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Arizona Cardinal Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald Pays Tribute to McCain in Open Letter; Journey Unveiled the Unthinkable in 2017; Dow is Up 5,000 Points Since Beginning of Year; Aired 3:30-4:00p ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:03] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Up next, the sender and the star football player, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals writes an open tribute to his friend Senator John McCain. What he says he will tell his son about McCain's legacy.


[15:34:06] LEMON: Senator John McCain just received an unexpected gift from a star NFL player. Arizona cardinal wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald paid tribute to McCain in a touching open letter. The Christmas op-ed first published in "Sports Illustrated" express Fitzgerald's appreciation from McCain's public service a lawmaker and war hero. The men are good friends.

And Fitzgerald, writes I pray he lives another 20 years. As soon as my boys are of age I will tell him stories about the quality of the man I have gotten to know. I will tell them Senator John McCain will be revered and respected for as long as the United States of America has a place in this world and his legacy will outlive us all.

With me now Keith Reed. He is a former senior editor at ESPN magazine and sports business analyst.

McCain is a huge cardinal fan. But these two seem to really share a genuine, very genuine special friendship. How did they get so close?

[15:35:07] KEITH REED, FORMER SENIOR EDITOR, ESPN MAGAZINE: Well, it is just been a case of Larry Fitzgerald in his longevity in the NFL. As you know, careers NFL are very short. And even with those very short careers, most players don't tend spend their entire careers with one team. Larry Fitzgerald has been with Arizona Cardinals for about 13 or 14 seasons now. And in that time, you know, he has played in that one city he has gotten to know John McCain not just a fan of the team, but as a friend. These two have grown close personally.

Larry Fitzgerald is one of the NFL athletes that has been wildly known for his charity contributions. He has been very active in the community for almost his entire career. And so they have gotten to know each other on very personal level through not just John McCain's fan for the team but also through Larry Fitzgerald commitment to give back to the communities in which he has played.

LEMON: Let's talk more about the bond these two gentlemen have. Because talk to me about the history between professional athletes who buddy up with politicians. It is unusual for these two to bond the way that they have.

REED: Well, yes. And I think one of the most important things about the letter that Larry Fitzgerald wrote to John McCain is that he makes it clear, he says not just once, but twice in this letter, I am not an overtly political person. He makes it very clear that this is not a letter that is about politics and that his friendship and his admiration of John McCain is not about political stances. It's not about, you know, whether or not he agrees with John McCain politically. Whether he is on the left. We actually walk away from the letter with almost no indication whatsoever of what Larry Fitzgerald's personal political leanings are.

This is about one individual who has grown to know and respect another person, both of whom who have been very successful at some very lofty endeavors in their professional lives and having grown through those very different paths. One is professional athlete, the other as a military serviceman who then chose to come home and serve his country in different way through elected office, growing to admire one another. And Larry Fitzgerald saying that this is, you know, again, it's not about politics, it's about having an admiration for someone that's much bigger than what happens on the football field or much bigger than some of the very partisan device divisiveness that we have seen out of Washington as of late.

LEMON: It is interesting because we have seen players sort of back away from politicians when, you know, when people find out that they may have some affinity for that politician because they don't want their sports career or their name tainted with politics because politics is so negative lately. But this seems different. And you can feel the admiration in that letter. I would imagine that they and their families spend time together since they have known each other for so long because this is a true friendship.

REED: He talks about how he wants his sons to -- he has young sons, and he wants his sons to grow up knowing of John McCain. He wants them to know about what John McCain sacrificed as a prisoner of war. He also talks about how he spent time personally not only with McCain but with John McCain and his wife Cindy, how he traveled over to Vietnam and saw, visited some of the most important parts of Vietnam conflict.

He is actually been to the jail cell that John McCain was held enduring his five years as prisoner of war. So he feels this on a very personal level. Again, it's beyond politics. And it's beyond football. And it's beyond even just the personal friendship and admiration that he has. He sees this as a very, very important chapter in American history. And he does want his family, especially his young sons, to know of the John McCain, not that we hear about in terms of the partisan battles of Washington, but in terms of someone who is a statesman and someone who I think Larry Fitzgerald views very much as humanitarian who has sacrificed a lot for his country whether you agree with his political alliances or not.

LEMON: It's a beautiful letter. And we are all rooting for true American hero, John McCain.

Thank you so much, Keith. I appreciate it.

REED: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Next, Russia says it's willing to mediator if the U.S. and North Korea meet at the negotiating table. We are going to take a look at the standoff with Kim Jong-un and the other top international stories of 2017 as well for you.


[15:44:18] LEMON: This is our job at CNN to take you to foreign shores to the front lines, we at CNN go there. And in 2017 this journey unveiled the unthinkable. Ethnic cleansing. Countries collapsing. Humans sold like commodities. These are the stories that changed the world.

Here is CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's our job as CNN creditor responsibilities to take correspondents to take you to foreign shores, to front lines. We in CNN go there. And in 2017 that journey unveiled the unthinkable. Ethnic cleansing of the countries collapsing. Human beings sold like commodities. These are the stories that changed the world.

Our first story, a CNN expose.

[15:45:16] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Our crew traveled into Libya to track down a dark secret and they found it.

WARD: Fleeing their homes. Some of the most desperate people on earth. Think they found a passage to safety, but instead they find themselves in the hands of predators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captured and sold like cattle as Nima Elbagir witnessed firsthand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven hundred. Seven Hundred. Eight hundred.

The numbers roll in. These men are sold for 1,200 Libyan pounds, $400 a piece.

The CNN reports sparking self-reflection in Europe and the U.S. about the west's own response to the migrant crisis.

In Saudi Arabia a powerful prince is shaking things up. Bolstered by close relations with the Trump White House. 32-year-old Mohammed bin Sa Lan the crown prince better known as MBS embarking on a series of reforms, arresting many of his own cousins in a sweeping crackdown on corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has swept away a generation of elderly and experienced ministers.

WARD: While also taking on the kingdom's powerful clergy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is only one country in the world where women can't drive and soon there will be none.

WARD: But has he tries to take on increasingly assertive Iran, things get complicated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As defense minister, he initiated airstrikes on neighboring Yemen.

WARD: Involvement in a year that has brought 8.4 million people to the brink of famine. It's not the bombs and bullets killing the most people, it's the humanitarian crisis growing by the day as Yemen comes closer to becoming a failed state.

In Venezuela, a perfect storm of economic and political crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have admitted they can no longer afford to pay its bills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Venezuela may be just hours away now for more violence and chaos ahead of the controversy election.

WARD: Maduro's party wins the election. The opposition and U.S. claim fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politicians who spoke out against current president Nicolas Maduro were yanked out of their homes by authorities in midnight raids.

WARD: A CNN team hoes under cover and stunned by what they find.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's huge truck breaking down for mere seconds before it was looted. Basic food is scarce. Virginia has been doing this for 18 months to feed her five kids.

WARD: Bombs bringing with them a war crime so sickening it is difficult to put into words. From his roof top, he quickly sees this is no ordinary strike. I warn you the pictures you are about to see are graphic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are following breaking news reports of a gas or some kind of chemical attack in Syria killing dozens.

WARD: All around him people are foaming at the mouth. Convulsions wracking their bodies.

The horrifying scenes shocking the world. Victims, some of them just children, gasping for their final breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Syrian government had dropped a sarin bomb on its own people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chemical attack in the Syrian town led to the first American military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

WARD: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains defiant.

In 2017 two words would shock the world ethnic cleansing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Armed government forces are attacking their own minority citizens.

WARD: In Southeast Asia Myanmar the (INAUDIBLE) state turned pledging democracy, the unthinkable was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They are beating us, shooting at us and hacking our people to death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some 600,000 of them have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

WARD: The crisis raising questions about the country's defactor leader who was accused of doing nothing to stop the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Growing criticism of NLD leader (INAUDIBLE) over her handling of human rights abuses against the Rohingya Muslims.

[15:50:06] WARD: Coming in at number two, the fall off ISIS. Some three years after the terror group surged to infamy with staggering conquests across Iraq and Syria, its defeat came with a whimper not a bang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Syrian forces taking to the streets and officially declaring the terrorist group's self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa has been totally liberated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Syrian and Kurdish flags fly over the city, replacing the black flag of terror.

WARD: The historic Syrian city of Palmira, where ISIS fighters were filmed destroying ancient artifacts, reclaimed with the help of Russia. In Iraq, ISIS desperately tries to hold its ground in the country's second largest city of Mosul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senior commanders take us in in the calm before their final storm.

WARD: Their ambitions to build a caliphate crumbling as small pockets of ISIS militants are flushed out.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, SITUATION ROOM: The Iraqi prime minister is declaring full victory over ISIS in Mosul, saying the entire war torn city has been liberated from brutality and terrorism.

WARD: In 2017, ISIS loses all of its major strongholds. But beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria, lone Wolf attacks in the name of ISIS ensure their global reign of terror is still far from over. July 4th, U.S. independence day. North Korea lights up the sky with

its own frightening milestone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korea releasing new video appearing to show the successful launch of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

WARD: Nuclear-capable but not yet nuclear-armed. But by September, Kim Jong-un's missile program reaches its final frontier.

BALDWIN: The "Washington Post" is now reporting that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.

WARD: The stage is set for war, but for now contained to a war of words.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't have mad men out there shooting rockets all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.

WARD: But just miles away from the North Korean border on his Asian swing, President Trump replaced the petty name-calling with a more diplomatic tone.

TRUMP: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer.

WARD: The President continuing to push China to contain the north --

TRUMP: The longer we wait, the greater the danger grows and the fewer the options become.

WARD: And as the nuclear standoff continues, the question remains, will the next missile trigger a war?



[15:57:37] LEMON: The Dow is up 5,000 points since the beginning of the year. That is a gain of 25 percent and the best annual performance of the last four years. The Dow has also been hovering near another milestone, 25,000, for the past few weeks.

Joining me now is Monica Mehta. She is a finance expert and managing principal at Seventh Capital.

Monica, hello to you.


LEMON: What's driving the increase?

MEHTA: Well, of the big increase that you saw in 2017 was really driven by the anticipation of this tax reform. And what you are going to see in the next 12 months is a little bit more of the same where we see stocks continue to go up. And, again, I think the biggest driver of that is going to be this boost that corporations are going to see from getting a little bit more money to themselves after this tax reform.

LEMON: You know, this didn't all start in January as the current White House would like you to believe. The Dow has been on the rise since at least 2013. Are we due for a correction in 2018?

MEHTA: If we continue to go up, up, up until August of 2018, this will actually be the longest bull market since 1928. And for the folks that were investing in the market in 1928, I'm not sure that was the best time to stay because we all know what happened right after that. But the biggest buyer of stocks over the past five years has been corporations. And what's been happening is with interest rates being very low, corporations are taking that free money and buying their own shares back. And so that makes their profitability look better, which makes their stock price go up. So it's a little bit of an illusion and a game and you are going to continue to see more of that in 2018 driven by this tax but, but you are going to see stocks continue to go up for a little bit.

LEMON: So I have been doing my research on this. And reading it, you know, the President likes to tout saying he has the best stock market (INAUDIBLE). But actually the Obama, in the first 11 months of the Obama administration, the stock market performed better than this President. It went up 37.5 percent. And at this point, when this article was written, it has gone up 17.5 percent. But it also said it isn't the best indicator of the economy especially because people tend to look at this in a vacuum. This may be a good year, but it is not the best year so far. It's not that good.

MEHTA: You're absolutely right, Don. Eighty percent of stock market wealth - sorry, 90 percent of stock market wealth is actually owned by 20 percent of Americans. While most of us own a little bit of shares, the vast majority of this wealth is really owned by the wealthiest Americans. So it is one of those wealth the fact things that looks like its great, but -

[16:00:09] LEMON: Yes. There you go. What a great insult.

Thank you very much. Happy New Year.

MEHTA: Of course. Happy New Year.

LEMON: Hey, send you over to "the LEAD."