Return to Transcripts main page


NC Lawmakers Consider Repeal of Bathroom Law; Turkey Builds Refugee Camp for Evacuees; Young Face of Syrian Suffering Arrives in Turkey; Evacuees Leaving Aleppo; Israeli Ambassador Backs embassy Move; Inside FedEx's Massive Shipping Hub. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 21, 2016 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's Obama that's in office, and he's extended these sanctions.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Matthew Chance reporting live from Moscow. Thank you.

All right, a bit of breaking news to pass along to you. We're learning a little bit more about that Tunisian national wanted for the attacks on the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. We understand from German authorities that this man, this Tunisian national, was arrested back in August, and he was released. He had forged documents on him. He was trying to get into Italy. He did appear before a judge, but he was released from custody for some reason. We're still digging for more on this. And, of course, if we get any new information, we'll pass it along.

And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

North Carolina lawmakers huddle today in a special session to repeal the state's controversial bathroom law. It's expected to get underway next hour. House Bill 2 requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates. The backlash to that has been fierce since it was passed back in March, triggering boycotts from companies, sports leagues and artists.

CNN's Nick Valencia live in Raleigh. He's following this for us.

Hi, Nick.


There has been no shortage of drama between Republicans and Democrats in the state of North Carolina over the course of the last year. It all seemingly started in February, where the Charlotte City Council passing a nondiscrimination ordinance that afforded protective rights to the LGBT community. That really frustrated conservatives in the state, so they called a special session. And in that session this spring passed House Bill 2. It's a controversial law more commonly known as the Bathroom Bill. And not only did it do away with the Charlotte ordinance, it also made it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. Under that law, as you mentioned, transgender people must now use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate.

But this week, in a surprise move, the Charlotte City Council rescinded its original ordinance. The expectation by state Democrats, if they did that, then the Republican-led legislature here in the state of North Carolina would repeal House Bill 2.

That leads us to today, where a special session has been called, but it's not necessarily a done deal. Just a short time ago, I spoke with Representative Chris Sgro, who's one of the only openly gay representatives here in the state, who talked to me about the impact House Bill 2 has had on the state and on the community, the LGBT community here in North Carolina.


CHRIS SGRO (D), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE: You know, unfortunately, $650 million, thousands of jobs, tons of discrimination later, we are here too late. But we've got to get it down now. So what I know is that people in both parties have finally recognized, especially Republicans have finally recognized that we can't move forward as a state until this is gone from our books. We're not winning ACC tournament games back, we're not bringing PayPal back, Bruce Springsteen's not coming back to North Carolina until House Bill 2 has been repealed. You're right, it's too little too late, but we've got to make this move now.


VALENCIA: Tens of millions of dollars it cost the state. You heard the representative there, entertainers pulled out. People like Bruce Springsteen. Also the NBA moving the all-star game. But, today, the special session, all of that could change. A vote is expected sometime this afternoon.


COSTELLO: All right. We'll check back. Nick Valencia, thank you.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the seven-year-old girl who captured the world's attention by tweeting from war-ton Aleppo is now safely in Turkey. And look at that, she's met with the Turkish president.


[09:36:48] COSTELLO: The seven-year-old Syrian girl who used Twitter to help people understand the suffering in Aleppo has met with the president of Turkey, her new home. Bana Al-Abed met with President Erdogan to share her gratitude for her rescue. The two took pictures and they exchanged hugs as well. That's her little brother sitting on Erdogan's knee.

In the meantime, today may be the last day for civilian evacuations from the war-torn city of Aleppo. Some 38,000 people have been safely relocated. And Turkey is building a new refugee camp to house up to 50,000 more evacuees.

CNN correspondent Muhammad Lila joins us now live to tell us more.

Hi, Muhammad.


If you look behind me, you can see snow falling. The snow is falling here at the border. It's also been falling pretty much all day in Aleppo, which has complicated things. There was a long delay in the evacuations resuming, but we can now confirm that the last batch of evacuations are now underway. We understand the full -- all of eastern Aleppo should be fully evacuated within the next few hours.

And, of course, the most famous of those evacuees, as you mentioned seven-year-old Bana. She has now resurfaced in Turkey, in the capital Ankara. In a carefully controlled photo-op with Turkey's president, Erdogan. You can see her actually kissing Erdogan on the cheek, shaking his hand. President Erdogan, in turn, kisses her hand. In another image, she is sitting on Erdogan's lap. Her brother is next to her. And she turns to him in English and says thank you for rescuing them from eastern Aleppo.

And, of course, it's a very stark contrast because we're used to seeing pictures of her in a war zone. But today, we see her smiling, wearing fresh, new clothes, hopefully on her way to a new life. We're told that the ministry of foreign affairs here in Turkey arranged specifically for Bana and her family to be brought from Syria to the capital Ankara to meet with Turkey's president. An indication of just how involved Turkey is in all of the -- in everything, including the conflict that's happening next door.

COSTELLO: Why this girl, Muhammad? Why take a picture with this little girl? And I'm talking about the Turkish president?

LILA: Yes, well, of course. I mean she became sort of a worldwide celebrity. A media darling, if you will, because her mother began tweeting about the ordeal in eastern Aleppo over the course of the last several weeks. Her mother tweeting in English. Bana, of course, tweeting in broken English, as well, talking about how the next tweet would likely be their last. That pattern continued, in fact, over several days where they were so worried and tweeting, you know what, we may not be able to tweet again. Please rescue us. Please rescue us.

And I think it was those cries that shined some light on what was going on in eastern Aleppo. She has a massive following on Twitter and social media. And there are going to be many, many people right now that are going to be happy to know that she is out of harm's way and in Turkey.

COSTELLO: All right, Muhammad Lila reporting live for us this morning, thank you.

The ongoing evacuation of eastern Aleppo is still dire, though, as women and children, hungry and cold, are desperate to board those buses and escape the fighting. These are images of some of those evacuees alongside my next guest. Filmmaker and actress Carla Ortiz has been on the ground in Aleppo speaking with locals and capturing conditions in and around the city.

Carla now joins us live.

Good morning.

CARLA ORTIZ, ACTRESS AND FILMMAKER: Good morning. Thank you very much for having me in your show.

[09:40:02] COSTELLO: No -- oh, I think that you're sharing a most important story.

Before we dive into what you've been seeing in Syria, tell Americans why they should care what's happening in Aleppo.

ORTIZ: You know, I think that many of us have been feeling extremely powerless about all the situation in Aleppo. We've been feeling angry. And we've been feeling desperate. But we need to learn how to channel these feelings into real actions. And we need to really understand that these people have been going through a very brutal war for over six years. And it's really time for us to think of the situation as human beings and to understand and help these people reach the peace that they are really, really longing.

I was able to be in Syria not just in Aleppo in the final days of how people have been evacuated from one part and the other. And we're so desperate for news and to help and we feel this powerlessness that we are, you know, spreading news that some of them are -- especially we're listening to all the people and we try to interview all these other people. But I'm telling you, these are real footage of people leaving Aleppo. There was not mass shootings. Of course there's mass bombing. You -- there are 47 -- there were 47 terrorist groups, plus the rebels, plus the Syria -- the Free Syrian Army. Everybody's bombing against everybody. This is why a war is never a good idea.

COSTELLO: But -- but tell us -- tell us -- tell us, Carla, like what life was like for some of these people simply trying to live their lives in the home that they probably inherited through generations. What was their life like?

ORTIZ: Well, you're talking about one of the oldest cities in the world. You know one it has over 4,000 years. Their stories are stories of tragedy and hope. You would never understand unless you look at the eyes of a Syrians. Their message is actually of love, of peace and forgiveness and rebuild their homes. And, actually, it's a very disturbing sometimes for us in the western that we get the devastation from a different point of view. But I -- there are absolutely sure that they are going to rebuild their homes. When people are crossing from the east to the west, the two words they have is, (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE), which is "God is generous," and "thanks to God." And they tell you how they were (INAUDIBLE), how they were deprived from education, how if they would dare to cross to any other side, that terrorists would kill them. How the girls, the little girls, are being used for that sacred jihad, sexually abused. And it's really -- it's really way too much.

And I can tell you also, as I was looking at the previews, notes about the girls tweeting, it is impossible. I've been there. You know, there's no Internet. I mean, especially in east Aleppo, there's no electricity for more than 85 days over there and 3G only very few people have. I was with people with the United Nations and I was with people from BBC and everywhere and you cannot send a tweet when you're in the front lines. I was --

COSTELLO: So how was -- how was Bana able to tweet then, do you think?

ORTIZ: It -- I don't think -- I'm so sorry to tell you this, but I was in Aleppo. I don't think she was in Aleppo. And I understand this whole thing. I want to see real footage. Show me real footage when she's being taken out and I would believe it. You know, like real (INAUDIBLE) there --

COSTELLO: But, so why -- why would she be -- why would she be lying about that or not telling the truth about where she was located?

ORTIZ: You know, there are 47 groups, like I'm telling you. I was, myself, a -- there was a lot of attempts, and I have -- I was kidnapped twice. And they make you fearful. And there's a lot of -- I mean fearful. And there's a lot of families, as well, that are -- you either do this or you say this or we're going to kill you. You're talking about people that behead people. You're talking about people that don't behave like us. Their human structures are completely different from us. This is why I think they are using -- it's not Bana. It's not -- I mean she's just a child. And even -- my point is that even terrorists have children. And these children should have a choice. You understand. It's just massive (ph). Everybody's dying.

COSTELLO: And -- and I -- and I understand -- I understand why you might be suspicious because also in your documentary you say that some of the people boarding those buses meant for evacuees are actually rebels or terrorists themselves.

ORTIZ: Well, yes. Well, you actually have -- you know, I was there for like ten days on the time of the evacuation. I am watching this. And people are telling you their own stories. And they're telling you, you know, like they tell you, like that guy is a terrorist. They said for them it's just (INAUDIBLE). They don't care (INAUDIBLE). A rebel, if it's a free army, they don't care what it is.

And the most important thing for us, you know, it's -- like I was saying at the beginning, how can we channel now our real actions. Our politicians need to sit in the Congress in the United Nations as human beings, you know. We need to listen, probably at the beginning. We are the most powerful nation in the world, and power can create real change. And maybe at the beginning we saw people wanted support and we supported the rebels.

[09:45:22] COSTELLO: Right.

ORTIZ: And we supported the opposition. But now it's time that we seek and help and literally really to the voice of Syria, which is, let's end the war. Please give us peace. Let us go to school. Let our children get educated. I was walking on top of little dead bodies. I've had to smell the smell of dead skin. And this war must stop -- COSTELLO: Right.

ORTIZ: Because as human beings, and women, we understand, as mothers, as a sister, and especially as a daughter, that our children have the choice to have a choice. And every decision we make now, in entertainment business, as a newscaster, it has to be to help them end this war.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences within Syria. Carla Ortiz, thank you. I'll be right back.

ORTIZ: Thank you.


COSTELLO: Donald Trump's promise to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem just got one big endorsement. This one from Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. The embassy has been in Tel Aviv since the early days of the state. Dermer says the move would be a, quote, "great step towards peace," but not everyone's on board, especially people in the Arab world.

Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem with more.

Hi, Oren.


Well, Ron Dermer is considered one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants. So this, as you said, is a very high level endorsement from Netanyahu's inner circle. It would also be a break with decades of U.S. foreign policy, which has held that the final status of the city of Jerusalem would be left to negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.

[09:50:15] Now, a law has been on the U.S. books since 1995 saying the U.S. has to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but every president since then, three different presidents, has waived that every six months citing national security reasons. Trump has said repeatedly during his campaign that he would move the embassy as soon as he came into office, as has his pick for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

What has Netanyahu said about this? Well, last night when he spoke, he was much more vague about a Trump presidency, but certainly optimistic. Here's what he had to say.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: That's great. That's an opportunity to actually pursue some new ideas which I intend to raise with Donald Trump when he's in the White House, to see how we can solve this conflict too. I think one of the things that we can certainly -- certainly have going for us is a new environment in the Middle East with the Arab world, and we may be able to harness that reality for a sustainable solution.


LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu wouldn't elaborate on what the new ideas were that he would speak about with President-elect Trump.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are furious about the idea of moving the embassy, saying it would violate international law. They've also suggested they might revoke the PLO's recognition of Israel if the embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and if the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.


COSTELLO: Oren Liebermann reporting live from Jerusalem this morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, they handle 25 million packages a day during the holiday rush. We'll get an inside look at how FedEx makes sure your presents are under the tree in time to celebrate.


[09:55:02] COSTELLO: Checking some top stories at 54 minutes past.

Tennis champion Petra Kvitova said she is shaken but lucky to be alive. The two-time Wimbolton singles winner has undergone four hours of emergency surgery after she was stabbed in her home in the Czech Republic. The suspect remains on the loose. Kvitova will be wearing a cast for six to eight weeks after doctors repaired damage to tendons in all five fingers of her left hand. And, yes, that is her playing hand.

University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon says he was shocked that a woman hit him so hard during a 2014 altercation. In this interrogation just released by police, Mixon is seen explaining to officers what led him to punch the woman after she had accosted him.


JOE MIXON, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA FOOTBALL PLAYER: And I was like, watch out. And then she came at my face. I put my head down, and she swung on me. And after that, like, I was so shocked because she hit me so hard. It felt like a dude hitting me. And, like, after that, like, my face is like boom, like my reaction was just right there.


COSTELLO: After -- this is the video he was referring to where the blonde woman came after him and hit him so hard he thought she was a dude. The school issued a statement saying Mixon was suspended from the football team for one year and has served out his punishment.

'80s icon Richard Marx comes to the rescue when a passenger starts attacking flight attendants and people on board a plane. It happened on a Korean air flight from Hanoi to Seoul. Marx's wife, Daisy Fuentes, snapped these photos. Marx helped subdue the unruly man, tying him to his seat. The man was arrested when the plane landed. In the end, no one was hurt. A manhunt now underway for thieves who literally stole Christmas from

some people in Chicago. Police say a FedEx driver was making deliveries when he was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. They say the robbers took his personal items and his truck, which was found empty hours later. No arrests have been made.

OK, so, you find the perfect gift online. You click "buy" and then a few days later it's on your doorstep. How did it get there? Richard Quest went to FedEx's shipping hub in New York to find out how millions of packages arrive in time for the holidays if, of course, they're not robbed.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So all the ingredients are here. Everything is ready. Now, where are the packages?

And so the containers arrive from the airport and enter the sorting system, where, remember, everything is designed to be accurate and fast.

Within FedEx's system, this is New York. This is -- this is big stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. We handle over 100,000 packages a day. It starts with Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. Those will -- that will be our heaviest four Mondays before peak.


At Christmas time --


QUEST: Or at holiday time, versus a normal day, how much does your volume increase?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve million packages in the network. We're looking at over 25 million packages in the network for peak.

QUEST: If you're going to be carrying a lot of parcels over large parts of New York, you'd better be fit and ready for the battle ahead. After all, what they are carrying is the economy in motion.

The packages are now making their way down the final sorting line. The drivers are identifying the yellow stickers that tell them which packages go on their truck.

Tell me where are you going to put everything? Just throw it all in?

STEVE SEDA, COURIER, FEDEX EXPRESS: No, we don't just throw it all in. We don't throw, first of all. The first thing we do, we have everything labeled up --

QUEST: Right.

SEDA: By streets and avenues, and we set it up according, going high and low.

QUEST: And also what about in terms of time of delivery?

SEDA: We put our priority packages in the middle here so that we can get them all done. And when we empty out these shelves, we start hitting our standard services.

QUEST: Good. Good. Don't let me stop you. You've got -- you've got packages.

SEDA: Yes. Yes.

QUEST: Is this one of yours?

SEDA: It is not. It goes down --

QUEST: That's yours. That's yours.

To say it is impressive is an understatement. The ability to double the number of packages being handled during the holiday period is outstanding. But as you can see, they have all gone, that is until tomorrow, when they'll do it all over again.

[10:00:07] Richard Quest, CNN, at FedEx in the Bronx, New York.


COSTELLO: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.