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Illness Delays British Queen's Christmas Travels; Russian Team Investigates Diplomat's Death; Russia Decries New U.S. Sanctions; Photographer Talks About Diplomat's Death; North Carolina Lawmakers Vote Today on Bathroom Law; National Geographic Features Trans Cover Girl; College Football Star Explains Why He Punched a Woman; Remembering Craig Sager. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 21, 2016 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Buckingham Palace doesn't give us this play-by-play of how sick they are or what they have, but because it is delaying this trip, that is why they are letting us know. And remember, these are two people who are in their 90s, slowing down a bit. But we do see them quite active in royal life.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, by the same token, Ian, it has also been announced that the Queen is stepping back from some of her royal duties. So what do we take from that?

LEE: That's right. She is stepping down from 25 of the 600 charities that she is the patron of by the end of the year. Those will go to other members of the royal family. But she is still going to be the head of 575 charities. She is still quite active in those. But yes, she is slowing down a bit. Prince Philip has also handed over some of his responsibilities as well. But we do see them still fairly active in royal life.

COSTELLO: All right. Ian Lee reporting live from London this morning.

Russia says it's too soon to speculate on the motives behind the murder of its ambassador to Turkey. Last night an 18-person investigative team landed in Ankara, Turkey and a spokesman for the Kremlin says it wants to hear their answers before drawing any conclusions.

Matthew Chance live in Moscow with more. Hi, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. That's right. The Russians are distancing themselves from Turkey's allegations that Fethullah Gulen who's an Islamic cleric who lives in the United States, has been there for the past decade, may have been behind -- may have been followed by that assassin that shot nine bullets into the Russian ambassador in Ankara while he was giving a speech at that photographic exhibition and left him dead.

The whole killing has caused outrage not just amongst Russian officials but amongst the Russian public as well. There's been demonstrations of shock and mourning in the capital with Russian citizens laying flowers outside the country's Foreign Ministry.

The funeral for the ambassador is going to be held tomorrow. President Putin of Russia has called his killing despicable and vowed to find those responsible and bring them to justice, whatever that means in Russian context, and he has said he will attend the funeral and he said he personally knew this ambassador because he worked with him on so many occasions in the region.

And so this is an issue which has struck to the heart really of the Russian state. Putin along with Erdogan, the Turkish president, has said this is not going to derail the improvement in relations, the normalization of relations, between the two countries which had been in depths up until several months ago when they started to renew their friendship. They're not going to derail -- it's not going to derail that normalization and it's not going to derail their efforts they say to try and bring an end to the Syrian civil war as well.

COSTELLO: The sanctions put into place by the American government, they've been extended. How is Moscow reacting to that?

CHANCE: I mean, they have reacted pretty angrily. The sanctions were extended by the United States against seven men in eight companies in connection with their dealings in Crimea which is a territory which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014. There's already significant sanctions against Russia because of that that extended to include these individuals.

This is what the Kremlin says. "We regret that Washington continues this destructive line." And that comes from the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. They say they disagree with it and they also say the Russian side will take adequate measures in response. So there could be counter sanctions against the United States as a result of this.

The relationship, though, between Washington and Moscow is at a pretty low ebb. I've just had it confirmed from the Kremlin within the past few seconds they've texted me here as I'm on the air with you that the relationship with the United States is at a very low ebb. This is what Dmitry Peskov says in terms of his relationship with the United States -- in terms of the Kremlin's relationship with the United States.

"We've got nearly all levels of dialogue frozen. We don't talk to each other or do so at the moment." So that's what the Kremlin is saying about their relationship with Washington, that virtually all means of communication with Washington now in these, the last few weeks of the Obama administration, have come to an end. And they're just not talking to each other which is incredible when you consider the amount of shared issues that these two countries really should be talking about, not least of course the conflicts in Syria.

COSTELLO: All right. Matthew Chance reporting live from Moscow.

The moment that sparked the current diplomatic turmoil was this one. An assassin gun in hand standing over the body of his victim, the Russian ambassador to Turkey. A moment captured by a photographer for the Associated Press who answered the call of his profession instead of running for cover.

We talk with our Nic Robertson. A warning, some of what you're about to see is hard to watch.



[10:35:04] Bam, bam, bam. Whoa. I said, what happened? Horrible. So the people standing in front, they disappeared. They throw them on the floor. Then they tried -- they were trying to hide them, to take shelter.


OZBILICI: I was shocked but afraid, but not much. Not that heavy.

ROBERTSON: Were you not afraid taking his picture? You've got a camera, he's got a gun.

OZBILICI: Well, I'm very -- in difficult situations I'm calm. I have a responsibility to record this event. And the ambassador was lying on the ground, not moving, and the guy was making some political motivated speech but I could not understand. I thought maybe he was speaking in Russian. In Russian. So people were screaming, crying, so I could not hear well. Then he turned around to the body and from very close range, he shot one more time.

ROBERTSON: On the ambassador?


ROBERTSON: Just to make sure he was dead.

OZBILICI: I think so. When I learned the guy was killed, I was really shocked. Why they killed him? He did nothing -- take anybody hostage. He was alone. They had to capture him alive.

ROBERTSON: They could have done.

OZBILICI: I don't know. I don't know what is the reason -- motive behind. But some things revolt me.


COSTELLO: Unbelievable. Nic Robertson, reporting.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, North Carolina lawmakers in a special session. Right now these are live pictures. Will they repeal that controversial bathroom law?


[10:40:19] COSTELLO: Right now lawmakers in North Carolina are holding a special session. They're debating the possibility of getting rid of the state's controversial bathroom bill. That's a bill that requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. That bill has faced fierce public backlash ever since it was passed in March and it has been so costly to the state of North Carolina. Boycotts from companies, sports leagues and artists refusing to perform.

CNN's Nick Valencia has more from Raleigh.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, there certainly has been no shortage of drama between the two major parties in this state over the course of the last year. It all seemingly started in February in the Charlotte City council when they passed a non- discrimination ordinance that added protective rights to the LGBT community. That angered and enraged Republicans here in the state who called a special session this spring to pass House Bill 2, more commonly known as the bathroom bill.

And what it did, it not only stripped away the rights given in that Charlotte ordinance but it also made it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. Under the new law, transgender people have to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate.

But this week in a surprise move, the Charlotte City council rescinded their ordinance. The expectation by state Democrats that if they rescinded the Charlotte ordinance, then House Bill 2 had the potential of being repealed. That leads us to today and today's special session. But it is by no means a done deal.

Earlier I spoke to transgender activist Candis Cox who talked to me about the impact that House Bill 2 has had on the community here in North Carolina.


CANDIS COX, TRANSGENDER ACTIVIST: Time has truly proven that this is not an issue about bathroom privacy. This is not a common sense issue. This is a basic human rights issue. Since March 23rd, I could give you specific names of young people that are in hospitals for attempting suicide. We have seen a rise in trans people leaving. We have seen a rise in businesses pulling out of North Carolina.

This is no longer a Republican or Democratic issue. This is not an issue about Charlotte's overreach. This is an issue about their responsibility to ensure that North Carolina is poised to be a state that is safe for its citizens so that we can actually move forward.


VALENCIA: The bill has been a major economic blow to the state. Tens of millions of dollars has been lost by North Carolina. The NBA pulled out its all-star game, entertainers have canceled concerts and it also, critics believe, that it cost the governor, Pat McCrory, his re-election bid. He became the first incumbent governor in North Carolina history to lose his re-election. He called today for this special session where state Democrats are

hopeful but still anxious that they could see the repeal of House Bill 2. A vote is expected sometime later this afternoon -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Nick Valencia, reporting, thank you.

A Kansas City fourth grader making history when it comes to LGBT rights. She is the first transgender person ever to grace the cover of National Geographic. Avery Jackson is 9 years old. She's featured on the January issue of the magazine. Here's Avery in her own words.


AVERY JACKSON, FEATURED ON NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC JANUARY COVER: The best thing about being a girl is now I don't have to pretend to be a boy. Before I transitioned I was just pretending to be a boy. But now I'm a girl and I'm a lot happier.


COSTELLO: With me now is Susan Goldberg. She's the editor-in-chief of National Geographic.

Welcome, Susan.


COSTELLO: Why did you decide to put a transgender child on the cover of National Geographic?

GOLDBERG: When we set out to do a gender issue, you know, we talked to 80 kids all over the world about how gender played out in their lives and, you know, we got amazing reactions because when you talk to kids, they do tell you the truth. But we chose Avery finally because she seemed to be at ground zero of a lot of the conversation going on right now around gender and everywhere you look, there's a gender conversation. What we are seeing today in North Carolina is just the latest example.

COSTELLO: So what kind of reaction have you gotten?

GOLDBERG: I would say it's intense and heartfelt on both sides, either people very pleased that we are having this discussion and hopefully it's giving people information and equipping them to be able to have an informative discussion about gender but also people who are very distraught that this has even been raised.

COSTELLO: Would it be fair to characterize the response as massive?



GOLDBERG: Yes, it would. We haven't seen anything quite like this in a very long time. I mean, National Geographic has been around for 130 years so I can't speak forever but certainly in the last several years.

COSTELLO: Some people would say, and I suspect that you've gotten some messages from people saying this very thing. That this is a 9- year-old child. What does a 9-year-old child know about identity or gender identity?

[10:45:08] GOLDBERG: You know, this is one of the things that -- we've got a story about the science of gender that explores exactly this. But all over the country, families are dealing with this issue and the - you know, the experts say that when a child says that they are either a boy or a girl in a way that is persistent, insistent and consistent, that's when, you know, people really need to get involved and see if that child really feels like they are not the gender they were assigned to at birth. Avery has been saying she was a girl since she was 5 years old.

COSTELLO: And you know, this has real world implications, right? What's going on in North Carolina right now will affect Avery's life in a way.

GOLDBERG: It certainly could. One of the things I think is so interesting that we found out is when you -- there was a study recently of millennials and half of all millennials think that gender is a spectrum and not the binary boy-girl that, you know --

COSTELLO: There you go. Because that bothers a whole lot of people.

GOLDBERG: Well, it bothers a lot of people but I think it tells you where the discussion is going in the future about gender. And this is really why we decided to do the gender issue and why we've actually got a special.

COSTELLO: But some people would argue that kind of conversation is exactly why the Democrats lost this presidential election. Exactly why.

GOLDBERG: Well, I can't really speak to the politics of it. You know, at National Geographic we've been covering cultures and history for almost 130 years. And that's the lens through which we discuss this gender issue.

COSTELLO: So what do you want people to take from this cover? Because it's going to be an emotional reaction no matter who looks at it.

GOLDBERG: Absolutely. You know, what I hope people will take is an understanding of how gender roles are playing out all over the world for kids and adults. And really, we spend most of the issue talking about how boys and girls are affected by the issues of gender and it's a little disheartening when you see that most of the girls we talked to, these are 9-year-old girls, the girls talked about gender in terms of their limitations and none of the boys did. Not every --


GOLDBERG: Still. Not every girl did. I mean, we have a little girl from Canada saying everybody's equal, in the olden days, in her words, they weren't equal but now everybody's equal. But yet we've got another girl from South Dakota, you know, on Pine Ridge Reservation who says the worst thing about being a girl is I can't do the things that boys can do.

COSTELLO: Have to change her mind. So is it the same when you talk to girls from around the world? Do we all have similarities when it comes to what we can't do?

GOLDBERG: It is surprisingly consistent. So these girls were speaking in different languages and we made sure we talked to children from all socioeconomic ranges, but a lot of girls look at gender about limits. And to me that is so heartbreaking that in 2016, little girls are already using gender to say they can't accomplish everything they want to accomplish and are limiting their own possibilities.

COSTELLO: Susan Goldberg, thank you so much for coming in.

GOLDBERG: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a college football star explains in his own words why he punched a woman in the face two years ago because he says she hit him like a dude. We'll be right back.


[10:51:32] COSTELLO: Checking some top stories for you at 51 minutes past. Dramatic video captures a cargo plane crashing after taking off from an airport in Puerto (INAUDIBLE), Colombia. Five crew members were killed in this incident. However, the plane's flight technician did survive. He was taken to a local hospital.

The 7-year-old girl who used Twitter to capture the plight of war-torn Syria is now safely in Turkey. And she met with the Turkish president at the presidential palace. As cameras rolled the two shared a hug and the young girl even said, I love you. That's her little brother, by the way.

A man suspected of stealing a pot of gold has now been identified by the NYPD. His name is Julio Nivelo. He's 53 years old and he's believed to be in the Los Angeles area. Nivelo is shown stealing the gold worth $1.6 million on a surveillance video. That was made public last month.

More details emerging from a newly released interrogation video of Oklahoma Sooners football star Joe Mixon. In this video, police are questioning him about his punching of a woman three days earlier. That altercation also caught on tape and jarring in its brutality. It shows Mixon punching the woman in the face after a confrontation at a restaurant.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more. Hi, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. Even though this incident happened back in 2014, it is just now coming to light with authorities in Oklahoma releasing the videotapes. In that video you can see Joe Mixon and, in his words, describing how after an argument with Amelia Molitor outside this restaurant, he says that she disrespected him by blowing cigarette smoke in his face and then one of her friends used the N word against him, a racial slur. And the argument ensued then Molitor pushes Mixon in the video and he fires back with a devastating punch that sends her into the table there and she suffered various broken bones in her face as well.

Now back in 2014, the University of Oklahoma said it was made, quote, "aware of the contents of the video" and suspended Mixon for the 2014 football season but Mixon has been playing for OU since then. Last year and as well as this season. In fact, he's preparing to play in the Sugar Bowl on January 2nd.

A few days after the incident, he was interviewed by police in Norman, Oklahoma. You can listen to a little bit of what he told authorities back in 2014.


JOE MIXON, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA FOOTBALL PLAYER: 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. I mean, even though she was pushing me, I didn't think she was going to hit me. And even though she hit me, like how she hit me, I was shocked because she hit me so hard, it felt like really like a dude hitting me. Then like my face just started ringing. After that it was just like a reaction.


LAVANDERA: Mixon did not serve jail time, Carol. He was put -- charged with a misdemeanor. He served a year of probation, ordered to community service and then suspended by the University of Oklahoma for the 2014 football season. But as I mentioned, he is getting ready to play again in a couple of weeks but just now, after several lawsuits, Molitor has filed a civil lawsuit against Mixon and that's one of the reasons why these videos are just now starting to emerge -- Carol.

[10:55:01] COSTELLO: All right. Ed Lavandera, reporting live for us this morning.

A celebration of life for long-time Turner sports broadcaster Craig Sager. Hines Ward has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hi, Hines.

HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: How are you doing, Carol? Yes. The legendary NBA sideline reporter lost his lengthy battle with cancer last week at the age of 65. He was known for his colorful wardrobe and last night reporters across the league dressed in sager- inspired outfits.

Now earlier in the day, the memorial service was held near Atlanta. The pastor even wore one of Sager's trademark flashy jackets. Ernie Johnson, the host of TNT's "Inside the NBA" delivered a touching tribute. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERNIE JOHNSON, HOST OF TNT'S "INSIDE THE NBA": Amid the tears and all the memories we cherish now, we say farewell to our friend sages and make this humble vow. There's no way to gauge the days we have, no way to know how long but know this, Craig, we'll do our best to live them Sager strong.


WARD: And what an emotional moment. I mean, he will definitely be missed on the sideline. So, Craig Sager, we love you, bro. Definitely a sad moment in the NBA.

Now on the pro-bowlers for the rosters were unveiled last night. The Raiders led all teams with seven players led by MVP candidate quarterback Derek Carr. The Falcons, they topped the NFC teams with six players. Cowboys have five including Ricky Dak Prescott and Ezequiel Elliott. Pro-bowl will be in Orlando instead of Hawaii this Sunday before the big game, the Super Bowl.

Carol, so it's going to be an awesome time in Orlando.

COSTELLO: No, no, no. There's no Matt Stafford included in that team. He was robbed, Hines Ward. And you know it.

WARD: Yes, I know. I know he was. He had a good year, too, Carol.

COSTELLO: At least you agreed with me. Thanks, Hines.

WARD: Yes.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND BOLDUAN" after a break.