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Iraqi Civilians Caught In Fight Against ISIS; Amir Hekmati Speaks After Release By Iran; El Universal: "El Chapo" Prison Boosts Security; China Posts Weakest Annual GDP Growth In 25 Years; Civilians Bearing Brunt of Iraq Violence; Examining ISIS Control Methods; US Military in South Korea; Campaign Trail Happenings; Controversy Over Oscar Nominations. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired January 19, 2016 - 15:00:00   ET




[15:01:33] HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani live at CNN London. Thanks for being with us this hour. This


We begin this evening in Iraq and the danger faced by its long suffering civilian population. A shocking new report lays bare the horrific impact

that the conflict there is having as Iraqi forces battle ISIS.

The United Nations says the number of people killed in the country -- of civilians killed in the country over a 21-month period is, quote,

"staggering." Have a look.


GORANI (voice-over): New video of Ramadi. An Iraqi city left decimated after more than a year of ISIS control and the fight to take it back. It's

scenes like these which bring the new U.N. report to life. The numbers speak for themselves.

Over the 22 months from the beginning of January 2014 to October 2015, nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq and over 36,000 wounded. The

U.N. says the violence suffered by civilians is, quote, "staggering."

RAVINA SHAMDASANI, UNHCR SPOKESPERSON: This only captures the people who were killed as a direct result of violence, as a result of suicide

bombings, of murders and executions by ISIL.

GORANI: Much of the carnage blamed on ISIS which continues to target civilians. This is just one of the several mass graves discovered in Iraq.

The U.N. documents atrocities which it says may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.

They include one instance in Mosul where Islamic fighters drove a bulldozer over people forced to lie in the street. And civilians who aren't killed

face the threat of abduction.

The U.N. says around 3,500 people, mainly women and children, are being kept as slaves by ISIS, primarily Yazidis. Just last week CNN spoke to

some Yazidi children who were abducted by ISIS and forced to be soldiers. Nuri, only 11 years old, was brutally beaten when he refused to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): They asked me to go to the mountain and I refused again, then they broke my leg. That saved me. The

other children were taken by force.

GORANI: This violence and terror has driven huge numbers from their homes. The U.N. says more than 3.2 million people became internally displaced over

the period, which includes over a million children of school age. While the new figures may be shocking, the U.N. says they are just the tip of the


SHAMDASANI: It does not include those people who have died as a result of malnutrition, a result of lack of access to medical care and the basic

facilities that they need.

GORANI: We may not learn the true scale of suffering for many more years to come.


GORANI: Suffering that started many, many years ago. Let's get more on the report, the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Arwa Damon joins me now live from Istanbul. So it is a very, very high number here of civilian deaths just over the last less than two years or


This is many, many years after the pull-out of U.S. troops, after the end of the U.S. occupation. It seems as though Iraq just cannot catch a break,

Iraqi civilians can't certainly.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely heartbreaking, Hala. When you speak to those Iraqis, who have stayed behind, they'll tell you about

how there was a small sense of optimism post the U.S. troop withdrawal when those numbers of casualties that still continue to happen on a daily basis

had been reduced.

But there are also a lot of concerns at the time that the U.S. was withdrawing prematurely that the Iraqi security forces were not adequately

prepared to be able to face the potential threat.

Sure enough, that's what ended up materializing. There was a massive security vacuum that was amplified by the then-Maliki government and its

pro-Shia approach to the way that it was handling not just the political field but also continuing to alienate the Sunnis.

[15:05:11]This then allowed for what was back then the Islamic State of Iraq to regroup growth, thrive then eventually become what is now the

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

For those Iraqis that managed to survive over a decade of violence, of warfare during the U.S.-led occupation, for them to have to now confront

this is beyond detrimental to them in terms of lives lost, in terms of what it is doing to their psyche, in terms of what it is doing to their ability

to move forward.

And their country, a country that right now most of them either can't access or effectively are under siege in areas that ISIS controls, people

cannot easily move in and out.

There actually is literally no way to escape ISIS unless you are willing to pay astronomical fees to smugglers which many cannot actually afford at

this stage.

GORANI: All right, Arwa Damon, our senior international correspondent in Istanbul, as some have said, if people wonder what Iraqis are fleeing, this

certainly gives a good snapshot for all of those Iraqis who end up on European shores as refugees and asylum seekers.

Let's get an Iraqi perspective on this report. I am joined on the phone by the former prime minister, the former vice president of Iraq, Ayad Allawi,

he's in Baghdad.

Let me ask you first. What do you think in your opinion should be done? Because if this is as a result of the fight against ISIS in Iraq, this

means that Iraqi civilians have many more months, perhaps years, of suffering ahead of them.

AYAD ALLAWI, FORMER IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (via telephone): Absolutely. What I believe and try to talk to everybody that really to achieve the

victory ultimately on ISIS is not going to be an armed victory. It had to be a political victory.

And the political victory really is by uniting the Iraqi people, by getting reconciliation moving ahead full speed, and by getting the Iraqis back to

their land.

I don't think that a military victory in one of the battles or two of the battles is going to bring about a solution for ISIS.

I think we need to change the whole environment to be an environment which is hostile to (inaudible) and depends on the imagery of the people, which

comes a reconciliation and departing the process of sectarianism, which is unfortunate in Iraq.

GORANI: Let me ask you, you were vice president under Nuri al-Maliki who was very much accused, and not just by those who were his opponents of

acting in too much of a sectarian way. Do you believe the new prime minister, you've been critical of him, but do you believe he's doing a

better job at being inclusive, at including the Sunnis in the political process in that country?

ALLAWI: No. It is unfortunate that we don't have an inclusive political process. Sunnis are spreading the utmost fear of the political environment

in the country. Sectarian people, oppressing people. Sectarianism is very ripe here. There is no process of reconciliation whatsoever.

GORANI: But it was worse under Nuri al-Maliki, don't you think? It was worse under Nuri al-Maliki. He was criticized by all sides?

ALLAWI: I don't want to compare Maliki with Abadi or Abadi with Maliki. The overall structure really we haven't seen in society. And

unfortunately, the government is not capable of facing to this.

That's why we don't have functional institutions of the state because all is ripe with sectarianism and sectarianism does not help in forming

institutions that are capable of rendering services to the Iraqi people and rendering security to the Iraqi people.

Regardless, I mean, what is happening now is an extension of what was coming ten years ago.

GORANI: Well, thank you very much, Ayad Allawi, the former vice president for joining us on the line from Baghdad with your thoughts on really a

shocking set of numbers that was published by the United Nations today. Thank you very much for your time this evening.

[15:10:01]Speaking of ISIS and the fight against ISIS, the fighters of the terrorist group are getting a big pay cut. According to a document leaked

from inside ISIS territory.

You'd be surprised to hear this. I certainly was. How much do those fighters make? According to the Congressional Research Service, ISIS

fighters earn between $400 and $1,200 a month, plus a $50 stipend for their wives and $25 per child.

Just last week, the U.S. military conducted air strikes on a building at Mosul. And this is some of the video. U.S. officials said the strike

destroyed currency worth millions.

We also know some of the oil fields that ISIS controls are being targeted as well and it appears as though -- at least according to that leaked

document, that it is starting perhaps to sting in terms of the finances of ISIS there.

Now to Iran, an American prisoner freed by Iran after more than four years behind bars says he feels born again. Former American Marine Amir Hekmati

spoke today for the first time since his release on Sunday. He was arrested in 2011 and later accused of espionage. Hekmati says he is

grateful to all of his supporters. Listen.


AMIK HEKMATI: I feel extremely lucky, alive for the first time in a long time, and very humbled at everybody's support, from the president, to

Congress, to my fellow Marines, and especially my family who have really gone through so much throughout this time.


GORANI: Hekmati was one of four Americans released in a prisoner swap with Iran. He's now receiving medical care at a U.S. base in Germany. That's

where we find our Phil Black. What happens next for Amir Hekmati, Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, when he feels ready, when the doctors here at this facility think that he's ready, he gets to go home.

Perhaps in the coming days.

That's the process for all three of the men who are being assessed here, not just physically but emotionally as well. That's why there was that

initial delay in Hekmati and Jason Rezaian being allowed to see their families.

The doctors needed to be sure that they were up for it, that they wouldn't be overwhelmed. Clearly Hekmati seems to be in pretty good shape, doing

well. A little confused, if you like.

He said it was all very surreal. This very much took him by surprise. He wasn't expecting this. He talked about being born again and so forth.

But until very recently he said he had come to terms with the fact that he would be spending at least ten years in an Iranian prison. So when his

Iranian captors first came to him and said pack your bags, he said he didn't believe them -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, so did he describe the conditions that he was living under in detention? I mean, what more have we learned from him today about

what he actually endured all those years since 2011?

BLACK: Well, he was asked how bad it was and he replied with something of an understatement saying, along the lines of, well, it wasn't good. He

didn't go into any sort of detail there, but he did say that he wanted to say more about that in the future.

He talked at one point about the conditions being inhumane and being placed under a great deal of pressure. He said the thing that helped him get

through all of that was the support that he was hearing about.

Word did get through to him of the efforts to secure his freedom. That made a difference. And as did his Marine training, he said, his desire not

to let down his fellow Marines or the reputation of the Marine Corps.

GORANI: Phil Black live in Germany with the latest on that story, thanks very much. A lot more to come this evening.

How do you keep a drug kingpin with a history of prison escapes clearly behind bars? Is the extreme measures prison officials are using to keep

"El Chapo" locked up this time?

Also ahead --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's torture for a woman there like you can't even breathe.


GORANI: One woman's firsthand account of life with ISIS and the challenges of returning to a suspicious western society. A CNN exclusive later this




GORANI: He's escaped from prison twice before. Now Mexican officials are taking no chances, they say. Boosting security to keep "El Chapo" Guzman

behind bars. One newspaper, "El Universal" is reporting that "El Chapo" is guarded at all times by dogs trained to recognize his smell.

The drug lord is being moved from cell to cell randomly and the prison's floors have been reinforced. You'll remember "El Chapo's" last escape

involved some digging. It was via a tunnel beneath his cell.

Those are just a few of the new measures put in place by Mexican officials who are keen to avoid another embarrassing escape. Let's get more now from

CNN's Rafael Romo.

Now the last time he escaped, Rafael, it was believed that he must have had, of course, some sort of help, you know, from people who had access,

who were perhaps even on the inside.

In this particular case, how are officials going to avoid any communication between "El Chapo" and anyone who can help him, you know, become free


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, that's an excellent point, Hala, because last time around, back in July of last year,

he either bribed or coerced dozens of prison guards.

And so people are asking, what's preventing him from doing this again? Apparently Mexican officials are taking every step they can to ensure that

he remains behind bars.

You were describing a moment ago how he is being moved from cell to cell and the details of that are extraordinary, Hala. For example, there are

about 30 different cells that he's being taken to and the time in between movements is also something that doesn't really follow a pattern.

For example, he can be moved within a few minutes, or there can be several hours between movements. Also, you were describing about how he is being

surrounded by sensors.

Authorities are also saying that they have reinforced the concrete floors with -- listen to this -- three-quarter inch steel rods. As you remember,

last time, "El Chapo's" people were able to build a tunnel and that's how he was able to escape.

So this time around, they're trying to do everything they can to ensure that he doesn't escape again -- Hala.

GORANI: Well, I think that with all that in place, if he does, there is absolutely no way he did it without major help. Let's talk about Kate Del

Castillo, that actress that we know "El Chapo" exchanged text messages with and that the interview with Sean Penn was organized through her. Officials

are looking closer at this relationship. What more are we learning?

ROMO: A source with the Mexican government is telling me today, Hala, that the Mexican Attorney General's Office is investigating the possibility that

this actress, Kate Del Castillo, might have received funding for his tequila business in the United States.

If that is the case, we would be talking about the possibility that she was acting in a capacity where she would have been able to launder money for

the Sinaloa cartel which is, as you can imagine, Hala, a very, very big offense.

Now she has been called in to testify in the case and she lives in Los Angeles. So this source with the Mexican government was telling me that

short of going to Mexico, she could go to the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles to testify in this case.

[15:20:09]But there is the possibility that she may also be in some serious legal trouble -- Hala.

GORANI: OK, Rafael Romo, with the very latest on the "El Chapo" saga. Thanks very much.

The world's most powerful and political business leaders are meeting in Davos this week. Our Richard Quest joins us live to look at concerns over

low oil prices.

Also, Chinese growth, everybody's kind of a little bit worried about that.

Also ahead, red carpet controversy, why some high-profile stars say they will be boycotting this year's Oscars.


GORANI: Let's take a look at the Dow Jones for you. There is no rebound for the Dow Jones. The graph reveals that the main index in New York was

up for most of the session, and then dipped back down. Let's take a Europe. It was also an up day.

Now there are concerns about China, lower oil prices, all these are issues for investors. China has posted its weakest annual economic growth in a

quarter century.

The government says GDP grew by 6.9 percent last year, roughly meeting their 7 percent target. In the last quarter of 2015, they are reporting a

6.8 percent growth compared with the same period last year.

There are doubts though about the accuracy of the numbers. One economist actually puts growth in the fourth quarter of 2015 around 4.5 percent but


CNN's Andrew Stevens spoke with the chairman of Wanda Group, asking if he thinks there is going to be a hard economic landing for China.


WANG JIANLIN, CHAIRMAN, DALIAN WANDA GROUP (through translator): Absolutely not. Absolutely not, I stress. The main reason is there is

vast demand for the services industry in china. It's true that there are difficulties in the investment and export sectors, maybe the zero growth or

even negative growth, but the service industry in China has great demands.


GORANI: That is China's richest man who has opinions that people listen to when he expresses them about economic growth. So, Richard Quest joins me

now live from Davos with more.

So, Richard, we're close to the target, right,7 percent. It's not like all of a sudden China reported 4.5 percent growth annualized in the fourth

quarter. Why is there so much nervousness here about growth in that country?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Because, two reasons, Hala. Firstly, the transparency question. Do the numbers reflect what's

really happening? Are they a true representation of the underlying economy?

And secondly, the vast nature of the transformation that China is currently undergoing from an investment-led government industry-led economy to a more

demand consumer-led economy. It is going to be slow, it is going to be painful.

The analogy of turning the oil tank around is a good one at the moment, particularly with oil being in the news. And put all that together -- and

remember, remember, Hala, China has been the engine of demand growth for the rest of the world.

[15:25:02]China has been exporting out to the rest of the world. It's been growing fast, dragging everybody along with them. China slows down,

everyone slows with it.

GORANI: OK. But the question is going to be going forward for European western economies is, if they have to rely on China for economic growth, at

some point you have to kind of reboot the economic engine in western economies as well. Where is that going to come from, if not from China?

QUEST: And that's exactly one of the issues that's going to be talked about here, the slow growth in Europe, picking up but still pathetically

slow. Maybe 2 percent, if we're lucky, in the United States.

There are an enormous number of "what ifs" at Davos, which is why this year we have the CNN worry wall. Now that means you're not worried at all.

This means you're extremely worried.

We already have two people who have gone 10-plus that they are so worried about the way this year is going to go.

GORANI: OK, so who are these two people and why are they in the ten-plus range of that graph? I like it that it is a nice home-made graph. I like

that you've gone sort of organic and handmade.

QUEST: These are austerity times, Ms. Gorani. Charles Schwab says social integration is his biggest worry. That is Philip Jennings of the Global

Trade Union and his worry is about jobs and robots taking millions of jobs in the long run.

The important thing about this is overall -- by the way, viewers can have their own go at this, #worrywall. Just sent me a tweet to @richardquest

#worrywall and we will sort of include you somewhere before the end of the week.

GORANI: OK, well, keep checking out the graph to see how it evolves. Thanks very much, Richard. We'll see you at the top of the hour on "QUEST

MEANS BUSINESS" #worrywall.

Still to come this evening, an interview you will only see on CNN with a woman who was first drawn to ISIS and then driven away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When I got back to France, I was considered as a girl who tortured people. Like a monster who came back

pretending to be a victim. I didn't hurt anybody there. The only person I hurt was myself.


GORANI: Find out how she is working to reintegrate into French society after fleeing the caliphate.



GORANI: Welcome back. A quick look at our top stories. A new U.N. report shows civilians are bearing the brunt of violence in Iraq.


GORANI: It says almost 19,000 civilians have been killed in the past few years. Much of the violence perpetrated by the extremist group ISIS,

although the report also documents alleged abuses by security forces and groups fighting against ISIS.


GORANI: Also among our top stories, an American prisoner freed by Iran after more than four years behind bars says he feels born again.


GORANI: Former U.S. marine Amir Hekmati spoke today for the first time since his release on Sunday. He was arrested in 2011 and later accused of



GORANI: The Chinese government has posted its slowest annual growth in a quarter century.


GORANI: The government says GDP expanded by 6.9% last year. The last quarter of 2015 they reported a 6.8% annualized growth compared with the

same period one year earlier.


GORANI: The White House says it is pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to review President Obama's executive actions on immigration.


GORANI: Those actions would protect up to 5 million immigrants from deportation and make them eligible for work. They have been in limbo for a

year since the President unveiled the plan.



GORANI: Let's return to our top story now. The staggering report into the suffering of civilians in Iraq. According to the United Nations more than

3,000 people have been enslaved by ISIS in that country. Many have traveled to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria only to find out that the reality there was

not what they expected. Atika Shubert got exclusive access to a woman who was imprisoned by ISIS, she says, but had a lucky escape.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: (Hanan) was lured to ISIS territory in Syria with pictures like these, promises of an Islamic

caliphate that was, in her words, a paradise without racism or greed, guided purely by Islamic principles. Instead she says she was imprisoned,

beaten and accused of being a spy after refusing to marry an ISIS fighter.

(HANAN): As translated: I cannot understand. These girls were supposed to be my sisters. They said they loved me. They said I was smart and important

to them. They'd invited me to their house. We ate together. We were doing everything together. I never did anything wrong to them. But they wanted me

dead because I refused to get married.

SHUBERT: (Hanan) was lucky. An ISIS court ruled there were not enough witnesses to convict her, she says. She managed to convince her jailer to

let her go. She spoke to us on condition we do not reveal her face. She's now in France under police observation.

(HANAN): As translated: When I got back to France I was considered as a girl who tortured people. Like a monster who came back pretending to be a

victim. I didn't hurt anybody there. The only person I hurt was myself.

SHUBERT: (Inaudible) is the woman spearheading France's De-radicalization program also (Hanan's) counselor.

[Speaking foreign language]

SHUBERT: Muslim and outspoken, (Bouzair) she says she understands victims like (Hanan) because she was victim of an abusive relationship herself.

DOUNIA BOUZAR, HEAD OF DERADICALIZATION PROGRAM: (As translated) The fact is I went through a moment of my life when I didn't feel like myself, when

I was dominated, when I thought everything was over. I think that's now a strength that shows that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. There is

a future. I tell those parents that their children are going to make their way through this difficult moment. Your child will save others. I'm sure

that their experience will help France in the fight against terror.

SHUBERT: Bouzar says the testimonies of attorneys like (Hanan) are critical to turning recruits away from ISIS but her work has also made her the

target of ISIS death threats. She travels with at least two body guards.


BOUZAR: (As translated) We are caught in a human chain and we become a wave crushing against these ISIS words. We will win because we love death more

than you love life. We are constantly trying to prove that we will win because life is stronger than death. We get sucked in to it. We need

protection such as body guards so that we don't forget that there's still the danger out there.

SHUBERT: That is something (Hanan) cannot forget. For those people who want to come back and feel like they won't be accepted back into society, what

have you learned from the process and from speaking with her?

(HANAN) (As translated): I always think of these girls. I'm angry at myself because I could get out but I left them over there. Sometimes I think I

should have stayed to plan a better escape and leave with other people who wanted to leave Syria. I know there are some girls who want to come back

but they just can't. It is torture for a woman there, like you can't even breathe.

SHUBERT: (Hanan) says she now knows that paradise she was looking for exists only as ISIS propaganda a catastrophic mistake she's hoping that

Bouzar can help to slowly undone.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Paris.


GORANI: There is still no word on the fate of some 400 civilians reported abducted by ISIS in Syria over the weekend.


GORANI: The Syrian observatory for human rights says they were taken during fighting in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. The monitors say they include

families of pro-regime fighters and there are fears that they may have been executed. ISIS now mounting a major assault on Deir Ezzor in Syria.


GORANI: We're going to have a lot of what we've covered on the program today on our facebook page. Go to for that.

Earlier this month, North Korea claimed it had successful tested a hydrogen bomb. Defense experts though were skeptical that it was hydrogen. But as

Pyongyang's nuclear ambition rises, the U.S. Is not taking any chances. Paula Hancocks gives us an exclusive look inside an American unit stationed

near South Korea's border with the North, take a look.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: North Korea marches closer to realizing its nuclear ambitions; its recent nuclear test worrying the world. Just

across the DMZ in South Korea, U.S. troops are on high alert. The 23rd chemical battalion is the first line of defense against chemical,

biological or nuclear attack. Their mission today, to clear an underground facility used to store nuclear weapons. The scenario is staged but the

threat is very real.

The beauty of being able to train underground for this battalion is it is far more realistic. North Korea's nuclear and chemical facilities are

expected to be deep underground so that they're out of sight of satellites and drones. This is the largest chemical battalion in the whole of the U.S.

military based where the threat is greatest. The troops discover yellow cake or uranium, a substance North Korea is believed to possess.

LT COLONEL ADAM W. HILBURG, COMMANDER U.S. 23rd CHEMICAL BATTALION: We take into account the news, intelligence to tailor or training to ensure we

are ready for anything that they could possibly have or use on the battlefield.

HANCOCKS: For this battalion to be on the ground in Korea is vital ready to move at any moment and familiar with the territory.

SERGEANT CAMERON ARMSTRONG, U.S. 23rd CHEMICAL BATTALION: Going into North Korea, it's fairly likely that the mountainous terrain will provide caves

and underground facilities for them to be utilizing as weapons facilities.

HANCOCKS: The unit has modified strikers that can operate ahead of the front line to detect radiation or chemical agents. Field labs can be set up

wherever need. Testing samples that create a chain of custody that can then be used as evidence in the international criminal court. The unit's motto

is "ready to fight tonight." The U.S. military's answer to the unpredictable threat North of the border.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, South Korea.


GORANI: This is "The World Right Now." Still ahead .


GORANI: Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee take a stand against the lack of diversity among this year's Oscar nominees. I'll speak to a prominent

African-American film critic about what the academy can and should do and whether or not he agrees with the boycott.

And Donald Trump is boasting of a "big endorsement" in his bid to become President. We'll discuss who that person might be live from Iowa.






GORANI: Next month they will be rolling out the red carpet for this year's set of Oscar nominees but there won't be a black actor or actress among the

nominees for the acting category. The academy's president has spoken out saying she's heartbroken over the lack of inclusion. Now some big names say

they will boycott Hollywood's biggest night. Here's Jeremy Roth.


JADA PINKETT-SMITH, ACTRESS: Let's let the academy do this with all grace and love and let's do us differently.

JEREMY ROTH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a video posted to Facebook, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith says she's boycotting the academy

awards and won't be watching from home either. She made the dramatic announcement in the wake of a growing controversy over the lack of

diversity among this year's Oscar nominees.

PINKETT-SMITH: Begging for acknowledgement or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people.

ROTH: Her husband, Will Smith, is one of the actors of color who did not get nominated this year despite critical acclaim for his performance in

"Concussion." Pinkett-Smith says it is now time to re-evaluate things.

PINKETT-SMITH: Maybe it is time we pull back out our resources and put them back into our communities, into our programs.

ROTH: Pinkett-Smith is not alone in her frustration. On social media, many have vented over the lack of Oscar diversity. For the second straight year

the #oscarssowhite has been trending online.

Spike Lee meanwhile says he's boycotting the ceremony as well. In a post on social media the director asks, "how is it possible for the second

consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?" Both stars said they wished their friends involved in the Oscars production

the best and Pinkett-Smith praised Chris Rock who will be hosting the show next month.

I'm Jeremy Roth reporting.


GORANI: The #oscarssowhite has been trending since nominations were announced. This is the second year in a row. But not all African-American

actors are on board with the boycott.


GORANI: Janet Hubert, one of Will Smith's co-stars on the T.V. series "Fresh Prince of Belaire" is one of them. Hubert played aunt Vivian on the

hit show. Now she's slamming Pinkett-Smith's Oscar boycott saying it is more personal than political. Listen.

JANET HUBERT, FORMER "FRESH PRINCE" ACTRESS: I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living, made their living and made millions and millions

of dollars from the very people that she's talking about boycotting just because you didn't get nomination? Just because you didn't win? That is not

the way life works, baby.


GORANI: So how should the academy respond? Let's bring in Gill Robertson, he's the co-founder and President of the African-American Film Critics

Association. He's in Los Angeles.

Gill, thanks for being with us. First of all, what do you think of the boycott? We have not just Jada Pinkett-Smith but also Spike Lee.


frustrated at the lack of diversity and inclusion in cinema, and I think this is just a way that they're expressing it right now.


ROBERTSON: I think after the dust settles, that calmer heads will prevail and hopefully it will lead to some dialogue that will trigger a real change

in the racial composition of the motion picture academy.


GORANI: Well because I want to tell our viewers who might be surprised to learn that academy members are 93% white, 77% male, 2% black, 2% Hispanic.

So females also have had complaints over the last several decades that female directors, for instance, are very rarely recognized, et cetera.


GORANI: Of course you have a female best actress category so you aren't going to name a male there. But as far as African-Americans, is this the

solution here? Not just African-Americans, Hispanics as well. Is the solution to just diversify academy members? And if so, how do you do that?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. I'm glad that you say that. It is certainly not a black-white thing. It's really about diversity and inclusion and it is

about making sure that the academy's membership make-up is a reflection of the world that goes and sees their films. And I know that under the

leadership of Cheryl Boone Isaac that the academy is moving forward to make sure that the academy is reflective of the new realities of today. I mean

it's frustrating that it didn't happen this year. But certainly it will happen soon.

GORANI: But do you think there were performances that were overlooked? Essentially, do you think because of the composition of the motion picture

academy that some great performances by black and Hispanic and minority actors were overlooked that should have been nominated?

ROBERTSON: Well, you know it's a subjective choice. I mean Jake Gyllenhaal for example was excellent in Southpaw and he failed to receive a nomination

as well. So there are only five categories and you know five slots for nominees for best in the talent categories. And so you know a lot of people

didn't get into the party. Not just African-Americans, but Asians, Hispanics. So you know it's an issue.


ROBERTSON: It is certainly cause for concern, but i think that we should work with the academy and you know, turn this thing around.

GORANI: Let me you're one of the -- I'm sure you are aware of what Viola Davis said at the Emmys this year. She said essentially you can't win an

award for a role that simply isn't there. In other words, you can be good, you can be one of the best actors of your generation, but if you're not

going to get offered a role that's going to allow you to express yourself in that way, and recognized in that way, you're kind of doomed from the

outset. Do you agree with that?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. It's all about opportunity. And I - you know I'm extending the opportunity to those folks who may be disgruntled to come to

the show that the African-American film critics association produces annually called the AFCA Awards.


ROBERTSON: Speaking to Jada's point about wanting to put our resources and support into organizations. As far as the Oscars are concerned, I feel very

confident that this situation will get control of itself and that it will certainly you know, work out for everyone concerned. We're certainly giving

Chris Rock a lot of ammunition to entertain us with.

GORANI: Yes. Well, Chris Rock already tweeted -- now he's going to host the Oscars obviously. He's obviously hilarious. And he called is the white



GORANI: This is CNN International so some of our international viewers might not get that. B.E.T. Is basically the B.E.T. awards from Black

Entertainment Television on cable in the United States which is very funny. I Don't know if you saw in a "New Yorker" cartoon. You saw a studio

executive behind a desk and a man pitching him a movie -- a biopic on Martin Luther King and the studio executive says I'm going to green light

this project but I think we need a white actor in the lead role.


GORANI: I mean these things are funny because there is a kernel of truth there in the stereotypes some of the lack of opportunities for black and

minority actors.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. I mean a lot of people who are in positions of power, a lot of the people who make up the majority of the academy

membership are from another era. And their sensibilities and their attitudes reflect that. I think that as we move forward into this new

millennial, that we will begin to see a reflection that is - that we'll begin to see films and the academy we'll be able -- we'll see a shift in

the current composition that reflects the changing complexion of the American population.

GORANI: I want to just one last thing tell our viewers, again we learned a lot here researching this. How many black actors have won Oscars. Only one

black woman has won an Oscar for a main - for a leading role, that's Halle Barry.


GORANI: For men. So you have the names there, Sidney Poirtier, Louis Gossett, Jr., Denzel Washington, et cetera. In total, 14 African-American

actors have won a best actor, a best supporting actor Oscar. In all the decades that the Oscars have been around. I think perhaps if you're

African-American and you can fill me in on this, you look at those statistics and you think, there's many good roles must have been overlooked




ROBERTSON: But again, certainly it could be better. Certainly a lot of excellent performances have been not rewarded by the academy. But so have

the same thing could be said for white actors. And so we've got to be very careful not to you know, I mean these people have worked hard and have

exhibited excellence in their work so we've got to celebrate those people who've - who've been nominated and hope that in -- for future generations

that things will be different.

GORANI: All right, well, certainly this has forced the conversation. Not just the national conversation, an international one. Gill Robertson,

thanks very much for joining us from Los Angeles with your thoughts on this story today. We appreciate it.

ROBERTSON: Thank you for the opportunity.

GORANI: A lot more coming up after the break. Thank you Gill.


GORANI: Donald Trump says he has a very special guest at his rally in Iowa today. It could be one that's no stranger to presidential politics. There's

a hint for you. We'll be right back.






GORANI: U.S. Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump says he's expecting a "big endorsement" today but he is not saying who is going to

throw support behind his candidacy.


GORANI: There is speculation, however, that it is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin. She was John

McCain's running mate in '08. A spokesman for Ted Cruz called Palin a champion for the conservative cause, but that he would be deeply

disappointed if she supported Trump. M.J. Lee is in Altoona, Iowa and has more on the expected endorsement.


GORANI: So how close are we to finding out who this new endorsement will be coming from?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, so far the Trump campaign is staying very tight-lipped about who this big secret guest is going to be at his

next campaign event.


M.J. LEE: Trump was actually asked earlier today who is this big guest? Is it Sarah Palin? Listen to what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a big fan of Sarah Palin, yes. That I will say. I am a big fan of Sarah Palin, but I'm not

saying who it is.

LEE: So again, this continues to be the big speculation that the endorsement will come from Sarah Palin. And if that were the case, I want

to tell you it will be a big deal even though Sarah Palin has not been the vice presidential nominee obviously for seven years now and her clout maybe

has diminished a little bit within the Republican party circles.

Still she is a big political icon on the right. It would be a big symbolic get for Donald Trump especially among conservatives in a state like Iowa

for voters who are you know at this point undecided or have some reservations about whether Donald Trump is conservative enough. I think for

many of them seeing that Sarah Palin is endorsing Trump and backing him fully will actually make a difference.

GORANI: All right, I was going to ask you if it would be a help or a liability for Donald Trump.


GORANI: Let me read to you M.J. a tweet sent by Ted Cruz OK, just a few minutes ago, I think.


GORANI: "I love Sarah Palin USA. Without her support, I wouldn't be in the senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan."

So I wonder what message Ted Cruz is trying to send there MJ?



LEE: Well, remember that Sarah Palin did endorse Ted Cruz in his previous senate bid. She has said nice things about him in the past.


LEE: So there were some questions and speculation about whether Palin may eventually end up endorsing Ted Cruz. So if it is in fact true that she is

choosing to go with Trump instead, that's not great news for Ted Cruz. He certainly would have wanted the highly public and you know this endorsement

that is a good get for any Republican candidate to get.


LEE: And this comes at a time when we are just two weeks away from the Iowa caucuses. Cruz and Trump are really going at each other. And at this point

in the game you know little things like this matter when voters are still deciding you know perhaps between Trump and Cruz. I think hearing something

like this, seeing Sarah Palin endorsing Trump on the television, on the evening news, this is the kind of thing that matters and it is really

crunch time right now in Iowa.

GORANI: All right. Well they both have experience in reality T.V. so perhaps there is some kinship there on that level.

Thanks very much M.J. Lee in Iowa just a couple of weeks away from the Iowa caucuses.

To end this program, another sad story from the music world.


GORANI: Fans around the globe are mourning the loss of a rock legend. Glenn Frye, a founding member of the rock band the Eagles has died at 67. A

statement from the band says Frye died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and pneumonia. He and Don Henley co-wrote the Eagles

biggest hits including "Hotel California," and "Desperado."


GORANI: Henley said "crossing plans with Frye in 1970 changed my life forever."


This has been "The World Right Now." I'm Hala Gorani. "Quest Means Business" is next.