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Democratic Rivals Face Voters in CNN Town Hall; U.N. Panel Rules Assange Unlawfully Detained; Former ISIS Oil Field Now Idle; Boy Killed by Taliban after Fighting Them; Zika Virus Linked to Microcephaly; Clinton Defends Paid Wall Street Speeches; Greeks Strike in Protest of More Pension Reform; "Top Gear" Gets First Non-British Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 4, 2016 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Will Julian Assange be arrested on Friday?

And the American actor who is joining the cast of "Top Gear."


CURNOW: Hello and welcome. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center and we start with the race for the White House.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton facing tough questions from voters at a town hall meeting just days before the New Hampshire primary.

The talks got personal, at times heated. Both candidates used the buzzword "progressive," trying to convince voters they can best represent the more

liberal side of the Democratic Party. Brianna Keilar has the highlights.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, we're an underdog. We are taking on the most powerful political

organization in the country and that's the Clinton organization.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Only five days from the New Hampshire primary Senator Bernie Sanders taking off the gloves

during last night's Democratic town hall, jabbing Secretary Clinton over which candidate can claim to be progressive.

SANDERS: You can't go and say you're a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I

love moderates. But you can't be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.

KEILAR (voice-over): Clinton pushed back at his assertion when she took the stage.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said that I'm a progressive that likes to get things done. And I was somewhat amused today that

Senator Sanders has set himself up to be the gatekeeper on who's a progressive because under the definition that was flying around on Twitter

and statements by the campaign, Barack Obama would not be a progressive, Joe Biden would not be a progressive.

KEILAR (voice-over): Sanders forcing Clinton to defend her relationship with Wall Street.

SANDERS: I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That's just not progressive.

KEILAR (voice-over): The former senator from New York stumbling a bit when Anderson Cooper asked her about her paid speeches from investment giant

Goldman Sachs.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: But did you have to be paid $675,000?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know. That's what they offered. So --


CLINTON: You know, every secretary of state that I know has done that.

COOPER: But that's -- one's your office and not running for an office --

CLINTON: Well, I didn't know --

COOPER: -- must have known --

CLINTON: -- to be honest, I wasn't -- I wasn't committed to running. I didn't -- I didn't know whether I --

COOPER: You didn't think you were going to run for president?

CLINTON: I didn't.

KEILAR (voice-over): Clinton tackling another tough subject when an audience member asked her about her vote for the war in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What have you learned since that vote that could give me confidence that you wouldn't make a mistake of that magnitude again?

CLINTON: Oh, I think that's a very fair question.

You know, I did make a mistake. And I admitted that I made a mistake.

KEILAR (voice-over): That mistake, one that Senator Sanders has repeatedly gone after.

SANDERS: The key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don't

listen to Bush. Don't go to war. Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

KEILAR (voice-over): But Clinton standing firm.

CLINTON: All I can do is to just get up every day and work to do what I believe our country needs, find ways to help people, whether it's on mental

health or addiction or autism or student loans, whatever it might be.

And I trust the American people. I trust the people of New Hampshire to see my lifetime of work and service and to sort out all of the static and

to know that I will work my heart out for you.


CURNOW: Well, let's talk about senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar reporting there.

Well, CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston joins me now from Manchester, New Hampshire, with more on this town hall conversation.

Real tough talk over issues that again speak to the direction of the Democratic Party. And young voters were paying attention to this.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No doubt and we saw Bernie Sanders last night try to go right after Hillary Clinton on major issues that he

feels that liberals are grasping onto, the environment, the trade policy here in the United States and the Iraq war.

Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq war when she was in the Senate. Bernie Sanders did not. That is still one of the major issues that are dogging

her right now here in the United States as she's trying to win this Democratic nomination.

Now Bernie Sanders, as you said, is trying to reach out to young folks here in the U.S. in war right now. The idea of intervention is not very popular

with the younger set. So Bernie Sanders trying to do that and Hillary Clinton trying to portray herself as the pragmatic problem solver. And we

just heard her say that in last night's town hall.

CURNOW: Yes, indeed. Also what I found fascinating about the town hall is that you really got some insight into the candidates' faith or lack

thereof. Let's just hear a clip of what --


CURNOW: -- Hillary Clinton had to say after she got a question from a rabbi.


CLINTON: Regardless of how hard the days are, how difficult the decisions are, be grateful.

Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe; be grateful for your limitations. Know you have to reach out to have more

people be with you, to support you, to advise you.

Listen to your critics, answer the questions. But at the end, be grateful. Practice the discipline of gratitude.


CURNOW: They're really powerful words there but also Bernie Sanders had some pretty powerful words and he really seemed comfortable, eloquent even,

about his lack of faith.

PRESTON: Well, he did and he talked -- you know, he's Jewish and he talked about how everybody really comes together, that we shouldn't be so

fragmented as a society when it comes to religion.

It was interesting about the town hall last night and what we're used to seeing, these candidates, is standing next to each other and fighting one

another over policy issues.

And what we see in these town halls -- and this is our second one in a week now -- is that we're getting to explore a little bit more about themselves


And as our viewers know around the world, when you go to vote for somebody, you're not only voting for where you think they are going to take the

country but you're also voting on their personality. And these town halls allow us to open this window to into their souls in many ways. And I think

we really saw that on full display last night.

CURNOW: Yes. I mean, the voters really feel like they want to get to know these candidates and this is just one way. Mark Preston, thank you so


Well, on the Republican side, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are firing new salvos in what's quickly becoming a war of words there.

Trump said Wednesday night that Cruz was responsible for ObamaCare. Cruz strongly supported U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who cast the

deciding vote upholding ObamaCare.

But Cruz wasn't a senator when the Senate voted to confirm Roberts' nomination to the court. Cruz calls the attacks "a Trumper tantrum" and

says Trump is, quote, "losing it" after his defeat in the Iowa caucuses.

Cruz also denies Trump's accusations of fraud in Iowa. Both candidates are campaigning in New Hampshire today.

Now a United Nations panel is believed to have decided Julian Assange is being unlawfully held. This according to the U.K.'s press association.

The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up in London's Ecuadoran embassy since 2012 over fears of extradition for alleged sex crimes.

Erin McLaughlin joins us now from London.

Hi, there, Erin.

What does all this mean?

Does it change the situation?

I mean, seems like the British government certainly hasn't changed theirs.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly haven't, Robyn. Downing Street today could not have been more clear that they do not

consider the findings of this U.N. panel to be legally binding.

And should Julian Assange step foot outside the Ecuadoran embassy, a warrant will be issued for his arrest. Now this of course all follows a

very dramatic statement that was released by Assange last night via the WikiLeaks' Twitter feed, in which he said that if this panel ruled against

him, he would then step outside the embassy and accept his arrest.

But if they ruled in his favor, he expects his passport to be returned and he expects authorities to stop trying to arrest him.

And of course this morning the press association reporting that the panel has, in fact, ruled in his favor that he is being arbitrarily detained.

But certainly does not seem as though British authorities will meet Assange's expectations and his situation, it certainly seems, will remain

the same.

Now we have reached out to the U.N. for comment. They are not commenting, pointing to the formal announcement which is scheduled for tomorrow.

Julian Assange has also scheduled a press conference of his own via uplink from the Ecuadoran embassy tomorrow.

CURNOW: Yes. Lots to talk about. That's not over. Erin McLaughlin, thanks for the update.

Well, what was once an ISIS stronghold making millions of dollars a month now sits abandoned. The oil field that Kurds are desperate to get up and


Plus an 11-year-old Afghan child called a hero for keeping his community safe during a Taliban siege. Now the Taliban claim they killed him. His

story, that's just ahead.





CURNOW: You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me.

Various countries pledged billions of dollars in aid Thursday to help refugees of the Syrian civil war. The London conference is hosted by

Britain, Norway and Germany, who were the first to donate.

The meeting comes just one day after Syrian peace talks came to a halt in Geneva. The more than 6 million people displaced inside Syria and 4

million who fled to other countries and with no end in sight to the civil war, the U.N. is asking for nearly $9 billion in aid to address the needs

of those people.

Well, I want to take a closer look now at the scars of that civil war. Our Clarissa Ward visited a recently liberated oil field in Northern Syria that

was once a cash cow for ISIS. It was also where the terror group kept many of its prisoners.

Well, Clarissa joins me now, live from Irbil in neighboring Iraq.

Hi, there, Clarissa.

What did you see?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. Well, it's kind of staggering to think that not so long ago ISIS was making roughly around

$500 million a year through its profits on oil. This was the most important constant stream of revenue for them. But on the back of a

protracted U.S.-led air campaign as well as plummeting oil prices, ISIS are now really starting to feel the pinch as we saw for ourselves. Take a



WARD (voice-over): Bubbling beneath this desolate landscape is the black gold that has funded the ISIS war machine.

Baz Shiro (ph) is a fighter with the Syrian democratic forces who are battling ISIS in this part of the country. He showed us around an oil

field in rural Hasakah that was seized from the militants two months ago.

"ISIS earned a lot of money from these fields," he tells us.

"People from all over this area came here to buy their fuel."

You can still hear the hiss of gas but the pump is no longer operational. The U.S.-led coalition has been hammering ISIS' oil, which at one time

generated $40 million a month. Airstrikes have targeted refineries, pumping stations and lines of tankers waiting for gas.

Shiro (ph) says the militants learned to adapt.

"In each field they put just one person as a cashier to sell the fuel and only one tanker could come at a time," he says.

"They use this tactic because the planes are looking for big groups, not individuals."

But Kurdish fighters and U.S. airstrikes eventually forced ISIS into retreat. All that remains now of their presence is some graffiti. The

Kurds and their Arab allies here are desperate to get the oil pumping again but they have two major problems.

Firstly, the front lines are still just a few miles away from here and, secondly, they don't have the money or the expertise that they would need

to start repairing the damage that has been done.

The trickle of oil will not become a flow for months or even longer; as ISIS fighters fled, they destroyed what they could. Electric cables were

cut, booby traps were laid. Only one facility was left untouched.

Just behind the refinery, a row of tanks turned into an underground prison.

"Each cell held up to 15 people," he tells us, "among them, women and children."

Written on the walls of one --


WARD (voice-over): -- a harrowing message.

"I'm not afraid of dying but I fear the tears of my loved ones."

Shiro (ph) and his men are now starting to clear the wreckage left behind by ISIS but they can't erase the terror inflicted here.


WARD: And I just wanted to read you another part of that graffiti from inside that cell.

It said, "Even if my eyes can't see you, my heart will never forget you."

You can really imagine the horrors that these people went through and our guide, who you saw there, that Syrian Arab fighter, told us that these

cells were reserved for whoever ISIS deemed to be the worst offenders -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. I mean, it's just a hole in the ground. Just terrible.

The human cost, as you report there and say, continues to be horrifying. But strategically gains are being made, aren't there. I mean, there are

plans to cut off ISIS supply lines. And this is a growing test of the Kurdish-U.S. relationship.

WARD: Absolutely. They have made significant gains and I think the real test now looking ahead will be a town called al-Shaddadi, which is actually

not far from where we filed this report.

This is a very important town strategically. It's a hub for ISIS and it sits sort of smack in the middle of ISIS' two main cities of Raqqah and

Mosul. But what we notice, Robyn, when we were talking to Kurdish fighters on the ground, is there's a little bit of reluctance at the moment to be

aggressive and go on the offensive and try to take more territory because the Kurds feel very strongly that they are not getting enough political

support from the U.S.

They were very angry that they didn't have a seat at the negotiating table in Geneva and they have essentially have said in conversations that we had

with them, we're not going to fight your war for you if you're not willing to invest in our future politically.

CURNOW: Thanks so much, Clarissa Ward there, for that update.

Well, the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the killing of an 11- year-old Afghan boy. He was hailed a hero last year after helping to defend his home against Taliban fighters. Nick Paton Walsh joins me now

live from Beirut.

Tell us his story, Nick, hi, there.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: A quite staggering story that shows you really the brutality that now generations, decades of war,

since 1979 in Afghanistan, has done to even its very youngest here, often a war. We got a sanitized version of hearing the American military presence

there at its height.

But Wasil Ahmad, 11 or 12 years old, was shot dead as he was out shopping for groceries for his mother, brother and sisters by gunmen on a motorbike,

who targeted him specifically.

The Taliban then said we're responsible for that and it's part of the growing brutality they are certainly showing. The different sectors of

society, many say they are in an ideological war for the more radical part of Afghanistan's youth against ISIS, who've developed a franchise in


But why Wasil Ahmad?

Well, that's key, too, because this 11-year-old boy had seen his father defect from the Taliban, along with his father's brother, his uncle, back

in 2012. They joined some of the Afghan local police, which was a popular movement run by the Americans to assist fighting the Taliban by getting

some tribes to join sort of loose militia structures that would assist Afghan security forces.

Now his father was killed in 2013. And Wasil obviously became the man of the household but also developed a lot of fighting skills it seems, too.

And remarkably his uncle, Samad (ph), refers to how he'd been a keen student, not just of English but also of high-frequency radios, of the AK-

47, of heavy machine guns and even referred to a story of how, when their home village was under attack in a siege that lasted over 70 days, the

Taliban attacking them, 80 of the fighters defending that village being killed. Wasil himself, says his uncle, took some sort of command of the

fighters during the siege when they were under attack, used a heavy machine gun very effectively, had become, to some degree, a front line warrior at

an age about 10 or 11.

Staggering how young people on the front lines really are there and frankly, also, too, how Afghan local police would have allowed a child of

that age to be in those ranks. But still the sort of celebrity he gained locally when his family had to relocate for their own safety to the main

capital of Uruzgan province, always a very volatile, violent place, the capital Tarin Kowt, obviously led the Taliban to do their dastardly crime,

frankly, they carried out on Monday and that's the targeted assassination of an 11-year-old boy by gunmen on a motorbike -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. Indeed horrifying. Thanks so much for that update, Nick Paton Walsh in Beirut.

Well, ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK.



CURNOW (voice-over): We hear about the challenges and uncertainty of raising a child with microcephaly, the birth defect linked to the Zika







CURNOW: Welcome back.

It seems that Brazilians aren't letting the threat of the Zika virus stand in the way of carnival partying. Celebrations are already underway and a

million visitors are expected to attend this weekend's festivities. For context, 1.5 million people have contracted Zika in Brazil.

Meanwhile, the country's president spoke on Wednesday, assuring mothers and expectant mothers that Brazil is working to protect them.

Well, pregnant women are being advised to postpone travel to active Zika transmission zones. That's because the virus is linked to microcephaly, a

birth defect which causes newborns to have abnormally small heads.

The condition can be diagnosed during pregnancy but sometimes it's only detected after a baby is born. There's no standard treatment or no known


Babies with microcephaly also can just have a range of problems. Some suffer from seizures, some can't eat or walk. Others, though, are high

functioning. Well, I spoke to one family, Melissa and Peter Therrien, who are dealing with the uncertainty of the condition with their 15-month-old

daughter, Alainah. Take a look.


MELISSA THERRIEN, ALAINAH'S MOM: When I was 24 weeks pregnant with her, I was told that her head was very small and she'd be born with mental

retardation. And I took that very heavily. I came home and cried in Peter's arms.

And he just reassured me that no matter what way our daughter came out, we would take every step we needed to to fulfill every need she has.

PETER THERRIEN: And take it one day at a time.

MELISSA THERRIEN: Take it one day at a time.

And then when we went for her first well check visit after she was born, that's when I saw the microcephaly word on a piece of paper from her

doctors. And her pediatrician wasn't even sure what it was. She had to look in her textbook and find out what it was and what it meant.

CURNOW: You were offered a termination, though, weren't you?

MELISSA THERRIEN: I was, yes, I was. And I quickly denied that. I strongly believe that, no matter what way a child comes out, you know,

their life is more important than terminating it. You know, as long as they are not suffering and living a painful life, you know, look at how

happy she is. You know? I wouldn't trade this for the world. Neither one of us would.

CURNOW: You have obviously heard all the media reports, all the concern about the spread of the Zika virus and perhaps the link with microcephaly

that potentially thousands and thousands of young parents, a new generation of parents, who are dealing with what you're dealing with.

How has it changed your family?

What do they face?

MELISSA THERRIEN: OK. So, honestly, the way it changes our family, one is that we have become stronger together, I believe.

And second, obviously, it's a heartbreaking condition to have because we don't know what to expect for her future. So on a day-to-day basis, Peter

and I face the reality of --


MELISSA THERRIEN: -- are we going to be able to put our child to sleep at night and have her wake up and be the same child that we've known?

And I think it's scary. It's very -- it's almost like a threat hanging over you every day.

CURNOW: What is she dealing with?

I know that there are some sight and hearing issues, real chances of seizures, cerebral palsy.

What exactly medically are you dealing with?

And obviously if you're in a rural part of Brazil, that's even going to be harder to deal with.

MELISSA THERRIEN: Exactly, exactly and right now, so what we deal with is Alainah does head banging. She find hard objects and she -- and bangs them

on her head and she'll just let her body go if she's standing up. She just falls down and smacks her head off of things.

She started hair pulling. That's another big one. When she was a newborn, her feeding times, those were very, very hard for me because she would

drink a little bit, she would projectile vomit everywhere and I didn't know the cause of any of this. So it was just very stressing for me.

And we have been seizure free for a year for her, 15 months she hasn't had a seizure yet but that hangs over our head. We're kind of waiting for the

other shoe to drop almost.

CURNOW: Rehabilitation, the kind of access to medical support that you're getting, obviously, that's a huge support, a huge weight off your

shoulders, compared to perhaps families in Brazil, where that option isn't there.

MELISSA THERRIEN: And that's my biggest thing is that we are so fortunate, so fortunate and so blessed to have all these doctors and early

intervention and physical therapy right at our fingertips.


CURNOW: Well, Alainah's parents also told us that they are heartbroken about the number of cases of microcephaly in Brazil and the region and that

they're concerned about the lack of resources to deal with it.

Well, moving on, of course, talking politics, Hillary Clinton quizzed over Wall Street. The Democratic presidential candidate tries to explain why

she accepts big pay for speeches and we'll get a live report from New Hampshire.





CURNOW: You're watching CNN, I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW: Returning to our top story, though, reaction to CNN's Democratic town hall and the race for the White House. Bernie Sanders has continued

to highlight rival Hillary Clinton's connections to Wall Street.

When pressed last night on why she accepted more than half a million dollars from Goldman Sachs for three speeches, Clinton struggled to explain



CLINTON: Look, I make speeches to lots of groups. I told them what I thought. I answered questions.

COOPER: But did you have to be paid $675,000?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know, that's what they offered. So.


CLINTON: You know, every secretary of state that I know has done that.

COOPER: But that's -- one's your office and not running for an office --

CLINTON: Well, I didn't know --

COOPER: -- must have known --

CLINTON: -- to be honest, I wasn't -- I wasn't committed to running. I didn't -- I didn't know whether I --

COOPER: You didn't think you were going to run for president?

CLINTON: I didn't.


CURNOW: Anderson pushed her there, didn't he.

CNN politics and finance reporter MJ Lee joins us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Hi, there, MJ. Ms. Clinton physically seemed to stumble on that answer. And she's right in many ways; being paid for speeches is not uncommon but

it is sensitive now because it really plays into Bernie Sanders' narrative.

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There's no doubt that this moment that you just played was the roughest moment for Hillary Clinton at

last night's CNN town hall event.

And as you said this is an issue that she probably should have been very prepared to answer and she has addressed the issue on the campaign trail.

She has been asked this question before about the fees that she got paid when she made speeches at Goldman Sachs.

But the issue I think was the way that Anderson asked the question. The question he asked was, "But did you have to get paid $675,000?"

And I think that question and the way that it was phrased clearly caught her off guard. She was unable to say why it was that she made so much

money for just a couple of speeches, especially at a time when she's running against a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who really is the anti-

Wall Street candidate, the anti- -- is very much for campaign finance reform.

I think that this was a moment of struggle for her and it really showed that she didn't really know how to answer the question in a way that was

politically advantageous to her.

CURNOW: Yes I mean, some were looking for a moment. I just don't think it was that moment that they were looking for.

But as still generally, I mean, why Wall Street is such a big funder for many of the candidates, why such huge sums of money are awash in this

election and how it really plays into the conversation. It's a real issue.

LEE: Right, well, there are really two issues here. One is that banks and bank employees have given money to candidates for many years now. This is

nothing new. There's a political culture of well-paid employees -- and there are thousands and thousands of them, especially at these big banks --

sort of gathering and pushing for certain political candidates.

They hold fundraisers. They also encourage their family members, their friends to also contribute to political candidates. So this is something

that has been in our political culture for a while.

The second issue of course is the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that basically made it possible for individuals and companies to give unlimited donations

to these outside groups called super PACs. So this, again, is two reasons why candidates are now allowed to receive --


LEE: -- lots and lots of money from certain kinds of people, whether it's bank employees, whether it's billionaires who can literally write a $2

million check if they wanted to, that goes to a super PAC.

So again, this issue is going to continue to dog Hillary Clinton, as we saw last night. Bernie Sanders, again, is the ultimate anti-Wall Street

candidate. This is what his candidacy is all about. And I think we're going to see the two candidates really fight it out on this issue for the

weeks to come.

CURNOW: Well, with parties and voters looking at both parties, I think there is a reason why there are these anti-establishment figures because

many of the voters do feel angry about what they believe is a corrupt system and politicians who've been bought, that there's no such thing as a

free lunch, which also then plays into why Donald Trump, in many ways, was so successful is because he's been self-funding and that's a bonus.

LEE: Yes. I mean, Donald Trump is a candidate that I have covered for many months now and you go to his campaign rallies and you ask his

supporters what is it that attracts you to him.

And many of them will say, look, he's self-funding his campaign. He's not beholden to lobbyists, to the Washington establishment, to wealthy donors

and they really love that about him.

And he makes a point of saying that on the campaign trail, that he's the only person who is self-funding his campaign, though I will point out that

at least in the last quarter, that actually isn't totally accurate. He did take in about $4 million from donors.

They weren't all big donations, it wasn't the kind of huge sums of the big checks that you're used to seeing for a lot of the other candidates. But

he isn't totally self-funding his campaign. But nevertheless, that's an argument that he will make on the campaign trail because he totally gets

how powerful that is.

CURNOW: MJ, thanks so much for that update. Appreciate it.

Tens of thousands of Greeks are in the streets of Athens, striking against pension reform. Caches broke out as some protesters heaved Molotov

cocktails and rocks towards riot police.

Police responded with stun grenades and tear gas, very dramatic pictures there. The strike comes as Greece's creditors visit Athens next week.

They are reviewing the nation's progress on the terms of its third bailout worth $96 billion.

That bailout requires Greece to overhaul its messy pension system. Protesters say more pension cuts will only increase unemployment and flash


It's been nearly a year since the hit show "Top Gear," fired one of its cohosts and now a familiar face has signed on -- with a new twist. He's

not British.




CURNOW: Welcome back.


CURNOW: The British television show "Top Gear" got a new cohost.

Welcome back. The British television show, "Top Gear," just got a new cohost. Matt LeBlanc, the American actor, who, of course, played Joey on

"Friends," he'll join the show in May. Now he is the show's first non- British host.

Phil Black joins me from London.

Hey, Phil.

Are petrol heads scratching their heads across the world here?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Robyn, I think this has surprised a lot of people. As you say, a non-British host for the first time in the

show's history. An American, no less.

But this is very much an international brand. It's why we're here talking about it today. And that's been the challenge for the BBC, for those

guiding this relaunch of the show, since the former cohost stepped aside or pushed aside in Jeremy Clarkson's case.

The challenge for the BBC is relaunching the show, taking the show which has such international momentum, such money-pulling power and maintaining

that despite the fact that it's so closely associated with those three former hosts.

So clearly this is an attempt to do that. Matt LeBlanc says he's incredibly excited. He's a car lover, he says, as do the people involved

in the show. And he's appeared on the show before, too. He was the celebrity record holder in that segment starring a reasonably priced car.

It's the fastest time around the "Top Gear" track for a celebrity appearing twice before. So he's no stranger to the show. Said to love cars but I

think, yes, the purists will be watching very closely not just to see how entertaining he is but to determine if he has got enough car cred to really

carry this off -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. That's what I was going to ask. I mean, this is a huge program. It is entertainment but, at the same time, it's very, very

informative, isn't it. And I think you can't just play around here.

Just give us some sense of how big the show is around the world as well.

BLACK: Oh, huge, obviously. That's why, as I say, we are even indeed talking about it. But Clarkson, Richard Hammond and May as well, they were

all -- they all became international stars and they still, to this day, continue to tour the world with their live version of the show.

Well, they are not allowed to use the "Top Gear" brand anymore. And we know that they are relaunching a new car show on Amazon Prime, the

television streaming service.

So in that sense, it is a huge money making enterprise, more than $100 million a year, I believe, are the figures. And so there is this

motivation for the BBC to keep it going.

It's also considered something of a broadcasting institution here. It's been around for decades. But it is in its most recent incarnation that it

has discovered this international fame. And so this is what the BBC is trying to continue now.

You've got Matt LeBlanc, who've announced one of the first announcements was that the key host will be Chris Evans, a local broadcaster, who has

some car cred, who is funny, who's popular and who's supposed to be more announcements to come. And no doubt they will be eagerly watched as well -

- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, and Chris Evans is great. He's also an institution where you are. I supposed it also comes down to chemistry with the team. So, yes,

we'll keep an eye on that. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for joining me. I will be back in just over an

hour with more on CNN's town hall and the push towards next week's vote in New Hampshire. Don't go anywhere, though. "WORLD SPORT" is next.