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CNN Republican Debate Focuses on Terrorism, Security; Candidates Reflect on Republican Debate; Cruz and Rubio Spar on Immigration; Arab World Reacts to Debate; Fed Expected to Raise Key Interest Rate; Trump versus Wind Farm; The Republican Debate on Social Media; Early Reviews Praise "Star Wars" Movie. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 16, 2015 - 10:00   ET




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

Our top story, the final U.S. Republican presidential debate of the year. The candidates focused on terrorism and national security, not surprising

after the deadly attacks in Paris and California.

Front-runner Donald Trump was unusually agreeable, except when it came to rival, Jeb Bush, while Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio took aim at each other.

CNN's John Berman has the highlights.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is the final Republican debate before the election year begins.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was serious substance, like Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the country.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: We are not talking about isolation. We're talking about security. We're not talking about religion. We're talking

about security.

BERMAN (voice-over): But also serious strategy, namely the question: to throw down or not to throw down?

The answer, a definitive yes to both.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald, you know, is great at the one-liners. But he's a chaos candidate. And he'd be a chaos president.

TRUMP: Jeb doesn't really believe I'm unhinged. He said that very simply, because he has failed in this campaign. It's been a total disaster.

Nobody cares.

BERMAN (voice-over): Jeb Bush taking it to Donald Trump not just once...

BUSH: Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That's not going to happen.

BERMAN (voice-over): -- not just twice...

BUSH: If I'm president, I'll be a commander in chief, not an agitator in chief or a divider in chief.

BERMAN (voice-over): ... but at least three times and maybe, just maybe, getting under his skin.

BUSH: You're never going to be President of the United States --


TRUMP: You're real tough.

BUSH: -- by insulting your way to the presidency.

TRUMP: Let's see: I'm at 42, and you're at 3.

BUSH: Doesn't matter.

TRUMP: So far I'm doing better.

BUSH: Doesn't matter.

TRUMP: So far I'm doing better.

BERMAN (voice-over): And that was just one battle.

Another, between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio on several fronts: domestic surveillance...

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools. And that tool we lost, the metadata program, was a

valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Marco knows what he's saying isn't true.

BERMAN (voice-over): -- defense spending...

RUBIO: Three times, he voted against the Defense Authorization Act, which is a bill that funds the troops.

CRUZ: Well, you know, Marco has continued these attacks and he knows they're not true.

BERMAN (voice-over): -- and crucially, immigration.

RUBIO: It's an issue I've lived around my whole life. My family are immigrants. My wife's family are immigrants. All of my neighbors are


BERMAN (voice-over): The first time yet that Rubio has been pushed on his support for immigration reform in a debate.

CRUZ: You know, there was a time for choosing, as Reagan put it, where there was a battle over amnesty. And some chose, like Senator Rubio, to

stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and support a massive amnesty plan.

He was fighting to grant amnesty and not to secure the border. I was fighting to secure the border.

BERMAN (voice-over): Carly Fiorina suggested neither candidate is up to the task.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To wage war, we need a commander in chief who has made tough calls in tough times and stood up to

be held accountable over and over, not first-term senators who never made an executive decision in their life.

I'll just add that Margaret Thatcher once said, "If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman."

BERMAN (voice-over): There was heat between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over no-fly zones in Syria.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: We would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if, in fact, they were stupid enough to think that this president

was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: Well, I think if you're in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here's the thing.

BERMAN (voice-over): But for all the insults hurled, there were also hugs: rhetorical...

CRUZ: We will build a wall that works and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it.

BERMAN (voice-over): -- and quite literal, between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the current front-runners who just plain refused to rumble.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- somebody who's a maniac one heartbeat away.

TRUMP: I've gotten to know him over the last three or four days. He has a wonderful temperament. He's just fine. Don't worry about it.

BERMAN (voice-over): And finally, a revealing truce, perhaps, between Donald Trump and the party, his strongest disavowal yet of a third-party


TRUMP: I am totally committed to the Republican Party. I feel very honored to be the front-runner.


KINKADE: That was John Berman reporting there.

Now before we get to our analysis of the debate, let's listen to what some of the candidates had to say about it afterwards.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The burden of being a front-runner, as you say, you set the agenda on some big issues --


CUOMO: -- certainly you brought immigration into the fore in a way it hadn't been before. You could argue you did that about how to deal with

radical Islamism.

You're going to be taking the heat when you set the agenda, aren't you?

TRUMP: Well, I don't think there is ever a burden to be a front-runner. I would like to have that burden for the rest of my life. I like to be

front-runner and frankly to me it's a great honor. It's not a burden. It's a great honor. Having that center podium is a great honor to me.

BUSH: I got to post up against Donald Trump. I don't think he's a serious candidate. And I don't know why others don't feel compelled to point that

out, but I did. And I got -- I think I got a chance to express my views and compare them to someone who talks a big game but really hasn't thought

it through.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something now, people who know you say if you were in trouble, Jeb is a guy that you want on your side.

And when you have come across on these debates, you come across as, though, hey, there is a decorum here, I'm not going to sink to the level.

For some it has played as weakness.

Last night, when he said, "Am I talking or are you talking?"

You took a different take.

What goes through your head and heart in processing how to respond to Donald Trump?

BUSH: That's a great question. You know, first of all, it is not really a debate, it is a performance. You got to -- you have to have -- take the

moment to be able to say what you want to say rather than answer the question.

I was brought up in a family where you, you know, someone asked you a question, you answer it. You got to avoid all -- I mean, you really have

to be respectful of the question but get to the point you want to make.

And in the case of Donald Trump, he's a bully. Look, I mean, you guys interview him all the time. He has his way. And to push up, you know,

post up against him a little bit and push back, you get a sense of, you know, he's not quite all in command.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Interesting that there was more back and forth between you and Senator Rubio than between you and

the front-runner, Donald Trump.

Why do you think that is?

CRUZ: Well, look, I don't think that's terribly surprising because Senator Rubio's campaign has been running attack ads and against me and I think

they're concerned. I think they're concerned about the momentum our campaign is getting, that we're really seeing conservatives uniting.

And just a couple of weeks ago, there was a big "New York Times" article, where their campaign was talking about how very worried they were that if

they didn't slow down this momentum, that they were going to be in real trouble.

And so I think that -- that prompted some of the sparks but what I think was most valuable about this debate is it gave people a real opportunity to

see who has the judgment and experience and understanding to be commander in chief. I think that's the most important question in this election.


KINKADE: Let's find out if there were any clear winners or losers last night and how things look going into the new year. Remember, the critical

Iowa caucuses are less than seven weeks away now. CNN's Athena Jones is covering all of this for us and is in Las Vegas.

Athena, there were real firework moments last night. Jeb Bush, for the first time in a debate, really seemed to stand his ground and fire up

against Donald Trump.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is something that Jeb Bush's supporters have been wanting to see all along. We have seen the

former governor try to land punches in past debates, for instance, against Senator Marco Rubio, about his Senate attendance and then back off and

really fail to connect that punch.

Well, that was different last night. We saw Jeb Bush go after Donald Trump repeatedly, over and over again, try to show that he has the fire in the

belly to fight for this nomination, to show that he's not low energy, which is, of course, how Donald Trump has labeled him, pretty effectively earlier

in this campaign.

The question, of course, is whether it is too little, too late. He stood his ground against Trump, made the argument that he -- that Trump is not a

serious contender, does not have serious policy positions and he did it -- a good job of making that argument, a much better job than in the past.

But, Lynda, we know Bush is at around the single digits, 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent and Trump is far in the lead. So it is hard to say at

this point whether it is going to work for Jeb.

KINKADE: Yes. That is a good point.

Trump aside, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have emerged as the leading candidates but they did show some glaring differences last night,

particularly on intelligence gathering and immigration.

JONES: Absolutely. This is a fight that has been brewing for some time. It was really telegraphed by the Rubio campaign. I've gotten e-mails for

weeks that have focused on Senator Cruz, not so much on Trump or Bush or the others. It is clear that these two campaigns see one another as the

chief competition for the alternative to Trump mantle.

Senator Cruz has made clear -- has said that he believes that Donald Trump, despite his extreme front-runner status, that his campaign is going to fade

and Cruz believes he's going to be the beneficiary of those Trump supporters.

Rubio wants to challenge Cruz for those supporters and for, you know, second place or potentially third place -- sorry, first place.

And so we saw them go after each other, Cruz hitting Rubio on his --


JONES: -- past support for path to legalization for illegal immigrants, for undocumented immigrants, that should tell you, and Rubio trying to hit

Cruz as being soft on national security. So they really got into it, allowing voters to see some of their big differences -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes. There really were some punches thrown back and forth, it did make for a good debate. Athena Jones, thanks so much for joining us.

Donald Trump isn't just a topic of discussion in the U.S. today. He came up in the British Parliament in the context of his call for a temporary ban

on Muslims entering the U.S.

Prime Minister David Cameron responded to a question about whether he'd moved to block Trump from entering the U.K. Mr. Cameron said he did not

support banning Trump but he also said this.


DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: It is right that we exclude people when they are going to radicalize or encourage extremism. I happen

to disagree with arrowback (ph) Donald Trump. I think his remarks are divisive, stupid and wrong. And I think if he came to visit our country, I

think it would unite us all against him.


KINKADE: The condemnation of Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. extends far beyond the House of Commons. Our Becky

Anderson has the Middle East reaction to the debate.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Well, Lynda, the hope here is that Trump is more pantomime villain, quite frankly, than serious contender. I am by no means

dismissing the shock and dismay felt after he originally made those comments and some stinging rebukes, you'll remember, from business leaders

in the Gulf to his comments initially.

But I think amongst the mainstream public here there is a sense that anti- Islam and anti-Muslim fervor amongst these Republican contenders is being used to whip up votes in what is an increasing environment of fear in the


It will come as no surprise, too, that the Bush family doesn't get a lot of support on the Middle Eastern street. But Jeb Bush's line that Trump is a,

quote, "chaos candidate and he would be a chaos president" resonated with those who watched.

Tonight on "CONNECT THE WORLD," we have a panel of Muslim youngsters -- that's in the next hour -- who live here and who have been following these

debates; not sure that Marco Rubio has a great deal of name recognition in the Middle East but his contention that ISIS can't be contained by

airstrikes, they must be defeated on the ground with a force made up of Sunni Arabs, echoes, of course, the current administration's ongoing


And this is a week of intense diplomacy. Let's get serious about this. With John Kerry courting the Russians and military coordination with

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Turkey and then in Iraq, all driving towards a meeting on Syria and ISIS later this week, and the possibility of

narrowing divisions with all these stakeholders in Syria in search of a peace deal.

And to that end, quite frankly, I think the Republican debate in this region very much somewhat of a sideshow.


KINKADE: That was our Becky Anderson reporting there.

And, of course, don't miss the replay of the Republican presidential debate, that's later at 8:00 pm Wednesday in London, 9:00 pm CET right here

on CNN.

Still to come at the IDESK, with economic recovery comes change. We're expecting a major announcement on interest rates from the U.S. Federal

Reserve. Our correspondent joins us live from the New York Stock Exchange just ahead.

Also, Donald Trump's beloved golf course in Scotland is getting a new neighbor. Why the U.S. Republican presidential candidate is not happy

about it.





KINKADE: Welcome back.

The U.S. Defense Secretary is in Baghdad to shore up support for the intensifying campaign against ISIS. Ashton Carter is meeting with U.S.

military commanders and top Iraqi officials.

He's expected to discuss the possible deployment of Apache attack helicopters in the battle to retake Ramadi. Carter says he's ready to

provide military hardware along with advisers if Iraq's prime minister approves it.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade later today. Rates currently stand at near 0

percent. Wall Street is sharply higher ahead of the announcement as investors wait to hear what Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen will say about

future rate hikes.

You can see the Dow Jones up 83 points there. Alison Kosik joins me now from the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, this announcement is due to happen in four hours' time.

What is the Fed taking into account?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, on paper, Lynda, the mandate of the Fed is a dual mandate, for one, to promote maximum

employment and the other to keep prices stable, so clearly the Fed looks at those two items.

You look at the employment picture, it is much brighter and inflation is persistently low but it's expected the Fed will raise rates anyway.

Now the reality is, the Fed just doesn't look at those two measures. They look at other factors, too, like weak wage growth, they see how the oil

market is doing, they see how the global economy is doing, they look at GDP.

And the Fed has said that the decision is data dependent and while the economic data isn't consistently great because you look at GDP and

manufacturing or weak wages, those numbers really aren't that great.

The Fed is expected to raise rates because the thinking is that the economy is at a place that can handle a small interest rate hike -- Lynda.

KINKADE: And so, Alison, the markets, of course, in the U.S., are already expecting this interest rate rise announcement.

So can we expect much of a shift in the markets when this announcement happens?

KOSIK: Well, one thing is for sure, no matter what the decision, even if the Fed decides to keep rates where they are, expect a lot of market

volatility as the decision comes out because, after this decision comes out, there is going to be a press conference and you'll see the investors

parse the words from Fed Chief Janet Yellen.

Now most investors do want rates to go up today to give some stability to the market. Believe it or not, that could give a little bit of stability

to the market and that's partly why you've seen so much volatility, is because there is a big question whether or not the Fed would raise.

The thing is, investors don't want to see the Fed raise too much or too quickly. Now if rates do go up today, you're going to see the conversation

shift. The talk about when the rate hike will happen, that will be off the table. And the talk will then turn to how many raises and how much those

raises will be.

And so far, what I'm hearing is that the interest rate, the interest rate increases will only be 25 basis points each time, a total of four until

next year. So the thinking is, Lynda, that we'll see interest rates at 1 percent by next November -- Lynda.


KINKADE: OK, some great analysis. Alison Kosik at Wall Street, thanks so much.

And the Federal Reserve's decision to raise or hold rates will be felt right around the world. You can join us as the verdict is revealed on a

special edition of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS."

Richard Quest will break down the numbers, chart the path forward and explain how it affects you. That will be later at 7:00 pm in London, 8:00

pm in Berlin.

Donald Trump is leading the U.S. Republican presidential field but he just lost a big court decision in the U.K. Ahead, the court's ruling will

impact Trump's golf course in Scotland and why his company is calling the Scottish government foolish and small-minded.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Canada is calling North Korea's sentencing of a Canadian pastor unduly harsh. Heyon Sulim (ph) was sentenced to a life of hard labor 10 months

after he was detained. State media report that he was found guilty of spreading false propaganda meant to tarnish North Korea's image.

His church says he was on a routine humanitarian trip, one of many he's taken to the reclusive nation.

Donald Trump has lost his appeal to block a wind farm near a golf course he owns in Scotland. The U.S. Republican presidential candidate had argued

that the building of an offshore wind farm near his resort would hurt tourism.

Now for more on the U.K. supreme court decision we're joined by Max Foster, live from London.

Max, this court case has been going on for a couple of years. Just explain how it came about.

MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Well, he's got a couple of golf courses in Scotland. He's half Scottish. And this is about one of the golf courses just north

of Aberdeen. And Donald Trump found out about a wind farm, a small experimental --


FOSTER: -- wind farm, the Scottish government would call it, off the coast of that golf course and he was basically concerned that it would ruin the

view for golfers on his course.

But he also says a wider point is that this is an area of outstanding natural beauty and this wind farm shouldn't be allowed. So he's gone

through years and years of legal cases, ultimately ending up at the supreme court here in London today. And this, with the judgment, as that court

threw out his opposition really to that wind farm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unanimous judgment the court rejects both challenges. In concurring judgments, Lord Mans (ph) comments on the

process of implication of terms and Lord Conworth (ph) provides guidance on planning case law concerning the development. They implicate the

interpretation of and implication of terms into planning conditions. The court dismisses the appeal.


FOSTER: And Donald Trump dismissed that as a small-minded, sort of elite in Scotland objecting to his ideas when he's bringing so much money into

the country. And he says he's going to take it further, even though that was the highest court in the land -- Lynda.

KINKADE: He's not happy but I hear the former first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, used one of Trump's favorite words against him, calling him

three times "a loser." Clearly politicians are pretty happy with the result.

What about the general public?

FOSTER: Well, I think, in Scotland, in parts of Scotland, certainly he's a very divisive figure. I was up in Turnberry interviewing him earlier in

the year, that is, on the golf course and actually a lot of people really appreciate what he's done for the sport of golf in Scotland.

He has a lot of supporters, he has brought a lot of jobs there, but in the -- near the Aberdeen course, he's pretty unpopular. So they're pretty

upset that he has any control over any of these national treasures, as they're seen.

Still, the debate here, as it is in America and around the world, is around those comments he made about Muslims and David Cameron speaking today as

well, saying, "I think his remarks are divisive, stupid and wrong and I think if he came to visit our country, I think he would unite us all

against him and his campaign," Lynda, of course, to stop Donald Trump coming to the U.K.

David Cameron is not signing up for that but making it clear as he possibly can, that he's not necessarily sharing in his views. And Alex Salmond, I

spoke to him earlier today, the former first minister of Scotland and Donald Trump's nemesis really, on the golf course issue, he's actually

signed a petition, trying to stop Donald Trump coming to the U.K. And calls him "three times a loser."

Donald Trump's organization, I have to say before I go, Lynda, has responded, as you expect, in forthright terms, "Does anyone care what this

man thinks?" talking about Alex Hammond, "he's a has been and he's totally irrelevant."

KINKADE: Not very nice. Clearly his popularity is doing well in the U.S. but not so well where you are. Max Foster in London, thank you very much.

You're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Still to come, reaction to the U.S. Republican presidential debate on social media. Find out who is trending

on Twitter.





KINKADE: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Here are the headlines.


KINKADE: Trump came under fire again and again during the debate for his controversial positions. Here are some of the fireworks from the final

presidential debate of 2015.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: Trump says we ought to close that Internet thing.

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Donald, you know, is great at the one-liners. But he's a chaos candidate.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: And this is what it is like to be on the floor of the United States Senate.

Endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who've never had to make a consequential decision.

BUSH: Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency.

DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by a thousand pricks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians?

It's like --


PAUL: So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you're going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution?

TRUMP: They can kill us but we can't kill them. That's what you're saying.

CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIF.: If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.

PAUL: Well, I think if you're in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.

TRUMP: Virtually the entire early portion of the debate was Trump this, Trump that. In order to get ratings, I guess.


TRUMP: I've gotten to know him over the last three or four days. He has a wonderful temperament. He's just fine. Don't worry about it.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: For Marco to suggest our record is the same is like suggesting the fireman and the arsonist have the same record because

they're both at the scene of the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to reassure Republicans tonight that you will run as a Republican and abide by the decision of the Republicans?

TRUMP: I really am.


KINKADE: So how much traction did Trump get on social media during the debate?

Samuel Burke is going to break it down for us there from New York.

Samuel, Trump, as always, doing a lot of talking last night.

But just how many people were talking about him on social media?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was interesting because actually he was the candidate who spoke the third most amount of time but he knows how

to get in those zingers.

And on social media, I think there's this whole question of is it the media talking about Donald Trump or is it the people talking about Donald Trump?

Take a look at this great animation from Google, which shows you who people were Googling, starting before the debate. You can see it is number one

Donald Trump in the predebate, number two, it's Lindsey Graham --


BURKE: -- who's at that undercard debate.

And then throughout the debate it is Donald Trump, it switches around for a bit and you see Ted Cruz bump up there.

But then for almost the rest of the time, Donald Trump, the number one person who is being Googled.

In terms of Twitter conversation, Trump had the biggest share, 35 percent of people talking about Donald Trump.

But absolutely something fascinating happened when you look at who got the most amount of growth, who got the most amount of followers, a bump last

night on social media, number one was Bernie Sanders. I don't think that bodes very well for the Republican Party or for Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, of course, the Democrat, the Vermont senator, who wasn't even on stage last night, crossing the 1 million mark for followers. But

still far behind Hillary Clinton's 4 million followers and Donald Trump's more than 5 million followers -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Quite fascinating, especially when we heard Hillary Clinton's name mentioned a lot last night. Not Bernie Sanders.

In terms of the issues, which ones resonated most?

BURKE: Well, let's just look at Facebook. They have shown us what the top five issues were, all very related, starting out number one, Islam; that

was the word that people were talking about most on Facebook during the debate last night.

Number two was ISIS; number three, terrorism and, number, four racial discrimination. It was this subject, how you address terrorism, that

caused the most tweeted-about moment of back-and-forth between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. Take a listen.


BUSH: This is a tough business to run for president.

TRUMP: Oh, you're a tough guy, Jeb.

BUSH: And we need to have a leader that is --

TRUMP: You're tough.

BUSH: You're never going to be President of the United States by insulting your way to the presidency.

TRUMP: Let's see, I'm at 42 and you're at 3, so so far I'm doing better.

BUSH: Doesn't matter.

TRUMP: So far I'm doing better.

BUSH: Doesn't matter.


BURKE: It doesn't get that testy between you and me on air, Lynda, but the top three tweeted-about moments on social media were all about Trump, Trump

and Trump. A couple of them involve Jeb Bush. But that one was the one that got people talking most.

KINKADE: They were all talking about Trump.

Samuel Burke, as always, good to talk to you.

And, of course, everyone else, you will get the chance to watch the CNN Republican presidential debate if you did miss it. It will be at Thursday

morning, 4:00 am in Hong Kong, 5:00 am in Tokyo, right here on CNN.

Still to come here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, the movie that "Star Wars" fans have been waiting for. We'll see if the latest film in the franchise

lives up to the hype.



KINKADE: Looks good, doesn't it?

The force is finally with us.

The latest "Star Wars" movie is one of the most anticipated films in recent history. Some fans are camping outside for days to see the return of

Chewbacca, Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Now for more on this film, I want to join -- I want to welcome CNNMoney's Frank Pallotta from New York, who was lucky enough to see the film last


Frank, without giving too much away, does it live up to the hype?

FRANK PALLOTTA, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Somehow, someway it lived up to its intergalactic hype. It was everything that a "Star Wars" fan would

want. And it is the best one since the original trilogy in the mid-'80s. It even makes the prequels, which was kind of hokey, pretty much an

afterthought. So there is nothing to complain about for me.

KINKADE: Excellent. That's good to hear.

We see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, the original actors from the original "Star Wars" films, working with a lot of mostly unknown actors.

How did they work well together?

PALLOTTA: That was one of the best parts about the film, is that these old actors, like Han and Leia and Chewbacca even, fit in perfectly well, almost

surprisingly seamlessly with these new actors, like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. There was life in Carrie Fisher's performance and Harrison Ford.

It really fit in and felt like a continuation from "Return of the Jedi."

KINKADE: Yes. I heard someone wrote Princess Leia was like the grandmotherly figure in this film a little bit.

PALLOTTA: She is. She's the general. But she's a general grandmother, I guess you could say.

KINKADE: Talk to us about the special effects and action scenes because the promo certainly looks amazing.

PALLOTTA: The special effects are really spot on and J.J. Abrams did a really, really great job of having a limit on computer generated effects

and a mixture of practical effects. So it doesn't feel like it was shot in a warehouse. It felt like it was shot on set, it felt like it was shot in

the desert and on these forest planets that it is on.

And from the beginning of the movie, literally from the opening line of the film, in the opening scroll, the movie takes off, no pun intended.

KINKADE: And talk to us about the secrecy of all of this. Clearly, like, there's a lot of hype, a lot of people interested in seeing this film. And

we have seen a lot of promotion.

How did they keep the plot under wraps?

PALLOTTA: Well, perfect example, last night, I went to the screening in New York City. I couldn't tell anyone when I was going to see it, where I

was going to see it; they confiscated my phone for the entire showing and I couldn't even give away any plot points or spoilers, even though I

wouldn't, in my review that went up last night.

At 3 o'clock in the morning, Eastern Standard Time, in the United States.

KINKADE: Wow. Well, there's certainly a lot at stake. I'm looking forward to seeing this film. Thanks so much for joining us, Frank.

PALLOTTA: Thank you.

KINKADE: And, of course, for a lot of viewers, you can reach Frank Pallotta's review of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and what he thinks

about the new cast. That's at

Well, that does it for this edition of INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade. But don't go anywhere. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex Thomas is up