Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Typhoon Tembin Leaves Dozens Dead In The Philippines; WH Slams NYT Report Denies Trump's Immigrant Comments; Trump's Jerusalem Decision Overshadows Celebrations; Protests And U.S. Travel Warning May Hit Bethlehem's Economy. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 24, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:26] ROBYN KRIEL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Robin Kriel in Atlanta. We begin in the Philippines, two
disasters have rock that nation just days before Christmas. The first, storm Tembin is now a typhoon. Officials say it's killed more than 120
people leading to heavy flooding on the island of Mindanao. At least 70,000 people have been displaced and more than 150 are missing.
Also in Mindanao, a deadly fire at a shopping mall. Firefighters tried to rescue those trapped inside, including workers at a call center. This
video shows their desperation, some people went to the roof of the mall in Davao City to escape the flames. At nearly 40 people are missing and are
But more from weather side now with Allison Chinchar. Allison, any signs of reprieve for the people of the Philippines?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Finally, yes, we are going to start to see a little bit of a break from the rain as well as the clouds as the
system continues to push off to the west. The problem now is the countries where it's headed to encountering some of the same problems that the
Philippines, has been dealing with.
Right now, Typhoon Tembin, moving west-northwest at about 24 kilometers per hour. Winds have increased to 150 kilometers per hour. The good news is,
however, as it pushes to the west we do expect it to begin to weaken a little bit as it edges closer to land. However, take a look at some of the
rainfall totals that we've picked up in some of these areas in the past 24 to 48 hours. 109, 145, 215 millimeters of rain.
Again, some of these folks getting this in just one short day. So this is why, we've had so many of those scenes of destruction not just flooded out
roads, flooded homes but infrastructure actually breaking down because of that -- the amount of rain that had fallen in these areas. Not to mention
you have folks just trying to clean up their homes, clean up their businesses and get things back to normal. We talked about the track of the
storm, the good news is it is now edging very far away from the Philippines and making its way towards the west.
Next, it is likely to impact Vietnam then heading over towards Thailand as we get to bump the next 48 to 72 hours. The big concern going forward is
going to be heavy rainfall, very similar to what we saw in the Philippines. Widespread amounts are expected to be 50 to 100 millimeters of rain. But
there are going to be some isolated spots, especially along the coastal regions where 150, even 200 millimeters of rain is not out of the question.
Now, in terms of winds, those are still also expected to be strong, especially along the coastal regions. However, because it is expected to
weaken as it pushes to the west, those winds will gradually start to die back down in the next 24 to 48 hours. So the folks say, in Thailand won't
be receiving quite a strong of winds as the folks along the coastal regions of Vietnam.
Now, here's the problem for lot of those areas in the Philippines. If we had two separate storms hit a very similar Region in just a past week.
This was the track of Kai-tak, the storm that really moved through last week into the weekend and now you have Tembin.
Especially this region right here around Malaysia and Philippines where they meet, both of those areas, Robyn, were hit by two separate storms.
So, they didn't even really have much time to recover from the first storm before beginning the recovery from the most -- the most recent one.
KRIEL: All right. Thank you so much, Allison Chinchar there. U.S. President Donald Trump is spending Christmas at his Florida resort, but the
White House is still working and on the defensive. Trump administration denies a New York Times report that the President made disparaging remarks
about immigrants. Including saying that Haitian immigrants all have aids.
Now, according to the Times, President Trump's alleged comments were made during an oval office meeting in June. The Times acknowledges that some of
the people at that meeting do not recall Mr. Trump using those exact words. CNN's Dan Merica joins me live from West Palm Beach of Florida. Dan, thank
you. What has the White House's response been thus far to these allegations?
[10:04:47] DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Of course, these are explosive allegations in The New York Times, that the President said that
immigrants from Afghanistan come from a terror-ridden country, from Haiti that all the Haitian immigrants have AIDS and that Nigerian immigrants
wouldn't want to go back to their, "huts" when they came to the United States. Divisive rhetoric from the President that the White House says he
actually never said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said this in a statement to CNN, General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson,
Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims and it's both sad and telling the New York Times
would print the lies of their anonymous sources anyway. CNN has not been able to confirm this report, we've reached out to the White House and it
may have been there for comment, New York Times stands by their reporting, however.
It's important to note that President Trump did run a campaign hardline immigration campaign, brought that rhetoric into the White House, his
proposed a wall against the -- on the U.S./Mexico border, as proposed ending the visa lottery system and a host rather immigration changes. He
is a hardline immigration President but the White House is denying that these comments were ever made, Robyn?
KRIEL: And well, they're abhorrent if true, Dan. But do we have any other details about who else was in this room during the meeting?
MERICA: Yes. So, according to the White House, that statement you had Secretary Tillerson, you had then-Secretary of Homeland Security John
Kelly, who is now the chief of staff, this again happened in June. It's important to note that, you know, when John Kelly became chief of staff, he
initiated and put together really strict rules in the White House that limited the number of people in this kind of meetings because beforehand,
there was concern that the number of people in those meetings, you know, they could tell reporters what was going on.
They could leak, and that was a big concern of John Kelly when he became chief of staff. So, this meeting may not have, you know, been have not
happened in the same way if it had happened later in President Trump's first year.
KRIEL: All right. It's Christmas Eve, President Trumps tweeting again, lashing out at the FBI also the media. It doesn't seem like he's having
much for a break, Dan?
MERICA: You know, he -- most people, when they go on vacation, do what they enjoy and it seems like the President enjoys watching Fox News and
tweeting about the media and the FBI. He is doing things that he -- we definitely know he enjoys. His -- he played golf yesterday at one of his
local golf courses here, he's spending time at Mar-a-Lago where he's surrounded by informal advisors and friends of his --
MERICA: -- who he likes to use as sounding board. It's unclear if he's going to golf today but he is certainly taking in the holiday. He had a
teleconference with servicemen and women abroad as well. So, he is marking the holiday and enjoying himself here in beautiful Florida.
KRIEL: We do appreciate it, thank you so much, Dan Merica, live for us there.
Another story we're keeping an eye on for you, the new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands has apologized for remarks that he made about Muslims.
Ambassador Pete Hoekstra, made comments some two years back suggesting that the Netherlands was in chaos because of Muslims.
However, in recent interview with the Dutch reporter, he initially denied making those remarks, calling it fake news this despite the original
comments being quote on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE HOEKSTRA, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE NETHERLANDS: The Islamic movement is now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos.
Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burnt, there are politicians that are being burnt, and yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.
KRIEL: Hoekstra says, he regrets the exchange with the Dutch television program.
Russia has been talked about a lot lately when it comes to America's last presidential election. Well now Russia's just three months until its own
election, and the opposition has just endorsed Alexei Navalny to challenge President Vladimir Putin. Navalny is known for his stand against
corruption and against Mr. Putin, the government says that Navalny isn't eligible because of a conviction. So, he may not even be on the ballot.
Meanwhile, as you saw opposition supporters are taking to the streets. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has been in the crowd in Moscow.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The organizers of this rally are calling it a rally for free elections in Russia. Now,
one of the things they criticize is they say that not all the candidates who want to run against Vladimir Putin are going to be able to do so. This
rally was organized by (INAUDIBLE) he is one of the main opposition figures here in Russia.
That he also came and gave a speech they called for other candidates being allowed to run as well. Now, with about a couple hundred people showed up
at this event but there were events around the country as well also supporting Alexei Navalny. Now, Navalny is the main nemesis of Vladimir
Putin, and on this day, actually, Navalny was trying to submit his paper to run in the election. It's widely believed that that is going to be
rejected because he is under criminal investigation. He says that all that is politically motivated for so he's trying to put his documents in, he
trying to run in the election. It's unclear whether or not he is going to be able to do that. But events like this is something that you're going to
be seeing a lot.
In the late part of 2017, the early part of 2018, as we gear up for a major political season in the run-up to the 2018 election here in Russia. Fred
Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.
[10:10:21] KRIEL: From Russia to the White House, you can read about it all online @CNN,com, including signs that relations between President Trump
and Putin are turning chilly. He have much more on that at @CNN.com.
Went up ahead, we're going to give you a different take on relations between Russia and America.
The Moscow Ballet taking the Great Russian Nutcracker across the U.S., helping them dance closer together.
And Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, amid anger over President Trump's Jerusalem policy. We're going to be live from that historic city coming
KRIEL: A reality that felt so far away for so many years. Christmas without the (INAUDIBLE) of ISIS finally evident in Mosul again. It's month
since the terror group was ousted from the city and of people are free from the strict rules it once enforced, and Christians can once again celebrate
At as Mosul celebrates, Christmas time's most important city is feeling more conflicted. We're watching celebrations in Bethlehem, the biblical
birthplace of Jesus and a major Christian pilgrimage destination. But events there are being overshadowed by anger after U.S. President Donald
Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Our Oren Lieberman is live in Bethlehem with more on the impact from that controversial -- a decision. Oren, thousands make the journey there to
experience the special time of year normally. But take us through what's different about Christmas Eve celebrations in Bethlehem today.
[10:14:53] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, I'll you that the Christmas lights here just came on behind me in Manger Square, where
just right in front of the church of been (INAUDIBLE) the biblical spot where Jesus was born, and that's given it a very festive atmosphere. And
it's had that joys atmosphere throughout the day but what hasn't changed is the fact that Manger Square is still almost completely empty.
We were down on the Square a short time ago and you can feel it, the people are simply missing on this Christmas Eve. The selfie sticks outnumber the
tourists in Bethlehem's Manger Square. Near the church of the nativity, the biblical spot where Jesus was born, the holiday spirit is fading. What
was shaping up to be a busy Christmas a few weeks ago, now feels rather empty.
RONY TABASH, SHOP OWNER, MANGER SQUARE: Last Christmas it was -- I'm feeling it's better than this Christmas is that there was more pilgrims
LIEBERMAN: Ronnie's Tabash's family has owned this souvenir store near Manger Square for 90 years. Tabash is one of the lucky ones, his store
still has customers, at least some.
TABASH: We can feel that less pilgrims come to Bethlehem, but I want to tell the world and to tell all the people, we invite them to Bethlehem to
come to celebrate a Christmas mass.
LIEBERMANN: A giant nativity scene takes up most of Manger Square. Shop owners worry the tourists won't be able to fill the rest. Once again, the
U.S. issued the travel warning for Bethlehem right before the holiday season. That means tourists canceled their hotel stays, the shops here
don't see the customers, and entire city takes a hit.
The travel warning after President Donald Trump recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Setting of demonstrations across the region and here.
On this main road in Bethlehem, clashes have become the norm, not the exception. All along the street, broken windows and close storefronts.
There's no point in reopening only to close for every protest. The five- star Jacir Palace was booked for the holidays by the star singer for Christmas.
NADIA TWIMMEH, JACIR PALACE, BETHLEHEM: The hotel is fully booked but as you know because of the situation, it affected us a lot, it affected us
LIEBERMANN: I interview Nadia Twimmeh in an empty dining room. Few weeks ago this would have been full, as we wrap up demonstrations start outside.
Crowd of Palestinians marches towards an Israeli army outpost. They walked over an American flag with pictures of President Trump and Vice President
Pence, it's an anger that's barely faded replacing the joy few here feel this holiday season.
LIEBERMANN: The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism says, 2017 was their best year for tourism, but Robyn, once Trump made his announcement recognizing
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, those tourist numbers plummeted for the last few weeks of the year.
KRIEL: Oren, there's three Palestinians are dead after violent demonstrations there on Friday. What's next for those calling for protest
over the U.S. embassy moved?
LIEBERMANN: All the three Palestinians killed by Israeli fired were in Gaza this past Friday where demonstrations are still very large. We have
seen more protests and demonstrations here in Bethlehem and in the area of the West Bank, but those have been calmer. That doesn't mean the anger has
faded, and you can see that here as politics and religion mix.
There are signs around Manger Square that says Jerusalem will always be the eternal capital of Palestine. That's a direct shot at Trump. And that
opinion, that sentiment, that anger, isn't going away anytime soon here.
KRIEL: Ending on somewhat of a lighter night, Oren, can you just give us an idea of what is behind you? It's so beautiful and lit up.
LIEBERMANN: Let me step out of the way so you can actually take a closer look in here, so, I can take a look and enjoy the scene behind me here.
So, this is Manger Square, this behind us, is the church of nativity, again, that's the biblical spot where Jesus is born. I've been inside
there a few times and it's absolutely stunning.
But of course, the setup is here is the tree very beautifully lit, as well as the lights hanging above Manger Square here in the trees lit in the
Square. You can see everyone here is enjoying themselves. The shame is that there aren't more pilgrims here from all over the world. Robyn, a
Merry Christmas to you from Manger Square here in Bethlehem.
KRIEL: You know, thank you so much. Merry Christmas to you, and yes, indeed a shame more people aren't there to look at those beautiful lights.
In Puerto Rico, people are trying to keep the Christmas spirit alive as they continue to rebuild from Hurricane Maria. Much of the island still
lacks electricity and running water, three months after the storm hit. CNN's Leyla Santiago has their story.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, many of the plazas, in the municipalities have decorations up, and people are finding creative ways to
celebrate without a power. The mayor of San Juan tells me about 70 percent of San Juan has power right now, but when I went into the interior, talked
to the mayor of Utuado, he tells me about 70 percent of his municipality does not have a power. We met one woman named Maricela, she says, Maria
destroyed her home and this is far from a normal Christmas for her. Here's part of my exchange, with her.
[10:19:57] MARICELA ARCE, RESIDENT, PUERTO RICO: There's a lot of people that still don't have water in their house and I really think, OK, if I'm,
I'm this way, how are they going to pass Christmas, New Years?
SANTIAGO: So, what would the one thing be that you off for Christmas?
ARCE: I want to be at my house.
SANTIAGO: And Robyn, even children having conversations with Santa Clause or talking about Maria, we heard it in the conversations that Santa was
having here in San Juan with kids talking about lack of power and a lack of water. And there's really a sense of lack of hope, wondering when the
power will come back. And really differentiating between San Juan and what the rest of the island is experiencing this Christmas. Robyn.
KRIEL: Tough Christmas for so many that was Leyla Santiago, reporting.
On the political stage, relations between Russia and the United States has become increasingly icy over the years. But there's one stage with the two
countries are coming together. CNN's Christi Paul looks at how they're delivering a message of peace without saying a word.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Moscow Ballet is performing the Great Russian Nutcracker on stages across the United States. This is the 25th
Anniversary Nutcracker Tour. Standing from glass (INAUDIBLE) the policy calling for increase artistic openness between the U.S. and Russia after
the end of the cold war.
In their version of the Nutcracker, it's quite different from what you may have seen before. There's no sugar plum fairy here, but there is a dove of
peace. A gift given to the principal character, Marsha, during the Christmas Party scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she takes the dove of peace on the wings of the dove of peace around the world, seeking peace and harmony.
AKIVA TALMI, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, MOSCOW BALLET: She goes to France, Italy, Africa, all around the world. And she finds peace and harmony through
PAUL: To show their commitment to the theme of love and peace with the U.S., Moscow Ballet created "Dance with Us". It's a program where local
ballet students in each city audition, rehearse and perform with the famous Russian ballet dancers. Besides fostering the great of cultural exchange
between the two countries, it gives the American children a once in a lifetime experience and a glimpse behind the Russian ballet curtain.
REMIE GONA, BALLET STUDENT: Russia there is definitely like a -- they have to work really hard to get where they want to be and like there's no other
way to do it. In the Russian one, I had teachers that real like they're very strict and you have to work really hard.
PAUL: You say, you want to go to Russia? Is that right? Would you like to live there?
GONA: It's kind of scary, you know, moving to assure because you know, you know what's going to happen or alone or something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a new experience and it's very fun.
PAUL: Moscow Ballet Dancer, Batalov is an honored artist of Russia, that's one of the highest honors given in that country. Producer Akiva Talmi told
us, the Russian Ballet is like America's Hollywood. So, Batalov's honor is like winning an Oscar. And they both say, dancing in the U.S. has left an
impression on me.
ANDREY BATALOV, PRINCIPAL DANCER, MOSCOW BALLET (through translator): Well, the fact that Russian Ballet brings special culture, and I hope that
the American audience over member what we're delivering with our performance of the classical heritage.
TALMI: The Russian artists have learned about American children. The openness and the happiness of American children is very, very contagious.
Their surprised by that is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding through many, many years, through poor politics and truthfully culture has always
been, used as a vehicle for improving relations. My life in working with Russia has been about peace and the dove of peace is our most successful
PAUL: Moscow Ballet hopes American audiences see that this Great Russian Nutcracker does what sometimes politics can't think to do to bring us
together. Christi Paul, CNN, Atlanta.
[10:24:33] KRIEL: People wish for it, people pray for it, and even sing about it for your parting shots. It's a White Christmas. Check out Dubai
tucked in under a blankets of fog. The city's crown prince sharing breathtaking views from above a beautiful blanket of not snow, fog.
Delicately making its way around the iconic Burj Khalifa. Some 800 meters above ground, not the typical version of White Christmas to the rest of the
world maybe, but to a country where 20 degrees Celsius is called winter, it certainly is enough to get anyone into the holiday mood.
I'm Robyn Kriel that was this half of CONNECT THE WORLD for you. Next, a quick check of your well, headlines rolling right into a special edition of
the show. With Becky Anderson, looking at arts, culture, and entertainment in 2017, it's not to be missed.
[10:29:51] KRIEL: Hello, I'm Robyn KIEL, this is "CNN NEWS NOW". At least a 123 people had been killed since Typhoon Tembin slammed into the
Philippines. The storm hit another set of islands this weekend after unleashing flooding on Friday. Dozens of people are missing and more than
70,000 are now homeless.
North Korea is calling a new round of U.N. sanctions against (INAUDIBLE) act of war, that's according to a statement published on North Korean state
media. It says the country is devoted for the U.S. drafted resolution will be held completely responsible and will pay a heavy price.
The White House is denying a New York Times report claiming U.S. President Donald Trump said that Haitian immigrants all have AIDS. The White House
press secretary says, top senior officials deny the claim and it's both sad and telling the New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous
Bethlehem is celebrating Christmas Eve but anger remains over the decision by U.S. President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Business owners there fear that tourism could take a hit after clashes between protesters and police.
That's your "CNN NEWS NOW", a CONNECT THE WORLD Special is up next. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: A very warm welcome to what is very special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you. It's been a
very big year here in the Middle East, politically as well as culturally. And one were cultural figures got political not just about the Arab world,
but about the wide world especially under a presidency of Donald Trump, whose policies have had such an impact on this region.
When I sat down with some of the big names right here in the UAE, including Jennifer Lopez, who spoke about raising millions for hurricane victims in
Puerto Rico where her parents were born. And the government's controversial response.
JENNIFER LOPEZ, AMERICAN SINGER: To Puerto Rico, I mean, the message is, you know, that we haven't forgotten about you and we were able to raise a
lot of money but now it's about distributing that money, how it gets distributed, where Puerto Rico needs at the most. And kind of like, now
the work, where they begin after we raised it?
People on the ground in Puerto Rico right now, telling us what they need, where the money is needed most, what exactly they need? Whether it's, you
know, generators or diesel fuel or water or logistics put in place to get this stuff where it needs to be because that's really been the prom because
the Island so devastated and different roads and places of people cannot get here and there.
I mean, there's so much stuff and there's kid in hospitals who need the generator -- I mean, that just a goes on, and on -- and on and we're just
here and we're trying to help as much as we can and you know, hope to seek a trip down there soon. And really see for myself what's going on.
Because if you hear people saying, "You know what Christ is over," you will say, no. Oh my God, no. It's not over, it's -- I mean, does it take so
long to rebuild and it's going to take so much more money, $35 million that we raised. The past couple of years with so much division and sad events
going on, and devastating event, and tragic event happening. For people to come together and show unity and show that they care, you really go there
so many good people in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today President Trump is going on the attack against the mayor of San Juan and other leaders of Puerto Rico.
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiencies and the bureaucracy.
ANDERSON: Will disappointed, how long it took for the U.S. government to get on and help?
LOPEZ: Listen, and I can only control myself, so I would say to everybody whose frustrated in any way. Do something, do something yourself. Because
you can't ever really depend on anyone else in this world, right? You have to -- you have to take things into your own hand sometimes. So, the way I
combat any frustrations I may have with anything or anything or anybody is to take it into my own hands and do something about it.
ANDERSON: May you have.
LOPEZ: Thank you.
ANDERSON: And Puerto Rico, thank you. Let's get back to your career.
ANDERSON: You took your album, well, 18 years ago now?
ANDERSON: Talk to me about its significance, in the name of --
LOPEZ: You know, it's so funny that you bring that up because those songs are still so relevant to my life, to this day.
You write something 18 years ago and today people still love it. You know, that's such a blessing for me and I want to think about bringing my first
album and who I was at the time, I'm the same but I'm so different. I've had kids and my whole life change, then you know, I've gone through a
divorce, with kid which was life-changing for me. And I like to hope that I've evolved and gotten a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser.
ANDERSON: I saw the amazing (INAUDIBLE) which had shown many of you fans (INAUDIBLE). If I had to take a stab of who amor, amor, who is about?
Would that be right?
LOPEZ: It's funny, you know, when I was making this Spanish album, which is so exciting, I haven't made one in ten years. It was a mix between kind
of ending something and all of a sudden finding something incredibly beautiful and new.
ANDERSON: Your big acting break, of course, came on clang the (INAUDIBLE) in 1997.
ANDERSON: What something did you learn about yourself through playing her?
LOPEZ: It was such a lesson, she was a better in performer, but she was also the beginning of her crossover career. And just to see and learned
about her in how she handled certain situations, how she handled the press, how she handled her family situation, how she handled her public persona,
everything about her for me was a learning experience. And kind trained me of how to handle the career that was about to happened to me. My life
change after that very much. So, it was -- it was a learning experience all around. Life is short and you never know what's going to happen so,
you better love everybody now, and let them know because you never know.
ANDERSON: Is that we Italy kids?
LOPEZ: Oh, yes. We're all about love at my house.
ANDERSON: Eating them off?
LOPEZ: Yes. I think what I like to teach them is to love themselves, you know, so they can be good on their own, that's the big lesson I've learned.
ANDERSON: We have taken a (INAUDIBLE) Jennifer. J.Lo's live here singing, dancing, acting. How about that? Very efficient.
LOPEZ: Really, you have, quick.
ANDERSON: If you had to consider what your legacy will be at this but what will you be? What would you hope it would be?
LOPEZ: I mean, that as woman, as that we can't be defined or put in the box. I was a dancer and I said I could it be an actress, and I did that.
And then, I was an actress, you can't be a recording artist, and then I did that. And then, after that it was like, well, you're a performer, you
can't produce or you can't, you know, have a perfume or -- that's too corny when this is to that. Or you can't be an American Idol, it's like every
step of the way, you know, you just keep saying no. If it feels right to you, you can do it. And that's what I always followed my gut and never
fused to let anybody put me in a box.
ANDERSON: Refusing to be put in a box, a strong message therefrom superstar J.Lo. Among shared by Akon as we discuss race and identity in
Akon is come a long way since his big breakthrough in 2004. He sold 35 million albums around the world. Earned five Grammy nominations and helped
launched the career of Lady Gaga. He's even collaborated with King of Pop himself, the late Michael Jackson.
But Akon insists, it's the immigrant experience, not show business that shape the money as today.
AKON, AMERICAN SINGER: I never really looks that it like as I was African or American or African-American.
ANDERSON: I caught up with this Senegalese American rapper and philanthropist during a recent visit to the UAE.
Just talk about being a young -- mostly African bought up kid in the States back in the day?
AKON: It was an interesting time when I came. There's always been this lack of education of foreigners. When you look at culture and history in
America's always been borrowed from different cultures. So, America is known for having this -- of society that's been built like a puzzle. You
got piece that there come from everything that just makes this beautiful picture.
The picture looks like its one thing but it clearly is something else because those pieces haven't been put together. And I think, that's what
America dealing with today.
ANDERSON: It has been lot of bombastic rhetoric about, about immigration, new executive order, about who becoming, who can't. What's your message?
AKON: Embrace the world as it is today. Don't try to create yesterday for tomorrow's future. Just --
ANDERSON: Thinking that's what's going on at the moment?
[10:39:59] AKON: That's exactly was going on. I mean, they're holding on to the past. The younger mind to see development, they see future from a
standpoint of growth and non-bias, non-sexual orientation, non -- you know, racial. They don't look at all of that, they just look at progress, they
look at love, they look at happiness. But the only generation are still holding on.
They might have been hurt by the past or their mom or dad might are went through and they're holding other people accountable for actions that they
want even alive to make. You know, so, and it just doesn't make sense because as long as we continue to hold our past and hold ourselves
accountable for. What I asked is pass grand pap's and moms have created, whatever that energy was in that time, that's not the same energy today.
So, we just have to allow that past to go and learned from it and figure how we can move forward together.
ANDERSON: Welcome back to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson. Well, we met a fantastic range of performance in 2017, but
there simply wasn't any escaping politics this year. American cellist Yo- yo Ma brings together musicians from all over the world including a Syrian musician. They got caught up in Trump's travel ban.
YO-YO MA, FOUNDER, SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE: (INAUDIBLE) most founded on and idea that people can actually get along through working together deeply.
We're trying to work towards towers, not only amongst ourselves but much even deeper that. So that we can entered to really great work. Coming
from different perspectives in such a way that those perspectives make us stronger and the creativity greater
ANDERSON: How disappointing is it that this current administration has what many would just call out-right, a Muslim travel ban? You've been
caught up in that yourself.
KINAN AZMEH, CLARINET PLAYER, SYRIAN: I mean, what I went through as four days of me not knowing whether I would be able to go home or not. But
also, put thing into perspective, I mean, me not being able to go back to my apartment in New York is really nothing in comparison to people who lost
their lives, or you know, the lives of the people who they love.
I mean, I been always taken aside at the airports because of the passport I hold. It's hard to really relate that a signature, one signature can
change the lives of so many people in a second, you know. I don't have an emotion reaction, I think, how can I be proactive doing those.
The best thing to do is you continue to do what you do and you play. Whether you paying in New York or elsewhere, you have to keep addressing
this issues by the music.
ANDERSON: In February, you did publish a message in which you spoke of your deep concern, you're disappointment and your sadness over this
executive order. And do you continue to be concerned?
MA: It's not about ideology, it's not about your right I'm wrong, but just like. OK, we have a difference in opinion. Why is that? How can we
actually take that and move towards something and not have the certitude of this right and this wrong, period.
ANDERSON: Well, socially she used sir right here in the Gulf were also in the spotlight in 2017. Saudi Arabia's first hip-hop radio host filled me
in on his highly personal push to change perceptions about autism.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HASSAN AHMAD DENNAOUI, HOST, F.M. HIP-HOP RADIO SHOW, SAUDI ARABIA: My name is Hassan Ahmad Dennaoui, better known as Big Hass. I host Saudi's
first F.M. hip-hop radio show.
Hello, welcome to (INAUDIBLE) this your man, Big Hass -- The 99.99 percent of Arabic, you know music is all about only love. You know, we have other
issues, community issues, socio-issues and yes to political issues.
We start to read again to hip-hop in 2008, when I started this is in some hip-hop from Syria, from Iraq, from Palestine. And these rappers were my
new resource. You know, I would do listen to them and educating me about what's going on in the region.
Really, so, this is my hero. Ahmed is 6 years old. 2010, we will blessed to the baby boy. Three, four years down the line, we founded that he's
autistic. Like he is the best thing that ever and happened to us of course, and I shout out to this woman man, say it live on T.V., she is
doing really great, my better half.
Scene on Dubai is a bit different place than Jeddah bit more open, of course. Then, we moved in here exactly a year ago and now he's starting to
speak he has -- he's starting to be much more aware about this his surroundings.
AHMAD DENNAOUI, SON OF HASSAN: Hip-hop.
H. DENNAOUI: When I say on the air, that my son is autistic and I'm not ashamed of it, and when I take a picture in my son, for example, I always
use the hashtag autism is not a diseased or autism parent.
And I get like, some people are very like, you know, a bit rude, says that why you're so proud like he's a disabled. And I engaged with the
discussion, I think that's what we want (INAUDIBLE). So, as a radio host, that's what I'll try to do.
The number one difference between like Saudi Arabia and UAE is the awareness that people have. The UAE has done a great job with just making
awareness. Lot of events happen. That's OK, that's what autism is like, you know. And my son being autistic, his just as open another dimension
for me. So, its support local talents, it's changing perception about hip- hop, it's talking about my son, it's talking about how he changed me, how he made me more patient.
I want Ahmad, my son, to be the person he is destined to be, to become a man that can be depend on himself, you know, which is very challenging when
it comes to autism, but I will definitely fight for that to happen.
[10:49:37] ANDERSON: You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Welcome back to our end of year culture special. Now, it's been an incredibly busy year
but it wasn't all about politics in this region, of course, some of it was the pure joy of performance.
Ancient history, the rich culture of a country on display. This is Jordan, this is Jurash. This was once on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire,
conquered by General Pompey. It sat on the crossroads portray between eastern west, between Rome, and India, and China. And today, it sits at
the heart of Jordan's tourism industry. The ruin here are beautifully preserve. And tonight, the stage is set to welcome one of the worlds most
beloved of the (INAUDIBLE).
The legendary tenant with a divine voice, some would call it gift from God. He's a man of faith, ahead of the concert, making his way to one of
Jordan's most holy places, the site were some believed Jesus was baptize.
ANDREA BOCELLI, WORLD FAMOUS TENOR: I know that -- the story of Jesus since when I was a child. And to be here at very important moment --
This was explain because the sensations are very deep and there are not words that --
This place is especially important for me. And then Jordan is a beautiful country and today's my second concert, I hope everything can go away very
well, I hope so.
ANDERSON: Backstage, he warmed up the full power and range of his voice. The moments, a ritual almost sacred, to ready himself for the show ahead.
When was it you realized that music would be a definer in your life?
BOCELLI: I love music since when I, I was born, I think because my mother says that when there was music, I immediately stop to cry. So, it means
that I love music forever, since there.
I forget music is part of me, completely part of me. I can't imagine a world without music.
ANDERSON: And when you've heard Bocelli sing, we told to imagine a world without his voice. Revere to repertoire, the voice of a virtuoso. Soring
among inch in hearings, modern history in the making.
ANDERSON: You are all known by many as the Palestinian Frank Sinatra. I some done one of our let (INAUDIBLE) with somebody from this region.
OMAR KAMAL, JAZZ MUSICIAN: To someone to learn from one of the best in phrasing, in singing and performing. So huge on of it. I will gradually
move on from that. I'm on at the rush but at the same time, I have to be careful.
ANDERSON: Tell me about the first time that you heard a Frank Sinatra song.
KAMAL: I think it was one of my father's CD's, a collections of love songs because internet is kind of a new thing in Palestine. So, I set Frank
Sinatra and the first result was fly me to the moon, and from that moment I was -- and I wanted more.
ANDERSON: Do you tell me that you got that right straight away?
I had it growing up as a Palestinian in form (INAUDIBLE)
KAMAL: We don't have all the options, we don't have all the possibilities open. So, when you have just a clear idea of a couple of things that you
could freely do it's just drives you to achieve something.
Those was a very musical atmosphere at home.
[10:55:11] ANDERSON: So, mom sang.
KAMAL: Mom sang and my sister sang as well. My brother played a piano a little bit. And because I was -- I'm the youngest really, so, I was
watching from the sidelines.
ANDERSON: You went to the U.K. to an engineering degree.
ANDERSON: You did very well. So, when did you dump the idea of being an engineer?
KAMAL: I have to prove it to myself first and to my fans and family that this is what I want to do and this is what I'm fit full.
ANDERSON: So, why jazz? I mean, it couldn't be any more different than Palestinian music.
KAMAL: I've been talking to (INAUDIBLE) Jones about this, it's all about the song, whether it's a Jazz, Arabic, Pop, anything. So, he have a good
song and this matter what Jones release.
ANDERSON: How important role do you think music plays in changing perceptions about a region or a people,
KAMAL: This the power of music and power of representation. And the mere fact that fill myself out is enough to bring this image of life and hope
from Palestine and to (INAUDIBLE). You know I would like to see peace. I mean, can you imagine if there wasn't any hope, I think that that it needs
the people to change from within and decide to drive this process. There's nothing to do with governments, of politics, it should to start from the
ANDERSON: A call for peace, a message will poignant than ever giving in Donald Trump's announcement on Jerusalem at the backhand of 2017. I'm
Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. I'll leave u now with more of that musical message from the holy land.