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House Passes Major Tax Bill, Senate Expected To Follow; Saudi Arabia Says It Intercepted Missile South Of Riyadh; Four Men Arrested In U.K. Raids; Berlin Holds Memorial On Christmas Market Attack Anniversary; U.S. And South Korean Marines Train In Winter Drills; Fans Mourn Death Of Popular K-Pop Star; NTSB: Train Was Traveling 128 KPH In A 48 KPH Zone. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 19, 2017 - 15:00   ET




HANNA VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I`m Hannah Vaughan Jones in for Hala Gorani.

Tonight, the U.S. House brings Republicans one step closer to a big victory. President Trump`s tax plan is on the brink of getting through

Congress. It would give him his first big legislative achievement.

Also, tonight, Saudi Arabia intercepts a missile over Riyadh. It is fired from Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.

And removing the carnage as cranes take away the train carriages that crashed in Washington State. Authorities say it was going 128 kilometers

per hour in a 48 kilometer per hour zone.

Well, good evening to you all. One vote down, one to go and the outcome is all but assured. U.S. President Donald Trump now appears on the very brink

of what he`s worked towards all year, his first major legislative victory.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: Report is adopted without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.


JONES: The Republican-controlled House just approved the most sweeping overhaul of o U.S. tax law in decades. Not one Democrat voted for it. The

bill itself now goes to the Senate, also controlled by President Trump`s party, but it expected to pass there.

The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had this reaction to the House vote just moments ago.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That brings us one step closer to the president making good on his promise to deliver tax cuts for

Christmas. We`re looking forward to the Senate vote this evening and the president will be monitoring these developments throughout the day.


JONES: Sarah Sanders there. While Republicans in Congress are celebrating, many Americans are not. A new poll shows opposition to the

tax bill has only increased over the past month.

I`m joined now by CNN`s Dan Merica live at the White House and CNN Money correspondent, Paul La Monica in New York for us. Gentlemen, good evening

to you both.

Dan, let`s start with you first. President Trump is so close. You almost imagine the treat tweet`s already written in its draft folder just waiting

to be posted. The president very much in the buoyant mood going into the holiday season.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: He may have already scheduled it for all we know. I mean, he is going to be very eager to sell this bill and

that`s a gift and a curse in a way. So, the big question at the White House press briefing today was will this benefit President Trump and

independent analyses, our analyses have shown that, yes, it will benefit him on both the personal and the business side.

The press secretary today though was saying, no, it won`t. This will hurt him, will likely hurt him on the personal side, but you could somewhat help

him on the business side. Why does it matter?

It matters because he`s going to have to sell this bill. New CNN poll out today shows that majority of Americans think this will not only help

President Trump, but is a tax cut aimed at helping the upper class.

People who are, the top earners. That is going to make it difficult for him to sell this bill when he has to go out as that calendar turns from

2017 to 2018 and he has to hit the road and campaign for Republicans in midterm elections.

It`s going to complicate things for him because he`s going to have to be able to tell voters I did this to help you. If most voters already think

that this helps him, that is a very, very difficult argument to make and he`s going to have to work around that as he tries to sell this bill.

JONES: OK, stand by. Jim Acosta asked the last question at today`s press briefing just moments ago. I want to listen to that and then we`ll get

your reaction off the back.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president did say that this tax cut bill would cost him a fortune. That was false, right?

SANDERS: No. Because on the personal side, this actually could impact the president in a large way.

ACOSTA: Have you looked at how it would balance out the corporate versus personal if he`s going to come out --

SANDERS: Not sure if he`s done a side by side, but I know that there are a number of provisions that would negatively impact the president personally,

so we contend that those comments are still very consistent.

However, like I`ve said our focus has been on the middle class and that`s what we think is delivered in this tax package and we very much look

forward to seeing it passed later today and signed at a date soon and we`ll be sure to keep you guys posted on that. Thanks so much.


JONES: And off she goes. Well, Dan, Sarah Sanders very much saying that this isn`t a tax cut for the wealthy, which is the main criticism of this

tax bill. We don`t know whether President Trump, who is a billionaire himself, is going to a beneficiary of it or not.

MERICA: And the question is how would she know? I mean, President Trump has not released his tax returns. She was asked today whether he plans to.

She said, no, he`s under audit. He`s not going to release his taxes. How would she know whether the president is going to benefit from that tax plan

or not?

[15:05:08] She, I would imagine, wouldn`t be privy to those documents. He certainly doesn`t plan to release them as she said. So, it`s a question

that needs to be asked, frankly, is you`re going to say that he is going to benefit possibly on the business side, but be heard on the personal side.

The White House should need to detail how they know that and prove that to the American people. That`s going to be a big question, 2018.

JONES: Paul La Monica standing by for us in New York as well as at the moment. The White House already banking on this tax overhaul bill.

Lighting a fuse, if you like, under what is already a bullish record breaking market and they`ve got good reason to be confident, right?

PAUL R. LA MONICA, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: I think in some respects, Hannah, they do. Obviously, the market has gone extremely well leading

into the tax bump this year. Stocks have actually pulled back slightly today. I think it`s your sell on the news type of reaction.

The big question and I think this hits at what Dan was talking about, we know that the majority of Americans were not investing in the stock market.

Many do not have 401(k) plans, so President Trump loves to tweet about the market records, but do those records really resonate with the voters that

elected him last fall?

And I think that might be a challenge. If this tax cut does wind up looking like a big boom for businesses and wealthy Americans and not so

much the middle class and lower class, that potentially could be a problem. But make no mistake, this is good news for corporate America because you

are lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

JONES: And you can`t just put, this is you again, Paul, can`t just put the tax bill overhaul down to the markets booming as well. There`s also been

widespread corporate deregulation under the Trump administration. Something they`re very keen to tout. They`ve got good reason to take some

credit on this, but should President Trump take personal credit for the way the Dow is looking at the moment?

LA MONICA: He shouldn`t take personal credit and he shouldn`t take sole credit. The risk when you take credit for when the market is doing well is

that inevitably there are rough patches. You could even have a major sell off, a correction or bear market.

Who`s he going to blame if that happens under his watch. Let`s be honest, the market was doing extremely well heading into the election last year.

President Obama dealt him a pretty good hand.

A much better hand than President Obama got dealt economically by President Bush through no fault of his own coming out of the great recession in 2008

and the credit crash.

JONES: Dan Merica still standing by for us in Washington. So, Dan, you mentioned before about this CNN poll saying that this tax overhaul bill is

very unpopular when it comes to American voters as well. I think we can bring it up and just show our viewers what we`re talking about.

One person who`s been speaking a lot about the tax bill today, of course, the House speaker, Paul Ryan. He`s been speaking in the aftermath of the

vote going through the House as well.

But I just want to play to you and to our viewers, something that he said beforehand reflecting on this CNN poll. Really saying that he`s not

bothered about it at all. Take a listen.


RYAN: No concerns whatsoever. I got to say if people are out there on tv telling this truce, disguising the facts of this thing, that`s going to

make it unpopular. When people see their withholding, the jobs occurring, bigger paychecks, a fair tax system, a simpler tax code, that`s what`s

going to produce the results. Results are going to make this popular.


GORANI: Dan, what if those results don`t come through? What if people`s paychecks don`t actually improve? How could this backfire for the

Republicans come, of course, midterms next year?

MERICA: It`s a serious problem because this is going to have to be litigated at the ballot box in 2018. If paychecks don`t go up, if

businesses don`t start hiring more, Republicans are going to have to explain why that isn`t happening and Paul is exactly right.

As much the president wants to tweet about the stock market booming, say it, you know, goes down at the start of next year, is he going to take

blame for that as well? These are all questions the Republicans are dealing with right now in Washington.

Because as that calendar turns, the focus in the next few months is going to start turning towards the midterm elections and how involved President

Trump is going to be. How many Republicans want to run with the president and how many are going to try to run against the president, if that`s at

all possible?

So, if this tax plan doesn`t deliver what Republicans say it will, it`s a huge political issue because historically, presidents in their first terms,

during their first midterms have taken a beating at the polls in first midterms.

President Trump has certainly set up in terms of his poll numbers to do that. It remains to be seen whether the Republicans will be able to break

that history, but if this plan doesn`t deliver what they have promised that it would, it seems likely that will happen once again -- Hannah.

JONES: All right. Well, it`s got through the House. It`s now on its way to the Senate then after that, it will go to President Trump for signing.

My thanks to both of you, Gentlemen. Dan Merica, Paul La Monica, thank you.

[15:10:01] Now we want to turn our attention to a deadly proxy war in Yemen. Wednesday marks 1,000 days since Saudi Arabia started bombing

rebels backed by Iran there and today, we saw a fresh flare up. Saudi defense forces say they intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen.

A military spokesman says the missile was on course to hit a residential area in Riyadh. Yemen`s Houthi rebels say they were targeting the King`s

palace. They just released a video they say shows the missile being launched.

Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is following the very latest in this conflict from his post in Beirut, Lebanon for us. Ben, we

already know that Yemen as a country that`s been decimated by this civil war, this conflict, but is this now a sign, this missile being fired to

another country, is this a sign that this conflict is spreading far, far beyond Yemen`s borders?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly means in the words of the leader of the Houthis who was on tv today that

the Saudis are going to get a bit of their own medicine. He said it`s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Saudi Arabia has been leading this coalition against the Houthi rebels since March of 2015. Yemen has been destroyed. You have 8 million people

according to the U.N., who are on the brink of famine. It`s got the worst cholera epidemic in modern history raging there.

And to mark the 1,000th day of that war, the Houthis launches this missile, a modified scud. So, really, what the Saudis are experiencing is something

that the Yemenis have experienced essentially every day for the last 1,000 days.

Now the danger of course is that the war doesn`t just spread between the participants, but given what we heard for instance, Mohammed Bin Salman,

the Saudi crown prince, after a similar such rocket attack in November that targeted the Riyadh International Airport.

He described that as an act of war and accuses as the Saudis do Iran of supplying the weapons that make this war possible. So, there`s a real

danger that it could spread not just to beyond the combatants themselves, but to involve Iran directly -- Hannah.

JONES: Ben, what about Iran? What`s Iran saying about this and do we know whether there`s actual factual evidence that the missile that was fired to

Riyadh was actually an Iranian missile?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly that`s the claim that was made last week by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who put on a show and

tell standing in front of a missile that she claimed was one supplied by Iran to the Houthis and fired against Saudi Arabia.

Now, as I said before, the Iranians deny these charges. There are indications that they are providing some weapons to the Houthis, although

they may have other sources of weapons to which with they`re fighting.

So, it hard to say at this point, but definitely, the Iranians rhetorically, they do support the Houthis and most analysts would say they

probably do provide weapons. Whether this particular kind of modified scud comes from Iran, the Americans, the Saudis, the Emirates, say, yes, but the

jury is still out on it -- Hannah.

JONES: And just briefly, Ben, what are the Saudis going to do now knowing that they are a target and this is the king`s palace in Riyadh? How are

they going to protect themselves in the future?

WEDEMAN: Well, they are using a U.S. supplied patriot antimissile system in this particular instance. Now, the question is what will be their

response in Yemen against the Houthis to this. We have yet to see.

But we do know that there are daily Saudi air strikes on Yemeni targets. More than 12,000 people have been killed. Civilians in this conflict since

it began in March of 2015. We can probably expect, unfortunately, more of the same -- Hannah.

JONES: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for your analysis there live for us from Beirut. Thank you. Well, we talk about the proxy war of

tearing Yemen apart often without being able to see the full effects. But CNN`s Clarissa Ward recently has been to Yemen to witness the suffering



CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Saudi Arabia- led coalition has actively tried to prevent journalists from coming here because they don`t want people to see the depths of the humanitarian crisis

that exist here. But we felt it was really important to try to get here to try to understand what`s going on and to get a better sense of how the

Yemeni people are bearing the brunt of this civil war.


[15:15:14] JONES: And you can see the rest of Clarissa Ward`s reporting from inside Yemen on our international website.

Still to come on the program tonight, train cars damaged in Monday`s deadly accident were moved from the scene. We`re learning more about what may

have caused the derailment near Tacoma, Washington and how it could have been prevented. A live report is coming up next.

And U.S. and South Korean troops test their combat skills in the snow. Why these bare-chested Marines are wrestling in subzero temperatures?


JONES: Here in the U.K., national security is in sharp focus, four men have been arrested in Northern England on suspicion of terrorism. The

arrests follow a turbulent year, of course, for the U.K., which has been marred by a number of attacks throughout the country. Isa Soares has more

now on what we know so far.

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Four men are being questioned at police station after a being arrested in raids in Northern England. The

men between the ages of 22 and 41 are all being arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, the preparation or instigation of acts

of terrorism under the Terrorism Act.

They were taken into custody following predawn raids with a bomb disposal unit being sent to one of the addresses as a precautionary measure. Police

tell CNN the fifth address is currently being searched. Locals describe the scene in the early hours of this Tuesday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a bang because they open that door used in some kind of charged device. I don`t know what kind of thing they used and that

was the sound, the bang.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Around 5:30, we had a really loud bang so we jumped out of bed to see what was going on. Initially, we thought there was a

crash or some accident outside.


SOARES: Police tell CNN the arrests were intelligence-led and preplanned as part of an ongoing investigation and those arrests and the raids, of

course, falling on the anniversary of the Berlin Christmas market attack that killed 12 people and left some dozen injured. It comes, of course, at

a time heightened security right here in the U.K. as Britons prepare for the busy holiday season. Isa Soares, CNN, London.

JONES: Isa, thank you. As we know all too well, not every terror attack can be stopped. As Isa just mentioned, the London arrests come one year

after a night of festivity in Berlin turned to horror. A truck barreled through a Christmas market killing 12 people.

Today, the city held a memorial for the victims and the families ripped apart. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke before she met the families

of the victims. Without providing details, she promised change, saying quote, "Today is a day of mourning, but it is also a day of willfulness, to

make better what has not gone well."

[15:20:10] Now turning to investigations into one of the biggest cyber- attacks of the year, a virus that swept through 300,000 computers in 150 countries came from North Korea. That is according to both U.S. and U.K.


The virus itself known as "Wannacry" indiscriminately hit computers across the world back in May including critical global banking systems and the

NHS, the National Health Service here in the U.K. the attack was blocked within a few days, but caused billions of dollars-worth of damage. Today,

the U.S. Homeland Security adviser said it could have been much worse.


TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: We got lucky. In a lot of ways in the United States, we were well prepared. So, it wasn`t

luck. It was preparation. It was partnership with private companies and so forth, but we also had a programmer that was sophisticated, that noticed

a glitch in the malware, a kill switch, and then acted to kill it.

He took a risk, it worked, and it caused a lot of benefit. We`ll give him that. Next time we`re not going to get so lucky so what we`re calling on

today is an increased partnership, rapidity and routine speed of sharing of information so we can prevent patient zero from patient 150.


JONES: Skis, soldiers, and subzero temperatures, the annual U.S.-South Korea training drills may look like fun in the snow for some, but they are

designed, of course, with a serious reason in mind. And with the Winter Olympics just weeks away, security is more important than ever. Paula

Hancocks braved the cold for us in Pyeongchang.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wind (inaudible) of Pyeongchang where the Winter Olympics will be held in just a little less

than two months, but right now what we are seeing is a military drill between the U.S. and South Korean Marines, 220 on each side in these


Trying to hone their combat skills in subzero temperatures for this winter military drill and it gets cold here. It can get as cold as minus 20

degrees Celsius. That`s minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit,

Now, officially, we`re told there`s no specific enemy in mind for these drills, but North Korea is 50 miles, 80 kilometers away from here. So,

clearly, it`s not a stretch to imagine that could be one scenario that they`re preparing for.

So even though this is an annual drill, the Americans have been involved since 2013, there is definitely an added edge to it this year,

significance. And then there is this -- clearly, they`re working on hand to hand combat, their wrestling skills.

It`s not 100 percent clear, though, why they have to take their tops off in order to do that, but bear in mind, it is incredibly cold here. I am

struggling to string a sentence together, so you have to have some respects for what they are doing here.

North Korea, they clearly doesn`t have respect for this. They in the past have called this particular military drill mad cap. Any kind of drills

between the U.S. and South Korea wild annoy Pyongyang.

Spectators, athletes, media from across the globe will be coming here to Pyeongchang in early February and authorities want to make sure they have

prepared for every eventuality. The Korean Marines will be part of the security detail for the games. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Pyeongchang, South



JONES: You wonder whether the athletes will keep their clothes on for the games themselves. Paula Hancocks there. Thank you, Paula. Now, we`re

going to stay in South Korea the death of a major South Korea for our next story, the death of a major South Korean popstar has trigged an outpouring

of grief from fans around the world.

Jonghyun took his own life on Monday in Seoul. He was just 27 years old. He was the lead singer of one of South Korea`s biggest pop groups, SHINee.

Korean pop music or K-pop as its known, has been one of the most notable exports to come out of South Korea in the past decade.

Its stars are expected to be extremely polished and seemed to have no flaws. Jonghyun, his apparent struggle with depression has left many of

his fans shocked. Our Kristie Lu Stout reports.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was the star of one of South Korea`s biggest boybands, a successful solo artist and

song writer, but less than two weeks after his last concert, fans are mourning.

Kim Jonghyun, the lead singer of the K-pop band, SHINee was found dead on Monday in what police say was an apparent suicide. Outside a hospital in

Seoul on Tuesday, fans spoke of their shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just needed to come and show respects to him and his family and his loved ones. I have family with mental health issues so it

hit home and was very personal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It didn`t feel real. Is this even real? Is this a dream? I asked myself.

[15:25:06] He was full of emotions and a sensitive person. He must have had lots of hardships, but hid them and didn`t show them to others. That

must have been the toughest part for him.

STOUT: Details are emerging of the singer`s final days. He was found collapsed at an apartment in the South Korean capital on Monday evening.

Rushed to hospital, he was pronounced dead that night.

Later, a friend released a long SMS message which she said Jonghyun had sent her in the weeks before his death. In it, he describes himself as

broken from the inside and asked her to post the text if he were, quote, "to disappear from the world."

Just 27 years old, the singer was already a towering figure on the K-pop scene. He shot to fame with SHINee nearly 10 years ago and recorded a

string of popular hits. The band had just been on tour and released their 5th album.

His last single, released in April, was titled lonely. Fans pay tribute to their hero on Twitter. Thank you for making our hearts flutter with your

music, wrote one. We will always love you, said another. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hongkong.


JONES: All right. Still to come on the program tonight, freedom at last. How CNN investigation helped spark a rescue mission ending today at a Paris



JONES: Welcome back to the program. We are getting harrowing stories from the passengers who survived the deadly train accident near Tacoma,

Washington in the United States on Monday. One man who says it felt like being inside an exploding bomb when the train hurtled off an overpass.

He was traveling with his wife on the Amtrak train`s first journey from Seattle to Portland, Oregon. We now know that the train was traveling at

an extremely high speed. The accident sent several train cars on to a busy highway below.

Stephanie Elam joins me with the very latest on the crash investigation now from Dupont, Washington. Stephanie, this train wasn`t just going fast. It

was nearly three times over what the speed limit was on this particular bit of track. Do we know any more about whether this was human error to

mechanical failure blame?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly what they are still investigating and trying to find out at this point, Hannah. What we know

is that they were able to access the data recorder from the back of the train.

And in that, they were able to determine that the train was going faster than they say the train should be going in that area where it kind of

curves around and goes right over this freeway.

They`ve been working all night long. We`ve been out here watching them as they took the trains that were dangling off the side of the overpass and

taking them back on the tracks and then moving them down onto the freeway.

They are now in the process of taking five of the train cars and moving them to an Air Force base nearby, where they are going to continue their

investigation. But there`s one train that`s actually -- train car that`s still quite heavy. And so they are working on moving that.

That means that this freeway, this majorly important piece of highway here on the West Coast of the United States, will be closed indefinitely as they

continue to work on that.

But the investigation continues and they say, within the next day or so, they are going to interview the engineer; they`re going to look into see if

there`s anything that perhaps he or she may have done wrong.

They`re also going to look at the mechanics, all of that. But it will take them about seven to 10 days before the National Transportation Safety Board

finishes their investigation -- Hannah.

HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN HOST: Yes, they`ve been on the ground for less than 24 hours, I suppose. There are some reports rather that some safety

measures could have been in place and weren`t perhaps because of the cost- cutting measures.

What do you know about that?

ELAM: Right. And this is big topic that is maybe something no one has heard about but it`s been around, this technology has been around since

like several decades, actually. But the reason why it isn`t been used, according to one board member from the NTSB, is because of political will

and also money.

So that technology, which was installed on the track but not on the train and they really do mesh and work together; they both have to be working --

was not working on the train cars yet. It was set to be installed on the train cars this upcoming spring.

And this technology is supposed to be rolled out, according to the federal government, throughout all of the railways in America in December of next

year. But this one woman from the NTSB saying, as long as we don`t have that technology in place and working, we are going to see more deaths and

more injuries.

So there`s a lot more speculation now about what can be done to get this technology up and running through all the railways so don`t see an accident

like this. And think about this, too, Hannah, the trains that fell onto the highway during rush hour traffic, unbelievably, no one died in their

cars on the roadway.

It could have been so much worse. All three of the deaths that we know were from people who were on the train.

JONES: That is just quite remarkable that no one was killed on the highway itself.

As far as the number of killed and number of injured, where does that stand?

How many people are still in hospital being treated?

ELAM: They`ve completed their search of all the train cars. Three people dead. Over 100 hurt; 72 went to the hospital and we know 10 of those

people were in serious condition where they continue to monitor. So all in all, a very devastating accident, especially right before the holidays but,

still, when you look at where this happened and how this happened, it could have been so much worse.

JONES: Steph, we appreciate your reporting on this. Go get warm somewhere if you can. Stephanie Elam reporting live from Dupont, Washington State.

Thank you.

Now ever since CNN exposed slave markets operating in Libya last month, we witnessed a global outpouring of anger discussed as well over this report

from CNN`s Nima Elbagir. Here`s just a reminder of it.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A man addressing an unseen crowd.

"Big strong boys for farm work," he says.

"$400? $700? $700. $800?"

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

You are watching an auction of human beings.


JONES: Well, today, the outrage turned to action. The first plane carrying migrants rescued in Libya has arrived in France. It`s part of a

resettlement program organized by President Emmanuel Macron. Our Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Huddled and tired but safe at last, these are the lucky ones, 25 migrants rescued from Libya, given

fast-track refugee status in Niger and then bused to a new life in Eastern France. The first of 3,000 refugees that the French president wants to

take in as part of his resettlement program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resettlement provides an opportunity for those who would otherwise not arrive in safe countries, such as in Europe. So

arriving here is certainly a solution for many of refugees who have -- who are now in Niger or in Chad and who have been evacuated from a very

difficult situation in Libya.

So it is the solution for many refugees. And we also hope that many other countries will follow the example France is setting with the settlement


BELL (voice-over): It was a plea that the French president brought to the African continent --


BELL (voice-over): -- itself on November 29th, that those migrants currently held in Libyan detention centers needed help and urgently.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): What the African union, the European Union and the United Nations have decided this evening

is to act decisively; first and foremost, with extreme urgency to evacuate from Libya all those who can and want to be evacuated and help them return

to their country of origin.

We will stand in solidarity with others in this emergency operation, which will be conducted in the coming days and weeks.

BELL (voice-over): Since then, hundreds of migrants have been evacuated from Libya, here, landing in Agadez in Niger and showing the physical scars

of their ordeal.

Only a tiny number of these will be granted asylum in France. But in Niger and Chad, the French government is offering a new approach and much better

odds for resettlement in Europe than has been common in this part of Africa.

The first of those granted asylum as part of the scheme will spend four months here, at this convent in Alsace (ph), where they`ll be given help to

heal from the journey and to prepare for their new life.

BELL: The 25 refugees who landed here this morning represent a drop in the ocean when you consider that the International Organization for Migration

believes there are currently 400,000 migrants in Libya.

But to those who made their way through this airport this morning, it was transformed for a moment into the sort of safe port that so many have

dreamt of on their long and desperate quest for a new life -- Melissa Bell, CNN, in Paris.


JONES: Well, safety at last then for a lucky few but, for hundreds of thousands still trapped in limbo in North Africa, the nightmare goes on.

The International Organization for Migration has been flying migrants back to their home countries from Libya based on CNN`s reporting on the slave

markets was a, quote, "wake-up call to the world."

I`m joined now by the director-general of the IOM, William Lacy Swing, who`s in Geneva for us.

Thank you so much for joining us on CNN this evening. I`m wondering how significant a gesture this is by France. Our correspondent, Melissa Bell

there, referred to it just as a drop in the ocean.

But are you and your organization hoping that more Western nations might follow suit?


initiative and we hope that others will follow suit, as with the example already in 2015 of Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany, who addressed the

1.t million who had arrived and was hoping that others would follow suit.

There`s sort of two operations going on right now. One is the resettlement operation, the initiative of President Macron; the other is what we call

the voluntary humanitarian return operation. This came out of the November 28 Abidjan summit between the European Union, African Union and the United


We had already evacuated 13,000 this year that voluntarily returned them under this program. And since November 28th we`ve been able to return

approximately 4,000 or a little over 4,000.

We`re averaging about three charter flights a day, occasionally with commercial aircraft also, probably 400-500 a day. So we`ve done already

that many since 28th of November. We expect that, probably by the second week of January, we will have completed the operation, which will be a

total of 30,000 evacuated in the course of 2017.

But as you say, there are many -- this would be the detention centers under the control of the government. There are many others that are under the

control of militia groups.

JONES: One of the keywords I wanted to pick up on what you just said there was "voluntary," voluntary repatriation. I`m wondering how many migrants

are actually happy to be repatriated back to their home country and whether this gesture by France, that might be followed suit by others as well now,

might not just encourage migration at any cost, come hook or by crook. They`re going to get to Europe because now they have an option.

SWING: Well, I don`t really think so. I mean, if you see what these people have gone through -- I`ve been to Libya twice this year and will

return again on the 6th and 7th of January.

Each time I visit the detention centers, the conditions are horrible. The government needs help in building its own capacity to support them. So

people are not going to be tempted by getting caught up in either, in drowning in the Mediterranean. We lost 5,000 people last year, close to

4,000 this year.

And then if you are saved from the Mediterranean, then you go into a detention center. So those are great disincentives. What we need to work

on now are more legal avenues, whereby talent and workers can get to the jobs and the skills that are needed.

We need to also work on the root causes at home and, in the meantime, do everything we can to save life and to help those along --


SWING: -- the way, as we`re doing in Agadez.

JONES: If you`re dealing with the root causes at home, as you say, how much cooperation then are you getting from those home countries, from the

countries of migrant origin in trying to sort of get these people to either not leave and of course to get them repatriated back to where they came


SWING: Look, I think it`s important that we give credit to CNN for breaking this story less than a month ago. It`s very rare in my experience

to see all the elements of a solution come together at one time.

We now have a cooperation between and among the African Union and the European Union and both IOM and UNHCR that is addressing this question in a

holistic fashion. I think everybody understands the immediacy and the urgency of this.

So I`m actual quite optimistic that we will get a different approach to it than we have had in the past because we`re unified now both at the policy

level in Brussels, the working level in Addis Ababa and the operational level in Libya and Tunisia.

I think we`re on the track of something very good, thanks to the story by CNN.

JONES: Well, we`re delighted to have brought it to light as well. William Lacy Swing, thank you so much for speaking to us on the program this

evening. We appreciate it.

Now, back here in London, authorities have handed down a stiff sentence for an horrific attack. This man was sentenced to 20 years in jail for

spraying a busy night club with corrosive liquid, injuring 22 people. These attacks have become a real problem here.

Nic Robertson has more now on this gruesome pattern of violence. And I must warn you, some of the images in Nic`s report are disturbing.


MUSA MIAH, ACID ATTACK VICTIM: Even until now I get nightmares about it.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): A year ago, Musa Miah`s life changed forever. He was attacked with corrosive

acid. Now, most days, he`s treating his burns, wears a compression mask.

MIAH: My eyelid was burnt completely, so they had to use skin graft from here and for my eyelid, for my face, they had to get it from my hip.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The attack happened when Musa tried to stop a fight and had a cocktail of acid thrown in his face.

MIAH: It`s a feeling that you can`t describe, so bad. The pain of it is really, really bad. It feels like your face is just melting.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The attackers, mainly teenage boys and men, are using chemicals in a range of crimes: moped robberies, gang violence,

revenge and even just random attacks.

The chemicals are easy to find, cheap to buy, corrosive substances like alkalis, ammonia and bleach that are in many household cleaning products

and sold in corner shops.

London`s Metropolitan Police warn acid attacks have increased by 74 percent. There`s also been a notable increase nationwide. In England and

Wales 400 reported incidents in just six months.

In one evening in July, there were five attacks on food delivery drivers, targeted to steal their mopeds. Police charged a 16-year-old boy and are

looking for accomplices.

In another attack, this one, random, a 21-year-old woman was left with burns to her face and across her whole body after an assailant sprayed acid

through her car window.

PETER DZIEWULSKI, M.D., PLASTIC SURGEON: We`re seeing chemicals, corrosive substances thrown in the face. That`s affecting important areas such as

the eyes, leading to blindness. Some of the injuries to the skin of the face are very deep, affecting parts of the face such as the nose, the ears;

we have had people lose bits of their nose, lose their ears.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Plastic surgeon and burn specialist Peter Dziewulski has performed two skin grafts on Musa. He`s seen more patients

with chemical burns in 2017 than in the past 15 years.

DZIEWULSKI: There has been a significant increase in the number of these cases that are being referred to us. And they`re increasing in numbers in

general because we see the most severe cases and sort of the tip of the iceberg. So we do feel that there is a problem.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Public calls for government intervention are growing. Delivery drivers, who are one of the most targeted groups, want


The British government is reviewing how to impose restrictions on buying corrosive substances. They would admit that will be difficult. And it`s

considering stricter prison terms for offenders.

ROBERTSON: Musa`s two attackers received sentences of six and nine years respectively. But Musa says no punishment compares to his life sentence of


MIAH: I used to get people staring at me.


MIAH: It`s like -- it`s like they`re looking at a monster or something.

This is something really bad. It can change someone`s life. You don`t feel the same.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nic Robertson, CNN, London.




JONES: Welcome back.

Let`s turn our attention now to the hurricane recovery effort on the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico. Several leading Trump administration officials

are visiting the island today, including Ben Carson. He says he`s, quote, "extremely impressed" with the progress that`s been made since September.

Our Bill Weir went back to the island for an update on the aftermath.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When we first met Diane and Miguel, in hills of Aguas Buenas, they had just made it through the worst

storm of their lives, but the fight for survival was just beginning.

The Vietnam vet had just a few doses of insulin spoiling in a powerless fridge. When I went back a month later, the transmission tower that nearly

crushed them inside their home was back up.

WEIR: Wow, that`s a good sign. Look at that. They got it back up.

How are you? Ohh.

WEIR (voice-over): Folks at the V.A. had seen our story and sent help. Miguel was resting and Diane`s spirits were high.

"I`m going to keep fighting," she said, and then pointed up.

They put a flag on top of the tower.

But just before Thanksgiving, her hope turned to grief and she wept over the flag atop Miguel`s coffin.

The aftermath was just too much for him.

But will he be counted as a victim of Hurricane Maria?

After reporting by CNN and others sparked an official review, the fatality number could jump from 63 to over 1,000, but that is just one horrible

puzzle to solve here.

WEIR (on camera): How the hell did you get this contract?

WEIR (voice-over): Whitefish, the tiny company promised $300 million to help fix the grid, was fired just weeks into the job. The head of the

island`s power authority quit amid the scandal. And now as the Army Corps of Engineers struggles through jungle terrain, a third of the island

remains in the dark.

About 20,000 blue roof tarps have been installed but another 50,000 are waiting. But Puerto Rico is just one of dozens of disaster zones, from the

Caribbean to California. Nearly 5 million Americans have filed for federal aid in just the last few months and among those begging for help is the guy

in charge of helping.

BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEMA: Yes, I haven`t even been here six months yet and what I hope to do is inform, you know, Americans about how complex

this mission is.

It might be a time to sit back and say, are we in charge of too much?

WEIR (voice-over): After a career as an emergency manager in Georgia and Alabama, Brock Long was tapped by President Trump right before one of the

most destructive summers in American history. But he`s been there long enough to say that FEMA is broke and the system is broken.

Many of his 19,000 personnel have worked such --


WEIR (voice-over): -- long hours, they`ve hit a pay cap and will have to give back overtime.

WEIR (on camera): What does that do for morale?

Are there people who are essentially working for free?

LONG: We`ve got to fix that problem and I`ve been very vocal, you know, within Congress. I mean, you know, yes, it impacts morale. We cannot do

this alone.

Any time FEMA is the first, you know, the first responder and the primary responder, like we were in Puerto Rico, it`s never an ideal situation. But

I do believe, you know, for example, with Puerto Rico, that we kept that island complete and total collapse.

WEIR: You think so?

LONG: I do.

WEIR (voice-over): But things are so dire there now, 10 percent of the island has evacuated to Florida. Stephanie and Victoria are among the

250,000 Puerto Ricans who have fled so far. They`re grateful to Miami`s St. Thomas University for taking them in, but they`re worried about an

entire future in flux.

WEIR (on camera): Do you feel like Americans on that island?

Do you feel like second-class Americans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like we felt -- we feel we aren`t a priority, you know.

WEIR: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We aren`t being taken the care we deserve to be taken on the island.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we need the help. We are really needing the help.

WEIR: So when President Trump goes to Puerto Rico, for example, and throws paper towels to storm survivors, what sort of message does that send?

And how are you graded, based on that?

LONG: You know what, President Trump has been incredibly supportive of emergency management. At one point, we were having day-to-day

conversations with the White House and he is highly involved. He calls me directly. He`s very engaged. His message to me is help people and

expedite the processes to do so.

People are excited and asking, hey, what about me back here?

He picks it up, he throws it and the media captured it and can spin that story any way they want, but I was in the room. He genuinely cares about

the people in Puerto Rico, about the people in California, about the Americans in Texas, in Florida as well.


JONES: Bill Weir with that report there.

More to come on the program tonight, including, is it hard evidence or just hard to believe?

We`ll dig into a secret Pentagon program to investigate UFOs. That`s coming up.




JONES: Welcome back.

A now-defunct U.S. military program has got people talking. The secretive operation spent millions of taxpayer dollars to investigate UFOs -- yes,

unidentified flying objects. Skeptics say the project was a waste of time but the former Pentagon official who was in charge says he believes we may

not be alone. Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Commander David Fravor still can`t explain what he says he saw that day. November 2004, the Navy

fighter pilot was on a training mission west of San Diego when he was ordered to check out something in the water not far away.

On a clear day, over a smooth ocean, he saw the object, waves breaking over it and says he saw something hovering above it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s randomly moving, north-south, east-west, just random, just stopping and going the other direction, like you could do with

a helicopter but a little bit more abrupt. Yes, it looks like a 40-foot- long Tic Tac with no wings.

TODD: Fravor said he and his four-man team tracked the object for several minutes until it just disappeared. CNN has learned the Pentagon had a

secretive program to research UFOs like the one Fravor spotted. The project was called the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, run

by an official named Luis Elizondo.

LUIS ELIZONDO, ADVANCED AVIATION THREAT IDENTIFICATION PROGRAM: What I wanted to do is to allow the data to speak for itself and then use that

data to inform leadership, senior DOD leadership, about the potential threat that these types of technologies pose to national security.

Through the observation, scientific methodologies were applied to look at - -


ELIZONDO: -- this phenomenon, that these aircraft -- we`ll call them aircraft -- are displaying characteristics that are not currently within

the U.S. inventory nor in any foreign inventory that we are aware of.

TODD: A Defense official tells CNN the program cost at least $22 million over five years before it was shut down in 2012. According to "The New

York Times" and Politico, which first reported the story, tens of millions dollars for the project were pushed through by former Senate majority

leader Harry Reid.

Those publications say that a lot of the money for the Pentagon UFO program went to a company called Bigelow Aerospace, run by a longtime friend of

Reid`s, Robert Bigelow, a big believer in UFOs. Public records show Bigelow contributed about $20,000 to Reid and his political action


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That campaign contributor got research contracts from this program. That just is a bad picture. It doesn`t look good for

anybody. It`s hard to imagine that something that came about that way and profited somebody who pushed for the program was a good use of taxpayer


TODD: A Pentagon spokesman in fact told CNN the program was shuttered because there were, quote, "other higher priority issues that merited


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s definitely crazy to spend $22 million to research UFOs. Pilots are always going to see things that they cannot

identify and we should probably look into them. But to identify them as UFOs, to target UFOs to research, that is not the priority we have as a

national security matter right now.

TODD: But pilots like Fravor, who said he saw something, see merits in the program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if it is real, and I think it`s real because I saw it, what if there`s more of these and what if we do nothing?

TODD: Senator Reid responded to CNN, saying he`s, quote, "proud of the program" and that "its groundbreaking studies speak for themselves." Reid

says, "It`s silly and counterproductive to politicize the serious questions raised by the work of the UFO program."

The head of that aerospace firm, Robert Bigelow, did not respond to CNN`s multiple requests for comment -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


JONES: And the program is now defunct, so we will never know.

Thanks so much for watching tonight. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up after this break.