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Trump Absent Republican Presidential Debate; Trump Takes Advantage of Solo Spotlight; Trump Hosts Town Hall Event in New Hampshire; Syria Peace Talks Will Move Forward; Bus Takes People from Beirut to Raqqah; Inside Syria's War-Ravaged Ghost Town; Europe Struggles with Migrant Influx; El Nino Could Impact Zika Spread; Comedy Filmed in West Bank Up for Award. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 29, 2016 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, Donald Trump is the elephant not in the room.

Our exclusive report from a ghost town in Syria.

And the link between El Nino and the Zika virus.


CURNOW: Hi, there, and welcome, I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center. We begin now with U.S. politics and the latest debate between the Republican

presidential candidates.

It was the last chance to watch the rivals go head-to-head before Monday's critical nominating contest in Iowa. Essentially that kicks off this

presidential campaign. The front-runner who has been the most talked-about candidate didn't participate.

But as our John Berman now reports, Donald Trump made his absence known.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST (voice-over): For a debate stage absent of Donald Trump, it was hardly a debate absent of Donald Trump.

From the very first question --

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS MODERATOR: Before we get to the issues, let's address the elephant not in the room tonight.

BERMAN (voice-over): -- to the very first joke.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say, I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly.

And, Ben, you're a terrible surgeon.

Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way.


BERMAN (voice-over): To a completely changed dynamic, where, with no Trump lightning rod, other candidates had to dodge bolts.

CRUZ: So I would note that the last four questions have been, Rand, please attack Ted; Marco please attack Ted; Chris, please attack Ted; Jeb, please

attack Ted.

Let me just say this --


CRUZ: Well, no. No. A debate actually is a policy issue.

But I will say this, gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.

BERMAN (voice-over): And some candidates got flat-out more attention.

This was Rand Paul questioning Hillary Clinton's values relative to her husband's infidelities.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that her position as promoting women's rights and fairness to women in the workplace, that,

if what Bill Clinton did, any CEO in our country did, with an intern, with a 22-year old, 21-year old intern in their office, they would be fired.

They would never be hired again.

BERMAN (voice-over): The most extraordinary moment of the night even came on an issue Donald Trump put front and center -- immigration. It led to an

all-out melee, Jeb Bush versus Marco Rubio.

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm kind of confused because he was the sponsor of the Gang of Eight bill that did

require a bunch of thresholds but ultimately allowed for citizenship over an extended period of time.

I mean, that's a fact. And he asked me to support that. And I supported him because I think people, when you're elected, you need to do things.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's interesting that Jeb mentions the book. That is the book where you changed your position on

immigration because you used to support a path to citizenship.

BUSH: So did you.

RUBIO: Well, but you changed the -- in the book --

BUSH: And so did you, Marco.

RUBIO: You wrote a book where you changed your position from -- no, you wrote a book where you changed your position from a path to citizenship to

a path to legalization.

BERMAN (voice-over): Rand Paul versus Ted Cruz.

PAUL: I was there and I saw the debate. I saw Ted Cruz say, we'll take citizenship off the table and then the bill will pass and I'm for the bill.

But it's a falseness. And that's an authenticity problem that everybody he knows is not as perfect as him because we're all for amnesty.

BERMAN (voice-over): Ted Cruz versus Marco Rubio.

CRUZ: You know, John Adams famously said facts are stubborn things. The facts are very, very simple; when that battle was waged, my friend, Senator

Rubio, chose to stand with Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and support amnesty.

And I stood alongside Jeff Sessions and Steve King and we led the fight against amnesty.

RUBIO: This is the lie that Ted's campaign is built on and Rand touched upon it, that he's the most conservative guy and everyone else is a -- you

know, everyone else is a RINO. The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign, you've been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes.

BERMAN (voice-over): Chris Christie versus everyone.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel like -- I feel like I need -- I feel like I need a Washington-to-English dictionary




CURNOW: John Berman reporting there.

So where exactly was Donald Trump?

Also in the state of Iowa, about 5 kilometers away, actually, holding an event for veterans. As senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar now

reports, he took advantage of his solo time in the spotlight.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside a packed auditorium at Drake University in Des Moines.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at all the cameras, like the Academy Awards.


TRUMP: This is like the Academy Awards.

KEILAR (voice-over): Donald Trump, boasting about the big turnout for his veterans' event and the millions of dollars he says he raised.

TRUMP: This is a special night for me and I had no idea this was going to happen. We started out literally 24 hours ago, maybe less. We had no idea

and we went out. We set up the website. I called some friends. And we just cracked. The sign was just given -- we just cracked $6 million,

right, $6 million.

KEILAR (voice-over): Just a few miles away, GOP candidates onstage, squaring off at FOX's primetime debate, with Trump out of sight but not out

of mind.

BUSH: I kind of miss Donald Trump. He was a little teddy bear to me.

KEILAR (voice-over): The businessman with FOX on the brain, too, addressing the feud before the crowd.

TRUMP: When you're treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights.

FOX has been extremely nice and -- the last number of hours, actually.


TRUMP: And they've wanted me there.

And they said, "How about now?"

They called a few minutes ago.

"How about now?

"Can you come over?"

I said, "Hasn't it already started?"

They wanted me to go and apologize and everything else. And they did apologize and they could not have been -- but once this started, it's for

our vets, there was nothing I could do.

Will I get more votes?

Will I get less votes?

Nobody knows.

KEILAR (voice-over): Trump largely holding back jabs at the debating candidates. Instead, touting his own poll numbers and speaking about the

problems veterans face.

TRUMP: Our vets are being mistreated. Illegal immigrants are treated better in many cases than our vets. And it's not going to happen anymore.

Not going to happen anymore.

KEILAR (voice-over): But earlier that night, Trump knocking his biggest rival, Senator Ted Cruz in an interview with me.


KEILAR: Ted Cruz has been -- he, not just Ted Cruz, but also those who support him have been hammering you when it comes to your previous views on

late-term abortion.

TRUMP: Well, I'm hammering him on his views where he was born. And he's weak, by the way, he's very weak on illegal immigration.

KEILAR: But you said to my colleague just recently, Dana Bash, you said, "I don't want to talk about that," when you were asked about your previous

support for late-term abortion.

TRUMP: He did a big commercial. He said I ripped down a person's house.

KEILAR: But what does that have to do with --


TRUMP: It has a lot to do with it.

KEILAR: -- you wanting to talk about this issue of late-term abortion?

TRUMP: Excuse me. It has a lot to do with it. Because he's very dishonest in what he's doing.


KEILAR (voice-over): Two other rivals, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, actually showed up at Trump's event.

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER SENATOR: Not to be offensive, but I'll stand a little bit over here so I'm not photographed with the Trump sign.

KEILAR (voice-over): The two former Iowa caucus winners standing alongside the current frontrunner.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Rick Santorum, Donald Trump and I may be competitors in a presidential race.

But tonight we are colleagues in unison, standing here for the people who let us breathe every breath of free air we breathe, the veterans of the

United States of America.

KEILAR (voice-over): Trump's competing event was meant for veterans, but it's playing out amid an all-out war for the attention of voters and


TRUMP: Isn't that better than this debate that's going on where they're sleeping?


They're all sleeping. They're all sleeping, everybody.


CURNOW: Brianna Keilar there reporting.

Well, after his appearance in Iowa, Donald Trump traveled to another key primary state, New Hampshire, where he's set to host a town hall meeting.

Our Jim Acosta joins us now live from Nashua, New Hampshire.

Well, as you heard there, Mr. Trump has a lot to say. Not a lot of detail. Didn't like to answer any of the questions posed to him by our

correspondent there. No surprises.

What do you think he's likely to say in this town hall coming up?

Any hope of him putting some meat on his policies?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, I think this is going to be a sort of a victory lap for Donald Trump. They feel like

inside the Trump campaign that this was a tactical victory last night, that skipping the debate, who would have thought that skipping the last debate

before the Iowa caucuses would be a smart move.

But this may have been a smart move for Donald Trump in the end because not only did he avoid the slings and arrows coming from his GOP rivals on that

stage over on FOX News, he was able to have his own event across town.

And it stands to reason that there are probably a lot of Republicans last night who were using the flashback or previous channel button on the remote

control going back and forth between those two televised events.

And Donald Trump, he said during last night's event there in Des Moines that this was about raising money for veterans' causes. They said about $6

million were raised for those veterans' causes. About $500,000 on this new website that was created by Donald Trump's campaign in the last 24 to 48


But really this event that he held last night was about teaching FOX News a lesson, putting FOX News in their place, Robyn.

As Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager told me just before Donald Trump's event last night, they feel like that press release that was

initially put out by FOX News, sort of poking fun at Donald Trump for threatening to skip the debate, was, quote, "egregious" and that Donald

Trump really had had no --


ACOSTA: -- chance but to defend himself at that point. And skipping the debate, they felt was the right thing to do at that stage.

And Donald Trump talked about that during last night's event. He said that sometimes you just have to stick up for yourself.

And so, yes, while not a whole lot of policy was discussed there at last night's event, he did make a point, not only inside the Republican Party

but to FOX News, which does have a lot of influence over this Republican Party election process every four years.

And just to go to show you how this was a pretty big night for Donald Trump, the last two Iowa caucus winners, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee,

were at Donald Trump's event. At one point, Rick Santorum told reporters he didn't want the press taking pictures of him in front of Donald Trump

for President signs because he said I'm still running for president.

And so -- you know, this was one of those life is stranger than fiction moments because Donald Trump not only appears to have come out on top by

skipping this debate, he may have actually created some energy inside his campaign.

You know, a lot of this is about boosting turnout. He may have, in fact, helped himself in that respect during this event last night.

CURNOW: You say stranger than fiction. I heard one political commentator on CNN earlier, saying this was all just plain weird the way this was all

played out. This whole process has been upended.

So with that in mind, let's expand on the issue on whether voters like this, whether this has played into Donald Trump's hands or whether Ted Cruz

maybe gained a few extra voters.

ACOSTA: Well, all you have to do, Robyn, is look at the front page of "The Des Moines Register." The front page of "The Des Moines Register," which

is really the newspaper of record in Iowa, has a picture of Ted Cruz and the headline reads, in pretty bold print, "Rough Night for Ted Cruz."

There was one time during the debate last night when Ted Cruz went after the moderators almost Donald Trump-style and said if I get one more mean

question I'm going to leave this debate. Now I think he was kidding. Ted Cruz is pretty good at delivering the deadpan jokes.

But that joke really fell flat during last night's debate. The audience booed. It was a rough moment for Ted Cruz.

And so if you're Donald Trump, you're standing there, you're watching -- maybe you didn't watch it because this was all happening in real time, but

after the debate, you're seeing that moment and you're thinking to yourself, well, maybe it was a good idea not to go to this debate.

He sort of avoided all those moments where the other candidates could have gone after him. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were spending more time fighting

with Ted Cruz than they were going after Donald Trump.

Yes, there were mentions of Donald Trump last night but there were no sparring matches that could have gone against Donald Trump during last

night's debate. And that only helps him, I can imagine, heading into these Iowa caucuses.

The one thing that -- the one wrinkle in all of this that might be interesting to watch is that if the reviews were this -- were that bad for

Ted Cruz, if it hurts him heading into these Iowa caucuses, does that potentially help Marco Rubio?

And I think that is one of the story lines we have to watch going into the Iowa caucuses. If Marco Rubio somehow figures out a way to finish second,

that could really change the dynamic of this race -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Indeed. And obviously, he probably has the support of more establishment figures and that could also change things.

Keeping an eye on things for us there in New Hampshire, Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

Well, later on at the IDESK, we'll have more on Donald Trump's showdown with FOX News. Plus to talk about the early ratings are in and we'll

analyze them with our Brian Stelter.

And no ISIS fighters but no signs of life. We'll give you an exclusive look inside a Syrian town, where bombs and empty buildings are the only

things left. Stay with us.





CURNOW: Hi, there, I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK.

Now it's after 4:00 in the afternoon in Geneva, where talks on ending the devastating war in Syria are supposed to be taking place. Government

representatives are there. The opposition is not.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is following the developments from Beirut.

Going into these talks, there wasn't a lot of optimism.

Now that they have sort of started, is this continuing pessimism?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt, really. And I think if you step away from the minutiae, the choreography of who is

arriving when -- at this point we know that the Syrian government's lowest senior-ranking diplomat they could send, their U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-

Jaafari, has arrived.

But we are waiting to see if anybody comes from the Syrian opposition. The HNC reports perhaps they might send a lower level delegation, perhaps one

that might just deliver their message, which is they don't really want to talk until they see an end to blockades and humanitarian aid getting

through to all areas and an end to attacks on civilians, effectively an end to much of the war in itself.

And this really highlights, I think, owing to the delayed nature of the start of this quite how exasperated these talks have become. We have a

regime who are doing very well militarily with Russian support, advancing in strategic areas.

We have an opposition who, frankly, don't represent many of the people doing the fighting on the ground, particularly the larger groups, the Nusra

Front and ISIS, they are not part of this at all but they are militarily involved in the battlefield, as are other rebel groups, too, that aren't

really embodied by the opposition.

They perhaps feel the best stance they can take is to keep a distance from the talks but insist upon humanitarian aid and a cease in attack on

civilians. That's the least perhaps they can offer to people they want to represent inside of Syria.

We have the U.S. putting a lot of political capital on the table but increasingly exasperated with the Syrian opposition, who are there, saying,

too, you need to come and turn up for these talks. And at the same time, too, they've changed their language slightly. No longer asking for a

transition government but more close the language of a national unity government to find a way out of how to move Syria's government more towards

a peace settlement here.

So the political ground changing very fast and the process it seems withering around the absence of the opposition actually at the talks in a

wholesale kind of way.

And all of this distance from what's happening on the battlefield, where ISIS are on the back foot, the Kurds are advancing. Neither of them really

at the talks in any meaningful way at all, particularly the Kurds.

And at the same time, too, the Russians are giving the Syrian regime an awful lot more speed in their stride. And that does make what's happening

in Geneva seem quite distanced at all from the daily life of those inside Syria -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Well, Nick, explain that more because there is still also that allure. And ISIS is still managing to draw recruits, many of them leaving

from where you are.

WALSH: It is fascinating to learn that there is, from where I'm standing, not far from where I'm sanding here in Beirut, a bus that leaves and drives

all the way through regime territory and across the dangerous battles, border there into ISIS' capital of Raqqah.

Those on board the bus, we don't really know their stories in full but this is what they were willing to share with us.


WALSH (voice-over): Central Beirut bus station and this is what travelers call -- and I'm not really exaggerating -- a one-way ticket to death.

The bus to Raqqah, the Syrian city, ISIS call their capital. They have sold nine tickets for the 24-hour trip through the regime-held capital,

Damascus, and onward. Yet nobody wants to show their face, apart from this man, the manager, because he's not actually going. He explains the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A woman that's not dressed right will be sent to Islamic training. She of course needs a male relative to

escort her. Men need to leave their beards grow long, their natural state, with mustaches trimmed.

Trousers should not be tight and a certain height over shoes. But ISIS realized when people travel, they can't always look like that. So it's OK.


WALSH (voice-over): Most who'll fill the seats seem sure somehow ISIS will let them in yet won't say why.

WALSH: Well, it is remarkable that a bus still goes from Beirut to Raqqah but this is what it looks like on the return journey, absolutely empty.

Those getting on board do not expect to come back.

WALSH (voice-over): Tonight's cargo is on its final journey. A man who died of a heart attack, we're told, headed to his hometown for a family

funeral. Sadness of this loss here but also nervous last cigarettes, not because the trip ahead where fighter jets often fly low buzzing the coach

but because smoking and music are banned under ISIS' medieval rules.

Nicotiny fingers will later be soaked in perfume. Racy pictures and music deleted from phones. Snipers, airstrikes on the way, their matter-of-fact


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A plane might strike some distance from the bus. It's normal. No one can really pin down where the sniper

fire is coming from. That's when the passengers get afraid.

WALSH (voice-over): Tonight, a hurdle arises. They don't have the paperwork to take the body out of Lebanon.

We learn that the bus did leave 24 hours later, one man telling us, Raqqah used to be his heaven. But ISIS, the war, poverty and even the trash have

now made it hell.


WALSH: Well, can people ever leave Raqqah?

We know ISIS very carefully hermetically seals their city, only letting people out with strict permission. We heard two stories to contradict

that. One man in the crowd saying, if you have an urgent medical condition, you can get 15 days out of Raqqah to get treatment. Come back

any later than that and ISIS will take away your property.

And another woman we spoke to seemed or at least said she'd left, gone out for a visit to the Gulf and was now coming back. Well, you do get the

feeling in that crowd people perhaps know ISIS slightly better than they're letting on but remarkable all the same to see how normal everyday life, you

know, we see ISIS as these 10-foot-tall monsters, carrying out attacks around the world.

Here, they were a part of a community, at least, or living in a city in and out of which people make a normal traffic on a bus like that -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. Indeed, thanks so much. Nick Paton Walsh reporting there from Beirut, (INAUDIBLE). Appreciate it.

Well, the Syrian civil war took on a new dimension with the rise of ISIS. In this exclusive report, Clarissa Ward visits a town where ISIS has been

forced out. Take a look.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kurdish fighters are now in control of the town of al-Hawl. But the shadow of ISIS still looms large.

The militants left here in a hurry. ISIS documents litter the floor of the Islamic courthouse.

Further up the road, Kurdish fighter Renaz Shamo (ph) showed us a hastily abandoned bomb factory. One room is stacked with land mines and crudely

fashioned homemade bombs.

WARD: (Speaking foreign language).

WARD (voice-over): In another building, barrels packed with explosives are still ready to be detonated.

"All of these are filled with hundreds of pounds of TNT," he says.

"They load seven or eight of them onto a truck and then make a suicide attack. They can cause us massive devastation."

These stockpiles just a tiny fraction, the munitions scattered all over Syria. The battle for al-Hawl didn't last long. Coalition airpower saw to


WARD: This town was liberated nearly two months ago but when ISIS fled, so did all of the Arab residents. And the streets here are still completely


WARD (voice-over): Kurdish fighters told us just one of the 3,000 inhabitants remains. The rest, wary of life under Kurdish control, simply

vanished, leaving behind shuttered shops and empty schools, an ominous sign of the deep mistrust that haunts every corner of this country -- Clarissa

Ward, CNN, al-Hawl, Syria.


CURNOW: Well, thanks to Clarissa for that report.

Now the group that monitors migrant crossings says that migrants are dying at an alarming rate while trying to reach Europe.

The International Organization for Migration says 244 migrants have died so far this month while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. They're mostly

from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meantime, a Dutch plan would send migrants arriving in Greece back to Turkey. Under that plan, the European Union would take in 250,000 refugees

a year from Turkish camps.

Countries across Europe are looking for solutions to the influx of migrants. The leaders of Italy and Germany met a few hours ago. On

Thursday, Germany announced plans to tighten rules for asylum seekers.

For more on those talks and Germany's plans we go to --


CURNOW: -- Berlin. Atika Shubert is standing by for the latest.

Hi, there, Atika. Let's talk about these new German plans. What's important here is what Germany does, what Angela Merkel does, in many ways,

leads the way in how to deal with this crisis.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly, and perhaps it shows that even Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led the way to keeping the door open

for refugees, is bowing to internal pressure to at least try and limit the number coming across.

And the way they have done that is with this agreement they are calling asylum package number two. And essentially it outlines ways for economic

migrants, for example, to be deported back to their home countries that are considered safe.

So there are now agreements in place with Morocco and Tunisia to make sure that economic migrants can be returned to those countries. And Germany is

looking to sign agreements with Algeria and other countries as well.

In addition to that, the package also says that any migrant, any refugee that commits a crime here could risk deportation back to their country.

And obviously, that depends on the individual circumstance. A refugee fleeing political persecution, for example, cannot be returned to the

country where their life might be in danger.

But if a crime is committed, then the German state will have to consider ways to deal with that either refugee or economic migrant.

The other issue tackled in this package is family reunification. For certain cases of migrants that come here or refugees, it may mean an

extended wait to be reunited with family. So they have to wait for possibly up to two years to bring family over from their country to here in


All of these measures are put in place to try and stem the flow of refugees and migrants coming across. Remember, Germany has taken more than a

million already and it really is dealing with this incredible pressure and overwhelming use of its resources here.

And so Angela Merkel has been under a lot of pressure to find some way to keep the numbers from coming.

CURNOW: Indeed. Thanks so much. Atika Shubert there, appreciate it.

Well, moving on, a human rights group says new images back up witness accounts of mass killings in the African nation of Burundi. Amnesty

International says satellite pictures show five possible mass graves outside the capital. Now that's consistent with testimony accusing

security forces of killing dozens of people in December.

An Amnesty official says the images suggest authorities tried to cover up the massacre. Burundi has been in crisis since the president was elected

to a controversial third term last year. There are fears it could slide into full-blown ethnic conflict.

Well, you're watching INTERNATIONAL DESK. Still to come, it brings hotter and wetter weather.

Is there a link between El Nino and the Zika virus?





CURNOW: You're watching CNN. This is the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW: Well, Trump says FOX News has apologized and now the early ratings are in from both events. For more on all of this, let's bring in CNN's

Brian Stelter, who joins me now live from New York.

Hi, there.

What are these ratings, I mean, particularly for a global audience?

Why are these ratings important?

But, either way, it seems that both sides are spinning the numbers to their favor --


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: They are. It's actually rather entertaining. Let's start with why these are important.

The ratings are important because these candidates, who do go to the debates, are reaching huge numbers of people. In 2008 or in 2012, if we

were holding (INAUDIBLE) maybe four or five or 6 million Americans would watch on TV.

So there was a core audience of these debates, of political junkies like me, who would watch no matter what. Well, now that Donald Trump is in the

race, these debates get 15 million or 20 million or at one point even 25 million viewers.

So they are getting a much bigger audience and frankly, I think that helps all the candidates or at least it can help all the candidates who are on

stage because they are reaching so many potential voters.

What's interesting about the ratings for last night is that there was clearly an impact from Donald Trump not being there. So the official

numbers are coming in in a couple hours. But it looks like FOX News got maybe 11 million or 12 million viewers, maybe up to 13 million. That's a

lot lower than, say, CNN.

CNN last month had a debate and had 18 million viewers watching. And this debate was even more hyped, even more hotly anticipated. So clearly

Trump's fans decided to shun FOX, decided not to watch. They went and changed the channel and watched something else. Some of them watched

Trump's own counter programming, his own event raising funds for veterans.

So there's a really interesting dynamic here about Trump using his ratings power, using his ratings magnetism, taking it across the street to the

rally that -- to this speech that we're showing on the other side of the screen and basically trying to hurt FOX by not showing up to the debate.

CURNOW: Indeed. This is a very shrewd manipulation of the broadcasting business rather than a fundamental assessment of presidential candidates'


But true to that, let's talk about what Mr. Trump has done. And he has, whether you like it or not, upended the way this process has been done.

But from the media perspective, the bullying tone, the threatening of journalists, punishment for not asking the right questions or behaving, I

mean all of that sounds very un-American.

STELTER: It is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people in the political press. Some of them have to cover Trump every day.

At the same time, on a very different level, he's an incredible and unpredictable and engrossing story. So there are obviously different

dimensions to this.

But it is important to emphasize I think what you just said. Trump has basically been trying to bully or drum Megyn Kelly off the debate stage.

Now she did moderate last night. She made a quip about how the elephant in the room was not there, who was Donald Trump.

Megyn Kelly is not the only journalist that's been targeted by Trump, either. Sometimes the campaign denies press credentials to certain news

outlets. Sometimes it will tell reporters, it will freeze them out if they don't cooperate.

And to some extent, at some level all campaigns and all political machines do this.

But Trump has taken it to a different -- I don't want to call it a standard, because it's a pretty troubling behavior. But he's taken it into

new places. And that is cause for concern.

I think what the Trump campaign would say is, listen, we take on a lot of attacks. We take a lot of incoming. We have to stand up for ourselves and

take care of ourselves.

And clearly some voters appreciate that. They like seeing Trump be the strong man, like him putting on a very tough, aggressive persona and

challenging people like Megyn Kelly, who he thinks are --


STELTER: -- unfair.

CURNOW: Indeed. And let's not forget the trolling on Twitter as well, which also adds a whole 'nother dimension to it all.

Brian Stelter, thanks so much, great to have your perspective. Appreciate it.

Well, I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. Much more news after the break. Stay with us.




CURNOW: Brazil's president is calling for an all-out war on the mosquito that carries the Zika virus. Now this virus, of course, has been linked to

a dangerous birth defect and global officials warn it's spreading explosively.

German officials have confirmed five cases and they say they expect more as people return from affected areas.

But there's another angle to the story: the weather. Chad Myers is at the CNN Weather Center to explain.

And hi, there, Chad. We've all felt it. It's either been hotter or drier or rainier in the last year.

And how is that playing into a virus like Zika?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, think about what mosquitoes love. They love warm and wet. And if it's warmer longer and the growing season

for mosquitoes is longer and the death season is shorter, you're going to get more mosquitoes in the air.

You're going to get more mosquitoes on the ground and making eggs and larvae if you have more water. That's where the mosquitoes thrive.

So what we expect, warm and wet across this area because of the El Nino. I believe that this may spread over a lot of South North America, Central

America over the coming years as it gets warmer and warmer.

This is what we have picked up so far in an El Nino year, from Paraguay down to Uruguay and Argentina, very, very wet. What may have had a wet

season up here to the north into Colombia really hasn't even happened at all up here, even Venezuela. It's has been hot and dry.

And hot and dry, Robyn, can be just as bad as wet because, if you're storing water in a cistern or if you don't have any water running through

pools to wash out the dirty water, where the larvae are, that water just sits in pools. And that's the pooling water, that's the stagnant water

that these things want to breed in.

They do like fresher stagnant water than the old kind of mosquitoes we think about, which can just breed in any swamp. They like the water to be

kind of fresh but still not moving.

From eggs to larvae and then all the way up, even as you start to fly, these things are getting the virus and they can bite you earlier in their

life cycle and still get the virus to you.

The Zika virus, very deadly, and I tell you what, they have their work cut out for them. It is going to be a really brutal summer there. Understand

the Northern Hemisphere in the winter; they're down there in their summer - - Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, indeed. And of course, the Brazilians trying to deal with this with the military --


CURNOW: -- but it is. It's a very overwhelming task facing them.

Appreciate it, Chad Myers.

Well, moving on to something a little bit lighter here at CNN. A comedy filmed in the West Bank has done so well around the world it's now

nominated for an Oscar. And the movie's director says, despite the volatile region, there are zero politics involved. Oren Liebermann reports

from Jerusalem.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mine field in the West Bank may not be the most common setting for a comedy, but it's where "Ave

Maria," a comic short, sets up its clash of cultures.

Religious Jewish settlers crash their car in the West Bank right before the Sabbath.

Their only help?

Devout nuns who have taken a vow of silence, a complete communications breakdown. It's Jews who can't use a phone or electricity on the Sabbath -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I can't. It's against the law.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- and Christians, who can't speak because of their vow.

BASIL KHALIL, DIRECTOR: For us, this is hilarious. But for them, this is real life. And I wanted to sort of highlight questioning the rules that we

take on ourselves.

How necessary are they?

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): First-time Palestinian director, Basil Khalil, has now taken his 15-minute film to 60 film festivals across 30 countries.

He is aiming even higher, the Oscars, where "Ave Maria" is up for Best Short Film.

He wasn't trying to make a political statement with his film and there are no flags here. He is visibly uncomfortable talking politics.

KHALIL: The Israel-Palestine conflict, oh, god.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): He'd rather talk about the people living the conflict.

KHALIL: They need to connect on a human level. And I have got Israeli friends. I have got, you know, Palestinian friends from all spectrums and,

on a human level, really get along.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): "Ave Maria" premiered in Jerusalem a month before the Oscars in a small but crowded independent theater.

Huda Al Imam plays the Mother Superior. She says that cinema is an important way of laughing at the difficulties of Palestinian life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God give me the answer.

HUDA AL IMAM, ACTOR: We want to keep our sanity and our humanity, despite the fact that we are completely controlled by inhuman elements around us.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In a region rife with rules, political and religious, Khalil says there's value in questioning those rules, in this

case, laws of Sabbath and silence, for a new perspective on an old conflict -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


CURNOW: A wonderful piece. Thanks to Oren for that.

And sticking with the Oscar theme here. A new poll reveals most Americans don't seem to care much about diversity at the Oscars. There have been

calls to boycott the Academy Awards this year after the nominations failed to include minorities in the biggest categories.

A new CNN/ORC poll released a few hours ago shows that 30 percent of those surveyed support the boycott while 64 percent oppose it. Among non-whites,

support for the boycott was only 44 percent.

And one of Hollywood's biggest stars and, of course, the front-runner in terms of Best Actor this year at the Oscars has popped up in an unexpected


There you go. Leo DiCaprio was at the Vatican Thursday for an unannounced meeting with the pope. DiCaprio kissed the pope's ring and greeted the

pontiff in Italian. The actor also gave Pope Francis a book of 15th century art.

The two are high-profile environmentalists and used the meeting to discuss issues close to their hearts.

Well, thanks for watching. I'm Robyn Curnow, here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. We'll be back in about 15 minutes with a bit more. But in the

meantime, I'm going to hand you over to "WORLD SPORT" and Alex Thomas.