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IDESK

Iraqi Forces Advance on ISIS in Ramadi; Two Stabbed in Jerusalem, One Shot; Amnesty International Says Russia Kills Civilians in Syria Strikes; Trump Leads the Pack at Close of 2015; Victorian Era Diseases Making a Comeback in Britain; Search for Survivors in China; Missing Chinese Brokerage Chief Reappears; Beatles Songs to Start Streaming on Christmas Eve. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 23, 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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ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Zain Asher.

We begin with the battle to retake Ramadi from ISIS. An Iraqi official says security forces are closing in on the city center. They're now only

800 meters away from the government compound in Ramadi.

Our Robyn Kriel has been following these developments live from London.

So, Robyn, we know that it's day two now of this event. We're learning that more reinforcements are being sent in to Ramadi. Walk us through how

much resistance they're facing, especially when it comes to IEDs.

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, it's really a two-prong attack. So you have Iraqi security forces advancing on foot and you have

the U.S.-led coalition providing air support from the air.

And what we understand is that eight senior ISIS leaders have been killed as airstrikes rained over the city of Hawija as well as the Anbar region.

That's where Ramadi is located.

We understand that they've hit bunkers, ISIS sniper positions, weapons caches as well as other spots. In terms of resistance that the ground

troops are facing, Zain, they're encountering IEDs, improvised explosive devices. Don't forget: ISIS has had months to prepare for this attempted

recapture and will have had time to have lain those sorts of booby traps, too, in which to ensnare the soldiers.

They are also encountering VBIEDs. That would be suicide car bombs that they have at least detonated -- I'm hearing they've detonated four thus

far. We're not sure if any casualties have been inflicted.

They're also encountering sniper fire. When you look through this video you see pockmarked buildings of Ramadi. Really it's almost been leveled in

some places. you're seeing explosions and it does seem like it was a day of fierce clashes, as was yesterday.

ASHER: Robyn, you're mentioning IEDs, suicide car bombs, sniper fire, do we know if there are any civilians -- or rather how many civilians that are

still trapped inside Ramadi?

It's going to be tough, certainly, to get to them.

KRIEL: Certainly. Iraqi intelligence officials telling us yesterday that they were extremely worried about human shields; that would be civilians

being used by the remaining ISIS fighters inside the city center.

Your real hardline fighters of which they believe to be about 250 to 300, Zain, that they would have taken these civilians hostage essentially and be

using them as human shields.

Now that number we're not exactly sure of but it could range up to 10,000. About a quarter of a million people have left the town of Ramadi. The

U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi forces did give notice to the city that they were going to begin this operation.

So lots of civilians trying to flee. And some of which ISIS would not let flee and who are currently stuck. We're not sure if there's been any

collateral damage as of yet.

ASHER: Prime minister Haider al-Abadi under so much pressure, hugely embarrassing for his government when Ramadi first fell to ISIS just about

seven months ago. But we'll see if they manage to retake the town in the coming days.

Robyn Kriel live for us there in London. Thank you so much.

We're going to stay in the Middle East turning to Jerusalem now where three Israelis have been wounded following --

[10:05:00]

ASHER: -- a stabbing attack at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City. Our Oren Liebermann is following this story.

So, Oren, I know it's still early in the investigation.

What do we know at this stage about what happened here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this all happened a short time ago earlier this afternoon, just outside the Jaffa Gate to the Old City of

Jerusalem. That's significant because the Jaffa Gate is one of the main entrances to the Old City and it leads right into the Christian quarter.

Just a couple days before Christmas here, that is a very busy area. So here's what police say happen. Police say two Palestinian attackers from

the Qalandia Refugee Camp north of Jerusalem approached this area just outside the Jaffa Gate and attacked Israelis with knives.

Two were seriously injured, one was moderately injured, according to police. As the investigation continued it became apparent that only two of

those were injured by stabbing wounds; one was injured by gunfire.

Now it appears, according to police, that that gunfire came from Israeli security forces responding to the attack. So as for the two attackers, one

was shot and killed at the scene, the other suspected attacker was taken to the hospital where he later died.

So this all led to moments of panic. Again, those that were injured, two were seriously injured, one moderately injured. The investigation at this

point ongoing.

ASHER: Yes, we've seen a string of attacks over the past few months in and around Jerusalem, certainly as I've seen in your piece, having an impact on

tourism, particularly in Bethlehem. OK. Oren Liebermann live for us there.

Appreciate it. Thank you.

Amnesty International says that Russia may have committed war crimes during its military campaign in Syria. A new report from the human rights group

says that hundreds of civilians have been killed since Moscow began conducting airstrikes in September. Senior international correspondent

Matthew Chance has more.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The report puts Russia's air war in Syria under close scrutiny, focusing on six

bombing raids, on areas where Amnesty says there were no obvious military targets nearby.

The human rights group says it's interviewed eyewitnesses, doctors and aid workers in Syria, who testified that Russian bombs struck homes, a

hospital, a market, even a mosque, indicating what the report calls "serious failures" by Russia to respect international humanitarian law.

Russian officials have not commented on the Amnesty report but in the past have rejected allegations that its raids in Syria have killed civilians,

calling its airstrikes "pinpoint" and "effective."

In a recent interview in Syria, a Russian defense official told CNN it is ISIS and other Islamist groups that are being struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Every day we show you how Russian aviation is fighting international terrorism, destroying by infrastructure

in Syria.

CHANCE (voice-over): The Amnesty report also highlights what it says is Russian news of internationally banned cluster munitions and unguided bombs

in Syria. Their indiscriminate and disproportionate use, the report says, should be stopped -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHER: OK. Want to dig a little bit more deeper into this report. Let's find out more now from the director of the Middle East and North Africa

program at Amnesty International. Philip Luther joins us live now from London.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us. We heard in my colleague, Matthew Chance, piece there that Russia is continuing to deny these claims.

If that is the case and it's your word against theirs, what can be done in the future to protect civilians, do you think?

PHILIP LUTHER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, first of all, I'd like to say that Amnesty International sent a memorandum to the Russian authorities on

the 9th of November where we set out our findings. So we've also asked for meetings in Moscow or London.

So we've given them every opportunity to respond to these allegations. They have been responding at least indirectly today and saying that they

will at least study the validity of the claims. Now that's good news if what they're going to do is set up a body that will look at these

independently and impartially.

ASHER: So did they say that they're going to actually launch their own independent investigation then?

Did they confirm that?

LUTHER: I wouldn't go that far.

ASHER: Right, OK.

LUTHER: They said they will study the validity of the claims. That is what came out on a Russian news agency earlier today.

But the question we have is, who is going to look at that?

If it's the ministry of defense, that's not good enough. That obviously is the body that oversees Russia's military.

ASHER: There can't be a conflict of interest.

So, sir, if these accusations are proved to be true, what sort of consequences can there be for Russia?

How do you get them to change course?

LUTHER: Well, we believe, first of all, that Russia has a responsibility to look at these seriously; in a way, these are allegations that are not

the first of their kind. There have been a number of reports about civilians being killed in Syria.

We've had other international organizations publishing evidence of use of cluster munitions over recent days. So there is a growing case, a growing

body of --

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LUTHER: -- evidence that Russia has committed violations of international humanitarian law, has perhaps even committed war crimes.

And what the Russians need to do is look at these independently and impartially. They need then to at least admit, recognize, acknowledge that

they have killed civilians. And only then can we start to see the truth properly come out.

And at the end of the line, then there should be compensating those who have had their lives destroyed as a result of this campaign.

ASHER: And quickly, Philip, aside from Russia, do we have any information about how many civilians may have been targeted by the U.S.-led coalition?

LUTHER: Yes, we've been looking carefully at that. And since last September we believe scores of civilians, possibly many more have been

killed in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

The big problem is there as well information about investigations has been few and far between. And the U.S. has acknowledged two civilians being

killed but has failed to provide evidence or the results of the investigations as to why they repudiate evidence in other cases.

ASHER: All right. We'll see whether the U.S. and Russia launch their own independent investigation. We'll wait to see the results of that.

Philip Luther, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

LUTHER: Thank you.

ASHER: His latest remarks about Hillary Clinton are certainly causing a lot of outrage but Donald Trump is still leading the Republican pack with

Ted Cruz running a distant second. We'll look at the newest CNN poll in the race for U.S. president.

Plus, a miracle rescue in China: a 19-year-old is pulled from the rubble of an apartment building three days after it collapsed in a landslide.

That's coming up.

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ASHER: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has taken to --

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ASHER: -- Twitter to defend his latest criticism of Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. He lashed out at the media, saying the vulgar word he

used to describe Clinton's 2008 primary loss was, in fact, in his words, not vulgar.

But so far Trump's campaign style and language have not hurt him in the polls. Take a look here; as 2015 draws to a close, Trump is leading the

pack with 39 percent. That is more than double the share of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio are now tied with 10 percent. Chris Christie trails

with 5 percent there.

Let's go to Joe Johns now. He joins us in Washington to break down the latest numbers.

So Joe, we see there in that poll that Donald Trump is now polling at 39 percent, despite the derogatory comments he's made about not only Hillary

Clinton but Carly Fiorina as well, Megan Kelly, too.

Does he worry that in a general election, when he's competing with Hillary Clinton, that perhaps women Republican voters are going to be turning their

backs on him?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, honestly, the polls I've seen, Zain, quite frankly have suggested that Donald Trump does very

well with Republican women voters. So that is one of those questions that has been asked and answered before.

And this latest poll just seems to suggest his strength is growing. He is strong in virtually every area. This new CNN/ORC poll very much about

Donald Trump's huge lead as a choice of Republicans for the presidential nomination.

If you look at them, we've got Trump at 39 percent, then you look at the next three candidates, Ted Cruz firmly in second place at 18 percent, Ben

Carson at 10 percent, Marco Rubio at 10 percent.

Donald Trump's number is bigger than the number two, three and four candidates combined. And there's real consistency there at the top for

Trump over the last seven months, his largest margin -- Zain.

ASHER: And, Joe, this new CNN/ORC poll shows that Ted Cruz is also topping the Republican field in favorability because he now has 18 percent.

The question is does he have any long-term staying power?

JOHNS: Well, that is a good question. And he does seem to be doing very well right now with Christian conservatives, the so-called evangelicals,

especially in the state of Iowa, where he's leading the pack.

Now if you look at the favorability ratings, Ted Cruz is actually on top of the entire field at 74 percent favorability. He's seen a big increase over

the last few months.

Cruz is followed by Marco Rubio. And Donald Trump is in third place on the issue of favorability. But even there, Trump has seen a 20 percent jump

since September. And that tends to suggest Republican voters are getting very comfortable with Trump in a way they were not comfortable before --

Zain.

ASHER: Yes. Cruz, Rubio and Trump coming in very closely in that favorability poll.

But we've only got a few weeks to the primaries. Is there any chance, Joe, that perhaps Ben Carson or Marco Rubio could come back into play?

JOHNS: I think there's absolutely a chance at this stage. These polls are not written in stone. And we do know that in past years the Iowa caucuses

have been volatile in some cases. So you don't know what to expect.

We can say right now that it's getting late in this race. And the Iowa caucuses are coming up soon. Donald Trump looks very strong. We do know,

though, just even from very recent polling that Cruz is doing quite well in the state of Iowa. So I'd say anything can happen right now.

ASHER: It's going to be a fascinating race to cover, especially if you are a political reporter. OK, Joe Johns live for us there in Washington, thank

you so much.

When Donald Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, the idea was widely ridiculed and called un-American by his

rivals. But for a Muslim family headed to the U.S. on holiday, it seemed like a ban was actually already in place. That's next on IDESK.

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ASHER: Tuberculosis and other potentially deadly diseases are making a comeback in Britain. In London alone some neighborhoods have higher TB

rates than more impoverished parts of the world. Here's our Max Foster with more.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't got much time.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scurvy, tuberculosis and scarlet fever may conjure up images of a Charles Dickens tale. But

diseases of the Victorian era are re-emerging in modern-day Britain.

JOSIE GARRETT, TB PATIENT: It was, yes, a complete shock.

FOSTER (voice-over): Twenty-four-year-old Josie Garrett is nearing the end of intensive treatment for TB. She's studying for a master's degree but a

year ago was isolated in hospital.

GARRETT: I contracted tuberculosis from my boyfriend. He caught TB from his friend. His friend contracted tuberculosis from his dad. And his dad

first was diagnosed with TB in the '90s after traveling to India. And then it basically re-emerged again as a drug-resistant form of the disease.

Up until this point I was unable to work. I wasn't able to kind of socialize. I wasn't able to kind of live a normal life.

FOSTER (voice-over): TB is one disease often synonymous with poverty, affecting the most vulnerable. But health officials warn that strains of

the disease lie undetected in all parts of modern society and could break out in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bacteria of tuberculosis can infect you and stay in your body latent for a long time. And it becomes reawakened again and

manifests itself as a disease when something happens to your immune level.

FOSTER: Tuberculosis was one of the deadliest diseases in the Victorian era, killing one in four people at one point. And thousands of victims are

buried here at this cemetery.

Of course, the situation isn't as bad today. But there are parts of London where TB rates are higher than they are in Rwanda or Iraq. And a recent

study by Britain's national health service found that other diseases, common in the 19th century, are making a comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Notably there's been a huge rise in scarlet fever, 14,000 cases in the last year, the highest since the 1960s. We have seen a

rise in the cases of tuberculosis. We've seen a rise in the cases of whooping cough. We have seen more measles in the last 10 years than we've

seen in the 10 years before that.

FOSTER (voice-over): In fact, over the last five years in England, cases of scarlet fever have risen by 136 percent, scurvy by 38 percent and

cholera by 300 percent, though for --

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FOSTER (voice-over): -- scurvy and cholera the numbers are very small.

So why the resurgence?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do in fact see an uptick, for example, with measles, reduced population immunity, for example, with whooping cough,

increased poverty as well as an influx of migration and malnutrition.

FOSTER (voice-over): Two hundred years later and age-old afflictions, poverty, malnutrition, lack of health care, contributing to the rise of

Victorian era diseases today -- Max Foster, CNN, London.

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ASHER: All right. We have an answer to a mysterious sight in the sky that set the Internet abuzz on Tuesday evening.

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ASHER (voice-over): People all over Las Vegas reported seeing this, basically a large kind of meteor-like object. People were taking to

Twitter, asking what it was. It was even spotted as far as California.

And we have an answer for you. So according to U.S. Strategic Command, this is actually debris from a Russian rocket re-entering the atmosphere.

So if you were in Las Vegas and you're wondering what this was, there's your answer.

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ASHER: Coming up next at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, desperate families hope for a miracle after a landslide turns buildings to rubble in China. That's

coming up next.

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ASHER: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Zain Asher. Let's get you caught up on your headlines.

(HEADLINES)

ASHER: The race is still on to find survivors days after a landslide buried an apartment building in construction waste in China. The landslide

covered an area the size of 60 football fields. And dozens of people may be trapped inside the debris. Here's our Matt Rivers with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was a rescue 67 hours in the making. Rescuers pulled 19-year-old Tian Zeming out of the rubble that

buried him alive. Chinese state media said he'd been trapped for nearly three days after this Sunday morning.

After that landslide, his rescue was as improbable as it was joyful. But for so many others, the search goes on. Dozens gather at a nearby shelter,

awaiting word on family members still trapped. Hu Weishung (ph) still stunned by what he witnessed.

HU WEISHUNG (PH), LANDSLIDE WITNESS (through translator): I saw our house collapsing on the way home. And I simply lost the power to walk. My mind

completely went blank.

RIVERS (voice-over): Nearly his entire family, his parents, his wife, his three children, the youngest, a girl, just 2 years old, were inside their

apartment when the pile of earth and construction debris collapsed. They remain unaccounted for. Hu (ph) now waiting on a miracle.

HU (PH) (through translator): Right now it doesn't matter if my family is dead or alive. I just want them to be pulled out. I just want to see

them.

RIVERS (voice-over): As the hours tick by, the chances of his family being rescued dwindle. The mud is dense and tens of feet deep. It will take

weeks to clean it up.

HU (PH) (through translator): Right now there is only me and my brother left in my family. I have no plans for the future.

RIVERS (voice-over): He is remarkably stoic in all this, supported by those around him. His friend, Yu Haitao (ph) went to the scene of the

landslide, his feet still caked with mud. He's upset, wondering who to blame and how this could happen.

YU HAITAO (PH), SHENGHEN RESIDENT (through translator): We anxiously wait for any updates from the authorities. We give them our trust.

If they can't be trusted, who else can we turn to?

RIVERS (voice-over): For Hu (ph), blame will come later; for now, he's numb.

HU (PH) (through translator): Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I don't know what to think right now. I just want to see my

family.

RIVERS (voice-over): And just like any family man, he shows off pictures of his kids with pride, smiles, moments he prays he'll share once again --

Matt Rivers, CNN, Shenzhen, China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHER: Heartbreaking story as that rescue operation continues. In the meantime we're going to stay in China, where some of the country's richest

business titans have gone off the grid this year. Now one of them has suddenly reappeared after an extended hiatus. Here's our Andrew Stevens

with more.

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ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR (voice-over): The Hong Kong CEO of one of China's top brokerages has reappeared. Yim Fung, who runs the

Guotai Junan brokerage had been out of contact for more than a month. It turns out he was, quote, "assisting in certain investigations carried out

by mainland authorities," end quote.

STEVENS: Yim himself was not under investigation. That clinical statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, just a few sentences --

[10:35:00]

STEVENS: -- long, is the only explanation given as to that disappearance. It's virtually identical to the one issued by China's biggest private

conglomerate, Fosun International, when its founder, Guo Chang, reappeared in mid-December after he went missing for 36 hours.

Now assisting with the investigation was the same official reason given for the disappearance of Zhang Yun, he's the president of the Agricultural Bank

of China, that is the world's third biggest bank by assets. He disappeared in November.

The bank announced his resignation without any further explanation in early December.

Now the common thread, apart from an extreme lack of information, is that all these rich and powerful men were caught up in Beijing's ongoing

corruption crackdown and its hunt for the people who they think are responsible for the stock market rout this summer, all chilling examples of

a country promoting capitalism but resorting to heavy-handed police action when things go wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHER: Now earlier in the show we were discussing Donald Trump's controversial comments about Muslims. And in the wake of this month's

attack in San Bernardino, some Muslims are now finding themselves unable to travel to the United States.

In fact, one British family was prevented from flying to Los Angeles for a trip with their family to Disneyland. The family says they were given

absolutely no reason for why they were stopped and prevented from boarding the flight. They spoke to CNN a short time ago, telling our Diana Magnay

that they believed they were targeted because of their religion, because they were Muslims.

And as one person put it, quote, "We've been Trumped." That is what they're saying.

The family adds that they have still not received any type of explanation from either the U.K. or the U.S. authorities as to why they couldn't board

their flight. And now Prime Minister -- Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, is facing calls to intervene. We'll have a lot more on this story

on IDESK after the break. don't go away.

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ASHER: After years of holding out, The Beatles are finally joining the streaming revolution. The Beatles' songs will show up on streaming sites

just after the clock strikes midnight. CNNMoney's digital correspondent, Paul La Monica, joins me now live from New York.

And, Paul, I think everyone's asking is why have The Beatles been so late to the party?

[10:40:00]

ASHER: I remember they resisted iTunes for at least seven years.

Why is that?

PAUL LA MONICA, CNNMONEY DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is par for the course. I think part of it is obviously The Beatles are the bestselling

artist of all-time, more than 600 million albums sold.

So the surviving two members and the relatives of George and John Lennon, I'm sure, are all probably trying to figure out just what economically made

the most sense for the band.

Also, there are some, you know, older artists who have maintained that streaming music, the quality isn't very good so there have been holdouts

for that reason.

And as you mentioned they didn't come to iTunes for digital downloads until 2010, very late to the game. So I don't think it's a huge surprise that

they were one of the bigger holdouts.

ASHER: And how will they compete with the likes of, I guess, newer generation music, like Justin Bieber, do you think?

LA MONICA: I think that's -- well, that's going to be the interesting thing here. The Beatles songs' obviously are very timeless. There are so

many artists that cover them. It's hard not to hear a Beatles song, even if you may not recognize them.

There's the U.S. retailer, Kohl's, their whole holiday shopping commercials are centered around "All Together Now." So I think this deal was done to

ensure that Beatles songs really remain relevant and top of mind for younger music lovers, who, let's be honest, they're not obviously buying a

CD from a physical store or even from Amazon for that matter.

And they may not even be buying digital downloads from iTunes. They are just streaming music, either through a subscription service or for free.

ASHER: I'm sure a lot of Beatle fans, as soon as the clock strikes midnight, they're going to be at their laptops, ready to get their hands on

those Beatles songs streaming sites.

LA MONICA: They probably already own them, to be honest.

ASHER: Oh, yes, you're right. Exactly. They probably already own them.

Paul La Monica, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

LA MONICA: Thanks, Zain.

ASHER: Right. That does it here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Zain Asher. But don't go anywhere. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex Thomas is coming up

next.

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