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Violence Escalates after U.S. Jerusalem Decision; Trump Presidency; Battle against ISIS; California Wildfires; Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore Courts African American Voters; Police Arrest Three from North Korean Ship. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 10, 2017 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More fallout, more protests following the U.S. President's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fully liberated. Iraq declares victory over ISIS but the threat of terrorist violence remains.

HOWELL (voice-over): They're making some progress. Firefighters in California work to tame wildfires that are fueled by winds there.

ALLEN (voice-over): These stories are all ahead this hour. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.


HOWELL: It's 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

We start in the Middle East. Protests there taking place this hour after what has been described as days of rage by Palestinians. These live pictures in Northern Beirut, Lebanon. You see people on the streets. These protests continue.

ALLEN: CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Northern Beirut with the latest on what is happening there.

Where are these protesters, Ben, and what can you tell is going on?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, when we go a little closer, we're in the suburb of Okat (ph) in Northern Beirut. The American embassy is up the hill. You can't see it from this area. There is a gate that controls access to that area. And there is concertina wire in front of it.

Earlier this morning, some more of the hot-headed youths among the crowd of demonstrators started to throw water bottles and rocks and sticks. Some in the crowd tried to stop them, saying this has to be a non-violent demonstration. But things got a little out of hand and the Lebanese security forces responded with tear gas.

And there is still a haze of tear gas in the area, in that roundabout which leads up to the American embassy. Now the people taking part in the demonstration today, it is a combination of Palestinian groups, Islamic groups as well as leftist organizations.

And at the moment, you can see -- we just saw a volley of tear gas being fired into one of those buildings.

(Speaking foreign language).

And sort of they're trying to disperse the crowd. But, at the moment, it doesn't seem like people are running away, despite the fact that tear gas in that area is pretty thick.

Now we spoke to many of the participants in this demonstration. And, yes, they are condemning President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They're also angry at what is seen as the impotence of Arab leaders when it comes to responding to that -- here, let's go a little closer -- to that decision.

Now the Arab League did have an emergency meeting last night in Cairo, basically taking that opportunity to condemn President Trump's decision. But beyond that, very little in the way of concrete action, the kind of concrete action many people here would like to see Arab leaders and Muslim leaders to take -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Especially since the U.S. is kind of stepping back diplomatically. Vice President Pence headed to the region. But Mahmoud Abbas saying he will not meet with him. Want to talk with you, though, about that embassy there.

Some of the embassies in the region haven't been staffed by the current administration.

What do we know about the embassy there and who is protecting it?

WEDEMAN: Well, here is somebody who seems to have been affected by the tear gas. Now I did a count recently; out of the countries of the Arab world, nine of those embassies, American embassies do not have ambassadors. However, there is an ambassador here in Lebanon.

Regarding protection provided to the embassy, it is by Lebanese security forces. There are riot police there. I don't think there is any danger that anybody is going to break through the perimeter to the embassy.

Of course, as is the case in all American embassies -- here is another person affected by that tear gas -- in the case of all American embassies, there is also a Marine guard there.

So it really -- I don't think the security of the embassy is under threat at this moment, although embassy personnel have been told to cancel all movements for the day. But the fact of the matter is, even under normal conditions, the staff of the U.S. embassy is very restricted in their movements -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Ben, as you stand out there in the street and watch this -- you covered the Middle East for decades now -- how do you see this issue playing out?

As you said many --


ALLEN: -- people in the region are upset that the leaders in the region aren't stepping up more, certainly the U.S. really has not engaged diplomatically after the U.S. president just issued this statement unilaterally.

WEDEMAN: Well, you know, this is a very touchy moment in the Middle East. This issue was created by President Trump, essentially out of the blue. And it does appear, at least temporarily, to have refocused the Arab and Muslim world on an issue that it hasn't really focused on much in the last few years.

You've had, you know, the Arab Spring. You've had wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, which is really sort of the Palestinian issue in terms of the focus of the region, in terms of, for instance, the media; hasn't really been the focus of much attention.

Suddenly it is all on it. And what we're seeing is that there are calls from people, like in this demonstration, they want to see their leaders take concrete action to respond to this decision, which has been universally condemned in the Arab and Muslim world; although there is a suspicion and there are indications that perhaps certain Arab leaders -- excuse me, that tear gas does get to my throat as well -- certain Arab leaders have, perhaps, said one thing in public and said another to the U.S. administration in private.

But, I mean, what I'm seeing here in Lebanon is a real sort of anger at the inability of Arab leaders really to have an impact or any sort of influence on the decisions of the U.S. administration.

We saw the day before President Trump made his public -- his decision, that, you know, he spoke to four Arab leaders, the king of Saudi Arabia, the king of Jordan, the president of Egypt, the president of the Palestinian authority, all of whom told him don't take this decision.

He took it anyway. And their impotence, in a sense, is very plain to see for people like the ones behind me -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Ben, we always appreciate your reporting, your perspective. You're going to go in closer, we'll stay in touch with you. Stay away from that tear gas, though. Ben Wedeman, thank you. We'll get back to you.

HOWELL: I doubt that he will, though, he'll probably keep pushing in there. That's just how he gets the story, you know, Natalie. It's a lot happening out there for sure.

Beirut is just the latest example of outrage across the region. At least four Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. And protesters have clashed for days with Israeli forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

On Saturday, Arab League foreign ministers called on the U.S. to cancel its decision.

ALLEN: Some groups are also lashing out at U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his upcoming trip to the region. There are reports Egypt's Coptic Church will not meet with him and neither will Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

HOWELL: On that point, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is also set to meet with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in Paris. Let's bring in CNN's Ian Lee following this story for us, live in Jerusalem.

Ian, good to have you with us. First of all, just to get a sense of what is happening there, tell us about the mood today on the streets. We have seen protests and more are expected.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, George. In about, oh, an hour's time, we're expecting more protests to kick off in Jerusalem and possibly the West Bank.

We've been watching these protests on a daily basis, so going out to them, and Thursday we saw the largest protests, with thousands of people going out all over the Palestinian territories.

This time, though, yesterday, we went to the same place; the numbers have dwindled. When we were watching Ben Wedeman's reporting, we saw a large number of people in the streets. And we haven't seen those numbers sustain themselves here in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, in Gaza. The numbers have declined a bit.

We have seen, you know, larger protests in neighboring countries, like Jordan, Lebanon; you also have Turkey as well. And when you talk to people, they have this sense of defeatism. They believe that, you know, they'll still go out, they'll protest. But this is something that they don't feel like they have any hand in being able to stop, at least at this point.

And there is some disappointment, as Ben pointed out, with Arab leaders; the people want more action. And we haven't really seen any of that. Also the people say that they want more action from their own leadership, what is the Palestinian Authority going to do?

We know they're not going to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when he comes --


LEE: -- later in the week. But they want more concrete steps forward. They just don't want this to be the end and really sent off into the abyss. HOWELL: So for those who do feel abandoned following this announcement, what is the overall feeling with this meeting that is slated to happen between the Israeli prime minister and the French president, who has been critical of President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

LEE: That's right. This meeting was scheduled about a month ago. And it was supposed to be a friendly lunch between the two leaders. But President Trump's decision has changed all of that.

And, you're right; French president Emmanuel Macron was one of the first and most vocal voices to come out and warn President Trump about making any such declaration.

And the Israelis, as we have seen, have been cheerleaders of this announcement of President Trump.

So I expect probably a tense meeting between the two leaders, as the French president doesn't want to see this region inflamed and more instability, something that not only he's warned about but other leaders in this region.

But, you know, for the Israelis, this is one of their -- one of the items on their wish list. They have been advocating for this for a long time. So don't expect them to back down, either. That's where we could see the tension in this meeting -- George.

HOWELL: Ian Lee following the story live in Jerusalem, Ian, thank you.

ALLEN: President Trump spent part of Saturday honoring those who fell in the civil rights movement but some are not buying his sincerity.

HOWELL: He attended the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and he spoke briefly to the crowd there. Critics ranging from the Jackson, Mississippi, mayor to the U.S. congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis boycotted that event.

Many were calling it merely a photo opportunity and an insult to the people who worked and, in some cases, died for equality in the United States.


CHOKWE LUMUMBA, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, MAYOR: Today, what we are doing is standing on principle. We're standing in accord with what the ideals of this civil rights movement means. And that is why we choose not to share a stage with Donald Trump.


ALLEN: On Tuesday, voters in the U.S. state of Alabama, just next door to Mississippi, will choose their next senator but it's certainly not as simple as that. Republican candidate Roy Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct and worse by several women. Friday, President Trump threw his support behind Moore and then today

the Moore campaign began calling people with a recorded message from the president. That message: that Roy Moore will uphold conservative values.

HOWELL: In the meantime, Moore's Democratic rival Doug Jones will be counting on African American voters. Senator Cory Booker and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick campaigned with Jones on Saturday. Both men are prominent figures in the African American community.

ALLEN: Let's get some perspective now on the political ramifications of a Trump endorsement in the Alabama Senate race and his attendance at that opening of the civil rights museum in Mississippi. We're joined by Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University of London.

Inderjeet, thank you for being with us and good morning to you.

Is the criticism of President Trump attending the opening of a civil rights museum, is that legitimate criticism?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON: I think given that President Trump has played a race card throughout the election campaign and since he was elected as well, I think the criticism is justified.

If you look at pretty much every symbolic and other issue related to race and to civil rights and so on, if you look at the "take the knee" and the police brutality against the NFL players who were protesting; it you look at Charlottesville and the equivalence he drew between white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis and anti-fascists; and in the stand he's taken on Confederate statues and saying this is a protection of our way of life and our heritage and so on, I think it is quite clear that this is a move which is designed, in a way, to galvanize some opposition.

But as always, President Trump is very keen to keep together his base. And now, one, his support is slipping on a national basis. But, secondly, of course, we have the Alabama special election coming up on Tuesday as well.

ALLEN: Right.

PARMAR: And I think he'll be trying to galvanize those voters.

ALLEN: Right, yes, he's kind of skirting around Alabama; first the Florida Panhandle, then Mississippi.

It's interesting; the same weekend that he is opening the civil rights museum in Mississippi, that the president continues to encourage the election of a candidate -- this is Roy Moore -- who clearly has exhibited as a federal judge denying Americans civil rights.

He puts his religious beliefs over following federal laws and certainly he has not supported the civil rights of gays. So it does spark some interest considering that.


PARMAR: Sure. Absolutely. And I think the opponent of Roy Moore, Doug Jones, has got a record of actually doing something quite positive in support of civil rights from the 1960s.

I think this really is an attempt to try to -- among Republican voters, who often are tarred with the brush of racism and are not necessarily racist at all, I think it is an attempt to shore their votes up, to say that President Trump has made this overture, a kind of move towards black rights, civil rights and so on and honoring the heroes as he -- as they are.

But I think he's trying to shore up that base. He may have the opposite effect, which is to galvanize the 27 percent, 28 percent of the Alabama electorate, which is African American, and others who support civil rights. So it could have sort of an unintended consequence.

But I suspect his main aim is really to sort of suggest to the sort of broader political base, 78 percent of GOP voters who still support him, that what he's doing is he's showing that he's anti-racist and so on.

ALLEN: All right. It is more -- it's not so much partisan politics as tribal politics, it seems, these days.

Finally, I want to talk to you about what we're seeing, the protests in the region. We just began this newscast with one erupting near the U.S. embassy there in Lebanon.

Why do you think this president did this now?

And acting unilaterally?

PARMAR: There's two things I think we have to consider. One is we already know that his political base has a large number of Christian evangelicals and they're very, very solidly attached to Israel. So I think this is one thing that he wanted to do to try to shore up that base and say I've delivered on a key promise.

But I think the other thing, of course, is the geopolitics of the region and we have seen that he has -- he has not recertified the Iran nuclear agreement. He has been very close to Saudi Arabia. He has stated his support for Israel in the way we have seen.

And also I think the Saudi war in Yemen has been backed up as well as the Saudi interference probably in Lebanon. I think there is an anti- Iran agenda, which is going on. And this is really an attempt to solidify the allies in the Middle East and the United States as in order to kind of really take on what they believe is a growing Iranian and, possibly, Russian influence as well in that region.

So it is a domestic base but also it's a big geopolitical move. And this could actually have very, very serious consequences for the peace and stability of that region.

We already have seen America interfering in that region over several years over the last decade or so. And the impact that has in regard to ISIS, et cetera. But yet the United States, despite the rout of ISIS in Syria and in Iraq, still has 2,000 troops in Syria.

So I think there is a move there to try to continue that move against Iran. And I think this is part of that move, this is part of the bigger picture of that move.

ALLEN: We appreciate your perspective, thanks so much, Inderjeet Parmar for us out of London. Thank you.

PARMAR: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, we'll tell you why there are high spirits on the streets of Baghdad after a three-year-long battle against ISIS.

Plus, evacuees are returning to devastated neighborhoods. We're talking about California. Firefighters work to control several fires continuing to tear through the state. That's coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM.






ALLEN: Sunday has been declared a national holiday in Iraq. That follows a very loud Saturday night with Iraqis celebrating the announcement that ISIS has been driven from their country. People filled the streets, waving flags, honking horns, setting off fireworks. It finally happened.

HOWELL: Yes. The Iraqi military says it has fully liberated Iraq from what it called ISIS terrorist gangs and has retaken full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border. Iraq's prime minister said the dream of liberation, that dream is now reality. And ISIS' dream has now come to an end.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ (through translator): We announced to our people and to the whole world that our heroes have reached the final strongholds of daish and purified it, raising the Iraqi flag over areas of Western Anbar, which were the last Iraqi- usurped territories.

The Iraqi flag flies high today over all Iraqi lands and over the remotest border areas. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Our Jomana Karadsheh is across this story, live in Amman, Jordan.

Great to have you with us, Jomana. You and I have covered this, we have talked about it for many, many years now. Just talking about the fall of these -- of ISIS and many major cities there.

Talk about the significance now of this announcement, not only for Iraq but how is it being perceived regarding U.S. involvement throughout?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, when it comes to U.S. involvement, if you talk to Iraqi officials, Iraqi military commanders and the Kurds, of course, in the north, they would tell you they're very grateful for the U.S. support and the support they got from the international community, that international coalition that has been active in Iraq since 2014, supporting them in their battle.

They're also grateful for the support they got from their neighbor, Iran, that played a significant role backing those popular mobilization units, those Shia militias, that played a key role in so many of the battles to regain Iraqi territory.

But they would tell you that this is an Iraqi moment. It is the Iraqis who really made the greatest sacrifice here. They're the ones who led these battles; they paid the ultimate price, thousands of civilians and fighters killed over the past few years in these battles to recapture Iraqi territory.

And you have millions who have been displaced. This is of course a great moment for Iraq and of course the international community when you see an end to this phase of ISIS, that group, terror group, that controlled territory, now no more.

HOWELL: All right. So Iraqi officials have control of the Iraqi- Syrian border. That's certainly important.

But what is the overall condition of ISIS?


HOWELL: Certainly the group has been broken down throughout the region.

But how and where is ISIS still viable?

KARADSHEH: Well, they no longer, George, control significant territory. It is nothing compared to what we saw back in 2014, where they were controlling so many of Iraq's major cities. The same thing in Syria.

So you're looking at some pockets in desert areas along the Iraqi- Syrian border, when it comes to the Syrian side of the battle. I think this was really well summed up by the top U.N. official to

Iraq, the United Nations' secretary-general's representative last month, when he was addressing the Security Council.

And he said that ISIS is down but it is not out when it comes to Iraq. When you talk about this military victory, that is only one component of a very complex battle. So while this is a great moment, there is a lot of hard work ahead, a lot of challenges, to make sure that those conditions, George, that we saw years back that allowed for ISIS to gain a foothold and to grow in Iraq, Iraqis need to deal with.

They need to deal with the divisions that we're seeing again resurface, especially when you look at the polarization in the region between the Sunni and Shia powers. And then you have addressing the grievances of the Sunni communities, those communities that, three years ago, some of them allowed ISIS to take hold. Some of them joined ISIS.

So the Iraqi government needs to work hard to make sure they're not feeling marginalized or neglected and that comes with making sure that these areas that were devastated, these mostly Sunni areas devastated by the fighting, that you see reconstruction, that they're rebuilt and the millions who are displaced from their homes are allowed to return.

All this keeping in mind that, while ISIS as a so-called caliphate is over, the ideology is not defeated, George. So they need to work hard on that. And it still, as a terror group, possesses the capability of carrying out devastating attacks, something Iraqis know all too well.

HOWELL: But on this day, in Iraq, the military there saying ISIS has been removed, the country fully liberated from ISIS. Jomana Karadsheh on that story, the celebrations in Baghdad, of course. Thank you so much for the reporting.

ALLEN: We certainly hope that holds true.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is Iran for a meeting with top leaders. Part of the reason he's there is to appeal for the release of jailed British Iranian citizens including an aid worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

She's been held since April of last year on charges of spreading propaganda, which she denies.

HOWELL: On Saturday, Johnson spoke with Iran's foreign minister and will hold talks with President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday. They'll also discuss other issues, including Britain's support for Iran's 2015 nuclear containment deal.

ALLEN: Firefighters have turned a corner on those aggressive fires in Southern California.

HOWELL: But could the forecast impact the progress there?

We'll have details ahead. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.


ALLEN: U.S. President Trump has been both praised and criticized for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It is a clear break with past administrations. But the status quo has never led to long-term Israeli-Palestinian peace.

HOWELL: Here is CNN's Nic Robertson on whether President Trump's gamble will pay off.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Clashes like these in the past few days, stone-throwing Palestinian youths goading well-armed Israeli security forces, a part of what world leaders openly worried might happen following President Trump's announcement, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Their fears weren't misplaced. There have been casualties.

ROBERTSON: Yet this is only a partial picture. Many of the Palestinian protests have been relatively peaceful and, overall, have lacked the scale and zeal of past Palestinian actions.

But although it is way too soon to know how all of this is going to turn out, it raises the question: can President Trump capitalize on his announcement?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We're profoundly grateful for the president, for his courageous and just decision to recognize Jerusalem...

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Israelis from the prime minister on down have been gushing in their praise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good step forward toward peace.

TRUMP: When I came into office...

ROBERTSON (voice-over): On lawmaker suggested Trump's name should be carved into Judaism's sacred Western Wall. Another said he'd name a park after Trump. ROBERTSON: Of course there has been much speculation about why Trump made the announcement. His critics say it was just to fulfill a campaign promise. Yet the careful framing by the White House and the positive Israeli response perhaps gives Trump leverage other U.S. presidents lacked.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Throughout the region, pro-Palestinian protesters have united to say Trump is biased towards Israel and the U.S. can't be a fair peace talks negotiator.

The Palestinians' chief negotiator told CNN, Trump had effectively shut down talks for a two-state solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump made the biggest mistake of his life.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): At the Palestinian protests, I talked to people who said this, too. But they also told me they aren't happy with their own leadership.

GEORGE ASSAD, CHRISTIAN CONSULTANT: I think the leadership has had many opportunities in terms of a wake-up call and they haven't listened to the street. I hope that it is a wake-up call for them to pursue a different course of action.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Frustrations hang in part on Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. His post-Trump statement was seen as weak.

But also with regional leaders...

AHMAD TIBI, PALESTINIAN MP: Some of the Arab states are not -- are acting in a very vigorous and obvious way. The statement was dangerous. The reaction should be strong.

ROBERTSON: Helping Israelis and Palestinians find peace has been one of the bigger challenges for recent American presidents. It's bedeviled the best minds and negotiators, the U.S. has been able to muster. Too soon to say if Trump's gamble, against advice and orthodoxy, will pay off -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Jerusalem.


ALLEN: We turn to Southern California now, where six wildfires have scorched nearly 73,000 hectares or more than 180,000 acres. And 85 percent of that is just from the rampaging Thomas Fire.

HOWELL: Almost 200,000 residents have been forced to leave their homes. Some are now returning but they're coming back to find their homes have been reduced to rubble. Neighborhoods not standing anymore. CNN's Kyung Lah has the latest from Ventura, California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what the Thomas fire in Ventura County, California, did just to one neighborhood. You can see that there are cars still in the driveway. And what remains of a house, just rubble.

The fire pushed through this community, burning house after house; just where we're standing, we can see more than half a dozen houses on this block alone. Firefighters extremely concerned about the deteriorating conditions and trying to prevent more people from losing so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lifetime, couple lifetimes. Like I said, they're 84, 83, my mom and dad. They have been living here for 30 years, they built it themselves. There is not much. But if there is a few things that will help them, you know, have some connection to the past, then that's what I'm trying to do.

It is what it is, material stuff but, like you said, memories of a lot of years. And we'll see where it goes from here. I don't know what they're going to do.

It is a process. It is shock, still shock, still trying to understand.

Little box. It is a little lizard. Don't ask me but, you know what, if it helps, it helps.

Despite all the loss, we're fortunate. We have family close by. We have other options. And, you know, it is material stuff. Other people are doing so much more, have so much more tragedy in their life that we have nothing to complain about. You just got to focus on that. Kind of makes the rest of it easier to deal with.

LAH: Those Santa Ana wind conditions are expected to increase throughout the weekend, especially as the weekend ends, making the job for firefighters even more dangerous. They are trying to fight the flank of the fire as it grows on the northern side.

They say they need this weather forecast to turn around for them -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Ventura, California.




HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the stakes are high in the U.S. state of Alabama, that's where a heated Senate race is almost coming to an end.

ALLEN: And coming up, the racially charged politics on both sides.




HOWELL: We told you a bit earlier, Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones is hoping the state's African American voters will help him to defeat Roy Moore in Tuesday's special election.

ALLEN: It's going to be a tough fight to the finish perhaps. CNN's senior U.S. correspondent Alex Marquardt takes a look at why their vote, the black vote, is so crucial.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's going to be it.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alton Smith and Laura Oliver are volunteers going door to door for Doug Jones in this predominantly African- American suburb of Birmingham. At the first house, Oliver meets Renata Thomas who plans to vote for Jones next week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that who I'm voting for.

MARQUARDT: If Jones is to stand a chance of winning, he needs every vote he can get particularly among African-Americans.

A monumental task requiring black voters to make up a share of the electorate along the lines of their turnout in Barack Obama's last election, 28 percent. But this is a special election in an off year in mid-December. Randall Woodfin was just sworn in as mayor of Birmingham.

MAYOR RANDALL WOODFIN (D), BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: It is a challenge, but it is a worthy fight. And what I mean is there are six days before this election. You can't discount the last six days. There is work to be done. There is work already being done and miracles happen.

MARQUARDT: Do you think it would take a miracle for on Jones to win?

WOODFIN: I think a miracle would work. I think there is a balance here.

MARQUARDT: What more does Doug Jones need to do to galvanize this base of support?

WOODFIN: I would tell Doug Jones the same thing I would tell any candidates (INAUDIBLE), don't stop working. Keep knocking on doors.

MARQUARDT: Black voters are around a quarter of the total electorate, but majority of Democratic voters.

Roy Moore's base is overwhelmingly white, many African-Americans accuse him of being a racist. Moore has said he doesn't believe Obama was born in America and that representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, shouldn't be allowed to serve in congress. Then this --

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Then they started to create new rights in 1965. And today we have got a problem.

RICHARD DICKERSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: 1965 was the year the voting rights act was passed banning racial discrimination. This is a man who said the country was better off when black people weren't allowed to vote.

MARQUARDT: Democratic strategist Richard Dickerson believes Jones could be doing more to energize black voters, but says Moore's past will help galvanize them.

DICKERSON: If not a white supremacist, he is a racist. And I think that he has shown that time and time again by both word and deed and his actions.

MARQUARDT: Jones is best known for his case as a U.S. attorney against two members of the Ku Klux Klan, convicted of the 1963 bombing of the 16th street Baptist church that left four young black girls dead.

John Knight the head of Alabama's legislative black caucus says that isn't necessarily registering with African-American voters.

JOHN KNIGHT (D), ALABAMA STATE HOUSE: A lot of these young voters just are not familiar with that.

But I think that many are asking what are you going to do for me today?

I mean, that is the kind of thing that I pick up across the state as we go around.

MARQUARDT: And go around they are. Now with less than a week to go.

KNIGHT: We are going to the churches. We are going to the places that we know the voters are located. We got on to have everybody in place to do what is necessary to get him elected in this seat.


HOWELL: That was Alex Marquardt reporting. Again, that election in Alabama on Tuesday, so we'll see how that plays out between these two candidates.

ALLEN: We'll certainly be there, covering it, of course.

Coming up here, North Korean boats washing up on Japanese shores, some even with skeletons aboard. Why there seems to be a rise in the so- called "ghost ships."

HOWELL: Plus not only skeletons but mummies and golden shrouds, new discoveries from two ancient Egyptian tombs.





ALLEN: In Japan, police arrested three crew members from a North Korean boat on Saturday.

HOWELL: Japanese media say the men admitted stealing electrical equipment from a hut on an uninhabited island. It is the latest drama surrounding North Korean ships arriving on Japan's shores. Our Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mysterious wooden boat washes up on a desolate Japanese beach. Inside, a grisly discovery: eight skeletons. Japanese officials strongly suspect they were North Koreans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't have great navigation capabilities and equipment and lost their way.

TODD (voice-over): This boat, with lights rigged up reportedly to attract squid, was found recently with several desperate North Korean survivors on board. On some vessels, the Japanese coast guard has found survivors, alive but emaciated, lying among the debt.

Now a spike in the number of so-called "ghost ships" washing ashore in Japan, dozens in just the past month, has analysts concerned about increasingly dire conditions under Kim Jong-un.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a reflection of growing desperation in the North Korean economy.

TODD (voice-over): U.N. sanctions over Kim's nuclear and missile programs are pinching North Korea's economy. They prohibit the government from selling seafood to other countries. So experts say the regime pressures fishermen to sell their catch on the black market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're having to rendezvous with foreign vessels in international waters and essentially sell their catches on the high seas so it can be relabeled as Japanese or Chinese or Singaporean fish.

TODD (voice-over): That means going further and further out to sea on poorly equipped boats, manned by some people who analysts say are likely not even fishermen by trade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're probably inexperienced people who are going out and the result is they're having difficulty when they get out there. TODD (voice-over): In recent days, Japanese authorities have discovered that one boat had come ashore on a Japanese island that was uninhabited, deserted except for a small shelter, which officials say desperate North Koreans ransacked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Almost everything that was worth any money was gone, from doorknobs to door hinges, anything worth anything. And appliances have disappeared.

TODD (voice-over): The North Korean fishermen are more than willing to risk starvation and death, experts say, because of the almost unattainable quotas they're given by Kim's regime.

TODD: How much pressure would these fishermen have been under to produce more and more and more?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, the pressure is incredible in terms of that. They're sent out; if they don't catch what they're supposed to, if they're behind, if they -- if they lose control of the boat, they will be punished.

TODD: Japanese officials say at least some of the surviving North Korean fishermen were slated to be returned back to North Korea at their own request.


Analysts say some of them probably feel that, because they don't speak the language very well, they would struggle living in Japan. But others may fear retaliation against their families by the regime if they apply for asylum and defect -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: An anticipated unveiling by Egyptian archeologists. Scientists have now revealed the artifacts they have found in two tombs over the past six months. Among the finds, a linen-wrapped mummy, funeral masks and shrouds, some of them gilded in gold.

HOWELL: Just look at that. It's amazing to see what has been discovered there. Officials say that some of those artifacts date back to Egypt's 17th dynasty. That's around 1580 B.C. The tombs are located near Luxor and were discovered in the 1990s but had been kept sealed only until recently. Wow.

ALLEN: In Taiwan, 80 people spent 90 minutes sitting still and staring into space for the -- you guessed it -- space out competition.

I could do that, I think. Sure enough, it is actually harder than it looks. You get disqualified if you talk, sleep, eat or use, of course, any electronics.

HOWELL: They're keeping concentration there. The winner is the person with the most stable heartbeat. The competition was started in South Korea as a way for people to destress and decharge from digital overload.

ALLEN: Nothing like recharging. We need a little bit of that.

Thank you. That's our first hour. Our top stories are just ahead. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. We'll be right back after the break. Stay with us.