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Iconic "Star Wars" Actress Dies At Age 60; Abe & Obama Assert Alliance At Pearl Harbor; Trump Congratulates Himself On Economy; Trump & Obama Exchange Jabs; Trump Taps Bossert As Homeland Security Adviser; Israel Advancing Plans For New Homes In E. Jerusalem; Obama Foreign Policy Under Scrutiny As Term Ends; Secy. Of State Kerry To Give Middle East Peace Speech; Looking Back on a Historic Year of Loss in Music; Coping With the Grief of 2016; Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 28, 2016 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:10] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN "NEWSROOM" live from Atlanta.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And ahead this hour, losing Leia, the life and times of Carrie Fisher dead at the age of 60 years old.

CHURCH: From enemies to allies, U.S. President Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Abe pay a historic visit to Pearl Harbor 75 years after the surprise attack.

HOWELL: Plus, a year of legend lost devastating images of war and political divisiveness around the world. We will help you to get ready to ring in the New Year with a proper good riddance to 2016. You know, I'm really ready to be done with this year.

CHURCH: I think most people are.

HOWELL: That's just few days away. Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. This is CNN "NEWSROOM".

2016 has seen yet another big name star leaves us way too soon. Carrie Fisher, the actress best known as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" movies has died. Fisher suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles last week.

Her daughter, Billie Lourd, issued a statement through her publicist saying this. "It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother, Carrie Fisher, passed away at 8:55 this morning."

HOWELL: Fisher's "Star Wars" co-star Harrison Ford issued the statement you see here. "Carrie was one-of-a-kind, brilliant, original, funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life bravely. We will all miss her."

Long time friend and "Star Wars" creator George Lucas also remembered Fisher. He says this, "In Star Wars she was our great and powerful princess, feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think."

CHURCH: Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia did not wait to be rescued by her male counterpart, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. She became a hero in her own right.

HOWELL: And that is very important context, you know, when you think back to it. Look, in 2016, a female lead that doesn't need a man to save her might seem unusual, but in 1977 it was down right revolutionary.


HAN SOLO: And we're lock forever, now what?

PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA: This is some rescue. You came in here, but didn't you have a plan for getting out?

SOLO: He's the brains, sweetheart.

What the hell are you doing?

ORGANA: Well somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage, fly- boy.


HOWELL: Fans and celebrities around the world are remembering Carrie Fisher.

CHURCH: They are. And CNN's Paul Vercammen visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame where fans are paying tribute to the beloved actress.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary and George, they were sad, they were somber and then they perked up when they started remembering about Carrie Fisher.

Carrie Fisher, the actress. Carrie Fisher, the writer of "Postcards from the Edge". Carrie Fisher, somebody who blazed a trail here in the Hollywood. And one aspiring actress remembered her fondly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's devastating. She was an amazing woman and amazing actress and that she was an advocate for so many with mental disabilities, addiction and for actresses in Hollywood who are always, you know, with the ageism and the weight gain. It's just been great that she's been able to speak out about that and how it means so much to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just heard it just now as I'm walking down this Wall of Fame here. And, you know, people remember her as Princess Leia and she'll always live on for that. But I remember her great role as she played with the late Bruno Kirby in "Harry Met Sally." Great flick, she was also a great map. But, you know, Carrie Fisher will always live on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know from my generation, you know, I grew up with "Star Wars." I saw the first one. Every little boy back then was in love with her, you know. She was like the hottest thing going. Farrah Fawcett was out. "Charlie's Angels" were out, but once that movie broke, she was like the hottest princess in the world, or in the galaxy.


VERCAMMEN: Billy Dee Williams starred with Carrie Fisher in the "Star Wars" films, so perhaps, he characterized the mood at here best. He basically said, "Today, the force is dark." Back to you now, George, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Thank you so much, Paul. And CNN Media Critic Brian Lowry joins us live now from Los Angeles. Thank you so much for being with us.

Sometimes, of course, it takes the passing of a star to really grasp what we've lost, doesn't it? Carrie Fisher was not only a great actress, also a successful author. Her legacy goes beyond "Star Wars," but were all her other talents fully appreciated at the time?

BRIAN LOWRY, CNN SENIOR WRITER AND MEDIA CRITIC: Well, I mean, her career was shaped obviously in most peoples' perceptions by "Star Wars". But she was really a multifaceted talent and a tremendous writer.

[01:05:03] I mean, where books and made a very good living as a script doctor, working on movies like "Hook" and "The Wedding Singer" and punching up dialogue on those.

In terms of her acting career, you know, "Star Wars" came so early in her career that it probably closed some doors for her. And she played comic roles and supporting roles. But the career that she had was really shaped and in many ways defined as an actress by "Star Wars".

CHURCH: Yeah. That seems to be the case, doesn't it? And Carrie Fisher recently revealed that she and actor Harrison Ford had an intense affair while they were filming "Star Wars," but he hasn't commented on that so far. Do you expect that he will now?

LOWRY: Well, he is basically sort of said Carrie is Carrie, and as kind of acknowledged it without really getting into it. But, look, she's been very open about her life. She took great joy really in writing about her upbringing. She was born into Hollywood, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.

Her father famously left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. And she spoke of herself as being born to simple folk in her one-woman show. So she took great pleasure in sort of documenting even though she was very much a part of Hollywood and had grown up in Hollywood, she took great pleasure in documenting the eccentricities and foibles of the town.

CHURCH: She certainly did, didn't she? And she was also a hero for many people and fans across the globe who suffered from mental health issues. She had so many of her own demons to overcome. Did she successfully overcome them in the end?

LOWRY: She seemed to. I mean, she was, you know, she was an eccentric character. She was on Stephen Colbert's show recently and brought her dog with her who sat with her through the whole segment.

But she was very open about having wrestled with addiction and bipolar condition. And really was someone who was very comfortable talking about her life and turning it into not just something that she talked about, but something that she could share in a very relatable and entertaining way. And that basically came through in her writing.

CHURCH: All right. Brian Lowry, thank you so much for joining us and shedding more light on the life of Carrie Fisher. We will talk to you, again, next hour, in fact. Many thanks.

HOWELL: I think she was tough and fearless both on screen and off and an icon for so many.

CHURCH: Yeah, she was.

HOWELL: Indeed. Moving on now to Pearl Harbor and a day of reflection and reconciliation. The U.S. President Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe stood together Tuesday in Hawaii, you know, in a place that was ones the site of war.

CHURCH: The leaders paid tribute to those who died in the Japanese attacked 75 years ago and asserted their nation's alliance. CNN's Athena Jones reports.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENTS: Hi, there. A historic day here at Pearl Harbor, a moment 75 years in the making and pictures and videos, the legs (ph) on which we've never seen before. These two leaders, the U.S. president and a Japanese Prime Minister are going together to the USS Arizona Memorial to pay their respects to the fallen.

Both leaders later delivering emotional moving remarks. Both leaders evoking the sights and sounds of that day in 1941 when more than 2,400 people never made at home. President Obama saying that Abe's presence here shows what is possible between nations, and how two former foes can become the closest of allies.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: As nations and as people we cannot choose the history that we inherit, but we can choose what lessons to draw from it and use those lessons to chart our own futures. Wars can end. The most bitter of adversaries can become the strongest of allies. The fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war. This is the enduring truth of this hallowed harbor.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) JONES: Prime Minister Abe saying that his visit to the USS Arizona left him speechless. Here is more on what he had to say.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translation): As the Prime Minister of Japan I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war.


JONES: And so, there you heard Japanese Prime Minister offering his sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, but not offering an apology for the actions his nation took here 75 years ago.

But it's important to note that President Obama speaking at Hiroshima in May, also defined to offer an apology for the U.S. action there, the dropping of the atomic bomb.

[01:10:03] Both leaders choosing instead to deliver forward looking messages focusing on the future of the U.S./Japan alliance.

Athena Jones, CNN, Pearl Harbor.

HOWELL: The Trump transition, the president-elect not officially president of the United States, yet January 20th will be the day. But, Donald Trump has been busy on Twitter, again, congratulating himself.

He posted this late Tuesday, "The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index for December surged nearly 4 points to 113.7, the highest level in more than 15 years. Thanks, Donald."

CHURCH: Now, earlier in the day, the president-elect took a swing at his predecessor writing this, "President Obama campaigned hard and personally in the very important swing states and lost. The voters wanted to make America great again."

HOWELL: So let's use that as the starting point of our chat, our Trump transition discussion with our guests, Democratic Strategist Matthew Littman live from Los Angeles, and also from L.A., Republican Consultant John Thomas. Gentlemen, good to have you with us this hour.

So, look, last month we saw President Obama and the president-elect sit down together in the Oval Office after a very bruising campaign. They appeared to bury the hatchet. Things seemed to have changed, though.

The president said, Monday, that he could have won a third term. And Donald Trump responded on Twitter saying, "No way." And then Tuesday in Hawaii, the president of the United States had this to say, "Let's talk about it on the other side." Let's listen.


OBAMA: It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.


HOWELL: So, John, the question to you, the president at a site that was once the site of war taking a swipe at Donald Trump?

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Absolutely. I mean, he just can't contain himself. And I think it's largely because what President Barack Obama said on the campaign trail when he vigorously campaigned for Hillary Clinton was, "This is a reflection on my legacy and my reputation as president. You must -- my policies are on the ballot. You must vote for Hillary Clinton." So it was a big smackdown to the president and I think he is still hurting from it.

HOWELL: Matthew, so the president suggested that his message would have resonated with the electorate that he would have beaten Trump if he were able to run for a third term. The question here is, is he misreading the electorate, voters who gave Donald Trump the win in 2016?

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So I don't think there's any question that the president would have beaten Donald Trump and the reason why I say that is because Hillary beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes. Barack Obama's popularity rating is a record high, close to 60 percent. Donald Trump, this is in his honeymoon phase, almost two thirds of the American public doesn't approve of Donald Trump.

So I don't think there is any question that if President Obama were running against Donald Trump, President Obama would trounce Donald Trump. And we all know that if Obama says something like that, Donald Trump with his very thin skin is going to respond immediately.

HOWELL: And here is the question, though, you know, this match up is never going to happen. You know, the election is done.

THOMAS: Right.

HOWELL: Donald Trump will be the president. It's just interesting to see these two men having this conversation.

THOMAS: This is sour grapes, George.


THOMAS: Just to what it should have and could have.

HOWELL: All right. Well, let's move on from sour grapes to a big announcement that came Tuesday, Trump naming Thomas Bossert as his Homeland Security Adviser. Here's a little background on Bossert.

He served in the George W. Bush administration. So far his election has gotten positive reaction, especially from establishment Republicans and Trump has actually elevated that position saying that he will be on equal footing with National Security Adviser Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.

The reaction from some Democrats and former White House officials, they say that it could be a power struggle in the making. Congressman Chris Collins of New York denies that, though. Here is what he had to say.


CHRIS COLLINS, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: The decisions are going to be made by President-elect Trump. He thrives on bringing in a group of expert, 8, 10, or 12, letting them debate the issues while he sits fairly quietly. He takes notes. He certainly probes where appropriate and when he is done listening to different opinions, different nuances, Donald Trump then makes the decision.


HOWELL: So we have heard before, gentlemen, of a team of rivals. Is that what we're seeing play out here, John? Is it one balancing out the other?

THOMAS: Yeah, I do. I think President-elect Trump is trying to put together dissenting voices and that's a smart thing to do when you don't have a lot of experience in government or foreign affairs or a lot of other things. You need to bring in different opinions.

[01:15:02] I think Donald Trump is being the smart CEO here saying, "I don't want to surround myself with a bunch of yes men."

HOWELL: OK. Matthew, your thoughts there?

LITTMAN: Well, I don't think that that what's going on here. The fact is that Donald Trump just doesn't have a lot of fully formed opinions and I don't agree with Chris Collins' analysis of how Trump sees his cabinet meetings and meeting with his folks and listening to other opinions and that's his history.

He's been doing this for about a month. And right now, the reason why you have people with such divergent points of view is because Donald Trump has no core philosophy. So, well, I think that this is a recipe for disaster. You have people who are very diversion points of view on Russia, on Israel, on the economy, on taxes, all of whom are going to be fighting with each other.

And the bad -- the other bad part of it is most of them don't have any experience in government. So how they're going to govern is a real mystery to me.

HOWELL: But the point that they always make is that there is a lot of business experience that's coming with many of the people who will be rounding out the cabinet. So, again, you know, we'll have to just wait. And as many people say, give that administration time to come together.

Let's also talk about Russia. Donald Trump has made it very clear that he hope to improve ties with Moscow, specifically to improve ties with Vladimir Putin. Not all see it that way, though.

There are three U.S. senators on a trip right now to the Baltic States, two of them leading Republicans, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. They had some critical words for the president-elect on some very important topics. First, let's listen to what Republican Senator John McCain had to say.


JOHN MCCAIN, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: I believe that Vladimir Putin is a thug and a bully and I believe that that is become apparent. And one of the reasons why Lindsey Graham and I are here is to reassure our allies of strong support from the United States Senate and the Armed Services Committee.


HOWELL: All right, so McCain predicts that Trump will eventually change his tune on Putin. Matthew, is that likely?

LITTMAN: I think the Republicans have been hoping that Trump changes his tune on many issues. Since he started run, we've been hearing things like this all along. There's no reason to believe that Trump is going to change his mind now.

But listen, what's happened here is that while all of our national security agencies, the FBI, the CIA have been telling the government that Russia got involved in the election on behalf of Trump, Trump says that that really didn't happen, or that we have no evidence of it. And the reason he says that is because he doesn't want anybody questioning his very small victory, right?

So because he lost by 3 million votes to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, he doesn't want any questioning of that. Well, the problem is he is catering to Putin and not to the facts here and that is going to be an issue for the Republican Party.

HOWELL: John, I know you want to get in on there. I have to stop it right here just for time. I'm so sorry, gentlemen.

THOMAS: Well, that's OK.

HOWELL: But we appreciate you being with us. I'm sure it's OK for you.

HOWELL: Matthew Littman and John Thomas, thank you so much for being with us.

THOMAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: I wish we had a little more time.

CHURCH: All right, let's take a quick break here. Up next, U.S. President Barack Obama is getting ready to hand off a list of world crises to Donald Trump. His latest foreign policy challenge is just ahead.

HOWELL: Plus, Israel remains defiant about its plans to expand settlements despite the U.N. resolution. More ahead on the claims that it's making about the U.S. involvement in this Security Council's vote, something the U.S. denies, next.


[01:20:28] DON RIDDELL: Hey, I'm Don Riddell with your CNN World Sport headlines. Let's start with the Premier League as Liverpool remain the closest challengers to the leaders Chelsea after Tuesday's big home win against Stoke City.

The Reds allowed a 12-minute goal, but then scored four of their own for a 4-1 final score maintaining their unbeaten run of home this season. Liverpool had a one-point lead on the third place, Manchester City in the league table and those two meet on Saturday.

Staying in the Premier League, Tuesday, Swansea City fired Manager Bob Bradley after just 11 games in charge. Bradley won two, draw two and lost seven games. He was the first American to manage a Premier League club, but he never settled. He wasn't popular and his tenure lasted less than three months.

And finally, the grueling 628-mile Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race came to a close on Wednesday in record quick time. Perpetual Loyal pulled up to the quay side in Hobart in the dead of night just after 2:30 in the morning, smashing the previous record by almost five hours.

The official winning time was one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. And it was especially rewarding for the winning crew, which hadn't even made to it the finish line in either of their last two races.

That is a quick look at your sport headlines. I'm Don Riddell.


HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN "NEWSROOM." I'm George Howell. Just weeks before he leaves office, foreign policy is at the forefront for the U.S. President Barack Obama and his critics.

Mr. Obama is facing major international challenges, including the latest U.N. Security Council vote on Israel. We get more now from CNN's Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Israel announced plans to build hundreds of new settlement units in East Jerusalem in defiance of a U.N. vote calling them illegal and sharpened attacks on the U.S., accusing the White House of orchestrating the votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's deeply, deeply disappointing to the state of Israel.

LABOTT: As President Obama deals with the fallout, new questions about the world he is leaving to his successor, something he reflected on in his last press conference.

OBAMA: There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I'm president of the United States, I feel responsible.

LABOTT: Take Syria, after calling for President Assad's ouster six years ago, the civil war rages on. A political vacuum in Syria and neighboring Iraq paved the way for ISIS to rise. President Obama's reluctance to go what he called all in meant he only offered limited support to moderate rebels.

OBAMA: We wanted to do something and it sounded like the right thing to do. But it was going to be impossible to do this on the cheap.

LABOTT: Meanwhile, Russian air strikes helped regime forces tighten their grip. Now, Aleppo in ruins, a humanitarian catastrophe unfolds. Russian President Putin also on the march in Europe, seizing Crimea from the Ukraine and moving nuclear capable missiles to NATO's doorstep, while an aggressive China expands its reach in the South China Sea. Expert says President Obama's restraint emboldened America's adversaries.

JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: He has made clear that he does not see the United States leading a global security system against those predator states, be it China, be it Iran, North Korea, be it Russia that are challenging the status quo.

OBAMA: We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

LABOTT: An early offer to engage with America's foes led to a landmark nuclear deal with I ran, but it didn't stop Iranian aggression. President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to tear up that deal or renegotiate it.

With three weeks to go until Trump takes over, world leaders are watching with hope and concern about this promise from the new commander-in-chief.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's time to shake the rust off of America's foreign policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing wrong with unorthodox approaches. The question is what is the basic bottom line? Is Vladimir Putin or the Chinese people who we can share the world an oddly world with? The jury is out on both of those.

LABOTT: Secretary of State Kerry will deliver a major speech, Wednesday, at the State Department laying out a vision for how he believes the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can be resolved and then it will be up to the Trump administration to decide whether to take that advice or go its own route.

[01:00:15] Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Joining us now is David Rohde, a CNN Global Affairs Analyst and National Security Investigations Editor for Reuters. He is in New York. Thank you so much for being with us.

So it appears Israel is now thumbing its nose at the U.N. Security Council by advancing plans to build hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem, despite the U.N. Security Council passing that resolution demanding an end to the settlements. What does this signal, do you think?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think a determination by Prime Minister Netanyahu to push ahead with the settlements. He is clearly extremely angry at the United States and the Obama administration in particular for not vetoing this resolution.

He argues that it would lay not -- it would lead to less chances for peace and these new settlements, you know, do endanger the peace process. So it's an escalation from the Israeli side.

CHURCH: And Israel is still insisting it has evidence to prove the U.S. was pushing for this resolution, even orchestrated it apparently, that according to Israel. The U.S. denies that claim. What do you think? What proof do you believe Israel has on this?

ROHDE: It's hard for me to say. I don't know. You know, again, the Israelis say they have this evidence. There was a trip where Secretary of State John Kerry was in New Zealand. That's where some Israeli officials have alleged there was some talks possibly about this resolution. The U.S., the Obama administration flatly denies that.

Other diplomats from the Security Council say the U.S. never made its position clear on the resolution until the vote itself. So, again, a very, very bitter fallout between the Netanyahu cabinet and administration and the Obama administration and it's unprecedented. It will all change in a few weeks with Donald Trump taking office. But there are suppose to be -- they'll be more of this in the coming days, I think.

CHURCH: Indeed, I want to ask you about that, because I wonder how different will U.S./Israeli relations likely be once the Trump administration is sworn in. And what do you expect Mr. Trump to do about this U.N. Security Council resolution that was passed Friday?

ROHDE: He has dismissed the U.N. as a body and he's criticized this resolution. He lobbied against it. He made a call to Egypt to ask them not to introduce the resolution. Four other countries went ahead and did that. And he has appointed an ambassador that supports -- new U.S. Ambassador to Israel that supports more settlements, you know, the direct opposite of the Obama administration's position. So it will be a very different situation on January 20th.

There's now news that tomorrow the current Secretary of State John Kerry will give a speech outlining the Obama administration's vision for a two-state settlement. This is close to the end of their term. It's hard to see what impact that would have. But, you know, if Kerry gives the speech as planned, that will just add to more recriminations between Netanyahu and Obama as the end of Obama's term approaches.

CHURCH: And I'll have to ask, of course, where does this all leave efforts for peace in the Middle East?

ROHDE: It doesn't appear to be improving them. George Mitchell, a former U.S. Envoy in the mid east peace, he has said this resolution and the fallout politically is pushing peace farther away.

The danger is that this is popular to the pro settlement sort of base that supports Netanyahu. Will that lead to, you know, more radical elements that oppose a peace deal in the Palestinians? You know, will you see a protest there?

And so if you're fueling the extremes on either sides, that does make a peace less likely. It's a very unusual situation and we'll see what John Kerry says tomorrow.

CHURCH: All right. We'll have to just do that indeed. David Rohde, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

ROHDE: Thank you.

HOWELL: The family of Pop Star George Michael says they are touched by the ongoing emotional tributes. What his partner is saying about finding the singer dead on Christmas day?

CHURCH: Plus, we look back on all the other music a-lister we lost this year.


[01:32:52] HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for you this hour.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an historic visit to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, offering condolences to those who died in the Japanese attack 75 years ago. Mr. Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke of reconciliation and affirmed their nations' alliance.

HOWELL: Israel is defying a U.N. Security Council resolution, moving forward with its plans to build settlements in east Jerusalem. The council approved a resolution last week demanding an end to settlements in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank. In the meantime, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to give a speech on Wednesday, laying out the country's vision for peace in the Middle East.

CHURCH: Fans and celebrities around the world are remembering Carrie Fisher, the iconic actress best known for her role as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" movies, died on Tuesday. Fisher suffered an apparent heart attack during a flight on Friday. She was 60 years old.

HOWELL: And of course the loss of another great pop star George Michael. So many people around the world are still mourning his loss. The celebration of his career and his legacy, it continues outside of his home in north London.

CHURCH: Fans have been singing his hit, laying down flowers and cards with messages. His partner says he went to wake Michael up for lunch on Christmas Day and found him dead in his bed, lying peacefully. His partner says on Twitter, quote, "I will never stop missing you."

HOWELL: What a year. It has been a sad year for music. We've seen so many legendary performers go, leaving behind their remarkable legacies. Here is a look.


HOWELL (voice-over): February 3rd, 1959. Buddy Holly, Richie Valenz and the Big Bopper killed in a plane crash. It was the day the music died.

Then came a sad 11-month stretch in 1970 through '71 when the world lost Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Louie Armstrong.

[01:05:08] Then came 2016. Like a jukebox of sad songs on repeat. So many legends lost. It began January 10th when David Bowie, the iconic Ziggy stardust singer lost his 18-month battle with cancer. David Bowie was 69 years old.

A week later, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and co-writer of "Hotel California," died from rheumatoid arthritis complications at age 67. Founding members of Jefferson Airplane, Earth, Wind and Fire, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and A Tribe Called Quest passed away in early 2016. Then on April 6th we lost grizzled country music legend Merle Haggard. The 79-year-old died from pneumonia complications.

April 21st, we learned what it sounds like when the doves cry. The prolific timeless sounds of Prince, silenced by an overdose of painkillers. Prince was 57 years old.

On November 10th, Canadian crooner and "Hallelujah" writer Leonard Cohen died at age 82. He released an album about mortality and God earlier in the year. Three days later, the master of time and space, Leon Russell died in his sleep at 74. On November 18th, soul and funk singer Sharon Jones lost her battle with cancer. She was 60 years old.

And then on Christmas Day, British pop star George Michael died from heart failure.

From faith to freedom, the 53-year-old singer sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

2016, a year some might say the music died.


CHURCH: Here to reflect on the number of losses to the world of music over the course of 2016 is Bob Lefsetz, music writer for " Lefsetz's Letter" which has been published for a quarter of a century.

Thank you so much for being with us. So 2016. It has certainly been a tough year with the loss of so many music legends. The most recent, of course, George Michael. Before that Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, and so, so very many others. What impact do you think the loss of all these music legends together has had on the world around us?

BOB LEFSETZ, WRITER, LEFSETZ'S LETTER: Well, this is a generational change. The classic rock era seemed to go on forever, even though John Lennon was shot and George Harrison ultimately succumbed to cancer. We felt that these people would roll forever. So we're shocked that these heroes of ours are dying, and also the torch is being passed to a younger generation. So it -- also it affects our own sense of mortality. But it's really the passage of time which we cannot fathom.

CHURCH: Yes. There is a sense of that, isn't it? I think for so many of us, when any of these artists died, the memories that we had of them as we were growing up seemed to die along with them. But which of these artists do you think left the biggest mark on our world? Is it possible to separate them out like that?

LEFSETZ: Look, you know, we can play this game, although I'm not sure that it's wholly relevant. But the three big ones that come to mind are Bowie, Prince and Glenn Frey of the Eagles. Now if you look at record sales and listenership, the Eagles are the biggest by far of any of those three acts. Now if you want to talk about cultural impact, Prince was African-American. He crossed over to the white generation. He was also a rocker and a soul guy. So you can say wow, no one did anything bigger and over a very long period of time.

David Bowie had a very -- I wouldn't say brief impact. His impact was not as lengthy as Prince's, but he had two bites at the apple. He had the original '70s era and he also had the MTV era with "Modern Love" and "China Girl." It appears that all of these people had huge impacts. And music is tribal. So each one of these acts has their tribes.

With Bowie, we were surprised because we did not know he was sick. With Prince we were shocked because only the weekend before he was riding his bicycle and saying, you know, the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

Then he died. Insiders knew that Glenn Frey was sick, but we believed that our heroes are going to live beyond us. And when they predecease us, we do not know what to do with our emotions.

CHURCH: Yes, that's true. And David Bowie of course appeared to even choreograph his death, didn't he? There was a sense of that.

[01:40:01] As you mentioned, it is like a whole generation of music artists have been wiped out here. So who does carry the musical torch in 2017 and moving forward, do you think?

LEFSETZ: Well, you know, this is what the people who are fans of the artists who died ironically do not appreciate the younger artists. We have moved to streaming in the distribution of music and what we found out is hip-hop is even bigger than it is in sales. So many people who love these acts hate hip-hop. Even though Prince himself occasionally rapped and embraced hip-hop. But the big acts today are basically record producers who work with people like Justin Bieber.

They make very catchy tunes. But this is very hard for baby boomers to fathom. Because when we look back at the deceased artists, most of them were one-man bands, so to speak, in that they both wrote, performed and sang the material. Whereas everything today is collaborative. So it's a giant schism in the mind of the listener. Not to mention the fact that these acts had a second career on MTV. And now video doesn't mean so much.

So music has been the canary in the coal mine with all these digital disruption. But in music we have figured it out. You have streaming services. You pay the equivalent of ten pounds, $10 a month, you can get everything. But we have not figured out the music. And what we found is we have an incredible number of niches. And everyone is listening to different stuff. And it's a Tower of Babel society. The biggest act in the world is Adele. She sells 10 times what anybody else does. She can sing. If your songs have melody, you can sing along.

Is that a harbinger for the future? Or is it like rock 'n roll in that we're going to totally discard the past? I can't tell you. But it has been a very sad time for music fans.

CHURCH: It most certainly has.

Bob Lefsetz, thank you so much for joining us and giving us your perspective on this. We certainly appreciate it.

LEFSETZ: Absolutely. Great to be here.

HOWELL: 2016 has been a tough year for the entertainment industry. We've also seen so much political division around the world. And devastating images of war, like this one that no one can really forget.

Up next hour, how to process and how to cope with all of the pain.


[01:45:21] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, of course 2016 has been a year of hard-hitting losses. And many are ready for it to be over. In entertainment, "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher passed away on Tuesday.

HOWELL: Two days earlier, on Christmas Day, we lost British pop star George Michael. In the months before him, we said goodbye to so many. To Prince, to David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.

CHURCH: And in sports we lost boxing great Muhammad Ali this year.

HOWELL: All right. On the world stage, haunting images of war in the Middle East. In August, remember this? 5-year-old Omran. His family's home destroyed by an air strike in Aleppo, Syria.

CHURCH: The brutal civil war in Syria has claimed more than 400,000 lives since it started back in 2011. The U.N. says more than 11 million people have been forced from their homes.

Political divides around the globe only got deeper in 2016. Europe is struggling with a huge influx of refugees and crumbling economies.

HOWELL: Britain voted to leave the European Union, and perhaps nothing was as divisive as the presidential election right here in the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: You can change your vote to Donald Trump. We'll make America great again, OK? She is not going to make America great. She will never make America great. The Clintons are the sordid past.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent can say whatever he wants about me. I don't really care. If you know anybody who is thinking about voting for Trump, well, first of all, stage an intervention. I mean --


HOWELL: Well, the good news here is, you know, 2016 just a few more days before it is on the books. But to help explain how people can help process and cope with what happened this year, we're now joined by sociologist Anna Akbari.

CHURCH: Yes. And her book "Start Up Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness," just released on Tuesday. That is a great title.

So, Anna, thanks so much for being here with us to help us process and cope with all that we have witnessed in 2016. A year of losses, war, terror attacks and political divides. What do you say to people about how they can deal with the horror that they see every single day?

ANNA AKBARI, SOCIOLOGIST: Well, you know, I think as we were just reflecting on all of the great artists that we have lost, and I think we're feeling that in particular more acutely right now because of all the other atrocities that are going on.

Any time we're at a moment where there is unrest and a time of great transformation, that's when we need our entertainers the most because there is so much more than entertainers. They're the people that give us guidance, give us emotional support, that help us to make sense of the world. But I think what we can remember at a time like this is that creativity loves a void. And so I think the space, the emptiness that we're feeling is really an opportunity for new voices to rise up and to create and express and to contribute.

HOWELL: You know, as a journalist, I'm used to seeing so many different things. I'm a new parent. And now certain images just hit me a lot harder than maybe they did before.


HOWELL: You're a mother. I'm a father. But even if you're not a parent, just simply humanity makes you really think about this image, if we can show it. I'm sure the world remembers Omran. These are the images of war. This is what happened after a home was bombed in Aleppo. And these images, they're heartbreaking. And they are constantly at our fingertips. You know, these images of war, the questions about politics in the United States and around the world.

That stream is right here at your fingertips. You just scroll through your social media platform and there it is. Maybe you're not prepared for it. But you see it, and you feel the emotions there. How do people deal with that?

AKBARI: Well, certainly weighs heavily. And as the new year rolls around, unfortunately there is no single New Year's resolution that is going to make it all better. But I'm reminded of the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, that we don't have to become heroes overnight. And so I think if we remember that and we think about what 2016 has given us, because it's given us a platform for growth and change. Because, you know, greatness doesn't come from perfection. It comes from adversity.

[01:50:04] And certainly 2016 has dished up plenty of that. So if we really reflect on this year, we can see it as nudging us from our complacency and giving us a call to action, from which we can really spring forward and grow in ways that perhaps we didn't think were previously imaginable.

HOWELL: That's a good point.

CHURCH: Of course, we saw in Britain the United States and across Europe, we're seeing politics divide people in extreme ways. Political differences even putting strain on families over the holidays. What do you say to people about those divides we see? And just how unusual is this? And maybe if we can work in the title of your book here, how you hack your way to happiness. I love the title. What is the key here?

AKBARI: Well, you know, one of the concepts that I talk about in the book that is something that startups use all the time is a pivot. And essentially a pivot is just euphemism for failure. But what startups do is they take those failures, they take those mistakes and those challenges. They reflect on them and then they repackage it into something new and different and better. And I think this divisiveness is actually an opportunity for us to pivot in ways that perhaps we weren't expecting to go. New trajectories are opening up to us as a result of them. And so I think that divisiveness can actually usher in opportunity.

HOWELL: Anna Akbari with a little optimism.


HOWELL: On the year that soon to be was 2016. Just a few more days to go.

Anna, thank you so much.

AKBARI: Thank you.

CHURCH: Thank you.

HOWELL: This is CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back right after the break.



[01:55:32] HOWELL: The world lost a galactic princess on Tuesday. Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60 years old from an apparent heart attack.

CHURCH: "Star Wars" cast members and other celebrities are reacting to her passing.

Thank you so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from CNN world headquarters here in Atlanta. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Hour number two of CNN NEWSROOM is up right after the break.

This is CNN, the world's news.