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Turkey Launches Airstrikes on PKK in Northern Iraq; Negotiations Begin to Keep Britain in E.U.; Carson, Cruz and Rubio Participate in Town Hall; Judge Orders Apple to Unlock Shooter's iPhone; U.S. Military Restocking Cold War-Era Caves; President Obama to Visit Cuba Next Month; "Hairy Panic" Grass Takes Over Australian Town. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 18, 2016 - 10:00:00 ET
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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, Turkey responds to the attack in Ankara, the latest on Apple's standoff
with the FBI and President Obama will go to Cuba next month.
CURNOW: Hi, there. Welcome, I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center. And we begin with an escalation on the Turkish border that could add a
dangerous new dimension to the Syrian civil war.
Turkey is responding to a terror attack in its capital by launching airstrikes against Kurdish militants in Northern Iraq; 28 people were
killed in Ankara Wednesday and more than 60 wounded, most of them military personnel. Turkey's prime minister blames the attack on a Syrian man with
ties to the Kurdish separatist group, YPG. The organization denies responsibility.
And a new attack Thursday killed six Turkish soldiers in the southeastern part of the country. The government is blaming the Kurdistan
Workers' Party, known as the PKK but so far no one has claimed responsibility.
We're covering the story from all angles. I want to bring in our Arwa Damon, who joins us live from Ankara, Turkey; Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.
Arwa, to you first. Turkey sees these Kurdish groups inside and outside their borders as a primary threat, perhaps even more so than ISIS.
Just break down who these groups are, who they are aligned with.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Turkey has constantly said and maintained that these two groups, the PKK, the
separatist group against whom Turkey has been launching and at times low- level war for the last 30-plus years, one that has cost tens of thousands of lives, as being a terrorist organization.
And it also views the Kurdish fighters inside Syria, the YPG, as being effectively one and the same and to the end. From Turkey's perspective,
these are both the same battlefields.
What Turkey is saying is that it has evidence that this attack that happened in Ankara, just down the street from where we are right now, was
carried out by an individual who crossed from Hasakah in Northern Syria into Turkey, then linked up with elements of the PKK and that these two
organizations collaborated to then carry out this attack.
All of this is really putting a very significant strain on Turkey-U.S. relations because the YPG inside Syria is America's main ground force in
that country, is America's main ally.
So you basically have this scenario where Turkey, also an American ally, a member of NATO, is accusing another American ally, the YPG, of
carrying out this horrific attack and Turkey is also basically saying at this point, even though it is very important to maintain Turkey-U.S.
relations, let's not forget about that.
The United States is going to have to make some sort of a choice.
Is it going to stand with Turkey when it comes to Turkey's own fight against terrorism and who it views as being terrorist organizations?
Or is it going to choose to stand with these organizations that Turkey accuses of killing Turkish citizens, Turkish soldiers on Turkish soil?
CURNOW: So a number of choices diplomatically having to be made.
Becky, politically, Turkey is looking increasingly isolated though.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Yes, we have got to remember that this is just the latest in a series of deadly bombings to hit Turkey over the past
year. This as it gets dragged deeper into the war in neighboring Syria, Robyn. The Turks, as Arwa pointed out, pointing the finger for Wednesday's
blast at Kurdish separates going off to them both at home and across that border in Syria, where Turkey is facing massive issues.
The Syrian government forces, backed by Russia and Iran, appear to be on the verge of defeating Turkish-backed rebels in the North Turkey, really
investing an awful lot in its stakeholders over the years in Turkey. And they are concerned and cornered, to a certain extent, experts say, losing
strategic allies there.
And this is where we see Ankara boosting alliances with Middle Eastern powers, specifically, Saudi Arabia. Arwa pointing out for example that it
is sort of at odds to a certain extent with its ally, the U.S. So you see Ankara moving towards alliances with Saudi. The two have said that they
are willing to send ground troops into Syria with plans to move Saudi warplanes to Turkey's Incirlik air base. And it is --
ANDERSON: -- moving ahead with plans to expand a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries. Now this is in Riyadh, carrying out its largest-ever
military exercise this week. Robyn, its message is clear. We are ready to fight.
And I think we are seeing another sign that these geopolitical clashes being played out in the bloody arena of Syria may continue to shape the
future of the Middle East, Syria becoming an -- as if it could become any more complex, it seems to be doing so at this point -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, a dizzying array of warring parties and a growing and chaotic battlefield, thanks to both of you, Arwa and Becky. Appreciate
your analysis, guys.
Crucial negotiations are under way on keeping Britain in the European Union. Leaders are gathered in Brussels for what E.U. president Donald
Tusk calls a make-or break-summit.
British prime minister David Cameron wants key concessions on issues like migration before putting the so-called Brexit vote to the people.
Nina dos Santos has the lead-up to these high-stakes talks.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN HOST (voice-over): Criss-crossing the continent, shaking hands and at times showing his teeth...
DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: We want to have a Europe where we're not subsumed into a superstate but we can be proud and
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): -- David Cameron has plowed on with his efforts to secure a form of the E.U., concessions which he hopes will
convince his country to stay in the union on its own terms.
CAMERON: We want a Europe that is competitive. We want a Europe that respects our currency and treats us fairly.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): But behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, experts have begun to lay the taboos on the table, acting out here
how a British exit or Brexit would play out in complex negotiations. And it isn't pretty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not as if the 1st of July you would be out. You would be out once you come to an agreement with the European Union.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Norman said the euro is decidedly a disaster.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to be saved in a kind of Noah ark.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an absolutely devastating decision that Britain has taken.
DOS SANTOS: The E.U. is the U.K.'s biggest export market, taking in about 44 percent of its goods and services every year. That share has been
dwindling over the past decade. What's more is that the U.K. runs a deficit with Europe and the trade surplus with other faster growing
economies, which is why some suggest the nation could afford to go it alone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have people at either end of the debate, some desperate to leave, some desperate to stay. Most people trying to find
what is actually in Britain's long-term interest.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): But leaving the E.U. could cost the country dear. Up to 3 percent of its GDP, according to some surveys. As free
trade deals become void and terrorists return. Goldman Sachs for one reckons the pound could plunge 20 percent.
For the rest of the E.U., a U.K. departure wouldn't just mean lost growth; it could set a dangerous precedent for others eyeing at the exit
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Brexit is dangerous because it will be the first time that the right to secession would occur but it's a bad signal.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Which means either way, this referendum won't just redefine Britain's relationship with its neighbors but test the
ties that bind the entire bloc -- Nina dos Santos, CNNMoney, London.
CURNOW: So Nina laying out the pros and cons there. Let's talk more about this. International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me from 10
Hi, there, Nic. Nina talks about a test for the E.U., also a test for David Cameron.
So my question is can he get concessions reform in two days?
E.U. discussions are not known for their brevity here.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, they have already been taking a long time. He has got to get something. The
opponents to Britain staying in the European Union here in Britain are going to argue whatever he gets that it's a bad deal.
They are going to point to the fact that the European parliament wouldn't vote on the deal until after the British population had decided
whether or not to be part of the European Union (INAUDIBLE) for a referendum if all goes well for David Cameron tonight would be on the 23rd
of June, the European parliament wouldn't decide whether or not it would ratify some of the terms that would have been laid out there or what they
would choose to tweak and change. So you'll have opposition members of parliament, MEPs, and other people saying that it's not -- whatever David
Cameron gets isn't worth the paper it's printed on.
That level of criticism is going to be there regardless of what he gets tonight. And the expectation here in Britain, polls have showed
already that most people think David Cameron won't get everything that he wants, the deal won't be a perfect deal.
That said, the majority of people here still think it's better for Britain to be part of the European Union. So yes, David Cameron will get
some of what he wants but not everything. And it absolutely has been anything but plain sailing and a very long voyage at that so far -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Still more to go also. Broadly, though, the E.U. is already under pressure --
CURNOW: -- over the migrant crisis. This year is really shaping up to possibly redefine the European experiment.
ROBERTSON: It is. You can almost argue there are much more bigger and pressing issues on the European Union than, if you will, the corner
that David Cameron painted himself into going into the last elections here in Britain last year when he said that he would hold this referendum in a
Europe referendum that it probably couldn't have been imagined at that stage very early last year just how bad the migrant situation would be, the
peril that that would potentially put Europe in.
The things that are under consideration in Brussels as well today of whether or not to put border controls back internally inside Schengen
Europe. Those border controls could last legally for up to two years. That, if you will, hits at the very nature and the heart of the European
So it's quite possible to see that for many of these European leaders, what David Cameron is trying to do at the moment is really tinker at the
edges for his own nation's benefit when there are much bigger things that stand in front of the European Union.
It absolutely is a year of tests for the European Union and the reason it's under test and the reason that David Cameron is in this position is
the migrant issue. And that isn't going to let up this year either -- Robyn.
CURNOW: No, it's not. From 10 Downing Street, Nic Robertson, thank you.
You're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK.
Still ahead, U.S. presidential candidate Marco Rubio has won a key endorsement. It came the same day he and other Republicans faced voters at
a CNN town hall. We'll have all the highlights.
Plus homes, gardens and garages engulfed in something called hairy panic grass. Only in Australia. One rural Australian town struggles to
clear the tumbleweeds before more blow in.
CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. And we're just two days away from the next contest in the Republican race for
U.S. president, the South Carolina primary. CNN is hosting two town halls, where the candidates take questions straight from the voters ahead of
Now the first round featured Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. Our Athena Jones has some of the highlights.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three out of six Republican candidates sitting down for an in-depth CNN town hall. The
night's hot topic: the truth is and who is telling it. Marco Rubio say it's not Ted Cruz.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said he's been lying because if you say something that isn't true and you say it over and
over again and you know that it's not true, there's no other word for it. And when it's about your record, you have to clear it up.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Cruz says it's not Donald Trump or Rubio.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Both Donald --
CRUZ: -- Trump and Marco Rubio are following this pattern that, whenever anyone points to their actual record, to what they have said, to
what they've voted on, to what they've done, they start screaming liar, liar, liar. I mean, it is the oddest thing.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): And Trump, in a dueling town hall, says it's not Cruz.
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We certainly want to keep somebody honest.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): The billionaire even sending the freshman senator a cease-and-desist order for one of the Cruz campaign's ads about
CRUZ: I don't think anyone is surprised that Donald is threatening to sue people. He's done that most of his adult life. But this letter really
was -- look, I practiced law 20 years. And this letter really pressed the bounds of the most frivolous and ridiculous letters I have ever seen.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Dr. Ben Carson says the American people will decide who is being deceitful.
DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the American people are smart enough to be able to understand bluster and rhetoric
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): But all three candidates agree that Apple should abide by a court order to aid federal investigators in hacking the
iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, something the tech company sees as government overreach.
CRUZ: We should have done more to prevent that attack but, after the fact, we ought to be using every tool we can.
CARSON: There's probably very good reason for people not to trust the government. But we're going to have to get over that.
RUBIO: I do know this. It will take a partnership between the technology industry and the government to confront and solve this.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Rubio taking the stage just a day after President Obama criticized him for distancing himself from an immigration
bill he once supported, predictably shot back.
RUBIO: President Obama has no standing to talk about immigration because his party controlled the White House, the House and the Senate for
two years and they did nothing.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Later addressing a topic that's been a mainstay of the Democrats' campaign: U.S. race relations.
RUBIO: I also know that in this country there is a significant number, particularly of young African American males, who feels as if they
are treated differently than the rest of society.
And here's the bottom line. Whether you agree with him or not, I happen to have seen this happen. I'm not sure there's a political solution
to that problem. But there are things we can do.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Something else unexpected: the candidates' taste in music.
CARSON: I primarily like classical music.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You like EDM.
RUBIO: I do.
COOPER: Electronic dance music.
COOPER: Have you ever been to a rave?
RUBIO: Well, no, no, I have never been to a rave. No.
COOPER: Well, I don't know.
RUBIO: It's a Republican primary, Anderson.
CRUZ: I just called to say I love you. I just called to say I care.
I cannot sing to save my life.
CURNOW: A little nervous giggle there from Anderson. That was Athena Jones reporting on some lighter moments there.
Well, Trump and Cruz are the clear front-runners in the race but Rubio has been stealing much of the spotlight in South Carolina. On Wednesday,
he won a key endorsement from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.
Look at that photograph.
But is it enough to help him surge ahead?
Our Phil Mattingly joins me now from Greenville, South Carolina.
That image of Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio, the Republican establishment might like that. I mean, it seems like potential running
Does Marco have some momentum?
Does Marco have his groove back?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think according to his advisers and according to him, absolutely Robyn. There's no question about it.
Coming out of New Hampshire for Marco Rubio, he was in a tough spot, a fifth place finish, all the momentum that he had from Iowa had more or less
dissipated. A lot of his supporters very worried.
He's had a good week here. A series of polls have shown him creeping up towards that second place position currently held by Ted Cruz.
This endorsement, the endorsement of Nikki Haley, was the one everybody coveted She has an 80-plus percent approval rating in this
state, is considered one of the top tier new generation of Republican leaders. So certainly this contributes to the momentum.
The big question right now, Robyn, is does he have the time to catch Ted Cruz and he's still falling double digits behind Donald Trump.
Is this really a victory when Trump has been so dominant -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Exactly. That's my next question. How well can Rubio reasonably do in South Carolina, given his place in those polls?
Is this another case of if he comes third, it's first?
MATTINGLY: I think right now his team has been hinting all week that second place is attainable. This Haley endorsement certainly helps with
that process, Robyn. I think if he becomes -- if he comes anywhere below second place, it will be considered a failure or at least falling beneath
I think the most interesting thing about Marco Rubio's candidacy is, coming out of Iowa, everybody in the establishment wanted to coalesce
behind him. After New Hampshire, everybody started raising questions.
So he needs to perform well here if he wants, A, a couple other candidates to drop out and, B, donors and other establishment figures to
decide this is Marco Rubio, we need to get behind. He's the one who can take on Trump and Cruz. Anywhere below second place right now, he's set
the expectations high enough, Robyn, that that could be problematic.
CURNOW: OK. So with that in mind then, particularly when the money men decide where they are going to put their cash looking forward, what is
his path to victory?
How does he sew this up?
What does he need to do in the coming primaries?
MATTINGLY: It's not necessarily as much what he needs to do as what others need to do. The establishment lane, if you will, the group of
supporters who really don't want Ted Cruz or Donald Trump to be president, need the other candidates to drop out. Jeb Bush needs to leave the race.
John Kasich needs to leave the race.
If that happens, both their money and their support network will supposedly coalesce behind Marco Rubio.
The big question about Rubio's candidacy that has really been kind of hanging in the air for the last couple of weeks, Robyn, is, where does he
Does he go to Nevada and have a chance to win?
No. Most polling showing that Donald Trump is well ahead there.
Can he go down South and win?
No. Most polling showing Ted Cruz and Donald Trump with sizable leads there.
So the biggest question right now, Robyn, is if everybody else starts to drop out of the race and people do start to coalesce behind Marco Rubio,
where does he win?
And even his team really can't answer that yet. They refuse to speculate on that. Right now they need a bunch of things to happen before
that actually occurs. Still, if you talk to big money men, if you talk to big supporters in the Republican establishment, they know it's time to
coalesce around one candidate. If Marco Rubio does well here in South Carolina, every expectation is that will be him.
CURNOW: So what does the campaign do next then, with Super Tuesday coming up?
MATTINGLY: Well, they will absolutely go to Nevada, which is the next state on the calendar, the caucuses there. Polling can be very unreliable
there. A very small group of supporters can have a big role, an outside role in how you end up in that state.
But after that, it's going to be really interesting to see. It becomes a very national race after Nevada. It doesn't become everybody
kind of jumps into a state for a week at a time.
All of a sudden you have to look to the Midwest. You obviously have to look to the SEC primary, all of those Southern states there.
So how his team uses their resources, how they raise money to be able to enable them to use those resources, going to be one of the big questions
coming ahead -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes. Thanks so much for unpacking all of that for us. Phil, appreciate it.
Well, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump will participate in part two of the Republican town halls ahead of that crucial South Carolina
primary. Tune in Friday at 11:00 am in London, noon Central European time, only on CNN.
Coming up, the battle over data security reaches a new fervor. How Apple is fighting a judge's order to help FBI agents hack into a mass
CURNOW: Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.
Now a Los Angeles hospital says it was forced to pay a ransom after hackers shut down its computer network. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical
Center said it paid the hackers 40 bitcoins to regain access to electronic medical records. That's about $17,000.
The hospital says it contacted law enforcement but decided that paying the ransom was the quickest and most efficient way to get things back to
The hospital isn't alone in wanting to protect the privacy of its customers. Apple is fighting pressure from the U.S. government to help the
FBI break into the iPhone of a phone that belonged to a mass shooter. CNNMoney's Jose Pagliery joins me now from New York.
Hi, there. Let's just talk about what this conversation is about.
CURNOW: Is it about government overreach, as Apple says?
Or is it this, as the government says, Apple overreacting?
The government's saying they just want a specific solution to a specific problem with a specific case. This isn't about a broad back door.
JOSE PAGLIERY, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Let's be specific ourselves. So what this is really about is about the FBI wanting to force Apple to
build a weaker version of its software, in this one instance to work on a phone, a single device. Who would have known that a single device could
cause such a big issue, right?
But here's the problem. That would create precedent. And Apple's point here is that if the government can force it to create a weaker
version of its product, hack its own product, then the government could turn around in the future again and say can you do this a second time, how
about a third, can you do this for a thousand people, can you do this for everyone in the United States or worldwide?
And so what this argument really is about is whether or not this will be a watershed moment.
CURNOW: OK, watershed moment but is this about privacy versus security?
Because I understand that phone is actually owned by a local authority and they have given permission for the FBI to use this phone.
So with that in mind, how far does this go legally?
It's not that clear-cut, is it?
PAGLIERY: No. Well, so here's the thing. To think about it as a privacy versus security question, that's not quite the way to do it. It's
actually security versus security. And let me explain why I say that.
Apple, Google and other companies have risen the bar in recent years on the security of their devices. They're not just protecting our privacy;
these devices house everything in our lives, our photos, our messages, our location, our identities.
And so to lose that is not to lose our privacy. It's actually to lose our security. We can lose real estate, we can lose investments. We can
lose much more than just our own information. And so by raising the bar, Apple and other companies have increased the security of these devices.
The FBI is= asking them to hack their own device and lower the security here.
The core question is whether or not a government can force a company to create a weaker version of its product, even in the case of an
investigation. Now the repercussions here are huge, right. The FBI is trying to figure out -- let's not forget, they're a very noble missions.
They're trying to figure out whether or not there are other terrorist cells that are ISIS-inspired inside the United States. The question is how far
can they go?
CURNOW: Yes. And that is up to a judge, at least for now. We will be talking about this a lot, I think. Jose, thank you so much.
PAGLIERY: My pleasure.
CURNOW: Well, still ahead, the tensions of the Cold War are echoing through the fjords of Norway as the U.S. military deploys a new stock of
firepower to a set of classified caves. Stay with us.
CURNOW: You're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.
CURNOW: The U.S. military is bolstering its reserve stock of tanks and artillery by tucking away a new cache of weapons in the fjords of
Norway. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now from Washington.
Hi, there, Barbara.
What more do we know about this plan?
It's not new, is it?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it isn't, Robyn. Actually what you're seeing is the Pentagon and Norway resurrecting the
plan that was very active back during the Cold War. And then it sort of drifted away.
But now, with tensions rising with Russia in Europe, the U.S., back on track, is upgrading the equipment that it's been storing in caves in
Norway, some 6,000 pieces of military equipment, tanks, artillery, other gear, enough to sustain thousands of Marines if there is a contingency that
they could operate for some period of time using all this equipment.
It's in these caves, secure facilities, basically positioning the U.S. military in a way that it could respond very quickly for Norway, for
Northern Europe and of course Norway sharing more than 100-mile-long border with Russia. And a lot of concern in these countries -- you know, I don't
know they think Russia is going to march across their border but they want confidence-building measures. They want to know that the U.S. and NATO are
nearby, ready to respond, ready to make a show of force if it comes to that.
And most analysts will tell you that's a good deal of what these caves and this equipment is all about. It worked during the Cold War. It was
very much a show of force. The Russians know it's there and they hope, again, it will be that confidence-building measure for countries along
Russia's border that may be feeling nervous.
CURNOW: OK. So my question is, why now?
What's significant about the timing that might increase confidence for some countries but all infuriate the Russians who are already sensitive
about NATO expansion?
STARR: Well, they are. There's no question about that.
So why now for NATO?
Because the feeling is that NATO needs to show that force to the Russians. NATO needs to show its presence in Europe and that it would be
ready and capable of a rapid response if it came to that. Ever since the situation in Crimea, in Ukraine, the Russians beefing up their military,
exercising their muscle, making countries in Eastern Europe and Northern Europe feel a bit nervous about Russian intentions.
So there's been a -- when I say a longstanding program, last couple of years, NATO has really been beefing up its efforts to position itself for a
very quick response against Russia, not that they necessarily think they are going to have to do that anytime soon. But if they demonstrate the
capability -- and that's what these caves in Norway are set to do, demonstrate the capability -- they hope that will be a message to Moscow.
CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that perspective from the Pentagon, Barbara Starr, thank you.
CURNOW: Well, U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit Cuba next month. He tweeted a formal announcement of the trip last hour, saying the
goal is to improve the lives of the Cuban people.
Well, CNN's Patrick Oppmann joins me from Havana.
Hi, there, Patrick. This has been expected but not a lot of detail of when exactly and for how long the president will be in Cuba.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting more details just now, Robyn. According to the White House, the visit, which will be the
first visit by U.S. presidents since the Cuban Revolution took power almost 90 years since --
OPPMANN: -- the last visit by a U.S. president way back in 1928, when Calvin Coolidge visited the island. So certainly a historic moment; March
21st through 22nd so President Obama will spend the night here, which is somewhat surprising, considering all the logistical challenges of a U.S.
president coming to a country like Cuba, that until recently had less than friendly relations with the United States.
He will travel here, according to the White House, with first lady Michelle Obama. I can tell you Cubans are very excited to catch a glimpse
of her. And he will be meeting, among others, with Cuban president Raul Castro. He'll have a bilateral meeting to talk about some of the
differences in areas where U.S. and Cuba can work together on.
This being Cuba, a country where people get their information from the state-run media, very few people know about it just yet because the state-
run media so far has not reported today on the visit. We expect that to change probably in the coming hours so it's fallen onto journalists,
foreign journalists who have this information to talk to people in the street here.
And even though this visit was rumored for months, Robyn, people here are just stunned to learn that Barack Obama will be coming here. People
telling me they never expected in it their lifetime to live in a moment where a U.S. president would come to Cuba and speak directly to them.
CURNOW: Yes, this rapprochement has happened so fast, hasn't it.
So the question then is will the president be free to meet anyone he chooses while in Cuba?
Will he meet Fidel?
OPPMANN: That's a great question. That was one of the caveats that President Obama presented a few months back, when he said he wanted to come
to Cuba but only if he can meet with Cubans who are members of the dissident community here.
Cubans who, as the U.S. describes them, are members of civil society. And the Cuban government quickly responded and said that he would be free
to meet with anybody that he would like.
Of course, behind the scenes they are unhappy with the idea that he will meet with dissidents. But that's one of the things that was expected
and certainly the Cuban government is excited about the idea that President Obama could come here and called for lifting the embargo. Whether or not
he will meet with Fidel Castro, time will tell. No one knows that. That would certainly be historic though.
CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much, Patrick Oppmann in Havana, thank you.
Still to come at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, the story of a lost wallet makes front-page news in America's biggest city. Why New Yorkers are in
stitches over what was taken and what wasn't. And the note that was sent to the owner.
CURNOW: So have you ever heard of something called hairy panic grass?
Well, it's certainly something people in a rural Australian town are getting very familiar with. Kate Jones with our affiliate Seven network
has more on the town's --
CURNOW: -- struggle to break free of the tumbleweeds.
KATE JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like a ghost buster, a man wades in bravely to attack the inhuman intruders. The enemy is
tumbleweed, truckloads of it. It's invaded every home in the street.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have got a table and eight chairs and a daybed. And probably a few plants.
KATE JONES (voice-over): Weeds sit cloudlike in front yards and back, in gardens and garages, with each breath of wind, more tumbles in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I spent eight hours yesterday cleaning up the tumbleweed. And this is what I've got today.
KATE JONES (voice-over): The weeds of Wangaratta are world-class, holding their own against Texas tumblers. Our native grass is named hairy
panic, not that it's quite panic stations yet, though it is stressful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is frustrating that you've got a good couple of hours' work ahead of you and that's always sort of displeasing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's physically draining and mentally more draining.
KATE JONES (voice-over): Locals say the tumbleweed has been around for a couple of years but with dry conditions this summer is by far the
worst. They suspect it's coming from a nearby paddock that a farmer has failed to maintain. The council can't help because it's not considered a
fire risk, leaving homeowners to put up and clean up indefinitely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By that time you're ready to drive off and not come back.
CURNOW: Only down under.
Well, New Yorkers are cracking up over this story of a lost wallet returned by the owner -- returned to the owner in the mail but some of its
contents were left intact while others were taken and the finder enclosed a very funny letter, explaining why. Here's Jeanne Moos with more.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He went to a Wilco concert in Brooklyn and when Reilly Flaherty got home, he realized, uh-oh,
lost my wallet.
REILLY FLAHERTY, WALLET OWNER: I have that classic freak-out moment.
MOOS (voice-over): But the really freaky part happened later.
FLAHERTY: Two weeks later, this crazy envelope just shows up.
"Dear Reilly Flaherty, I found your wallet and your driver's license had your address. So here's your credit cards and other important stuff.
MOOS (voice-over): That's the good news, even though Reilly had already replaced his license and credit cards.
The bad news...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I kept the cash because I needed weed."
FLAHERTY: "-- the metro card because, well, the fare's $2.75 now and the wallet because it's kind of cool."
MOOS (voice-over): At least the wallet-napper has good taste; it's a handmade leather wallet.
Reilly posted the letter on social media, writing, "Thanks -- I think."
MOOS: Next thing you know, the letter is on the front page of the paper and it's being read aloud on national TV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enjoy the rest of your day. Toodles, Anonymous.
MOOS (voice-over): Toodles?
What kind of half-Good Samaritan, half thief, talks like a teenager?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toodles.
FLAHERTY: The ironic thing really is that you know, we could have been good friends, right. We both like Wilco, indie music, same taste in
MOOS (voice-over): It's such a New York thing, a little selfish, a little selfless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anonymous' honesty is like actually kind of charming?
FLAHERTY: You know, we've got this pot-smoking modern-day Robin Hood that's out there.
MOOS (voice-over): Sending a hand-scrawled letter with a Charlie Brown stamp. Maybe that's a clue. Maybe Charlie brown did it.
"CHARLIE BROWN": Good Grief.
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CURNOW: Well, it's toodles from us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex Thomas
is up next.