election?

It's one of the questions that may be answered at the debate -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Las Vegas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: As you will remember, Donald Trump recently made the controversial proposal to temporarily ban immigrants from entering the U.S.

Now some in the Muslim community say they fear Trump's remarks are fueling hate crimes against them. Our Jason Carroll reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American Muslims are becoming increasingly concerned about being targeted because of their

faith. In the past few days, three mosques vandalized in California, one set on fire. A 23-year-old under arrest.

In Philadelphia, a severed pig's head thrown at a mosque, and then there was this attack on Sarker Haque (ph).

SARKER HAQUE, ATTACK VICTIM: I am standing and he just like a second, I mean minute or less, you know, then he coming and he punch me in the

(INAUDIBLE).

CARROLL (voice-over): Haque (ph) owns a convenience store in Queens, New York. He says last Saturday a man attacked him because he is Muslim.

HAQUE: He said, "I call them -- I kill Muslims."

And then --

CARROLL: He said -- wait, I'm sorry.

He said "I kill Muslims?"

HAQUE: "I kill Muslims."

CARROLL: Is that how you got the black eye?

HAQUE: This is the -- he punching.

CARROLL: Oh, so he punched you?

HAQUE: Then he punched me, I don't know how many times.

I said, "How do you know?"

CARROLL (voice-over): This man, who did not want to be identified for his safety, heard those cries for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the guy, was just angry. He just wanted to keep hitting him and keep hitting him until the cops came.

CARROLL (voice-over): Haque (ph) believes Donald Trump, who is from Queens, is partly responsible. Muslim leaders say Trump's recent plan to

temporarily ban Muslims from the United States is a part of a continued effort to demonize their faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This direct threat echoes the policies enacted by Nazi in Germany against the Jews. Trump's and Carson's mainstreaming of

Islamophobia in the election is inciting real discrimination, real hate crimes.

CARROLL (voice-over): Nihad Awad (ph) called out not only Trump and GOP candidate Ben Carson for his claim a Muslim should not be president, but

also New Jersey governor and GOP candidate Chris Christie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think many Muslims in New Jersey feel a sense of betrayal for what Governor Christie has done.

CARROLL (voice-over): Why betrayal?

Many New Jersey Muslims thought Christie was an ally. But now disappointment over this comment from Christie about Syrian refugees.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: I don't think orphans under 5 are being -- you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the Republican primary campaign, Muslim bashing seems to be the red meat that the candidates are throwing to some of their

supporters.

CARROLL (voice-over): As for Trump, a new ABC "Washington Post" poll finds nearly 60 percent of Republicans support his plan. The front-runner

himself says he has support among the Muslim community.

TRUMP: I have many friends that are Muslims. And I will tell you, they are so happy that I did this because they know they have a problem.

CARROLL (voice-over): But for Sarker Haque (ph), his problems are just beginning. He's on his way to speak to the district attorney, hoping his

attacker gets the punishment he deserves -- Jason Carroll, CNN, Queens, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: Well, still to come, a new announcement in the fight against terror. Saudi Arabia forms a coalition and it consists of mostly Muslim

nations. We'll have a live report just ahead.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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KINKADE: Welcome back to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Let's return now to the breaking news in Los Angeles.

A threat that's closed one of the largest school systems in the United States, the Los Angeles Unified School District has cancelled all classes

for the day, more than 600,000 students are affected. The superintendent says he made the decision due to a credible electronic threat.

Now that could have been a threat from Facebook, Twitter, any sort of social media account or an e-mail. Parents have already dropped students

off at school are asked to collect them as soon as possible. The board of directors of that district says this is a threat that is a broad threat.

It's not to one school but to many schools.

So parents are being asked to collect students as soon as possible.

We understand that the FBI and police are now going through schools one by one, looking for anything that could indicate that this threat is, in fact,

a credible threat. They are concerned, in particular, about backpacks but there are no other details provided.

This is, of course, a very rare event. They have closed down schools in the past but generally one school. This is very rare to close every school

in a school district.

As I mentioned, more than 600,000 students are affected today because of this. But this, as you can see, there have been -- have been a brought to

a standstill. All buses are being returned to the depot. They are not collecting students to take them to school today.

The local time right there is about 10 to 8:00 in the morning. So fortunately most students have not arrived at those schools. They were

keen, the -- both the police and the board of directors were keen to have this press conference very early in the day to prevent parents and buses

from taking students to school today.

This is, indeed, a very credible threat, as the police deputy assistant chief mentioned. They do have threats all the time. But it's really rare

to have a threat like this that leads to the closure of every single school in that district.

Now they will be having a meeting later today. And we do expect to get some more details from the chief of police about the threat and just, in

fact, how specific this threat is and what they know. But until that point, they won't give us any more information on that threat.

Now we're going to get some more information on this now. Let's listen in.

(RESUME DOMESTIC COVERAGE [10:48:50)

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