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George Michael Dies at 53; Russian Aircraft Crashes in Black Sea; Germany Beefs Up Border Security; Top 10 trending stories of 2016. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 26, 2016 - 10:30   ET


[10:31:48] SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining me this morning. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Carol Costello.

Some sad news on Christmas Day. Pop icon George Michael's sudden death shocking the world but it is not just his hits that fans are remembering this morning. He was a pioneer in the music industry, raising eyebrows and breaking barriers along the way.

With me now to talk about his life, his career, Nischelle Turner, host of "Entertainment Tonight."

So good to see you, my friend. I'm sorry under such sad circumstances here. Big fan of George Michael. Grew up of course as a teenager and just listening and watching and being inspired by him. Talk about his career. I mean, this was 30 years in the making.

NISCHELLE TURNER, HOST, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT: Absolutely. And yes, I know you're a lover of music as well, Suzanne, so I know this was a real shock to you. Yes, we were first introduced of course to George Michael when he was in the group Wham, which he created with Andrew Ridgeley and that kind of woke us all up.

I remember having the Wham! T-shirt that was hanging off my shoulder, you know, before you go, go, so -- and that was, you know, as a child, so yes, you know, we all have grown up with George Michael and we love that music then but it really wasn't until he went solo that I think we began to see his heart as a man, as a musician and really see the thoughtfulness that he carried with him day after day.

You know, he made songs like "Father Figure" and he made songs like "One More Try" and these songs really spoke to the soul but you were playing "I Want Your Sex" and at the time when that song came out it was almost taboo. There were radio stations that didn't want to touch it. They thought it was too much.


TURNER: But it was a song that was not made to promote sexual promiscuity. This was a song that actually speak to a generation of people, to talk to them about sex and to educate people about sex, and to be more responsible and to be safer. You know, he really started to speak to the LGBTQ community as well with songs like this. And we know that he did come out in 1998 and announce to the world that he was, in fact, a gay man. So these were the steps that George Michael was taking so we could all see exactly who he was.

You know, we were talking this morning, too, about blue-eyed soul. You know, we talk so much about that, and I think Elton John for me was the first that ever really spoke to me in that way, but George Michael was really the second. And I think in some ways for me, even bigger because he had this just inherent soul in his voice that when he opened his mouth it took you back. And I think he helped pave the way for a lot of these British foreign musicians that kind of embody that blue-eyed soul genre to come here and really cross over, because his album, his 1984 album "Faith" was actually the first album by a white artist to hit number one on the Billboard R&B Music charts. And he really went a lot of ways in different genres to introduce people to a little bit of a different sound.

MALVEAUX: And Nischelle, talk about -- I mean, he had soul, he was beautiful, he was sexy.

[10:35:02] This was the time of AIDS, it was the time of the coming of age of sexuality as well. And it's something millennials might not appreciate but talk a little bit about his heart and his courage that he had to say that he was proud to be gay, to be a musician that crossed over so many different types of music and genres that he really was a standout, if you will, in helping so many young people of that generation.

TURNER: Well, it really was the incident that happened in the park in Beverly Hills where he was, you know, arrested for exposing himself to an undercover police officer. After that, that's when he came out and said, you know, I am a gay man, I have nothing to be ashamed of. That kind of prompted it. But once he did that, and he really stood firm on who he was, I mean, he was also a super model's best friend which is in those days, you know, there was a lot going on but that world of fashion, that world of celebrity, that world of glamour, really spoke to us then and when he did "Freedom" in 1990 and had all of those super models in the -- in his music video lip-syncing the words to the song, that came out of, you know, a disagreement that he was having with the record label, but it became this iconic, one of the best music videos that we've ever seen because it was so beautiful and it just stuck with us because we had these people on here that we loved and we wanted to see really going along with the music.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

TURNER: Yes. It was a really -- you know, he was ahead of his time always. James Corden put out a tweet, saying that he had loved him and was an inspiration all of his life and at the end he did say he was ahead of his time. There are some musicians that were like that their whole lives.


TURNER: And Prince was the head -- Michael Jackson was ahead of his time. You know, and George Michael was definitely ahead of his time.

MALVEAUX: Yes. And Nischelle, it just kind of underscores how much we're going to miss -- I mean, you can only just imagine what he would be able to produce in the future.

Nischelle Turner, thank you so much. So good to see you, as always. We'll be right back.

TURNER: Absolutely.


[10:40:41] MALVEAUX: Russian officials now say pilot error or technical issue may have caused a plane crash that killed all 92 people on board. They are ruling out terrorism as a possible cause. Russian divers have located a large piece of the military plane's hull 90 feet deep in the Black Sea.

Our CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is live in Moscow.

Matthew, how do they know this? Give us the details behind their findings.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, they don't know this yet. I mean, they've launched an investigation that they haven't yet found the black box flight recorders. They found bits of the fuselage of this Tupolev 154 that crashed a couple of minutes after it took off from Sochi on the Black Sea coast.

It's a difficult recovery operation because the wreckage of the aircraft has fallen deep underneath the sea and so they're having to use divers and submarines or submersibles to locate it and to get the pieces out. But what they are surmising at this point is that this was not an act of terrorism. They're saying this having not seen the flight recorders yet, and that they are saying that it was probably technical failure or pilot error that's responsible for this.

Now part of their rationale is that this was a flight operated by the Russian Defense Ministry. There was tight security in Moscow at a military airport when it first took off. It landed to refuel in Sochi before heading on to Syria. It was filled with Russian military personnel, albeit from the Russian Army's official choir, the Red Army Choir, which was going to give a New Year's Eve concert to Russian troops who were stationed in Syria. It also had journalists on board and other individuals.

But, you know, that's the basis of their assessment that this wasn't terrorism. It still could be. In fact, the Russian press are filled -- is filled with speculation that this still could be to blame. But at the moment the Kremlin and other Russian officials are saying their main version of events, that they are investigating right now is technical error or pilot error.

MALVEAUX: I'm sure a relief to the Russian government that it was not terrorism potentially but of course, families still mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Matthew Chance, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Germany's Interior minister says that the country is beefing up border

security. This is in the wake of the Berlin terror attack. Germany will also speed up the deportations of immigrants whose asylum requests were rejected.

Now the question, of course is, is this enough?

Joining me now, Thomas Sanderson, he's a counter terrorism analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Thomas, thank you for joining us here. Simple question here. Are these deportations a reliable counter terror tool?

THOMAS SANDERSON, COUNTER TERRORISM ANALYST, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, to some degree they can be, if you happen to catch the people who are the threat as Amri was. But you will inevitably send some people back who are not actual threats and you also will give a strong propaganda tool to those who are suggesting that the West is not open to humanitarian cases. But this is a clear indication with Amri's activity that this is a person who got through the screening, was not monitored and should have been sent out of the country.

MALVEAUX: And do we think that this is a simple case? Or are there cases on -- further down the pipeline that might be more complicated?

SANDERSON: I think there'll be some complicated cases. You know, Germany sent about -- well, not Germany, but 850 people left Germany to fight in Syria and Iraq and you're going to have some of these returning fighters coming back.

There is also several hundred migrants in the country and there will be some who are advocating for asylum and you are going to have problems with this down the road. You could have more complicated cases, for example, in this one, Amri did not have any papers, did not have a passport and Germany can't send an individual back to a country without a passport. So that is one of the problems they are facing.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thomas Sanderson, thank you so much. We appreciate that.

Well, after the break, 2016 according to social media. The most talked about, tweeted and shared stories of the year. Coming up next.


[10:47:51] MALVEAUX: When Congress convenes next week a new set of rules proposed by Paul Ryan may prevent members of the House from engaging in protests like these.

That was the scene when House Democrats took part in a 25-hour sit-in to protest their opponents' lack of action on gun control bills. Under Ryan's proposal, those members could face fines and referral to the Ethics Committee. A spokesman for Ryan says the new rules which also make clear what behavior is considered disruptive is needed to ensure, quote, "decorum is maintained." And checking top stories, a woman stranded in the Grand Canyon walks

26 miles in the snow looking for help. Karen Kline was traveling with her husband and 10-year-old son when their car ran off the road. Without cell service, Karen decided to walk for help but that walk lasted for more than 30 hours straight before being rescued. Her twin sister spoke with our affiliate WFNZ.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are turning 47 next week and so we are not 22 anymore, so I can believe that she had the mind to do it because so much of that toughness is in the mind.


MALVEAUX: Wow. Awesome. Kristen believes her twin will return to the Grand Canyon so she can actually see it.

And speaking of winter weather, a blizzard hovering over the Dakotas is creating dozens of airport delays and cancellations. Thousands have already lost power, drivers are being encouraged to stay off the roads as ice creates dangerous conditions. We're going to continue to monitor it throughout the day.

And a different kind of Christmas excitement in Germany yesterday. The entire city of Olsberg had to be evacuated yesterday morning because of an unexploded World War II bomb, that's right, a bomb. The bomb was found in a pit during construction work on a parking garage last week. The bomb was safely disabled and everyone was able to return home.

And the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, is visiting Pearl Harbor.

[10:50:02] This is 75 years after the attack there. He arrives in Hawaii this afternoon for a wreath laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Tomorrow he'll meet with President Obama.

And this year was the year for social media. It even drove some of our political conversations of course. Just look at Donald Trump's Twitter account. That's all you got to do. But it also connected us to unknown stories, new apps, social movements.

Our own CNN's Brooke Baldwin has a look at the top 10 trending stories of 2016.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 2016 saw social media's role in the news grow in ways never seen before. Live videos, social outrage, viral protests and elections all dominated the social conversation.

Here are the top 10 trending stories of 2016.

Number 10, PokemonGo. The '90s cartoon and Nintendo game made a massive return in 2016. The new smartphone version became a worldwide phenomenon being downloaded an estimated 500 million times. The nostalgic game builds a community of users blending the real world and game world.

Number nine, #ripHarambe. In May the Internet broke out in outrage after the killing of Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. The gorilla was killed after a 3-year-old child slipped into its enclosure. An online petition seeking justice for Harambe received more than 100,000 signatures in less than 48 hours. The hashtag was used more than 270,000 times and 9.1 million people tweeted overall about the silverback gorilla's death. Tributes, online memes, and even a couple of off-color jokes continue to blood social media in Harambe's memory.

Number eight, #noDaple, the fight to block the Dakota Access Pipeline from passing near Standing Rock, a Native American Reservation in North Dakota. While the country was fixated on the election, protesters turned to social media, uploading videos, live-streaming, and using the #noDaple.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are now upwards to 10,000 people braving these frigid and difficult conditions to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you see what I got? It's so great. I can't wait to show you.

BALDWIN: Number seven, Candace Payne, although you probably know her as Chewbacca Mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not me making that noise. It's the mask. Here listen.

BALDWIN: When Payne took to the newly launched Facebook Live, trying on a Chewbacca mask she had just bought, her live video went viral and was viewed a whopping 164 million times. To date, it is the most Facebook Live video ever.

Number six, Brexit. It was the biggest political upset of the year at the time. Leading up to the vote people took sides in social media, #strongerin, for those voting to remain in the European Union, and #voteleave for those hoping for Brexit.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In an unprecedented move, Britain as we know has voted to leave the European Union. And so far the reaction has been -- well, chaos.

BALDWIN: But leave prevailed, 52 percent to 48 percent, sending shockwaves through the United Kingdom and Europe and beyond.

Number five, Omran Daqneesh and Bana Alabed, the children of Aleppo, showing the world the horrors of the war in Syria on social media. A heartbreaking video of the 5-year-old bloodied and covered in dust pulled from the rubble after surviving an air strike that destroyed his family's home in Aleppo.

And Bana Alabed, the 7-year-old girl living in Aleppo with her mother using Twitter to share and document life in the war-torn city. She tweets, "My name is Bana. I'm 7 seven years old. I am talking to the world now live from East Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die."

Number four, Facebook Live Stream Diamond Reynolds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the officer just shot him in the arm.

BALDWIN: After her fiance Philando Castile was shot during a Minnesota traffic stop, Diamond Reynolds took out her smartphone and live streamed his dying moments. The Facebook Live was viewed 5.7 million times before it was ultimately taken down.

Number three, rest in peace. 2016 was a shocking year of loss and the social media world mourned those who passed. The music world lost several legends including David Bowie and Prince. Boxing icon Muhammad Ali also passed away in 2016.

Number two, @RealDonaldTrump.

[10:55:03] That was the most talked about handle on Twitter in all of 2016. Trump used Twitter to attack opponents, prop up those who support him, and negotiate deals. With more than 17 million followers and counting, Donald Trump's use of Twitter changed politics and brought us in an election like we have never seen before, which brings us to number one, #Election2016.

It was the most talked about story on all of social media. The hashtag used 7.8 million times. Clinton and Trump each had their own hashtags. #Imwithher was tweeted out 15 million times and a combination of #makeAmericagreatagain and its abbreviated form #maga were tweeted out a combined 37 million times.

This post by Hillary Clinton after her loss was re-tweeted more than 638,000 times, "To all the little girls watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world."

But Donald Trump's shocking win was the big show. Twitter says by the time Trump declared victory, some 75 million people were tweeting about the results.


MALVEAUX: And thank you for joining me today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND BOLDUAN" starts right after this quick break.