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Dubai Passenger Plane Crashes In Russia, 62 Killed; Paris Terror Suspect Captured In Belgium; Trump Questions Mitt Romney's Faith; "Religious Liberty" Bill Passes In Georgia; Ted Cruz Calls Major Fundraisers to Las Vegas; Obama Visits Cuba; The Dangerous Road to Aleppo. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 19, 2016 - 08:00   ET


ANDY SCHOLES, SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: -- I'm already considered out. Look at me. Michigan State winning it all. Not happening so I'm done. Actually, you guys are still in the hunt, actually, because you did have Michigan State winning it all.


SCHOLES: It can get better for you guys, I'm done.

BLACKWELL: We'll take a closer look later this morning. Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Andy. And there is so much to talk to you about this morning.

BLACKWELL: Next hour starts now.

PAUL: Good morning. So grateful for your company, as always. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Two breaking news stories this morning. Let's go first to Southern Russia where 62 people have been killed while a plane crashed while trying to land. We got pictures of debris from across the runway. You see it spread out there. New video in.

FlyDubai, that's the airline, Dubai-based airline. Says there was no distress call, but the plane had been circling that airport for quite some time because of bad weather.

PAUL: Next to Brussels where Belgium's prime minister says they will expedite the sole surviving Paris attack suspect to France as soon as possible. Salah Abdeslam and four other people were captured.

Take a look at these pictures from the dramatic raid in Belgium yesterday. An intense manhunt that started after the November terror attacks in Paris. That manhunt really had been going on for about four months.

CNN is covering these stories from all angles. CNN senior international correspondents, Matthew Chance in Moscow and Fred Pleitgen in Brussels. We're also joined by CNN contributor and co- author of "ISIS Inside the Army of Terror," Michael Weiss, and CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Gilliam.

BLACKWELL: Let's start with Matthew. I want to know this fight plan we are seeing from FlyDubai, this plane. We have pictures or video. Pretty erratic before it landed. What can we deduce from what we're seeing here? What information could it provide to investigators?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's pretty extraordinary looking at the flight radar pictures and we've been there being in a holding pattern above an airport as you're trying to land. Sometimes bad weather and sometimes air traffic.

They were there for two hours, which is extraordinary circling around in very stormy conditions before the pilot decided to go in an attempt to second landing. He already tried one landing which didn't work. They had to abort because of the high winds, wind sheer, the poor visibility, the heavy snow and rain.

So they circled for two hours and then tried again. So it raises all sorts of questions. Of course, the second attempt ended so fatally. It raises questions about why for instance, the crew didn't divert to another airport. Other airplanes did.

There was a flight coming in from another location that had the same problem, it diverted to a city very close by, about 140 miles away, in fact, which is nothing by air. Landed safely.

And so that's one of the questions, not every question but it's one of the questions that's going to be asked as investigators examine the flight recorders, which now have been recovered in good condition apparently and look at what it was, exactly.

Was it the weather? Was it pilot error? Was it technical failure associated with the weather that brought this Boeing 737, very modern aircraft, brought it down with that loss of life?

BLACKWELL: Of course, people who have been following all these airline tragedies over the last 24 months know that those two boxes, the flight data recorder, the voice recorder will provide answers to many of those questions. Matthew chance reporting from Moscow, thank you so much.

PAUL: I want to go now to Fred Pleitgen in Brussels. Fred, Belgium, we know is going to keep its terror level threat three for the time being. Belgium's prime minister saying the fight against terrorism isn't over yet.

And we know that this neighborhood in Molenbeek has been on authority's radars for quite some time. What do we know about how expansive the terror cell is in that area and what is next in the investigation process?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to give you an indication of what the authorities feel how expansive that cell could be, they've had more than 100 raids since the four months of the Paris attacks. They've had several people who were taken into custody and of course, a lot of those raids in the past four months, Christi, were focused on trying to find Salah Abdeslam. One of the things that the authorities have said is that they believe this is a big blow to ISIS that he was caught.

But as you said, they also say that fight against terrorism in Belgium, in France and indeed in most of Europe still continues. Nevertheless, this of course is a big success to them.

What is going on right now is that Salah Abdeslam is in a police station here in Brussels. He's being questioned by detectives. He's also going to be questioned by a judge, as well, and that judge is going to decide whether or not he's going to remain in detention.

And by all accounts, of course, he will remain in detention because he was Europe's most wanted man and because he is at the center of Europe's largest anti-terror investigation that remains ongoing.

What the authorities want to find out now, first of all, going back to the Paris attacks is, what were the logistics behind the Paris attacks, what went into that?

[08:05:06]What sort of planning took place before hand? They want to know more details about what took place, but then of course back to your question, how many people were involved? Who was involved?

Where are their potential cells in this neighborhood, maybe in other places in Belgium or even in other places in Belgium or even in other countries in Europe where other things might still be plotted?

One of the things that the French have said is that as this investigation went on since November 13th, since the Paris attacks took place, they were surprised to see how many people were actually involved.

How big this web was and of course, they hope Salah Abdeslam being the sole survivor of the Paris attacks, the original attackers, they hope he can provide some information.

PAUL: All right, Fred Pleitgen, stay with us here. I want to bring in CNN contributor and co-author of "ISIS Inside the Army of Terror," Michael Weiss, and CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Gilliam.

Michael, I want to start with you. In light of this capture, do you believe that ISIS may already be modifying its strategies? How nervous do you think they might be?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think they are probably a little bit nervous. The Paris attacks, unlike some of these other ISIS- inspired attacks we've seen throughout the world were known in advance to the sure counsel of ISIS.

I know that for a fact. They will have known the identities of the Paris attackers. You'll recall not long after November 13th, ISIS' propaganda apparatus put out an issue of Davic (ph), which essentially a teaser for the fourth coming movie that they were going to take credit for and celebrate the martyrdom of the nine attackers who were killed.

Noticeably and conspicuously absent from the video was Salah Abdeslam and there was a lot of speculation at the time as to what happened. He was wearing a suicide vest. He took it off. Threw it in the trash. Did he chicken out going through part of his operation?

Was he given some kind of instruction to abort and lie and wait to perpetrate a knock on attack or there had been reports at the time that he might have actually been gay and seen in a gay district of Brussels going to bars and chatting up other men.

Whether or not that was true or perhaps a clever gambit to try and keep him in Europe because obviously, he wouldn't go back to Syria or the caliphate if he was outed as a homosexual. We don't know.

One thing this does prove, though, I mean, he was seen and his fingerprints, DNA was recovered from at least three different locations within maybe a two-mile radius of Central Brussels in the last several months.

He was domicile just recently where they caught him with two senior European ISIS operatives including the man coordinating the Paris attacks in real time by a phone and Salah Abdeslam was armed with a Kalashnikov and he was fighting back.

So he wasn't captive of ISIS. It was not like they were holding him for fear of the information that he might disclose to the west. He was actually still an operative.

And now the question is, if they interrogate him, which obviously they will do, what is he going to give up? Will he actually disclose intelligence or just kind of go silent?

PAUL: That's what I wanted to ask. This guy could have died in Paris. We know he left behind a suicide belt that they found. He could have died in that apartment in the shootout. He didn't blow himself up. He didn't die for jihad.

So the question is, did he even want to die? Is this someone that wants to be alive and if that is the case, Jonathan, how much might he reveal in interrogations?

JONATHAN GILLIAM, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I would hope it's the fact that he didn't want to die because that's somebody who has a will to live and once he gets in with trained investigators that know how to interrogate and interview, they will be able to work his emotions and his will to live in order to get the information.

And if you're a skilled investigator, you know, it doesn't take -- you know, we always hear about techniques like water boarding and things like that, but you can do a lot by being really nice to somebody. You would be very surprised.

When they are in an emotional state. He's been shot. You can get quite a bit of information out of somebody. I just think it's fascinating that this one particular area in Brussels, it's so centrally located to all these hard targets, all across Europe and it is a problem.

It's a problem that has to be looked at not only by Belgium and France but by the international community because it's obviously a hot bed for fundamental or radical jihadist going in and out of the war zone.

Because the way these people are working, the way they are hiding them and operating, it just shows you that they have a skill set that is a little bit more heightened than some other terrorists we've seen in the past.

PAUL: Which makes you wonder if perhaps he'll have any information or give up information about how they communicate and the fluidity of their movements as well. But Fred, real quickly, we know Salah Abdeslam is out of the hospital this morning.

[08:10:03]Do we know anything about where he's been taken or the terms by which he is being interrogated?

PLEITGEN: Well, we know there are detectives interrogating him and he's at the central police station here in Brussels. It was interesting, Christi, because today there was talk of him possibly being brought to a courthouse, to be brought in front of a judge there.

But now the latest information we are getting is that a judge will be brought to him and then decide to have him remain in custody there. It's unclear what's going to happen afterwards.

The latest indications that we are getting is that probably after this takes place and the judge sees him and detectives are finished questioning him. He'll be brought to a high security facility that specifically has an area for terror suspects in a town fairly close to Brussels.

But then of course, the investigation is going to be going on and of course, one of the places that the investigation is going to continue to focus on is this area here because this is an area that has a big problem with extremism and has had so over the years.

And one of the other things and of course, the authorities are very concerned about is the fact that not only do these people have expertise, but there are people from this area that have gone to Syria to fight with ISIS.

And some of them have returned and of course, brought that expertise with them and the other thing you have here is an abundance of weapon. It's very easy to get things like Kalashnikovs in Belgium specifically in this area right here.

PAUL: All right, Fred Pleitgen, Michael Weiss and Jonathan Gilliam, thank you so much, Gentlemen, for your perspectives and insight. We appreciate it.

Coming up on NEW DAY, Donald Trump back on the attack again. He's hitting one of his favorite targets, Mitt Romney.

BLACKWELL: Plus a bill waiting on the Georgia governor's desk is being slammed by critics. They are saying it's discriminating. Will Governor Nathan Deal sign it?

And President Obama heads to Cuba for a historic visit. We take a look ahead.




DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a lot of friends. By the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them. Did he choke? Did this guy choke? He's a choke artist. I can't believe. Are you sure he's a Mormon?


BLACKWELL: Donald Trump questioning the faith of Mitt Romney perhaps ingest there despite the fact, though, that one month ago Trump bristled at the pope's suggestion that building walls was not Christian.

Trump is in Arizona today aboard a state where immigration is a key issue and will be campaigning alongside the outspoken sheriff, Joe Arpaiao, known for his anti-immigration stance.

To discuss, I want to bring in CNN political commentator and Donald Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord. Jeffrey, good morning.


BLACKWELL: Good to have you with us. You heard what Donald Trump said there, despite his being so offended when the pope questioned his faith a month ago, why is he now doing it in reference to Mitt Romney?

LORD: victor, I think he has a good sense of humor and he was tweaking old Mitt there --

BLACKWELL: On religion? I mean, do you tweak someone on their religion?

LORD: Good Lord, have we become so serious here that we can't -- I mean, I'm a Congregationalist. I regularly poke fun at my own religion.

BLACKWELL: Does that work in Utah, though?

LORD: Well, I think people in Utah have a good sense of humor, sure.

BLACKWELL: OK. That's your answer. Let me ask you about the debate that was supposed to happen on Monday but Trump pulled out and then Kasich said if Trump is not going to be there, I'm not going to be there. You can't have a debate with one person.

Donald Trump acknowledged after Iowa that skipping the Fox debate before the Iowa caucuses likely hurt him. Why risk it again?

LORD: I think that might have been true then, but I don't think it's true now, Victor. In all honesty, frankly, I can't tell you, was this debate number 12, 13, 14? I think the country has been debated out just generally speaking and that's probably true on both sides.

We now all know where everybody stands. We know what they believe. That applies to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I mean, I just think people are finally getting, you know, bored with this and they want to get on with it.

BLACKWELL: But as events warrant, much like let's say after San Bernardino and Paris, voters wanted to hear the candidate's reaction risk reaction or plans to combat terrorism as, you know, the events warrant. Should there be more debates?

LORD: I don't think so. I mean, I think we pretty much run the string on this. You know, there is plenty of ways to communicate with the public. You can have one interview, Donald Trump is always doing them with just about everybody who asks.

I mean, Anderson Cooper pointed the other night to Carly Fiorina that the difference between the Trump campaign and her campaign was that Donald Trump always said yes to requests and her campaign said no.

BLACKWELL: There is a difference, though, between being interviewed and challenged by your opponent. I got your answer on that. Let's move on to this. We know that anonymous waged war -- is waging war against Donald Trump leaking his alleged cell phone numbers, Social Security number, and contact information for some of his associates.

The campaign released this statement. Let's put it up on the screen. The government and law enforcement authorities are seeking the arrest of people responsible for attempting to illegally hack Mr. Trump's accounts and telephone information.

What do you say to people who think back to July when Donald Trump announced Lindsey Graham's cell phone number and say if you can dish it out, you should be able to take it?

LORD: Yes, well, I do think there is a bit of a difference. Again, there is such a thing as having a sense of humor but in terms of what we're talking about with anonymous, we're talking -- I mean, this goes far beyond Donald Trump.

I mean, this goes to the security of the White House as an institution, the Pentagon, national security, all of these kind of things where you have a group of people who are busy hacking in with the intent of doing serious damage, deliberately. That's a different ball of wax here and extends well beyond Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jeffrey Lord, always good to have your insight. LORD: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Thank you so much.

LORD: And of course, we're going to hear more from the candidates. It will not be a debate but a three-hour prime time event with the final five presidential candidates happening Monday.

Republicans Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, all interviewed by Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer. They are hosting Monday night starting at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: Ted Cruz gets Mitt Romney's vote, but it's not necessarily a ringing endorsement some say. The Cruz campaign joins us live.

And we have an update on what we've been following this morning. This passenger plane that crashed in Russia overnight. Stay close.



PAUL: It's 23 minutes past the hour and a Religious Freedom Bill has now been passed by the Georgia legislature, but opponents say it discriminates against same-sex couples and it could hurt the state's reputation. The governor has until May to decide whether to veto the bill. So what will he do? Here is CNN's Nick Valencia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is 2016 and they've taken us back to the 1800s.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kelvin Williams is angry. The small business owner say a proposed Georgia law, the so- called Religious Liberty Bill will ruin opportunities for his telecommunications business and discriminate against many others like him. Williams is gay.

KELVIN WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF 373K: This is going to protect anybody that feels like discriminating, but I don't see where it's actually going to protect anybody from being discriminated against.

VALENCIA: After nearly two-year battle, House Bill 757 passed both chambers of the Georgia legislature. If signed into law by the governor, it will protect faith-based organizations who do not hire or host gays and lesbians because of their religious beliefs. As its written, the legislation will quote, "provide a claim or a defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government."

STATE SENATOR MIKE CRANE (R), GEORGIA: The only discrimination I see going forward is if the governor refuses to sign this bill.

VALENCIA: Senator Mike Crane is one of the bill's most adamant supporters. He too is a small business owner and is currently running for U.S. Congress.

CRANE: There is an undermining of religious freedom in this nation. The Christian community in particular is the group that's going to be discriminated against if the states don't stand up and say, this liberty is important.

[08:25:06]VALENCIA: If Georgia's bill sounds familiar, it's because it is. In 2014, Arizona legislatures made an attempt at a religious restoration act. After intense pressure from athletic organizations, corporations, and even some Republicans, it failed.

GOVERNOR JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I have vetoed Senate bill 1062 moments ago.

VALENCIA: In 2015, it was Indiana's turn and after much debate, Governor Mike Pence signed it into law. Supporters like this small business owner were thrilled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it protects me from the government forcing me to do something that's against my will.

VALENCIA: Back in Georgia, critics of the bill worry about the economic consequences to the state, especially to Georgia's bombing movie industry, tourism and sports. Atlanta is currently bidding to host the 2019 Super Bowl. Opponents to the bill like Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO William Pate says HB757 will limit the state's chances at attracting investors like the NFL.

WILLIAM PATE, CEO, ATLANTA CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU: This legislation stands today, if it becomes law, it will have a significant impact on our business, and I think it will have significant impact on other businesses in the state.

VALENCIA (on camera): How much money are you talking?

PATE: I think it could be as much as $6 billion, and it might be $3 billion.

VALENCIA (voice-over): If the bill is signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal, for Kelvin Williams, the answer how to deal with it is simple. In a symbolic gesture, this week his business of 20 employees reincorporated in Delaware, personally, he says, he may be leaving the state, too.

WILLIAMS: I'm actually in the process of talking to a realtor and, you know, looking at selling my house and packing up and leaving.


PAUL: Our thanks to Nick Valencia for that story there.

Still ahead --

BLACKWELL: The latest on the raids in Belgium that brought in a suspect in the Paris terror attacks. What's next for Salah Abdeslam?

Also, CNN's Clarissa Ward takes us inside Syria along the path known as death road.



[08:30:40] PAUL: We have some new details on the two breaking news stories we're following this morning. In southern Russia, 62 people are dead after a passenger plane crashed attempting to land for a second time. I want to show you the surveillance video here. Russian state news says it shows, and you'll see it here, that moment of the crash. However, CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the video.

BLACKWELL: Plus, there is video of the last remaining Paris suspect in the November attack. Salah Abdeslam leaving the hospital. Abdeslam was captured yesterday. He's being interrogated at the central police station in Brussels.

The French President Francois Hollande says he's now looking for a quick extradition to France.

All right. A report first on CNN, Ted Cruz is calling some of his biggest fundraisers to Las Vegas for an exclusive retreat next month -- perhaps a sign the campaign is preparing to go all the way to the convention, as many expect it will. And in Arizona yesterday, Cruz called John Kasich, governor of Ohio, a quote, "spoiler", arguing that a vote for Kasich is really a vote for Donald Trump.

To discuss, let's bring in the national spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign.

Ron, good to have you back.


BLACKWELL: Good morning to you.

Are you calling, is the campaign calling for John Kasich to get out of the race?

NEHRING: Well, John Kasich has to consider the fact that every single day that he remains in the race, he makes it more likely Donald Trump can get to 1237. John Kasich doesn't have a single state going forward, which he can win and the longer he stays in this race, he keeps it, you know, as a bit of a diversion.

And functionally, this is a two-person race because the only two candidates who have a plausible way to get to 1,237 delegates are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And so, we want to get on with that.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the debate. There was one scheduled for Monday. Donald Trump pulled out and Kasich pulled out, leaving just Ted Cruz on the stage and so, FOX cancelled the debate, can't have a debate with one person.

Will the Cruz campaign -- is the Cruz campaign working aggressively to have more debates?

NEHRING: Well, we want to have a one on one debate with Donald Trump because this is a matter of not only producing a nominee in this primary process, but also vetting our candidates and ensuring that our candidates are prepared to go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton. If Donald Trump can't stand on a debate stage opposite Ted Cruz, how are we supposed to believe that he's going to be able to go one-on-one with Hillary Clinton? And so --

BLACKWELL: Let me get clarity, Ron. I hate to jump in. But let me get some clarity. You said you're looking to have a one on one debate with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Will the campaign call for debates with all three men or only if it's just Cruz and Trump?

NEHRING: No, I mean, certainly, we were ready to participate in the FOX debate, which would have had the three candidates with John Kasich there, as well. I think the dynamic of the race, of course, is primarily between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and we look forward to having the opportunity for that debate.

We want to know, why is Donald Trump so afraid to debate Ted Cruz? We think we know the answer to that. I think you can find some of the answer in the most recent debate where the segments were longer.

And so, you found that Donald Trump was repeating himself over and over again, and simply repeating his talking points and people could really see he doesn't have the depth of knowledge on just about anything, beyond simply, you know, bumper sticker length talking points. That's a real source of concern. It's part of the reason he is so vulnerable, and if he were the Republican nominee, would lose to Hillary Clinton and we would lose the Senate and we would lose the Supreme Court for a generation.

Donald Trump is a Republican nominee would be a disaster. And he doesn't want to go toe to toe with Ted Cruz for that reason. But we think there should be a debate as soon as possible and he should have stuck with his earlier commitment to the Utah debate.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about Arizona. Big prize winner take all. Ted Cruz long made border security part of the platform before the election but he has been over taken according to polls as being the person who would best handle illegal immigration, many believe that that belongs to Donald Trump.

Just this week, Ted Cruz, the campaign released an ad that looked a lot like an ad we saw from the Trump campaign.

Does Ted Cruz now find himself chasing Donald Trump on the issue of illegal immigration, especially in Arizona?

NEHRING: Well, we really don't know where Donald Trump would be on the issue of the illegal immigration, in terms of what he would do if he were the Republican nominee or the president. I think that's why he won't allow "The New York Times" to release the secret tape they have when he went off the record and shared with "The New York Times" what he really thinks on the issue of illegal immigration. Why won't he release that? That is a source of concern for everyone

and particularly, I mean, take a look at what he has said about being, quote, "flexible" and how flexible he is. You know, Jimmy Carter said he would much prefer Donald Trump as --

BLACKWELL: But Ron, with all of --


BLACKWELL: All of that being considered, the voters still choose Donald Trump, they believe he will best handle the issue of illegal immigration, even considering Ted Cruz' record. And how do you answer that, even after the fight that Ted Cruz has launched, voters still pick Trump to handle it?

NEHRING: Well, the campaign is an educational process, as well, where we go into these issues, part of the reason we do advertising is to inform people about Ted Cruz' position and Donald Trump's ever changing position. I mean, we've seen him change positions two, three times even in the same debate. So, we're not sure where ultimately he would turn out on the issue of illegal immigration and border security, which is security particularly to those people that live in border counties. I live in a border county of San Diego, California.


NEHRING: Ted Cruz is who I trust on that issue.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you before we run out of time here, we understand that Donald Trump will be speaking in front of the pro- Israel lobbying group AIPAC on Monday. We have gotten this telegraphing from the campaign that Ted Cruz will use his time to mock Donald Trump. You have said here on CNN that perhaps Mr. Trump is unable to speak for more than a minute about the top pick.

Is going after Donald Trump in that way mocking him wise? You have to look at the Marco Rubio campaign. Even Rubio says that he regrets going after Trump in that fashion.

NEHRING: Well, I think you'll have to wait and see what Senator Cruz and Donald Trump have to say. We really wonder whether Donald Trump is going to repeat his previous assertions where he would be neutral between Israel and Palestine on the ongoing conflict there. It will be interesting to see if he tries to explain away that position as well.

Senator Cruz will be in friendly territory at AIPAC, where he's been very strong supporter of the state of Israel throughout his entire tenure in the Senate and before. Donald Trump however has to, you know, will once again have to suffer for the fact he's so, quote, "flexible" on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. support for Israel and Israeli security.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll look forward to what both gentlemen have to say on Monday.

Ron Nehring, national spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign, good to have you back.

NEHRING: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Still ahead on NEW DAY. The Obamas head to Cuba. They arrive tomorrow. We'll take you to Havana to see how Cubans are preparing for the first family's visit.

PAUL: First, though, in this week's "Start Small, Think Big", a California high tech restaurant offering a fresh take on fast food and you know what? You'll never have to deal with a waiter getting your order wrong.


PAUL (voice-over): It's a restaurant that could be from the TV show "The Jetsons".

CARTOON CHARACTER: What would you like for breakfast?

CARTOON CHARACTER: The usual. Thanks, mom.

PAUL: At Eatsa, there are no servers, no cashiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being fully automated makes it a lot easier for folks to place orders and get in and out very fast.

PAUL: And it's reinventing the way you eat fast food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You walk in and use your mobile phone or the iPad kiosks. You place your order and usually 90 seconds, your food will come out of a digital cabbie system.

PAUL: There are cooks in the kitchen. Instead of burgers and fries, Eatsa serves vegetarian kinwa balls that are high in protein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really set out to build Eatsa as a way to make healthy and sustainable food, and more accessible.

PAUL: The business started in San Francisco and it's expanding to other cities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing that could be better, if this happen in my kitchen where I open a window and the food is there.

PAUL: And it's a hit with young people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millennials really require that their products and services are available on demand and personalized, and if we can do that and it happens to be healthy, it happens to be better for the environment, I feel like we won a victory.



[08:42:50] BLACKWELL: Forty-two minutes after the hour now. President Obama arrives in Cuba tomorrow for an historic two-day

visit. His trip marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has set foot (AUDIO GAP) Calvin Coolidge since 1928.

PAUL: Yes. Our Ed Lavandera is in Havana right now.

I'm wondering, Ed, we know this is important for the president and will be interesting to see how he's received. What are you finding there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, many of the Cuban people that you speak to on the streets incredibly excited and looking forward to this visit, of course, this comes amidst a year of already great change here in the country of Havana as the normalization of the relationship between the United States and Cuba is underway. Set in motion by the Obama administration.

So, a lot of attention being paid to this on the street, but what is interesting is when you look at the official Cuban communist newspaper here, previewing tomorrow's visit, only two sentence sentences. It says that President Obama will be meeting with Raul Castro and then kind of oddly just saying and participating in, quote, "other activities". And, of course, those other activities will include meeting with dissidents and political activists here in the country. So, that not getting very much attention here in the newspaper this morning.

PAUL: All right. But what about the reaction from the Cuban people itself? I mean, you've been there. I'm sure you talked to folks. They got to see this as being historic themselves. What is their hope coming out of this trip?

LAVANDERA: Well, they want to see that, you know, you talk to people here on the streets as they really hope that this is the beginning of the ending of the strain between the United States government and the Cuban government. What is interesting is that one of the things that President Obama will do after he meets with Raul Castro on Monday, the first family gets here tomorrow afternoon.

But President Obama will give a speech here that will be broadcast live on Cuban television. So you can imagine many people will pay very close attention to all of that and, you know, there is a great deal of interest being paid to that and they hope that this will continue this process that is already being seen and bringing a great deal of changes here to the country of Cuba.

[08:45:07] PAUL: The first family, we understand.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the first lady, Malia and Sasha Obama. We know a bit about the president's schedule, but do we know what they will be doing during this visit?

LAVANDERA: Well, the first lady meeting with young girl students, among other things. You know, this is part of a massive delegation that the United States is bringing here. I understand like close to 1,200 people, as well as 30 members of Congress. You know, obviously putting great deal of strain on the hotel systems here in Cuba that are very kind of already struggling to keep up with the numbers of tourists that are coming to visit Havana and the rest of Cuba.

So, it's a massive delegation. The Obamas will obviously, president will be meeting with Raul Castro, dissidents, but also taking a tour of old Havana after they arrive here and, of course, the Tampa Bay Rays will be playing the Cuban national baseball team. President Obama and the first family expected to attend the beginning of that baseball game on Tuesday afternoon after the president meets with political activists here in Cuba and before the first family moves on continuing their trip into Argentina, as well.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ed Lavandera there for us in Havana. Ed, thank you so much.

Up next, Clarissa Ward and her exclusive reporting inside Syria. She shows us what it's like to travel on some of the country's most dangerous roads.


[08:50:03] PAUL: It's been five years since Syria's bloody internal conflict erupted and there's one area in particular ravaged by Syria's civil war, Aleppo. It was once the country's largest city.

Well, CNN is senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward went undercover into rebel-held Syria where virtually no Western journalist has gone more for than a year.

Take a look.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can tell when you're getting closer to Aleppo. The streets are pockmarked with the aftermath of fresh airstrikes. Berms of earth flank the road to protect the way from enemy fire. It's a dangerous journey to a city few dare to visit.

(on camera): We now have to drive extremely quickly along this portion of the road because on one side, you have the regime and on the other side you have Kurdish fighters who are now fighting against rebel forces, and there are snipers all around here, but this is the only road now to get into Aleppo.

(voice-over): As you arrive in the city, the scale of the destruction is breathtaking. Stretching on and on, entire residential neighborhoods reduced to rubble. Aleppo was once Syria's largest city, a bustling economic hub, now an apocalyptic landscape.

Russian war planes have bombed these areas relentlessly, allowing government ground forces to encircle the rebel-held eastern part of the city. Still, we found pockets of life among the devastation. A fruit market, huddled in the shadow of a bombed-out building, a line of people waiting patiently to collect water, now a precious resource here. (on camera): This is basically what is left of rebel-held Aleppo

after months and months of thousands of Russian bombs raining down on here. The streets are largely deserted, the buildings have been destroyed, and the people who once lived here have been pushed out. And the very few residents who are still here, who we've spoken to, have told us that they don't expect the situation to get any better. In fact, they're convinced it will only get worse.

(voice-over): Seventy-year-old Souad has lived in this city for 40 years. Her grandson, Farouq, is a fighter with an Islamist rebel group, Ahrar ash-Sham. In all, nine members of her family have been killed in the fighting, including two of her three sons.

SOUAD, ALEPPO RESIDENT (through translator): They all died on the front line. We raise our heads high for them. God willing, they are in paradise.

WARD (on camera): What would it take for you to leave Aleppo?

FAROUQ, AHRAR AL-SHAM FIGHTER (through translator): It is true there is shelling and Russian planes and Iranian militias and every day, there is a massacre. But it is enough for us to express our religion and our faith as free people without anyone stopping us. It is enough for us to fight as Mujahideen and defend our honor and our women.

SOUAD: Should we leave our country and go to another country? No, this is our country, and we will remain in this until we die.

WARD (voice-over): The people clinging onto life here feel that the world has abandoned them, leaving them only with God. Their existence becomes more precarious with every passing day, but surrender is unthinkable.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Aleppo.


PAUL: They are powerful pictures, aren't they?

And for more how you can help refugees survive conflicts in Syria and Iraq, go to

BLACKWELL: New numbers out of Istanbul after an explosion rocks a shopping area here. We'll bring you the very latest, next.



[08:57:55] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say a word or two about my good friend, Donald Trump.


Just kidding, he's not my good friend.


PAUL: Democratic presidential there, Bernie Sanders, getting a laugh as he campaigned in Idaho. He'll be in Phoenix today. The three remaining Republican candidates are in the West, Ted Cruz will be in Draper and Provo, Utah. John Kasich has an appearance in St. George, Utah. Donald Trump holds rallies also in Phoenix and Tucson.

BLACKWELL: Turkey's health minister says that four people were killed and now 36 others were injured as a suicide bomb in Istanbul this morning. That number, 36 injured up from 20 just an hour ago. This happened on a major shopping street there. No one has taken responsibility, but an offshoot of armed Kurdistan Workers Party who claimed responsibility for the bombings in Ankara a week ago did vow to carry out more attacks.

PAUL: And in the West Bank this morning, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager when he stabbed an Israeli police officer at a boarding crossing. The boy pulled a knife when asked for a passport. The Israeli officer was slightly wounded.

BLACKWELL: All right. That's it for us. We'll see you at 10:00 for an hour of NEWSROOM.

PAUL: Yes, don't go anywhere.

"SMERCONISH" starts for you right now.