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Student Challenges Senator to Reject NRA Money; Netanyahu's Ex- Aide Turns State's Witness; Waiting for Their Turn to Die in Eastern Ghouta; 10 Gold Medals Up for Grabs Thursday; Vonn Misses Out on Alpine Combined Medal. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, America's gun problem on display at an emotional CNN town hall as students from the Florida school shooting continue to lead the nation in demanding gun reform .

Live on gun owners destroying their firearms so they won't be used to kill. The woman who sawed her semi-automatic pistol in half right here, she will joins us live.

And hell on Earth in Eastern Ghouta. Food and medical supplies are running low but there's no shortage of airstrikes and artillery rounds.

Hello, everybody, great to have you with us. I'm John Vause and this is NEWSROOM L.A.


VAUSE: Students, parents, survivors and families of those killed in the Florida school massacre continue to demand action. They turned out for a CNN town hall on guns in America, confronting their congressman, their senator and the spokeswoman for that National Rifle Association.

The crowd cheered when students demanded a ban on military style semi- automatic weapons. Earlier in the day President Trump held a listening session with survivors of school shootings.

And there he suggested a controversial idea of arming teachers.

Over at CNN's town hall, though, most of the anger was directed at the NRA.


LORI ALHADEFF, VICTIM'S MOTHER: How do the NRA and lawmakers work together?

Who is going to pay for this?

What is the plan to put things into action?

These are my questions. And we all want a clear answer. Enough talk. What is your action?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's not just schools and parents to determine what they want to do in their schools. That's -- the NRA's not going to make that decision. If they want to have armed guards, if they want to have retired military, if they want to -- if they choose and teachers volunteer to be armed, I think that's up to each individual school and the parents of that school district.

But if they also want a solution that does not involve firearms, if they want to talk about checkpoint systems, if they want to talk about reinforcing doors, the NRA, our resources are at their disposal.


VAUSE: Joining me now political commentator and talk radio host, Mo' Kelly, and Republican digital strategist Austin James.

OK there was a lot of raw emotion of the town hall, much of it understandably was anger. It was directed at the NRA. It was also as well directed at Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

Mo', to Rubio's credit, at least he showed up and not only did he talk about supporting raising the legal age limit from 18 to 21 to purchase a weapon like an AR-15, he also said that he would reconsider his position on large capacity magazines.

So in a way, it is incremental but it seems progress, right?

MO' KELLY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's an encouraging first step if it is not a false step. What bothered me about Senator Rubio's comments, he was saying what he would support.

And it kind of puts the cart before the horse because I thought our civil servants are public servants or should be a reflection of the constituencies in which they represent. I care less about what he would support and more about what his constituents would support.

VAUSE: But obviously here these constituents goes way beyond the town hall right?

AUSTIN JAMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's a great point and I think we have all seen the recent ABC "Washington Post" poll in which almost 80 percent of Americans polled said that mental health, if it were more effective at the top of funnel, could have done more to prevent this and other mass shootings.

So as I think going after the guns and banning guns does not do more to ban evil and that's kind of the bigger problem here.

VAUSE: OK, there's support even from the president to raising the legal age for purchasing guns like the AR-15 and it has been used in multiple school shootings. But there is opposition from the NRA to this move, even though this does seem to have widespread support.

They argue if the age limit was raised to 21 and 18- to 20-year-olds would be deprived of their constitutional rights to self protection.

And, Mo', that just seems insane.

KELLY: Not only that, why is it we're putting the NRA at the top of the conversation?

They are not the legislative, they are not the focal point. They should not be the focal point. Yes, they have money involved but they should not be a part of it.

Going back to your comment about banning guns, why is it we're going to continue to let the perfect --


KELLY: -- be the enemy of the good?

If we can do something which approximates an improvement, why not do that?

Part of the problem is that the proliferation of the specific weapon, the AR-15, if we can move that at least or limit that variable in the equation, then I think we're doing something better because no one would say we should not do something to stop terrorism or that not every -- not a law would stop all terrorism. We would do something because it is better than what we have.

VAUSE: And to your point, Mo', about the NRA, why are they taking center stage in all of this?

Well, it was one of these students who survived the Florida school shooting who really put the issue to the forefront when it comes to NRA and politics.

Cameron Kasky really nailed it when he spoke with Marco Rubio.


CAMERON KASKY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?


RUBIO: So, number one, the positions I hold on these issues of the Second Amendment I've held since the day I entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official. Number two, no, the answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda. And I do support the Second Amendment. And I also support the right of you and everyone here to be able to go to school and be safe.

And I do support any law that would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer and that is why I support the things that I have stood for.

KASKY: In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?

RUBIO: I think in the name of 17 people I can pledge to you that I will support any law that will prevent a killer like this --


KASKY: No, but I'm talking about the NRA. No.


VAUSE: Austin, the argument that Rubio was making is essentially the money follows the politicians. But the reality is the politicians follow the money and Rubio is number six on the list of politicians, in terms of receiving money from the NRA over the lifetime of his political career.

JAMES: Listen, maybe I'm going to be a little bit different here. So I grew up in Alabama right and so I think the idea of restricting -- I could not purchase a hunting rifle to go hunting with my father at 18. I think that's just a ridiculous thing to think about.

We are attacking -- we're giving the NRA a lot of power. And so we're essentially attacking the NRA would be equivalent to attacking an alcohol distribution trade organization because someone you knew was killed by a drunk driver.

Is just -- it is kind of ludicrous, I think. I think -- again, my stance on this is I think that we have to go top of the funnel and look at mental health and then I think we go bottom of funnel if we look at if someone slips through like they did this time, what can we do to protect those soft targets like schools?

After 9-11, we locked airports down. OK and we did, it just became commonplace that we took our shoes off, we got half naked we got felt up and we went through. It's going to be commonplace where I think we need -- you're going to have (INAUDIBLE) at schools. You're going to have certain teachers who are going to be trained. You're not going to know who they are to carry concealed weapons. I think you're going to have security guards. I think that's just the way this country is going.

VAUSE: We'll get to the armed teachers in a moment. But Mo', there's now this sort of debate in the country about the power of the NRA and that just seems to me (INAUDIBLE) is that the NRA wields a lot of power because they have single issue voters which support them and they wield that power.

It's not just the money.

KELLY: They have that power because, to your point, they fund a lot of politicians and then the politicians would like to say in office and for them to stay in office and be able to have those beautiful campaign ads, they will rely on this money.

And not to be blasted, no pun intended, by the NRA if they are not in lockstep with what the NRA stands for. I am just not sure -- and this is rhetorical in nature. I do not understand why a single organization has so much say and so much sway over politicians.

VAUSE: OK, well, to Austin's point about arming teachers, the president held his own listening session today at the White House. He was invited to attend the town hall. He declined that invitation. Instead, he met with survivors from school shootings, not just in Florida but also Sandy Hook and Columbine and that's where he floated this idea of arming teachers.


TRUMP: An attack has lasted on average about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders, for the police, to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with -- who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.


VAUSE: And also this idea of arming teachers is straight out of a 2013 report by an NRA group when there was another previous gun debate which was being held. And the reason why the NRA likes this idea for one, because they are a gun industry lobby group. It is because it means they sell more guns.

JAMES: I think, if I'm not mistaken, it was 150 campuses, college campuses that now allow teachers to carry firearms. I don't think Florida is one of those states. I actually tend to agree with that. Again, growing up in Alabama, I'm very familiar with the Southeast.

I do not want to make huge steps here but there is also a reason you're seeing a lot of these mass shootings happen at soft targets. Biden made these schools no gun zones and so when you walk in with an assault rifle, you know that it is it is you, what with almost no defense.


JAMES: -- There's a reason you don't see at an Alabama Walmart.



VAUSE: -- because here's what one teacher (INAUDIBLE) town hall thought about the idea. She survived the Florida school shooting. Here's what she thought of the idea of going to work every day carrying a gun.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I had those hundreds of terrified children that were running at me, my question to that is, am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect on top of educate these children, on how these eloquent speakers that are coming up and presenting issues to you.

I mean, am I supposed to have a Kevlar vest?

Am I supposed to strap it to my leg or put in my desk?

How am I supposed to go on that way?


VAUSE: Mo', someone should have asked the teachers.

KELLY: Well, not only that, there is a middle ground here. We look at what's going on here in Los Angeles; a lot of schools do have armed guards or police officers as a function of the city police who guard these schools.

But if you are asking the English teacher, the math teacher to be able to make that split-second decision as far as life-and-death in a situation where they are not shooting at one person; there may be 35 people running in all sorts of directions and an indiscriminate person with an AR-15 --


JAMES: I do not think that were talking every teacher having a sawed- off shotgun like a dive bar owner. I think what we are saying is that, just like air marshals right, you got certain teachers who step up for the training who -- I think there was a great interview on CNN, where they asked a teacher, would you want to have firearms (INAUDIBLE).

And he said he did not know but that he knew numerous teachers who wished that they were able to stand and defend.

So again, I think it goes down to what the people want, what the teachers want. I do not think we're asking every teacher to carry a firearm. Ashley certainly with all due respect to what she has been through, probably wouldn't be the right candidate to carry a firearm.

VAUSE: Well, President Trump also promised very strong background checks but, again, at CNN's town hall, there was opposition, even to this from the NRA.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) background checks. How was he able to pass a background check? He was able to pass a background check because we have a system that's flawed. The Sutherland Springs (ph) murderer was able to pass a background check because the Air Force did not report that record.


VAUSE: And "Politico" is reporting this, "The White House is signaling support for a bipartisan bill that would enhance reporting on violent criminals to the FBI background check's database in order to stop them from buying firearms.

"But House conservatives are unwilling to sign unless the measures coupled with so-called concealed carry legislation backed by the National Rifle Association. Combining the two ideas would have the net effect of loosening gun control."

So Austin, how does this happen, when you have a Quinnipiac poll which comes out just on Tuesday, which says 97 percent of people in this country support universal background checks?

And 97 percent of gun owners support universal background checks?

JAMES: I agree with him. I thought I'd agree with that and to Dana's point. So listen, I'm part of -- I'm on the chairman of the board of a new organization called Generation for Freedom and its main mission is education. And its main target are adolescents, Millennials, people who are going to be the kind of the ardent voice going into the next generation.

I think the bigger issue is, there are gun laws today that could solve this had they worked from top to bottom and so to your point. I think if you look at what the constituents want. They want universal background checks. But that only works if you enforce the laws.

And what we see from this unfortunate event and others like it, they did not enforce the law and there was a breakdown of the laws we have. And I think that is what people are saying when it comes to kind of going and casting your vote, are not the politicians necessarily who we know -- we do hold Congress accountable.

But are of are that is the justice authority in those with authority at the justice level going to enforce the laws.


KELLY: But let's not ignore the other variables in the conversation. You said there's a mental health issue, to paraphrase you. But there's mental health issues all over the world but there are only mass shootings right here. I'm quite sure I can go to Australia and find people who are suffering from mental health issues --


JAMES: -- we do have an inordinate amount of guns.

(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: Almost out of time because I want to finish with this. It seems President Trump needs a reminder that while meeting with victims of gun violence, he needs to feel empathy.

On his notes, there was a photograph, which revealed that the first bullet point was, "What would you want me to know about your experience?"

The fifth point, "I hear you."

And so, Mo', think about that for a moment. Donald Trump needs a reminder to tell survivors that he hears them.

KELLY: If this was not about children dying it would be funny but it is. So it isn't. If he needs to be instructed on cue when to be empathetic or how to be empathetic, then he is incapable of being empathetic because that is not something that can be taught. It is not something you can be directed.

You just either are or you are not.

VAUSE: Very quickly, (INAUDIBLE)?

JAMES: I will say this, he is someone who shoots from the hip and I do not that he --


KELLY: No pun intended.

JAMES: -- no pun intended, good one, and listen. And I would say this. It was something that -- yes, that someone, probably from the PR communications department, wanted to make sure that he said and he wanted to make sure he got that heard.

VAUSE: It was unfortunate that it got out. OK.


VAUSE: Austin and Mo', thanks so much. Good to see you. Appreciate it.

Well, the National Rifle Association has called the AR-15 semiautomatic the most popular rifle in America. It's also a popular choice for mass shootings. An AR-15 style rifle was used in last week's massacre in Parkland, Florida.

A gunman killed 26 people in a Texas church last November with a similar Ruger version.

In the Las Vegas mass shooting a month earlier, the shooter used a modified version of the AR-15 and it was weapon used to kill 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

This list does go on. But now a handful of governors are making a very public display of

destroying their firearms AR-15s included. Amanda Meyer is one of them and she posted this video on Facebook.


AMANDA MEYER, GUN OWNER: Hi, everybody, my name is Amanda. I'm making a video today. I'm not a protester or an activist or anything like that. Just a regular hillbilly gun owner, probably like many of you.

I grew up around guns. I took the hunter safety class when I was 14 years old and my parents emphasized proper gun safety from a really early age. And I've carried that with me throughout my life.

So now as an adult, I own a pretty six-hour P-229. It's in the grass field strength. I'll show you in a minute. And I really like this gun.

But you know what I like more is when people don't get killed. So the only way that I can know for sure that this gun will never hurt anyone is if it does not exist. So that's why today I am going to make sure that there is one less gun in this world.

OK, so as you can see, I just made holes in everything. Maybe an angle grinder was not the best tool to use for this but it's kind of all I had. I am sure there is other things that might work better. I just need holes so that now all of this stuff you can see daylight through there. Now all of this stuff is unusable. So anybody who wanted to use this gun couldn't do it.


VAUSE: And Amanda joins us now with more.

So, Amanda, thank you for taking time to be with us.

Explain the tipping point here.

What was it that you saw?

Obviously it must have been the Florida school shooting last week but was this moment doing for some time?

MEYER: It actually was building for some time. I had decided to do it a while ago but I cannot really bring myself to do it. I was pretty attached to the gun. But once I read about the Florida shooting and I made the mistake of watching one of the videos from the classroom, it became pretty obvious that it was the right thing to do.

VAUSE: Beyond taking just one gun out of the system what you mean, the bigger point here, that what guns in particular just should not be available, freely available, as much as they are?

MEYER: Not as much as they are. I'm not completely anti-gun. I think that if you want a shotgun for hunting or something, then that's not a terrible thing but there is no need. If you cannot shoot the deer in one or two shots you probably shouldn't have a gun.

And so there's no need for these really high capacity, really rapidly firing guns, semi-automatic weapons. You don't need to shoot anything for hunting with 10 bullets in a row.

VAUSE: Making this very public demonstration, putting it out there on Facebook for all the world to see, some people I guess have shown support. Others not quite so much.

MEYER: Yes so I actually did not know that anybody else had done this. I posted mine on Friday night and I didn't -- I wasn't aware that this was going to be a growing movement. So I did not think that anybody besides my friends and family would watch it.

Suddenly, millions of people are watching in and they are not saying very nice things. A lot of people are saying good things but a lot of people are saying really, really terrible things.

VAUSE: Have there been threats?

MEYER: Yes, actually I had to get the police involved. Somebody posted my address online. People have said that I should be assaulted in various ways, that I should be killed. You know, they just say that people should break into my house and it is -- it is really disconcerting.

VAUSE: Yes, it is very scary when people start doing that.

But you just don't know which ones are the lunatics and which ones are going to maybe follow through with the threat.

The NRA has put out a statement that it does not even support raising the age limit from 18 to 21 to legally purchase an AR-15.

What you think of the stance of the National Rifle Association?

MEYER: I think the National Rifle Association is an extremist organization that is funding a lot of our politicians. And they -- politicians are afraid to go against them because they get a lot of money from them.

So I've -- in cutting up one gun, I have done more than our politicians have. And that is because they are in the back pockets of the NRA.

VAUSE: Yes, and you obviously done it --


VAUSE: -- in the face of threats from a bunch of lunatics. So stay safe and thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

MEYER: Thank you. Yes, thanks.

VAUSE: And you can catch the replay of CNN's special town hall with students, parents and others impacted by the Florida school shooting. "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action."

It's Thursday at 9:00 am in London. That is 5:00 pm in Hong Kong.

Well, next up here on NEWSROOM L.A., Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political future may be in jeopardy and this time for real as one of his closest confidants agrees to testify against him in a growing corruption case.




VAUSE: A week ago, the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, was facing some serious legal problems but now he is in the grips of what could be the most serious challenge in his political career ever.

At least five criminal investigations now swirl around the prime minister, which he dismisses as a witch hunt. Numerous people close to him have been arrested. Charges include fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Now that the man once considered Mr. Netanyahu's right hand, Shlomo Filber (ph), has turned state's witness.

Raoul Wootliff is a reporter with "Times of Israel." And he joins us from Jerusalem.

Good to see you again, Raoul.

So it seems amid all the allegations, the investigations, the turmoil, all of this swirling around Benjamin Netanyahu, it could be the testimony of his former close associate, Shlomo Filber (ph), which has the potential to do him the most harm.

RAOUL WOOTLIFF, "THE TIMES OF ISRAEL": Absolutely. It's been a tumultuous week here in Israel. It was just a week ago when we spoke just hours after police recommended indicting Netanyahu in two separate corruption cases.

Since then we had two further corruption cases revealed and (INAUDIBLE) that you mentioned that has the potential to be the most serious of them is long-time confidant and close Likud loyalist, has now turned state's witness, turned state's evidence against the prime minister and is testifying in what seems to be testimony that could reveal damning evidence against Benjamin Netanyahu.

VAUSE: What is interesting is some reporting out there, which quotes Filber's (ph) of why he was fired as Netanyahu's chief of staff. He reportedly told police that on a trip to Italy, Netanyahu was given an expensive watch by his counterpart at the time, Silvio Berlusconi. And this is the exchange.

"Later that night was summoned to the Netanyahus' room where Sara yelled at me, demanding that I return the watch to them. It's because he had actually taken the watch away and sent it back to Israel in a diplomatic pouch.

I was startled, he goes on saying, but I told her she could not have it back, that it was too late. I'd already registered it as a gift and sent it to Israel by diplomatic pouch. She was screaming at me in front of Netanyahu who didn't say a thing.

Two weeks later, Netanyahu called me in for a meeting and fired me.


VAUSE: He said we needed someone that was more professional than me. This is what it is like to work for the Netanyahus.

That seems to reflect all of the allegations made in case 1,000 which involves the Netanyahus receiving expensive gifts.

WOOTLIFF (PH): Absolutely, you're right. That doesn't necessarily give us a picture of what happened in this case. Case 4,000 which involved Netanyahu helping push through a potential antitrust deal in order to get better media coverage. But it does, as you're right, give us a good picture of the of the lifestyle and privilege that the Netanyahus at least according to these allegations, appear to believe that they have. Receiving expensive gifts, not reporting them, those are the allegations in case 1,000, amidst backstop those allegations.

VAUSE: And then there seems to be I guess it -- you can correct me if I'm wrong but possibly the most serious allegation out there is that there was an offer to a judge from Netanyahu and two others who were close him to drop the case against Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister's wife, receiving all these gifts allegedly and in return the judge would be promoted to attorney general, where she would be the first woman to hold that position.

WOOTLIFF (PH): Yes, you are right. Of all the investigations or the potential corruption allegations, this one could be the most serious. It also potentially seems the most black-and-white. It either happened or it didn't. In the other cases there is a question of what sort of deals he may have pushed through and whether they're considered bribery here.

If the conversation took place, it's certainly bribery, certainly at the highest level of the government, to offer a judge to be the attorney general under the condition that they will close a criminal investigation into the prime minister's wife.

It is allegations that have the potential to bring down bring down the government. At this stage they -- Netanyahu has not yet been made a criminal suspect in that case and police are investigating it. What's particularly interesting is that one of the witnesses to the potential conversation with the now Supreme Court precedent, who has given testimony in that case already, just two days ago.

And we could have a situation where the head of the supreme court, the head of the judicial branch will testify in court against the head of the executive branch, the prime minister, which would be an unprecedented and fascinating development. VAUSE: Never a dull day in Israeli politics. I just want to finish

on this poll, which your newspaper, "The Times of Israel," has. It's interesting because right now, Netanyahu's Likud is holding 30 seats in the Knesset.

Your poll, if elections were held right now, and Netanyahu who was the leader of Likud, they dropped three seats down to 27 but still have more than any other party in parliament. Without Netanyahu, Likud wins 26 so they love just one.

So what does this actually suggest?

Do Israelis see this scandal as a reflection on the prime minister only and not the party?

Because there is another poll out there which says 50 percent believe Netanyahu should either resign or take a temporarily leave.

WOOTLIFF (PH): Well, I think and poll in general but specifically these polls need to be taken with a pinch of salt. They were taken very soon after the allegations, before the real discourse in the country began or has already taken hold.

But you're right. It does seem and from my conversations with many people, it does seem that the Likud still has a strong standing. That could point to a few things. It could point to the fact that over these last -- this last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully spun the story against the media, even against the police accusing them of a witch hunt against him.

And that may have taken hold among the public. Many people feel that there are just so many investigations, so many allegations, that it just keeps going, keeps going and it is a little bit too abstract to take hold of and point the finger at what's wrong.

But I think over the next few months, we're going to -- few weeks and months we're going to see how that public discourse, which is continuing now, really has an effect on the polls and the key question is how those polls affect the coalition of partners because, at the moment regardless of whether the public or not support Netanyahu, his coalition partners are sticking with him.

If the public support were to wane then their support would likely also weaken.

VAUSE: OK, Raoul, we are out of time but great to have you with us again. We appreciate the update. Like I said, never a dull day in Israeli politics.

WOOTLIFF (PH): Thank you.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in what the U.N. is calling a monstrous campaign of annihilation. Details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [01:31:20] VAUSE: Welcome back everybody, you're watching CNN

NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. We will check the headline this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump says arming teachers would help stop school shootings. He held a listening session with students and parents affected by the massacres in Parkland, Florida and Newtown, Connecticut. Mr. Trump also called for more mental institutions and hospitals.

A former aide to the Israeli prime minister has turned to states witness in a corruption probe. Shlomo Filber was considered Benjamin Netanyahu's right-hand man for many years. But it's the five criminal investigations are now underway involving Mr. Netanyahu and his inner circle.

About 80 school girls have been rescued by the Nigerian army after they were kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram attackers in Nigeria on Monday. Official say the kidnapers raided the girls school, the military was able to rescue them after receiving a tip.

Well, there is little hope in a besiege Syrian suburbs. Some people say they were just waiting now to die. Eastern Ghouta is in a rebel- town area on the outskirts of Damascus. It's supposed to be a de- escalation zone. Activists say regime shelling an airstrikes that killed 300 people in three days. Calling it hell on earth, the U.N. Secretary General is demanding an immediate halt to the violence but Russian backs the regime -- the Russian backs the regime I should say. Moscow denies responsibility for Syrian death and it's calling for a security counsel meeting on the crisis come Thursday. Sam Kiley reports on live for the children who were trapped.


SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These children have lost their relatives to war. They now live underground singing to keep hope, any hope alive. Above here, East Ghouta is being ground down literally;. A death toll close to 100 a day, carnage on the edge of Syria's capital unleashed by Syria's president and as ever, many of its victims are Syria's children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) disappear but our duty as the future children center is to visit orphanages during relatively safe times and have them forget what's happening, give them two hours of fun.

KILEY: The new bombardment by the government is driving Ghouta citizens to live where only rats have flourished. Even the newly born are taken beneath the earth. Here, rebel-held East Ghoutas only near natal unit has been moved into a basement. It's an unforgiving kind of safety.

RAAM ABU AHMAD, NURSE (through translator): The cold is killing the children. They're barely surviving. We have only eight incubators and one intensive care room. Sometimes we put the children on chairs.


KILEY: East Ghouta, a rebel stronghold on the edge of Syria's capital, Damascus has been besiege for nearly five years. Food is short, medicinal supply so rare, the staff have resorted to recycling.

ABU AHMAD (through translator): We have reached the point of not only using expired medicines but of also recycling medical supplies. Sometimes reuse the syringes.

KILEY: Meanwhile, in its latest propaganda video, the Syrian government has pledged to destroy the rebels in their enclaves. The leader of the unit known as "Tiger Force" said, "I promise I will teach them a lesson in combat and in fire. You won't find a rescuer and if you do, you will be rescued with water like boiling oil. You'll be rescued with blood."

Sentiments that may haunt this child for the rest of his life. Sam Kiley, CNN Abu Dhabi.


VAUSE: Well for more on this, CNN's National Security Analyst, Gayle Tzemach-Lemmon joins us now. OK Gayle, this sounds like the worst days of the siege of Aleppo but that seems to take almost ears to reach that point. The situation in East Ghouta seems to have happened almost overnight.

GAYLE TZEMACH-LEMMON, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Where there's impunity, right? Who's going to stop it? This is an overnight crisis seven years in the making and this -- all of the fingerprints or all of the steps that led us there lead to the idea that there are no consequences for anything that's happening or who in the international community is going to stop it.

VAUSE: And the attack seems similar to what we've seen (INAUDIBLE) attacking hospitals, families to live underground because of the (INAUDIBLE) of Bashar al Assad.

TZEMACH-LEMMON: I mean look, you have starvation in plain sight, you have the siege of a city in plain sight, you have doctors who can't get medicine, little ones who can't be treated because there simply aren't the facilities and things underground.

So, none of this is surprising. I mean, I think this whole idea of never again in terms of humanitarian crisis and what we see watching this play out in real time can never be taken seriously.

VAUSE: Because there was this expectation that as this wall was winding down, there would be a last flurry of military offensive and military activity as competing side of the stakeout they claim for territory. This is not that.

TZEMACH-LEMMON: No. I mean, here's what you have, the ISIS, I was just there and what you see and what everybody talks to you about is the ISIS fight froze the battlefield, right? So it was almost like there was a red light on the parties fighting one another because the ISIS fight with a focus.

Now, as one Syrian teacher told me a week and a half ago, the war is not even close to ending, in fact, it's only going to ramp up but even more so now that the battlefield is unfrozen in the somewhat post-ISIS phase.

VAUSE: And this is a de-escalation zone according to that Russian broker peace deal. Clearly, that doesn't mean a whole lot to Bashar al Assad.

TZEMACH-LEMMON: Look, I mean this is what everybody's looking for, it's not a de-escalation zone but the regime is looking for an end zone, right? I mean, they want to finish this war in a way that is favorable to them and there are certainly as nobody really on the other side stopping them. Russia and Iran have been all in on the regime side throughout and that has not changed.

VAUSE: But surely, are they the ones who control Assad?

TZEMACH-LEMMON: I mean, that has always been the question.

VAUSE: Indeed, yes.

TZEMACH-LEMMON: I think the outside world has always thought that Russia really controlled the regime. And when you talk to people who watch it closely, they say, I would not be so sure--

VAUSE: Right.

TZEMACH-LEMMON: -- that that is the case.

VAUSE: Because it's interesting because the whole --

TZEMACH-LEMMON: I mean, it's access of mistrust.


TZEMACH-LEMMON: You and I talked about a long time ago, Russia, Iran --

VAUSE: It's alive and well and thriving and -- because you look at this sort of issue with Russia and Putin (INAUDIBLE) his name right, he's with (INAUDIBLE) he wrote a big piece on this, it's interesting and this is part of it, "Russia overall finds its ability to control the complex Syrian conflict particularly the interplays between the parties involved much diminished."

"Just a couple of months ago, President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Syria but Russian forces on the ground is still taking casualties, Russia's alliances are in disarray, and its Syria policy has lost decisiveness -- I can't talk today, and direction." I mean ultimately, it seems that unless Putin is willing to put a lot more boots on the ground, commit a lot more military hardware to this, he's lost control in a major way of this.

TZEMACH-LEMMON: Well -- I mean, it all depends on where you sit, right, because look, Russia change facts on the ground in this war with its intervention and certainly Aleppo would change facts on the ground.

But once you strengthen the regime, be careful what you wish for, right, because you no longer control it, do you? And I think this strong -- there has been no check on the power of the Assad Regime, really, in terms of the international community and you see that playing out now in real time. Beside the fact that you now have Russia playing a pretty long game when it comes to Syria's courage in the U.S. backed forces territory.

VAUSE: Where is the U.S. in all of this?

TZEMACH-LEMMON: It is a really interesting question. When you talk to U.S. policy makers they would tell you that they have nearly been wrestling with this whole idea because the ISIS fight was the focus.


And now the ISIS fight is not over but it is certainly winding down. And a lot of the folks who are part of that fight, who are part of the U.S. backed forces now find themselves in the crosshairs of the Turkish offensive in Afrin, right? So, folks who were going to finish the ISIS fight and they now have to go and basically make sure that their people aren't being killed. And that's where the U.S. is by trying to figure out which is the priority, in NATO ally or the forces who fought alongside or even Raqqa.

VAUSE: Yes. To say the situation is complex is the understatement of the year.


VAUSE: Gayle, I'd kind of hope we'd stop talking about Syria by now but I guess it's -- well we will continue for a while. Thank you.


VAUSE: Well next here on NEWSROOM LA, Norway a relatively small nation but dominating the Winter Olympics, why are they doing so well and Olympic giants like the U.S., not so good.


VAUSE: Day 13 of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. So let's take a look at the medal count. Norway still on top, 13 golds. The Scandinavian country has dominated the Winter Games with 33 medals in total, then Germany, followed by Canada.

The United States has moved up into the fourth place, seven golds, nineteen medals, but still some questions about maybe they could have done better or maybe not. Much more of WORLD SPORT from Pyeongchang coming up. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi, thanks for joining us. Welcome along to WORLD SPORT live from Pyeongchang on Day 13 of the Winter Olympics. We're in the midst (INAUDIBLE) of sorts.

Ten gold medals decided in total today, that's more than any other day, the games because the weather is coming back into play and we've had a few of the Alpine events moved around on the schedule and it has a stunning last hour what's been described as one of the biggest upsets of the games. Sweden's Andre Myhrer has taken gold in the men's slalom.

We've been billing it as a chance for Marcel Hirscher to take three golds in three events but he crashed out of his first run. Henrik Kristoffersen was the man leading but made a nervy start and got tangled in the gate in his second run. So, 35-year-old, Myhrer took advantage becoming the first Swedish winner of the event since 1980. He adds the gold to his bronze from Vancouver, 2010.

And in the last few moments in the women's Alpine combine, no fairytale finish for Lindsey Vonn. Of course, we've been talking about Vonn going head-to-head with her young American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin but actually, it was 24-year-old Switzerland's Michelle Gisin who took gold in her second Olympic Games. So let's not waste any time, Christina Macfarlane has been following all the action for us and joins us live now on the phone. Chrissie, what a couple of hours.

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's absolutely right Amanda. I'll tell you, I just come from the Alpine combined here and everything was poised for a dramatic finale. The crowd wellness beat, the snow was falling, there was (INAUDIBLE) in the air with Lindsey Vonn spiking herself up in the start gate and then the worst way to go out of this competition missing a gate after crushing her downhill run this morning showing us what she's capable off.

A bitter (INAUDIBLE) have fall over her in her final showing here at the Olympics. FREEMAN: Mikaela Shiffrin, another medal here redeeming her core performance in the slalom run last week. She put down a world class slalom today but only managed still. Though it's not been quite what we expected from these two American great skiing this Olympics but congratulations to Michelle Gisin of Switzerland. She also put down the slalom run of her life.

She comes from a technically family of skiing. Her sister actually won the downhill gold in Sochi four years ago. But as you also mentioned Amanda, more drama in the slalom in the men's part this morning. Marcel Hirscher who is certain to take the third gold of these Olympics, missed a gate on his first run afterward saying that he knew before he was going to race that he wasn't going to medal here because he didn't like the snow.

Then the second pick, the next best gear who looks certain to win, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway also making a mistake in the second run, leaving the coast clear for Andre Mhyrer of Sweden. He becomes the first Swedish gold Alpine medalist since 1980.

And, you know, this is his fourth Olympic game, probably his last. He is the second 35-year-old to win an Alpine event here after (INAUDIBLE) as being 136-days older. High drama in Alpine skiing today, Amanda.

DAVIES: Yes, absolutely. Well worth the journey up to the mountains. Chrissie, thanks very much. Indeed, a lot of action going on down at the coast as well. As Olympic rivalries go, there's not many bigger than the one between the USA and Canada in the women's ice hockey.

A fifth Olympic final between the pair where they described this week as a battle for the ages with the USA hoping to regain the upper hand after four Canadian golds. (INAUDIBLE) 2-1 when the two sides met in the preliminary round. The USA were pretty confident heading into this game because they had really outshot their rivals in their previous meeting. And Hilary Knight put them ahead late in the first period but the Canadians fall back in the second to take a two to one lead only for the U.S. to pull level once again late in the third thanks to (INAUDIBLE)

And so, it has gone to overtime, they are locked at two a piece, it's sudden death overtime with the U.S. hoping they will be able to pull off a comeback upset like the Canadians did to them four years ago in Sochi. An absolute cracker going on down on the ice. USA looking for their first Olympic gold since 1998.

We'll, of course, keep you posted but if that as a fixture has become a bit of a staple of the Olympic Games, this morning I was there to witness a first inaugural Olympic big air competition at one of the most picturesque venues of the games in the shadow of the ski jump hills and what in the summer is the picture of local (INAUDIBLE)

Austria's Anna Gasser snatched the victory from the hands of America's Jamie Anderson with her final run furring in a pair of double cork, 10AC is one of the toughest tricks to jump ahead of her rival to the top spot. It means she has the Olympic gold to her world championship crown in the event after she described it as a dream come true.


Interestingly, New Zealand won just their second ever Winter Olympic medal in that event, 16-year-old Zoe Sadowski-Synnott the one to claim it but Norway still very much in the driving seat at the top of the medal. They won 13 golds to 12, ahead of Germany. But look at that otal medal counts, 33 to Germany's 24. Stay with us though, more WORLD SPORT in just a couple of minutes.


DAVIES: Welcome back to WORLD SPORT live from Pyeongchang on a cold but sunny day 13 here at the Winter Olympics. We're waiting to hear the verdict of the cause of arbitration of sport anti-doping division on the case of Alexander Krushelnitsky and his failed test for meldonium. It was meant to be an appeal hearing for the Russian curler but just hours before it was used to start, the 25-year-old dropped his case, issuing a statement that said, "I admit that there has been a formal violation of the current anti-doping rules. The sample tested had been collected during the Olympic Games and I'm ready to face the verdict."

Well Krushelnitsky and his wife have also handed back the bronze medals that they won in the mixed curling competition here and while to hear what (INAUDIBLE) we also wait on what impact it will have on the OIC's decision on whether or not to allow the Olympic athletes from Russia to march not under the neutral flag but as Russia with their national flag and own uniforms at Sunday's closing ceremony. It was a situation that the chairwoman of the OIC Athletes Commission addressed in a news conference earlier on.


ANGELA RUGGERIA, CHAIRWOMAN, IOC ATHLETES COMMISSION: This isn't hard for everyone and, yes, we represent the right of clean athletes and that includes Russian clean athletes and that is something as we put an increase emphasis on the pre-games testing were obviously Russian athletes were high risk athletes given what we had seen.

They had an incredibly high hurdle that we made sure, the Athletes Commission made sure, one ensure that if they get past that hurdle that they could compete.


DAVIES: So what else has been (INAUDIBLE) away from the Winter Olympics? Let's head across to Kate Riley at CNN Center where Manchester United are being in action in the champions league. Have you got any good news for the me Kate?

KATE RILEY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes indeed. Thanks very much Amanda. And once again, Manchester United a record (INAUDIBLE) but did not stop for the Red Devils.

This time, it was an unknown illness that kept him sidelined from the mass between United and Sevilla in the champions league around the 16 opener. It turned out though Pablo was needed as a sub and early on in this match, the Frenchman also (INAUDIBLE) the weekend the EPL match (INAUDIBLE) due to that illness as well although there were speculation there was a risk with his manager Jose Mourinho but when Ander Herrera got injured, (INAUDIBLE) to put his illness to one side and run on to the pitch.


Meanwhile, (INAUDIBLE) has now kept 19 clean sheets this season and kept his team in this one. Here's a reason why (INAUDIBLE) win after the (INAUDIBLE) point blank range efforts and goalless in Spain.

And also in action on Wednesday night, the Italian (INAUDIBLE) Roma traveling to face Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk. Now, a lot has changed for Shaktar since the historic way to cut triumph back in 2009. In fact, the club has a new stadium when it comes to their home game, some 150 miles away from the Donetsk due to the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. They are tough to beat at home as well and they prove that once again by coming from behind to take a 2-1 first leg advantage.

The Argentine (INAUDIBLE) made it one or shortly after halftime and then came shortly the best moment of the match, a breathtaking free kick from another South American, a highly coveted Brazilian (INAUDIBLE) place it over the wall and into the top corner. Yes, great stuff there, good news for Shakhtar and quite probably the country of Brazil in this world cup here.

All right. That does it from the team in Atlanta, now back to Amanda in Pyeongchang.

DAVIES: Thanks very much indeed Kate. Just time to tell you that it is still deadlock in the women's ice hockey final between Canada and the USA. They're well into the second half of the 20-minute overtime period, it is still 2-2, of course, the USA very much looking to try and overturn the weight of history. Canada looking to claim their fifth Olympic gold.

But that's it for me and the team for this addition of WORLD SPORT live from Pyeongchang. Pletny more throughout the day. See you next time, thanks for watching. Goodbye.