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Republicans Hit the Campaign Trail After Debate; Rare Access to Russia's Syrian Air Base; EU Examines Risks to Border-Free Travel; Mistrial for Officer Charged in Death of Black Man; First U.S. Interest Rate Increase Since 2006; Clean Up in Sydney Following Storms; Critics Raving About "Star Wars". Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 17, 2015 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:17] ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Ahead this hour Republican presidential candidates hit the campaign trail a day after taking the gloves off at that Las Vegas debate.

SESAY: Street protests in the U.S. city of Baltimore after a racially charged case is declared a mistrial.

VAUSE: And later the cast of "Star Wars," out in force for the film's London premiere.

SESAY: Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. NEWSROOM L.A. starts now.

So a day after making his case to be the U.S. commander-in-chief Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is showing off his skills as a comedian.

SESAY: Trump appeared a short time ago on the late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" right here in Los Angeles. Kimmel asked about his plan to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a real problem. There's a tremendous hatred out there. And what I want to do is find out what -- you can't solve a problem until you find out what's the root cause. And I want to find out what is the problem, what's going on. And it's temporary. I've had so many people call me and say, thank you.

Now if you remember, when I did that a week ago, it was like bedlam. All of a sudden, and you watch last night and you see people talking, they say, well, Trump has a point. We have to get down to the problem. The people that are friends of mine, they called, they said, Donald, you've done us a tremendous service because we do have a problem, and we have to find out.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: Those may have been crank calls. Those may have been crank calls.


VAUSE: Donald Trump here in Los Angeles. Ted Cruz also in L.A. He attended some private fundraising event. And Marco Rubio headed to Iowa and New Hampshire, all after the debate.

SESAY: All the Republican presidential hopefuls are trying to capitalize on their debate performances. Sunlen Serfaty has details.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The GOP field leaving Las Vegas with new battle lines drawn.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everyone on that stage talks tough. It's easy. I can stand here tonight and say we're -- or this morning and say we're going to utterly destroy ISIS, we're going to blow them up, we're going to make the sand glow. That's easy to say. What are you going to do it with?

SERFATY: The sparring between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz moving from the debate stage to the campaign trail today.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Senator Rubio's campaign understands that if conservatives continue to unite, they don't have a path to victory, and so their only hope is to try to launch false attacks.

SERFATY: A rivalry between the two first-term senators revealing divisions within the Republican Party on government surveillance.

RUBIO: We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools. And that tool we lost, the metadata program, was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal.


CRUZ: Well, I -- you know, I would note that Marco knows what he's saying isn't true.

SERFATY: Cruz trying to draw a contrast on one of Rubio's potential vulnerabilities with the Republican base -- his work on a comprehensive immigration bill that included a path to citizenship.

CRUZ: There was a battle over amnesty. And some chose, like Senator Rubio, to stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and support a massive amnesty.

RUBIO: As far as Ted's record, I'm always puzzled by his attack on this issue.

Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally.

CRUZ: For Marco to suggest our records are the same is like suggesting the fireman and the arsonist have the same record because they're both at the scene of the fire.

SERFATY: Rubio pressing Cruz to define his immigration stance.

RUBIO: Does Ted Cruz rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country illegally now?

BASH: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: I have never supported legalization.

RUBIO: Do you rule it out?

CRUZ: I have never supported legalization. And I do not intend to support legalization.

SERFATY: That tet-a-tet largely overshadowing the focus on the frontrunner.

TRUMP: I went in this saying, boy, this is going to be a tough evening, because I heard all of them were going to come at me, right? Fourteen of them were going to be coming at me. I was prepared.

SERFATY: Tried to stay above the fray on the debate stage.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But he's a chaos candidate. And he'd be a chaos president.

SERFATY: Even while Jeb Bush had him in his sights.

TRUMP: I think Jeb is a very nice person. He's a very nice person, but we need tough people.


TRUMP: I know you're trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it's not working.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN MODERATOR: Please, one at a time.

BUSH: Yes.

TRUMP: See, I'm at 42 and you're at 3. So far I'm doing better.

BUSH: Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter.

SERFATY: In a big shift from just days ago, Trump backing off his charge that Cruz doesn't have the right temperament to be president.

TRUMP: I've gotten to know him over the last three or four days. He has a wonderful temperament. He's just fine. Don't worry about it.

SERFATY (on camera): And back on the Ted Cruz-Marco Rubio dynamic, this new fight that has been really opened up between them is one big sign that both of them clearly understand the significance of the other. The threat of the other. And this dynamic will continue to dominate on the campaign trail. Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Los Angeles.


[01:05:01] VAUSE: The debate in Las Vegas was the last big moment to shake the Republican presidential race before the New Year. And voters in the state of Iowa will be the first to cast their ballots for the party's nominee in less than seven weeks.

So with the benefit of 24 hours now to stop and think, how did Tuesday night's debate change the race for the White House and what remains the same?

Kayleigh McEneny, a Republican strategist, joins us now from Atlanta.

Kayleigh, thanks for being with us. I guess one thing which seems pretty obvious right now is the battle between Senators Cruz and Rubio is on. Is that a fight to the death because they seem to be chasing the same supporters?

KAYLEIGH MCENENY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I don't think Rubio is going to push -- put much of a threat to Cruz. You know you look at Iowa, and Cruz has a commanding lead and behind him is Donald Trump. You know, he is at the top. And I don't think that's going to change. Rubio is not even really at his heels. And you pivot and look at New Hampshire and they may have a little more of a battle there. But I think the battle we're going to see play out is going to be more between Rubio and Chris Christie.

Because when you look at the polls, they are the ones who are running head and head at second and third place in New Hampshire on Donald Trump's heels. So you're really going to see those two competing and sparring to be number one in New Hampshire. If Rubio focuses on Iowa, it's going to be a loss to him. Nothing is going to happen for him there. So he would be wise to pivot to New Hampshire and focus on Chris Christie.

VAUSE: OK. We saw Jeb Bush, he hit all the morning talk shows after the debate. He seems pretty happy with his performance. Maybe some of his financial backers were happy as well. But how does his performance in Vegas, how does that now translate into more supporters? Because I couldn't work out where his supporters actually come from.

MCENENY: Well, you're right, John, because there is nowhere that they can come from. He's an establishment guy. This isn't a establishment election. If he siphons up any supporters it will be from John Kasich whose numbers are already, you know, near the bottom or perhaps Christie. But really what we -- when we look at last night, what we'd find is that debate performances don't win elections. It's great that Jeb came out strong, but it's too little too late. Debate performances can help you, but this late in the game, when you're polling at 3 percent, 4 percent, you really don't have any hope.

So Jeb Bush, great performance, we can applaud him for that, but I really don't think he has much hope going forward. VAUSE: OK. The conventional wisdom is no one is getting out for

Iowa, maybe no one is getting out before New Hampshire. But if you just look at Vegas debate and try and work out where things are going from here, would you say that Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, they've had their moment but their campaign is pretty much coming to an end? Also the same for Governor Kasich who never even really had a moment.

MCENENY: He never had a moment. No. And for a good reason. Look, you know, he's farther left than some of the candidates on the Democrat stage, at least during the first debate I would argue. So, you know, he's really done. It's time for him to make a graceful exit.

Carly Fiorina, I don't see any openings for her. However, you mentioned Ben Carson and he does still have some hope in Iowa. He's polling in the top four. So, you know, for him I'd say hang on a little longer, see if you can make inroads, see if someone else stumbles. But the other two you mentioned for sure I think it's time to look at an out way for and enjoy the holidays without the stress of an election.

VAUSE: Good point. Very quickly, is it a problem now that the standard bearer for the Republican Party, Donald Trump, he doesn't know what the nuclear triad is, and along with the number two in the polls right now, Ted Cruz, there seems to be this debate over foreign policy which involves intentionally killing civilians, innocent civilians?

MCENENY: Look, you know, it's not about what you know. We can look at this president, and I would argue it's been a disaster. I think a lot of American voters look at it and feel the same way. At least when it comes to foreign policy. You know, he went in knowing everything you want a president to know or so many voters thought.

Donald Trump, he may not know all the facts, the ins and outs of what a day at the White House would look like, but he has executive strength and executive capacity. And as far as the killing of civilians, he said he would be tough on the families of terrorists. I don't think that necessarily means that he's going to kill them. I think it's hyperbole.

VAUSE: OK, Kayleigh, good to speak with you. Thank you so much.

MCENENY: Thank you, John.

SESAY: Turning away from the U.S. presidential race for a moment, in just a few hours, Russian president Vladimir Putin will hold his big annual news conference where he'll take questions from hundreds of journalists.

VAUSE: He'll likely talk about domestic as well as foreign policy. Russia has made headlines lately with its military presence in Syria. And now he's saying it will suspend its free trade zone with Ukraine.

SESAY: Well, while the Russian warplane striking Syria take off from an air base in the Western part of the country. VAUSE: CNN was given rare access to this base and also Russia's

military. Here's our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how the Kremlin supports its Syrian allies and battles its enemies. We gained rare access to the Syrian base at Lattakia, now the military hub of Russia's air war.

(On camera): This really does feel like the center of a massive Russian military operation. The air is filled with the smell of jet fuel, and the ground shudders with the roar of those warplanes returning from their bombing missions.

(Voice-over) Russia's Defense Ministry says more than 200 targets have been struck in just 24 hours.

[01:10:06] 320 militants killed, it says, from ISIS and other rebel groups fighting the Syrian government and its president, Bashar al- Assad.

(On camera): So I am joined by General Igor Konashenkov. He's the chief military spokesman for the Russian government, the Russian Defense Ministry.

Thank you for the trip. He's escorting us here on this trip to the Lattakia Military Base. Let me ask you that question. That question about who you are targeting. Is it ISIS or are you supporting Assad?

IGOR KONASHENKOV, CHIEF MILITARY SPOKESMAN, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY (Through Translator): I can answer the question with our actions. Every day we show you how Russian aviation is fighting international terrorism, destroying their infrastructure in Syria.

CHANCE (voice-over): On our tour of the base we were shown how Russia carefully arms its bombers, with high-tech precision weaponry. We also saw unguided or dumb bombs being loaded. Human rights groups accused Russia of killing civilians from the air. A charge the Kremlin strenuously denies.

(On camera): Well, there's another plane coming in now just touching down. It's an SU-24 that's going to be very noisy. But it's just carried out an airstrike somewhere in Syria against rebel targets, either ISIS or some other opposition group.

(Voice-over): Russia says it's stopping ISIS in its tracks, striking their assets and shrinking the territory they and other rebel group's control. And after more than 4,000 sorties over Syria, this Kremlin air war shows no sign of winding down.

Matthew Chance, CNN, at the Lattakia Air Base in western Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: When European Union leaders begin a two-day summit in Brussels on Sunday, balancing border control with the migration crisis is expected to dominate the agenda.

SESAY: The core issue, how to protect Europe's open borders in light of rising terror attacks and the current flood of refugees.

VAUSE: Now the free flow of people across most of Europe's internal borders is considered one of the European Union's crowning achievements.

SESAY: CNN's Isa Soares looked at whether the Schengen Treaty which created passport-free travel on the continent is actually in jeopardy and what the EU can do to protect it.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Europe is at loggerheads over how to strengthen its borders. This after these individuals' unleashed panic and death on the streets of Paris, the revelation that some of the terrorists move between countries completely unchecked has many questioning Europe's open borders policy. Their ease most palpable on the streets of Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): It's simply a catastrophe. It's the ease of people traveling with no controls whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like I have some friends who came out from other countries and they told me they just passed like without anything, they weren't checked.

SOARES: Europe's borders changed 20 years ago, when the historic agreement was signed. But with the evolving threats from terrorists and with nearly 900,000 migrants entering the continent to date this year, Europe's borders are changing again.

(On camera): The Schengen area covers four million square kilometers and has a population of 400 million people stretching from Norway to Spain, Portugal to Poland.

Let me break it down for you. Macedonia has erected a new fence with Greece. Austria is planning one on its border with Slovenia. Hungary has also built a barrier with Serbia and then closed its border with Croatia. But it's not just physical borders that are going up.

(Voice-over): Psychological and metaphorical barriers are also being raised politically.

VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): In light of this terror attack, Brussels cannot challenge the right of member states to defend themselves.

SOARES: European leaders say they are listening.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION (Through Translator): Yes, the Schengen is partly comatose. But those who believe in Europe, those who believe in its values and its principles and its freedoms, must try, and they will do so to breathe new life into the spirit behind Schengen.

SOARES: So Europe is promising to reinforce the continent's external borders. This will involve the creation of a 2,000-strong border guard force that will be deployed anywhere, anytime, without any country's approval. In addition, Europe will also broaden what information is shared about passengers traveling around the block, measures that are expected to be highly divisive.

DEMETRIOS PAPADEMETRIOU, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE: It's going to be hard. There will be delays. There will be changes to the proposal. But if there is one lesson one must take from how things happen in Europe, is that eventually something will emerge.

[01:15:06] SOARES: It's a fine balancing act between keeping Europe safer from terrorism without dismantling what Europeans value the most, freedom of travel.

Isa Soares, CNN, London.


SESAY: Well, time for a quick break. At long last, the U.S. Central Bank makes a big move. How world markets are reacting after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates.

VAUSE: Also ahead, people crowded the streets of Baltimore, marching in protest to the judge's decision in the Freddie Gray death trial. You will hear from Gray's family up next.




SESAY: The streets of Baltimore, Maryland, are calm now. But earlier people marched in protest after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Officer William Porter.

VAUSE: Porter is one of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

CNN's Jean Casarez has the details.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT : For prosecutors, it was all about what Baltimore City Police Officer William Porter didn't do when it came to Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old died from wounds suffered while in police custody on April 12th.

[01:20:03] Prosecutors say it was callous indifference when Porter didn't call a medic after hearing Gray in the back of a police van say, "Help, I can't breathe. Help me up," and yes, when Porter asked if he needed a medic.

The case made national headlines after Gray's arrest was captured on camera. After his death, the city of Baltimore was under siege with protests taking over the streets. Porter is the first of six officers to go on trial in connection with Gray's death.

Prosecutors told the jury Gray's injuries were sustained after officers failed to secure him with a seat belt while transporting him to a police station. Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Allen testified that Gray broke his neck, describing his horrific injuries to the jury saying nothing held arteries to the brain in place. Gray wouldn't have been able to breathe, she testified. Allen also telling the jury if Gray had gotten medical care at that point when Porter spoke to him, she wouldn't have determined the death to be a homicide.

Forensic pathologist for the defense testified that Gray's injuries happened after Porter questioned him, and that his injuries were likely the result of an accident and accidents happen. Porter took the stand in his own defense, telling the jury he knew Gray from patrolling the streets of west Baltimore. They had a mutual respect, but every time Gray was arrested it was a big scene, and he thought this was like all the other times, Gray having a bit of jail-itis, trying to avoid a trip to central booking.

Porter testified he never saw any external injuries and after three days of deliberations the jury was unable to decide if he was guilty.

Jean Casarez, CNN, Baltimore.


VAUSE: One of the reasons why it is calm right now, because a number of hours ago the family of Freddie Gray came out and made this appeal for calm. And so we're not having a repeat of the scenes of the violence and the riots that hit Baltimore when Freddie Gray actually --

SESAY: Back in April. Yes.

VAUSE: Yes. Was killed.

OK. Well, markets around the world are ticking up after the U.S. Central Bank hiked its key interest rate.

SESAY: That's the first increase in nearly a decade and it's considered a sign of improvement in the U.S. economy. The head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, announced the move Wednesday morning.

While it's not a huge jump, just a quarter percentage point, we will see an impact. Richard Quest, host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," breaks it all down.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": It was the smallest of moves, but of course it's what it says about the U.S. economy and the future direction of the country's interest rates.

Janet Yellen made it clear, the committee felt the time was now right. Even though inflation is still well below the 2 percent target, unemployment has come down, growth is moderate, and even at elevated levels, well, interest rates are still historically low.

So to put this into perspective, the last time the Fed raised rates was nine years ago. They reduced them down to zero. And they have been there for seven years. Not surprisingly, as soon as the rate rise came out, even though it had been widely expected and telegraphed by the Fed, the market was somewhat perturbed.

Here you have to start of the day. Here you have the moment when the announcement was made. And you get a sell-off initially. The market still remains positive. But as the day goes on toward the close the markets, the DOW Jones closes up 224 points, a gain of nearly 1.3 percent.

Why such a strong result? Simple, because the Fed made it clear that the future increases in interest rates would be gradual.

Nobody's expecting a repeat of 2004 to 2006 when there were 17 interest rate rises in consecutive meetings. Instead, the best people are expecting maybe two or three interest rate rises next year.

Make no bones about it. Times have changed when it comes to increasing interest rates the Fed's making it clear it will be slow and possibly not even steady.

Richard Quest, CNN, New York.


SESAY: Well, here's how markets in the Asia-Pacific region are doing in the wake of the Fed's decision. And as you can see there on your screens, very healthy gains right across the region.

VAUSE: And with that in mind, let's go to our Asia-Pacific editor, Andrew Stevens, live this hour in Hong Kong.

You know, Andrew, there has been so much hand-wringing over this rate increase and the potential for tanking the U.S. economy. So as we talk, we're going to put up a list of everything else that was meant to tank the U.S. economy over the last year or so and has not. So with that in mind, the message now for the Fed, that the crisis is over, normalcy is returning. What impact could this rate increase, though, have now on China's economy, the world's second biggest economy?

[01:25:11] ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, if you take what Janet Yellen was saying, John, that the U.S. economy is back to normal after the horrendously near-death experience it had over the global financial crisis back in 2008, this is a great sign, not just for the U.S., but for the rest of the world because it's still the world's biggest economy. It's still going to be sucking in imports. A lot of those imports are going to be coming from countries like China, so at that level, it's a good sign for China.

The other side of this is that the dollar is strengthening, and has been strengthening. You said, you know, a lot of hand wringing, but the general move has been, there is going to be a rate rise at some stage. And in preparation for that, a lot of investors have been pulling their money out of the emerging markets, and putting it into the U.S., where they are expecting to get higher returns when those interest rates are triggered. That interest rate rise is triggered. So you've seen the dollar strengthen.

The same thing is happening in China. It's not as easy to get your money out of China and the exchange rate is controlled by the government. But the Chinese currency has been weakening as the Chinese have been getting their money out as well and sticking it into dollar assets. So that's pushing the currency of the Yuan down. That will have the effect of making exports a little bit cheaper as well. To an economy which is growing steadily and looks like it will continue to grow steadily, it's a pretty good deal, although some people worry that there could put a bit of pressure on people, companies that have dollar loans.

They've borrowed dollars when it was cheap to do that. They've got to pay those dollars back, it's going to be more expensive, John.

VAUSE: Winners, losers, it happens all the time. Andrew, thank you.

STEVENS: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: OK. Still to come here.

SESAY: From that circumspect.

VAUSE: Winners, losers. China is angry about --


SESAY: Why do you look at me?

VAUSE: A deal, an arms deal between Taiwan and the United States up next here. We're tell you what China is planning to do to punish the United States.


[01:30:37] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.


VAUSE: Beijing says it will impose sanctions on any company involved in the sale of almost $2 billion of ships and weapons by the United States to Taiwan. Beijing regards the self-governing island as a renegade province. It summoned the senior American diplomat in protest after the Obama administration formally notified Congress about the arms deal.

Matt Rivers live in Beijing with more on this.

Matt, what impact could the sanctions have on the companies involved and how will this weapons deal affect the already strained U.S.-China relations?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's unclear if the sanctions will have much of an impact if the sanctions are actually implemented in the future. Reuters has reported that the two main companies involved are defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. How big remains unclear. As for the relationship between the U.S. and China, it has been strained recently. You have issues surrounding cybersecurity. You have issues of China building artificial islands in the South China Sea. And so you can certainly add this issue to the list. That said, this is something that the U.S. and China has dealt with for a very long time now. The U.S. has sold arms to Taiwan for decades, despite Beijing's protests. And the rhetoric surrounding this latest arms deal is really calm on both sides. Beijing has accused the United States of breaking international law, and has talked about the sanctions. But the rhetoric out of Beijing compared to what we saw in the past doesn't indicate any rise of tensions between both sides.

VAUSE: Just finally, what are the nuts and bolts of this deal? What weapons are we talking about here?

RIVERS: John, these are defensive weapons for the most part. We're talking about technology from the U.S. That has been around for several decades now. The headliners of this deal, if you will, would decommission U.S. Navy frigates no longer in use by the use navy, as well as some stinger surface-to-air missiles, some amphibious assault vehicles and anti-tank missiles, all of which could be classified as defensive in nature. Certainly not the kind of technology you would use to go on the offense.

VAUSE: Matt, thank you. Matt Rivers live this hour in Beijing.

SESAY: Now, people are cleaning up across parts of New South Wales in Australia -- your neck of the woods --

VAUSE: Yeah.

SESAY: -- after severe storms tore through the suburbs of Sydney on Wednesday.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us with more on how bad this all was -- Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, it was a scary sight. You know, we were talking about a very densely populated area across the Sydney metro. Some of the video coming out of this region, it wasn't just the large hail or lightning strikes, we had wind speeds upwards of 200 kilometers per hour. The damage pretty significant across this region. Trees flattened as you would see. In fact, the tornado reported over this region, roofs peeled back across the area. Upwards of 500 emergency calls in a one-year hour period. 14 centimeters of rainfall came down across the greater Sydney region in just that period. In Cornell, a city right there in the southern suburb of Sydney, wind gusts of 213 kilometers per hour. Equivalent to a category 4 hurricane. That is how incredible this particular storm was, this tornado that spawned across this region. You think of tornadoes, it is certainly not uncommon. We get something on the order of 15 to 20 per year. They typically happen in the winter season and also in the summer season where we are right now, November through January so far in 2015, we've observed about nine tornadoes. Incredible sight to see that perspective with the storm. Temperatures as you would expect are beginning to heat up. Look at the trend here across this area. 25 degrees is the normal temperature, then 42 by Friday. Talk about a significant trend. Flip those numbers around, your high temperature drops below average on Saturday and another warming trend returns. Some of the warmest December temperatures we've seen across this portion of Australia. Melbourne much the same. John and Isha, a lot of wild weather taking place across portions of Australia in the recent days, from the winds to the temperatures -- Guys?

[01:36:10] VAUSE: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It's always hot in December, hot Christmas. Growing up, that's all I remember.

PEDRAM: You remember it well.


SESAY: Thank you, Pedram.


VAUSE: The U.S. and Cuba restoring some commercial flights between the two countries.

You should go.


SESAY: The two sides have made important progress. They haven't had scheduled flights between the U.S. and Cuba since the 1960s. American travelers can only fly to Cuba on charter flights.

VAUSE: Major League Baseball officials in the U.S. want to make it easier for Cuba ball players to immigrate. Ultimately, they'd like to negotiate with Cuba so the players can enter the U.S. legally without defecting.

SESAY: Right now, some of the star players who left Cuba illegally in the past have been given special permission to return. They're on a goodwill tour that lasts until Friday. Before it can become reality, the U.S. needs to lift the Cuban trade embargo, and the Obama administration would have to give special permission.

VAUSE: Still to come, the force is strong with the new "Star Wars" getting rave reviews as it premieres in theaters all around the world. What are the critics raving about?


[01:40:] VAUSE: Firing up the light sabers, don't upset the red carpet. Reviews could be out for this movie right now.


VAUSE: It was in Vegas.


SESAY: Fans finally get to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The premiere in London on Wednesday. Here's a look at what to expect in the latest edition from the classic franchise.


SESAY (voice-over): After a decade in theatrical slumber, "Star Wars" has reawakened.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It's reawakened.


SESAY: The popular movie franchise is back with its highly anticipated seventh installment, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Taking place 30 years after the defeat of the empire, a new threat emerges from the dark side.

ADAM DRIVER, ACTOR: He's very unfinished, I'd say. Not polished in a way that I think people are normally associating with "Star Wars" maybe. There's something familiar, at the same time kind of unsettled about him.

SESAY: It's a movie filled with firsts, the first to blend old and new casts.

HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: They're talented performers and they have a real wonderful opportunity here.

SESAY: Yes, space smuggler, Hans Solo, is back in action.


FORD: Never tell me the odds.


SESAY: Over the years, Harrison Ford has grumbled about the character. But this time around, he's voiced no regrets.

FORD: Part of it is that muscle memory. But you put on the clothes of the character, you remember the gait of the character, the swagger of the character. It comes back.

SESAY: Solo is joined by fan favorites Chewbacca, Princess Leia and Luke Sky Walker.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: "Star Wars" if my first film. I didn't know what I was doing. See the movie and I'll prove my point.

SESAY: It may be a newcomer, British actress, Daisy Ridley, who steals the galactic spotlight in her first feature film.

DAISY RIDLEY, ACTRESS: I'm incredibly proud and pleased to be part of this thing.

SESAY: Ridley's character, Rey, finds itself wielding light sabers and piloting the legendary Millennian Falcon just like the veterans.

RIDLEY: The energy between everyone was fantastic. Because Harrison and Martha were so excited to come back, that really influenced us all. We're like, oh, my gosh, this is really like a good thing.

SESAY: The ladies are making strides on multiple fronts. This is also the first "Star Wars" film featuring a female villain.

GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE, ACTRESS: On my first day, I had to sit in the car. I had to sit on my hands and stop myself from screaming. Because, you know, it's a film that I've loved that so many millions of people have loved. And the idea of you being in that film is mind blowing.

SESAY: Another fan of the franchise, J.J. Abrams, making his debut as director.

J.J. ABRAMS, DIRECTOR: There are moments where I think, what the hell was I thinking. I had to put my being a fan aside somewhat, because that wasn't the job. You know, I couldn't just be a cheerleader for this thing.

SESAY: For Disney, which acquired the Lucas film in 2012 for $4 billion, expectations are high for a show of force at the box office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want fans to love it. That's the most important, whether it's commercial or critically successful, that's not what it's about.

SESAY: Eager fans hoping to avoid spoilers are steering clear of social media ahead of the release. And we won't be giving away anything here.

(on camera): What's going to surprise viewers?

JOHN BOYEGA, ACTOR: What's going to surprise viewers, no longer make it a surprise.


ISHA (voice-over): One thing that won't surprise anyone, Disney is planning two more films, episode eight, blasting off in 2017.


SESAY: Matt Atchity, he's editor-in-chief of the movie review website,

Matt, you can see, I was trying to get something out of him. You have finally seen the film. You saw it actually at the premiere here in L.A. on Monday.

VAUSE: Before we talk, giving nothing away. No spoilers. No details about the movie. We just want to make sure.

SESAY: What did you think about the movie? Obviously, I also want to get a sense of watching in that atmosphere.

[01:45:06] MATT ATCHITY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ROTTENTOMATOES.COM: It's a great movie. It makes you completely forget the prequels. This is the movie we've been waiting 30 years for. This is really a lot of fun. Seeing it at the premiere with people who are that excited about it was something I'll never forget. That was really exciting.

VAUSE: We're talking about the reviews are in and the reviews are good. I want to read one here, "Deliriously inventive, imaginative filmmaking and captivating." Oh, that was the first one, which turned out to be awful. The point is, is everyone getting caught up in the hype? That we really want to love it and we're going to go -- even if it's awful, we're still going to love it?

SESAY: I've seen it, too, so you back me up here.

ATCHITY: It's very good. It's not perfect. It's got a couple of -- but it's a lot better than the prequels. Abrams has made a great film here. One of the things that I think really shows how good this movie is, is a movie like this, especially at a premiere, you'll see a lot of cheering when a character we all know and love shows up. And that happens in the premiere. That stopped very quickly, because people were so engaged with the film. This is a movie that starts with a bang, right off the bat, really active. The new cast here is amazing.

SESAY: Phenomenal.

ATCHITY: Phenomenal. John Boyega is really great. Daisy lights up the screen. Oscar Isaac really gets you into his character with minimal dialogue right off the bat. You feel like you really know that character. Adam Driver is great. I really like this movie.

VAUSE: Allow me to be the curmudgeon again.


VAUSE: One criticisms about J.J. Abrams and this movie is it's all prefabs. It's sort of all welded into kind of a formula.

ATCHITY: Well, I will say that that is somewhat of a fair criticism. It does hit a story similar to things we've seen before. In the way that "Jurassic World" did earlier this year. I think that that -- yes, if you want to get nitpicky, there are things to knock on this movie.

VAUSE: I do. I do.

ATCHITY: But ultimately, there's a lot more good here than bad. One of the things the prequels I think did terribly wrong is they take the magic away from the movies. The galactic Senate, and who cares, right?

VAUSE: I'm glad that didn't happen.

ATCHITY: This movie goes in the other direction and leaves a lot of mystery on the table. There's a lot of unanswered questions. Even by the end of the film. I think we're set up to see two more films, just with these characters. Not to mention the other film that we get at this time next year --


SESAY: Hans Solo?

ATCHITY: No, the rogue one story, which is set up into a new hope. The original "Star Wars," the story of the stealing of the death star. That's coming next year. I think we're in good shape here. I really like this movie.

SESAY: Quickly, Rotten Tomatoes score?

ATCHITY: 95 percent. One of the best reviews of the year.

SESAY: You are such a curmudgeon.

VAUSE: Thanks.

SESAY: Thank you, Matt.



VAUSE: You bet ya.


SESAY: Jimmy Fallon, host of the "Tonight Show," gave a tribute to the "Star Wars."

VAUSE: This is pretty cool. Joined by the roots and the stars of "The Force Awakens." Take a look.



(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Harrison Ford made an appearance there.

SESAY: That's brilliant. A little grown in there as well.

VAUSE: Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, on the debate stage, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump's face says it all, and then some.


[01:53:09] SESAY: Hello, everyone. Spanish police have detained a teenager for punching the prime minister during a campaign event.

VAUSE: Take a look at what happened. The prime minister was surrounded by a crowd when police say the teenager came up, pretending to want a photograph, and then punched him with his left fist.

SESAY: He was not seriously hurt, although, he did have a bruised face. It's not clear why he was attacked.

Now, last year's Republican presidential debate of the year had something you might have missed, or maybe you did pick up on the nonverbal cues.

VAUSE: Hard to miss it, actually.

CNN's Jeanne Moos reports, even when the Donald did not speak, his feelings were all over his face.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I swore I wouldn't do another "Faces of Trump" story, but here it is. The sequel, because who could resist this.

JEB BUSH, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He just gets his foreign policy experience from the shows.

MOOS: Cartoonists can't resist, nor can an expert on facial expressions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just blown away with how comfortable he was dismissing his rivals.

BUSH: But he's a chaos candidate.

MOOS: The "New Yorker" dubbed this one "a stretched Cheerio."

Tweeted one journalist, "Trump makes the kind of faces that would have gotten me sent to my room as a kid."

He even faced down the audience when booed.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Who -- I just can't imagine somebody booing. These are people that want to kill us, folks.

MOOS: The "Daily Show" tweeted, "Trump using debate to prove he hasn't had Botox." To which someone replied, "He clearly thinks with his lips."

But are Trump's faces premeditated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He undercuts his rivals. I think there's a sense it's premeditated. He's certainly camera savvy. On the other hand, what he is giving away in the face is very spontaneous, very pronounced.

MOOS (on camera): You're saying it's a premeditated but spontaneous expression?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Only the Donald could pull that off.

[01:55:08] MOOS (voice-over): One critic tweeted, "Trump should just get it over with and stick out your tongue and get moose antlers."

Guess what, the Donald sort of did. The tongue, not the moose antlers. Photographers caught him sticking out his tongue without apparent malice.

(on camera): Here's a fun little quiz. See if you can pick out the guy who wasn't actually on a debate stage.

BUSH: ISIS was not a --


TRUMP: Am I talking or are you talking, Jeb?


BUSH: I'm talking right now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You talking to me?

BUSH: I'm talking.

TRUMP: You can go back.

BUSH: I'm talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do you think you're talking to?

MOOS (voice-over): You're talking to the guy who talks with his face.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

BUSH: But he's a chaos candidate.

MOOS: -- New York.



SESAY: It was amazing. Like that. I don't think I've ever seen anyone at a Republican presidential debate call out the audience.

VAUSE: The one and only Donald Trump.

SESAY: Trash-talking the entire audience.

VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

SESAY: I'm John Vause.

The news continues with Rosemary Church right after this.


[02:00:12] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Protesters in the U.S. city of Baltimore are outraged.