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Crowds Gather at Times Square for New Year's Celebration; Parents of Girl Killed in Chicago Interviewed; Russia President Putin Issues New Year's Statement to World Leaders; Russian Malware Found on Vermont Electricity Company Laptop; Congressional Leaders Calling for Action against Russian Cyber-Attacks on U.S.; College Football Playoffs Get Underway; International Stories of 2016 Reviewed. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 31, 2016 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You did say the crowds are already packing in. That is for sure. They stretch for blocks that way. And the ball drop isn't for 10 hours. And the ball drop will be a few blocks this way. So we have all of these people lined up here. These people camping out. I have talked to people who are way in the front here as we get closer to the ball. They have been here since 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. You guys, when did you get here to get these pretty prime spots?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been down here since noon, and they opened up the gates at 1:00.

SCHNEIDER: You had to go through security screenings to get in here, right?


SCHNEIDER: What did they do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You unzip your jackets and you just, hopefully you make it through.

SCHNEIDER: And you did make it through. You got a good spot here. And that is just part of the security screening out here. Police have really amped up their security this year because of some of the terrorist attacks overseas that have happened. In fact the new addition this year is 65 sanitation trucks that will be set up around the perimeter. Over on Eighth Avenue we have seen a few of them. They will be set up all over Times Square. They'll be filled with sand and they would act as a blockade.

There are also 100 other blockade vehicles that will be used, double what was used last year. And then you've got some other numbers -- 7,000 NYPD officers that will be out throughout the city, including 550 who are newly graduated from the police academy. And then, you have the pens with all the crowds. There are 65 of these pens all over Times Square with many excited spectators.

The police here expecting to fill these pens with about 3,000 people. So there is a lot of activity here in Times Square. You can see there is where the ball drops. And there are all the people here. There are also counterterrorism officials who will be out here monitoring 14 access points. Down at One Police Plaza, the headquarters just downtown, about 30 officials from city and state and federal agencies, they will be monitoring all of the video feeds that come in from all of the cameras here around Time Square. So a lot of security and preparation that goes into this huge event. This year, the security even more stepped up. But these people, they have gone through it. They are excited. And it just took about 10 hour toss go until this ball drops.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. They are the lucky ones with a great vantage point. All right, thank you so much Jessica Schneider. We will check back with you.

Now, to new tensions between Russian -- the Russian government and the U.S. government. We are learning the same malicious software used by Russian hackers to meddle in the U.S. election has been found on a laptop belonging to a Vermont utility company. Burlington Electric says the laptop was not connected to the power grid but did call this an attempt to infiltrate utility systems. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin lashing out at Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying, quote, "Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid which we rely upon to support our quality of life, economy, health and safety," end quote.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following this story and joins me now live. Polo, the governments are trying to sort out how far-reaching this intrusion might be, and I mean U.S. government, local governments as well.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. A lot of questions around this one, what is the scope of this, what was the intent, and, of course, was this an isolated incident? One U.S. government official told my colleague Jim Sciutto that those are questions they just don't have answers to, at least not yet, as an investigation presses forward.

What we do know is that Burlington Electric, the company involved in this, apparently detected what is malicious software on one of their company laptop computers. It's important to note that computer, according to these officials, was not directly connected into the power grid that is crucial for about 20,000 people there in the northeast. And they also understand that their customer lists were not compromised either. So that's still a question as to what that malicious software was doing in that computer, the so-called Grizzly Steppe. And it sounds familiar. That is because that is that same malicious software that was reportedly used by Russian hackers to attempt to affect or at least sway the November election.

While this is not expected to have extreme impacts, this is still causing several concerns, not just among the governor, which you mentioned a few moments ago, but also some lawmakers. For example, Patrick Leahy, senator form Vermont, released a statement after these developments came to light in which he says this is beyond hackers having electronic joyrides. This is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. This is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly." Fred?

WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

Vladimir Putin stayed away from the allegations against Russia in his annual New Year's message. CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joining me now from Moscow. So Matthew, who does this message catered to?

[14:05:05] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been a couple of messages. There's been one message to the Russian people, congratulating them on the end of 2016. That message has already gone out on local television stations across eastern Russia where, of course, it is already a New Year. Here in Moscow it's not midnight yet.

There has also been another message that went out as a written statement to world leaders congratulating them on the New Year as well, the queen of England, the president of France, the chancellor of Germany. One notable absentee was President Obama. He wasn't mentioned at all in that congratulations list. But Donald Trump was, the president-elect of the United States. And it again reinforces this idea that Vladimir Putin has been hammering home over the course of the past 24 hours is that he is ignoring what's happening with the Obama administration. He ignored the expulsion effectively of those 35 Russian diplomats by President Barack Obama in response to the allegations of election hacking by Russian hackers. And he reached out, instead, to Donald Trump, saying that the future of the relationship between Russia and the United States is going to be determined by the policy of the Trump administration.

And for one, Donald Trump applauded that, of course, yesterday issuing that tweet in which he said it was a good move and that he always thought that Vladimir Putin was very clever. So I think Putin is probably very satisfied with that response, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you.

In the meantime, a fight is brewing between Republicans and the president-elect. Senator John McCain is holding a hearing next week on cyber-threats, all while Donald Trump refuses to criticize Vladimir Putin for the election hack. We'll look at what to expect next week.

And the New Year is already here in parts of the world. This was the celebration in Taipei, Taiwan, about an hour and a half ago. A huge fireworks display over the Taipei 101 Tower, ushering in 2017.





[14:10:00] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Vladimir Putin is looking ahead to Donald Trump's presidency. In a statement to foreign heads of state yesterday he offered congratulations to the president-elect. Also, writing, quote, "Acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, we will be able to take real steps to restore the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation in various areas and take their interaction in the international arena to a whole new level." And Donald Trump is reciprocating that kind of praise, applauding Putin's decision to not expel American diplomats in response to U.S. sanctions against Russia. Trump even tweeting this, quote, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

I want to go live now to Athena Jones, who is traveling with President Barack Obama and family in Honolulu. Athena, any more reaction coming from the White House?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No reaction, Fred, to this non- reaction from Russia's president. And I can tell you, these sanctions against Russia are just the latest example of moves that the president is making that proves that he is doing what he said he wanted to do, which is to run through the tape to work up until the very end of his administration to try to get as much of his agenda accomplished before inauguration day as he can.

He is also taking steps to protect his legacy. That's why we are going to see him go up to Capitol Hill next week on Wednesday to meet with House and Senate Democrats to strategize ways to push back against Republican plans to repeal his signature domestic achievement, Obamacare. We know this is something that has been at the top of GOP agenda according to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

But he has also taken other steps just over the last couple of weeks that we have been here in Hawaii covering his working vacation. You will remember a couple of weeks ago him announcing plans to bar offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlanta oceans. He also continued to try to draw down the population at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, telling Congress of plans to transfer more detainees to other countries. He will stop short of closing it, but he is trying to make sure that there are as few detainees at Guantanamo Bay when he ends his presidency as possible.

And also announcing more clemency for another 200 and something people, bringing his clemency acts to a new record when it comes to two-term presidents. And these are all, as I said, steps that he has taken to show that he is still president up until the last moment.

One more example on the foreign policy front, of course, is Secretary of State John Kerry delivering that speech about this administration's view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the importance of continuing work towards a two-state solution. So the president doing everything he can to carry out what he thinks should be done up until January 20th, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, a lot to potentially jam in to the next 20 days. Thanks so much, Athena Jones in Honolulu. Appreciate it. So although Trump has dismissed the hacking claims, many Republicans

support the sanctions against Russia, even calling for more. Some lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain, feel the retaliation should go further.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: When you attack a country, it's an act of war. And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop this kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.


WHITFIELD: Let's talk more about this. Brian Morgenstern, a Republican strategist, and political analyst Ellis Henican, both with me here. All right, Brian, you first. So McCain is calling this an act of war. Might this spell Donald Trump to change his tune, especially after his briefing next week?

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: A lot of folks have been saying the hawks on the Foreign Relations Committee and Donald Trump are butting heads. And that seems to be true. Let me posit a possible scenario that Trump goes to Moscow, meets with Putin with a smile on this face, and says, what a smart guy you are. Look how great you are. By the way, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are going to slap all these sanctions on you unless you work with me, good cop, bad cop.

WHITFIELD: Me against them.

MORGENSTERN: I don't know if that would work. I don't know if that's what's going on, if it is coordinated or just a coincidence, but who knows?

WHITFIELD: Ellis, can you start your presidency that way? Should you?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: I can count it three, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and we need one more Republican in the Senate to hold the line. Maybe Marco Rubio is ready to do it. But there are others, too. There does not seem to be a groundswell of Republicans in the Senate who are joining this bromance, this BFF club between these two.

WHITFIELD: It is the other way around. There has to be more --


WHITFIELD: All right, so how does this set the stage, 20 days away from the swearing-in? Donald Trump had said my first 100 days will look like this, repealing Obamacare is going to be first order of business. Now first order of business has to be either a continuation or a change, a pivot as it pertains to U.S.-Russian relations.

[14:15:07] MORGENSTERN: He can walk and chew gum at the same time. And Paul Ryan has a very strong structure in the House in terms of the committee chairs and moving legislation through them. Mitch McConnell has been a savvy leader in the Senate. I suspect Trump may be delegating things to the leaders in Congress and saying we all know the broad brush things we want to do. We want to repeal Obamacare, we want tax reform. We want all these things. He even said as much with his tax reform package. It is an opening bid. This is Congress' job. We will work with them and we'll figure something out.

So I don't think this is going to be a one-track thing that is going to derail his first 100 days. I think it will be a part of it, but he will be pursuing some other things.

WHITFIELD: So interesting, because Ellis, a great criticism was members of Congress not working with the White House. They didn't come together. It wasn't conciliatory, et cetera, the list goes on. Already, the stage is being said with this Republican-led Congress, there are huge differences between the incoming president and such. Do you see that there is going to be a delegating of issues, ideas, responsibilities, a coming together in a very different manner, or is there going to be a greater separation between these two branches?

HENICAN: I would take it from delegating to abdicating. On most of this stuff, I don't think Trump cares. Look at the people he has appointed to these cabinet positions. It is almost down the line pretty hardcore conservative people, very much the Heritage Foundation folks are doing high-fives. I think there are going to be two or three issues, Russia is one of them, that Donald Trump cares about. And the rest of it, delegation and abdication.

WHITFIELD: How do you see 2017 starting out? When you have Republican leadership saying there is some cohesion in a message, and it is quite different from the message and the mixed messages that Donald Trump is already sending?

MORGENSTERN: In terms of tax reform and Obamacare, those are standard Republican platform items and they have been for decades. Now, some of the differences may be on infrastructure spending and that big old price tag. There may be some negotiations there in terms of Russia, obviously, the administration and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, if they are not coordinating should be, because there needs to be a unified message.

So I think Trump is an obviously different kind of Republican. He wasn't one for a lot of years. So there will be, you know, some give and take there. But they are going to figure it out because they have been pushed around by the Obama administration for eight years, and, man, are they tired of it.

HENICAN: It is harder than that. It is not that you have to unify the two branches. You've got to unify Donald's mind. Look at the tweets day after day. There is no consistency to that. It is going to be a free for all, and, frankly, a lot of fun for us.

WHITFIELD: Kellyanne Conway, now his adviser, once campaign manager, said he is being boxed in and putting the blame on the Obama administration. You hear from others who say if he is boxed in, it is because he's boxing himself in, especially since he is making these comments as president-elect. He's limiting his power and limiting his potential influence once he is sworn in. Agree with that?

HENICAN: This is rich. Kellyanne, not only do you horn in on the old president, then you are mad when the old president actually does something? That's not the way I got it in civics, I don't know.

MORGENSTERN: The point is, Obama could have sanctioned Putin when he was poisoning diplomats, when he shot his adversary in the street in Russia, when he invaded Crimea, when he sold nuclear material to Iran. He could have done something in all of these stages. He chose to do it when Hillary Clinton lost the election. So the motives are a little questionable.

In terms of Trump boxing himself in, this is a guy that changes his mind constantly and it doesn't seem to matter. So I think --

WHITFIELD: That's what you wonder, when will it matter and to whom could it matter, particularly his base who are his strong supporters who have certain expectations, but what he says and what he does, they may not be congruent.

HENICAN: He is going to get presidential, don't you worry. Maybe middle of the second term, what do you think?

MORGENSTERN: When it becomes an agenda he needs to pass and he needs to sell to the American people. In the spirit of New Year's, I am being optimistic. I think the leadership and White House are going to work together. And they're going to have to sell this because to get it done, he is going to have to speak directly to the American people as he has done to his 17 million Twitter followers over and over again.

HENICAN: He called them losers today.

WHITFIELD: Sum up 2016 and then give me something in how you are hoping 2017 will shape into.

MORGENSTERN: Well, let's see, the Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump won the presidency, Prince died. That was sad. It was the Mad Libs of years. It was a bunch of really unexpected things happened. And now we are shell shocked, but we move forward.

[14:20:00] HENICAN: One optimistic note for the three of us. Governments come and go, politicians rise and fade, but you know who the permanent government is? You are looking at him. Happy New Year.


WHITFIELD: Happy New Year. Brian, Ellis, good to see you. Thank you so much.

Next, the city of Chicago closing in on 800 homicides. I'll talk to two parents who know the violence all too well. Their daughter was murdered. They speak out about the tragedy and what needs to change to save other lives in Chicago and beyond.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Welcome back. As 2016 comes to a close, the violence plaguing America's third largest city is at a nearly 20-year high. As of this morning, 775 people have fallen victim to homicides in Chicago. More than 4,000 were wounded in shootings according to the "Chicago tribune." This is one American city in just one year.

This next interview features two parents who know about the violence there all too well. Their daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, become one of the most recognizable faces of the effort to combat gun violence in Chicago. Almost four years ago the 15-years-old honor student She was mistakenly targeted and killed by a gang member near President Barack Obama's home in Chicago. Days earlier, she had performed at his second inauguration. Hadiya's parents were at the White House in January when the president announced executive actions on gun control. I asked the parents if these extraordinary numbers heightened the trauma of losing their daughter.


CLEOPATRA COWLEY-PENDLETON, 15-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER HADIYA, KILLED IN 2013: I have a very difficult time watching the news because my heart goes out to the families that have to endure the same pain that we have had to endure. I mean, it is absolutely heartbreaking. It just is.

WHITFIELD: And Nathaniel, how do you place blame on this. What are the sources of blame? What should be tackled? Why this spate of violence, in your view?

[14:25:00] NATHANIEL PENDLETON, 15-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER HADIYA, KILLED IN 2013: Well, I do believe this state of violence, it's a lot of kids out here that have no direction. They are living on the streets. They are practically raising themselves. And, you know, if you commit a crime, the crime should -- the punishment should be just for the crime. And the thing is, a lot of these people that are committing these crimes, they are not being held accountable. It just becomes, like my wife said, heartbreaking after a while that after these three years, three almost four years that my daughter has been gone, there still hasn't been any movement, positive movement in trying to get guns out of people's hands.

WHITFIELD: And that's frustrating?

COWLEY-PENDLETON: That shouldn't happen anymore, absolutely.

PENDLETON: It's real frustrating.

WHITFIELD: So when I talk to a lot of Chicagoans, I hear them placing blame on gang violence running rampant, territorial battles, lack of police involvement, lack of jobs, resources, and hope, particularly on the south side of Chicago. Are these things you wish the city government or the White House should do or should be addressing more?

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Well, I would say this. Everything you have listed is not new. And it is definitely part of the issue. It is not just part of the issue for the south side. I think the south side alone gets a bad rap. I think it is a city-wide issue.

PENDLETON: Countrywide.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Yes, that too. And it is not just in the cities anymore. It is in the suburbs. This is an epidemic. And something needs to be done. But no one person has the answer. It is a matter of everybody coming together and really farming out what needs to be done in specific communities, because not every community requires the same effort toward resolving this issue.

WHITFIELD: You've had contact with the president, the first lady attending Hadiya's funeral. When the president makes reference to Chicago many times, when it is visible that the pain that your family is experiencing is a pain that he and the first lady can relate to and are expressing their pain, do you feel like more can be done from the White House, from that level?

PENDLETON: I think personally that the White House is doing what they can do. I think this becomes a grassroots problem. This is embedded in our own neighborhoods, policing our own kids, watching our own neighborhoods. We cannot keep putting blame on politicians and the White House or the mayor. We can't keep putting blame on them. This has a lot to do with us.

WHITFIELD: So, as you mentioned, Nathaniel, it has been almost four years now. What do you tell people, whether it be in your community, there in Chicago or across the country, other families who have been touched, who have been pained by this same level of violence that your family has experienced?

PENDLETON: There is nothing really that I can tell them. The only thing I can do is sit with them. And I know the pain that they are feeling. We are both very familiar with the pain. And this pain does not go away. It is here. It stays. You just have to learn how to live with an open wound.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Right. We are not a product of what happens to us. We are a product of how we respond to what happens. And it's a very sick feeling. And there is no one way to navigate through this. We're not over anything. It doesn't feel like four years we can tell you, because the calendar states so, because time keeps moving forward. But it is always going to feel like it just happened yesterday. And it is a matter of figuring out how to navigate through the rest of your life that way.

And that's why when they said we need punishments that fit the crime, I believe and I support him in that perspective because we have life sentences to serve. As long as our eyes are open, we are going to hurt, and every other family that has experienced the unexpected, the illogical happening, is experiencing the same thing. We need these people out here who are taking life for granted to suffer the consequences of their actions. It is not fair to just families and the extensions of our families and friends for us to hurt and ache the way that we do on a daily basis and have that feeling of hopelessness.

PENDLETON: And this other person gets to live, move forward and live their life happily. It hurts. It hurts bad for both of us.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: And our son. So let's not forget that we have our son Nathaniel who is now a freshman in high school who has to navigate through the rest of his life like this.

[14:30:00] So it is really sad that every year, this is continuing to grow. These people don't realize that it is not just victim's family. It is the perpetrator's family that has become victims too. So everybody loses in this situation.

WHITFIELD: Our hearts go out to you and our prayers continue for you and the entire family. Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Nathaniel Pendleton, thank you so much.

PENDLETON: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: President-elect Trump is issuing a New Year's greeting today, but it seems to be directed at his adversaries, tweeting this warning, quote, "Happy New Year to all, including my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!" Trump will celebrate the holiday tonight at a party at his resort in Mar-a-Lago. Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles. What more do we know about the event and from where this tweet comes, et cetera?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it is pretty clear the president-elect feels like he has a lot to celebrate after a very successful 2016 for him. So he is going to do it in a big way at his resort at Mar-a-Lago. This is a party that Mar-a-Lago throws every year, so it does require a ticket to get in and a pretty hefty cost. So this will be the case again this year. We'll show you a little of the details of this party tonight at the Mar-a-Lago resort. Some 800 guests are expected. The tickets go for $525 if you are a member, $575 if you are a guest, which is about what they have always been.

Celebrities will be in attendance. In the past there have been celebrities like Regis Philbin and Vanessa Williams. This time around we know for sure that Sylvester Stallone is going to be there. We were told that Quincy Jones was going to be there, but Quincy Jones tweeted this morning that he is in Los Angeles and won't be at the party tonight. There will also be quite a bit of decorative fare at the ballroom which Trump built after buying Mar-a-Lago back in the 80s.

[14:35:00] We are told there will be an explosion of green and white flowers in the ballroom tonight. A lot of celebration expected. The band that will be playing is expected on stage until at least 1:00 in the morning. And then, Fredricka, the president-elect will wrap up his vacation there in Florida. He will head back to New York tomorrow and then really begins in earnest the preparations to be inaugurated on January 20th. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: That's 20 days away. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

Next, a look back at 2016, the biggest international stories of the year.


WHITFIELD: From political scandals to the growing refugee crisis, 2016 was a momentous year. CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward takes a look at the top 10 international stories.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We begin our top 10 with Brazil, a country whose rollercoaster of scandals and triumphs made news the world over. A mosquito born Zika virus outbreak leading to a spate of rare birth defects. Then, a political crisis that rocked the corridors of power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senate removed Dilma Rousseff as president.

WARD: All this a backdrop to Brazil's moment in the sun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole world will be watching Brazil as it hosts the Olympics.

WARD: Which despite a few setbacks was widely considered a success.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Turkish military announcing it has taken over the country and imposed martial law.

WARD: In the dead of night, machine gunfire rings out as a coup attempt takes over. And almost as quickly as it began, it was over. The president survives the coup attempt, but some 290 others would not. Seeking retribution, President Erdogan would go on to detain and dismiss tens of thousands of people.

[14:40:08] A diplomatic thawing sees a U.S. president touch down on Cuban soul for the first time in 88 years, infuriating Fidel Castro. Eight months later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news out of Cuba, Fidel Castro has died.

WARD: For some, grief for the loss of a revolutionary. For others, celebration for the death of a ruthless dictator. Cuban exiles thrilled as they remember a tyrant who imprisoned and executed his opponents and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

A global migrant crisis worsening by the minute, 65 million people now displaced.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2016 has been the deadliest year ever for migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Among those rescued, this five-day-old infant peering out of his pink blanket.

WARD: Wars, terror, poverty, seeing migrant camps across the world swelling to unsustainable levels, one camp in France bulldozed to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this life? Have mercy on us, have mercy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): I wanted to tell you are not alone.

WARD: Coming in at number six, seismic stations around the world pick up on the unmistakable signs of North Korean aggression. But this time it is different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Korea exploding its most powerful nuclear warhead ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The equivalent of at least 10,000 tons of TNT detonated deep underground.

WARD: The question now, will the next warhead be mounted on a missile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have this many tests, you are eventually going to get it right.

WARD: Unimaginable acts of terror in the name of ISIS leave a bloody trail beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two explosions rocking the main terminal at Brussels airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Across town in the center of the city, a bomb exploded on a metro train.

WARD: Those three suicide bombers killed 32 people. Three months later, another airport is hit. Three men wearing explosive vests carrying AK-47s exiting a taxi curbside, shooting at panicked travelers before blowing themselves up. And 44 people would never make it out of that Turkish airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About six to eight gunmen have taken over this bakery restaurant in Dhaka in this more affluent, posh area of the city in Bangladesh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Military commandos moved in. The siege ended with 13 hostages saved but 20 others dead at the restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are following breaking news out of France.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than a mile of carnage as the truck drove down the beachside promenade killing as many people as the driver could. WARD: A day of celebration for French independence ending with the

slaughter of 84 people. While the so-called soldiers of ISIS waged war in cities across the world, back in Iraq, the land they once laid claim to was being taken back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Iraqi city of Fallujah we understand has been eliminated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iraq's victory is claiming victory in Ramadi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news in to CNN. In Iraq and offensive to retake the key city of Mosul from ISIS is now underway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One came right at me.

WARD: CNN's own team would later make it inside the city limits of Mosul and very nearly would not make it out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We realized we're trapped, our MRAP takes a direct hit. We need to move but every time we try, gunfire drives us back.

WARD: Arwa Damon and her team would spend 28 hours trapped. An estimated 1 million civilians are still within this embattled city.

Across the border in Syria, another hellish landscape unfolds. It's biggest city, Aleppo, the epicenter of this horror.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what hell feels like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Syrian's regime's latest aerial assault.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gallon drums filled with explosives and shrapnel shoved out of helicopters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say nine people still stuck under that rubble.

WARD: A dazed and shell shocked boy pulled from the wreckage of his home would become the bloodied face of Syria's suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He hasn't cry once. This is Omran. He is alive. We wanted you to know.

[14:45:12] WARD: Coming in at number two, Russia flexing its military muscle at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vladimir Putin moving nuclear capable missiles to the border with Poland and Lithuania.

WARD: And on a global stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. is blaming Russia for bombing a humanitarian convoy in Syria.

WARD: Moscow using its superior arsenal to turn the tides of war in favor of Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told us that Russian and regime forces target hospitals cynically and deliberately.

WARD: The diplomatic vacuum between the U.S. and Russia intensified with activations of hostile acts still shrouded in mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A series of cyber-attacks on Democrats indicate Russia is trying to sway the election for Donald Trump.

WARD: And in our number one slot this, the surge of populism across the west as voters rejected the establishment. Many feeling ignored by politicians and left behind economically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people have voted to leave the European Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dare to dream that the down is breaking on an independent, United Kingdom.

WARD: It was a vote that took the world by surprise. One of the main forces behind Brexit, anger over immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): They should go back to where they came from before we rip their heads off.

WARD: And of course, in the U.S., where president-elect Donald Trump capitalized on the issue.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

WARD: The rejection of globalization resonating with voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN projects Donald Trump wins the presidency.

WARD: Will the march of populism continue? With elections in France and Germany coming up, 2017 promises to be an interesting year.


WHITFIELD: Interesting, indeed. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

We are just minutes away now from the first college football playoff game of the year, the Peach Bowl. We will go live to the site of one of today's games for a preview next.

And with today being New Year's eve, we are taking a look at celebrations around the world. Apple partnered with Instagramers to capture the celebrations, these images coming from India. We're back in a moment.


[14:51:01] WHITFIELD: Back in the day, the final four was only in college basketball. Well, now football has its own final four. Washington takes on number one Alabama at the top of the hour in Atlanta at the Peach Bowl, and then tonight Ohio State plays Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. And CNN's Coy Wire is live in Glendale, Arizona, where that will happen this evening. But what's on tap for this whole day? A lot of it football excitement.

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt. I can hardly contain myself, Fredricka. I am living the dream right now.

One of the thing that stands out about this fiesta bowl is that it features two coaches who are friends who are two of the sport's greatest leaders. They are going head to head with a title game berth on the line. Clemson led by Dabo Swinney. The last time Clemson a national title, Coach Dabo was in the sixth grade. That was 1981. And what I love about Dabo is that he still has that same energy you imagine he would have had as a kid, his positivity. He exudes it wherever he goes.

I talked to him, Fred, and he said, coy, I'm just trying to bloom where I am planted. He is the coach you will see him laughing and joking at press conferences, leading the dance in the locker room after a big win. And his team, they mirror him. They will be facing the Ohio State Buckeyes led by a great coach in his own right, Urban Meyer. His Buckeyes won the national championship just two seasons ago, and then last season they had a team loaded with talent, 12 guys would go on to be drafted into the NFL, but they didn't make it to the playoff last year. I spoke with Urban Meyers, and his philosophy is that he believes in making the offseason so tough, so hot like a crucible, he said, that only the refined elements remain. This Buckeye squad has withstood the pressure. They find themselves back on the brink of a national title shot. We asked guys from both teams what it meant to them to be back in the college football playoff.


DESHAUN WATSON, CLEMSON QUARTERBACK: The first game is a bowl game and so you want to have fun. But at the same time, it is a business trip because you want to get yourself to the national championship. Whenever it gets to the crunch time, the details and little things come in handy.

PAT ELFLEIN, OHIO STATE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: That's why you come to Ohio State to win championship and play for championships. So it's just another great honor to be a part of the playoff. And it is going to be fun to take another swing at it with my teammates.


WIRE: About four hours from kickoff here in Glendale, Arizona, for the Fiesta Bowl, But just minutes away from the Peach Bowl matchup between top ranked Alabama and number four Washington, the winner there facing the winner here at the Fiesta Bowl. It is New Year's Eve. By the way, Fredricka, fiesta, as you know, stands for party. I came prepared. I'm wishing you, your family, and all our viewers, listening and watching at home on the road, happy New Year to everyone. It is going to be a great day. WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. It is going to be a great day. Happy New

Year to you. I have family roots in all, two of the games there. I have my brother who is in Washington and then my dad who is Ohio State. So I think it is a given who I will be rooting for the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta. How about that?

WIRE: There you go.

WHITFIELD: Coy, have fun. You don't have to take off the hat. Keep it. I like it. Happy New Year.

All right, we will have much more right after this.


[14:57:40] WHITFIELD: We're just weeks away from president-elect Trump's inauguration. And one major thing still missing, big star power.




WHITFIELD: So Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Aretha Franklin, all big celebrity names that came out to perform at President Obama's inauguration. So far we know of three headline acts for Trump's big day, 16-year-old "America's Got Talent" star Jackie Evancho, the Radio City Rockettes, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And now, the attention is on one member of the choir who is refusing to perform for Trump. In fact, she took it even further. She quit. Jean Casarez has the story.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Marching bands from around the country are going to Washington for Donald Trump's inaugural festivities, 40 organizations will be in the parade, 8,000 participants. But a new controversy surrounding those performers. Jan Chamberlin, a four member of Utah's Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a state Trump won handily, has written a lengthy public Facebook posting that she is quitting the choir because it agreed to sing for the president-elect.

"It is with a sad and heavy heart that I submit my resignation to you and to choir. I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look myself in the mirror again with self- respect. I also know looking from the outside in, it will appear the choir is endorsing tyranny and fascism by singing for this man."

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir says the performance is voluntary and the choir's participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and in other settings. Late Friday, Chamberlin responded to criticism. JAN CHAMBERLIN, QUIT CHOIR OVER INAUGURATION PERFORMANCE: And I value

that in our country we have the freedom of speech under the First Amendment. For me, this is not a political issue. For me, this is a moral issue where I am concerned about our freedoms being in danger.


CASAREZ: This coming just days after it was announced the legendary New York City Rockettes would be performing at the inauguration. In an interview with one Rockette spoke out about the decision.