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U.S. Prepares to Send Warship to Black Sea; Satellite Images Show North Korea Expanding Missile Sites; LEGO Foundation Grants $100 Million to Sesame Workshop to Bring "Learn Through Play" To Refugee Children; U.S. Senators Claim Saudi Crown Prince "Complicit" in Khashoggi Killing; State Funeral for the 41st U.S. President; Trump Has Repeatedly Slammed Bush Family; CFO of Chinese Tech Company Huawei Arrested; 2018 Carbon Emissions to Hit All-Time High; Saving the Great Barrier Reef. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 6, 2018 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The United States fraying already fragile nerves between Russia and Ukraine as it prepares to sail a warship into the Black Sea.

Reseeding a reef: a promising project aimed at saving Australia's great natural wonder.

Plus Muppets on a mission, giving Rohingya and Syrian refugee children a sunny day.

We're live from the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.

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VANIER: The U.S. military is responding to the simmering tensions between Russia and Ukraine, making plans to send a warship into the Black Sea. Moscow and Kiev have been at odds since a confrontation in the waters off Crimea last week. And the U.S. response is just one of the ways Washington is testing the Kremlin. CNN's Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: The U.S. military is requested that the State Department notified the Turkish government that it intends to sell a warship into the Black Sea, U.S. officials are telling CNN.

Now this is required under international treaties governing the straits that connect the Mediterranean to the Black Sea but it comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the nearby Sea of Azov. Now the U.S. moving a warship into that area could be seen as pushing

back on Russia, which recently captured Ukrainian vessels and is detaining some 24 Ukrainian sailors.

This comes the same day as the United States challenged Russia's claims over a part of the Sea of Japan, sailing a warship inside areas that Russia says belongs to their territorial waters. This is near Vladivostok the headquarters of the Russian Pacific Fleet.

Now this exercise is what the U.S. calls a freedom of navigation operation and they conduct them all over the world. But when they're done against China and Russia, they tend to raise geopolitical sensitivities in the region.

And finally, the U.S. announcing that it intends to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing in Brussels, giving Russia 60 days to return in compliance or the U.S. will exit the Cold War-era treaty eliminating a wide range of nuclear missiles -- Ryan Browne, CNN, the Pentagon.

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(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Steve Hall is a retired CIA chief of Russian operations, now a CNN U.S. security analyst.

So Steve, what is this, the U.S. flexing its muscles?

STEVE HALL, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's a little bit of the U.S. flexing its muscles but I think you have to take it into context, Cyril, in terms of what the Russians have been up to.

Let's recall that the Russians annexed, illegally annexed Crimea, the first time that's happened since the end of World War II. And they have been working to continue to destabilize the situation in Eastern Ukraine by essentially sending Russians and Russian-supported troops into that area.

So it's -- it is indeed the United States reacting, I think would be the most accurate way to put it, to what Russia -- what Vladimir Putin is doing in the region and also, as your reporter mentioned, also in the -- on the other side of Russia on the Pacific side, off of Vladivostok.

So this is -- this is I think an attempt to speak to Putin in a language that he understands, that perhaps these things will not go without a response from the United States and, hopefully, the international community.

VANIER: So if the goal is to contain Russia or limit aggressive Russian military behavior, is it working?

HALL: I think that remains to be seen. What we've been trying to do -- and by we, I mean the West, not just the United States but Western countries -- have been trying to do things like impose sanctions and other types of diplomatic and economic measures to try to register the displeasure that the international community has with Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its activities in Eastern Ukraine.

The problem with sanctions, of course, is that they're slow. It takes a while to determine what's really going on. And you could argue that Vladimir Putin perhaps doesn't care as much about sanctions as he does when he's looking at actual military force from the United States and again, hopefully, the NATO allies as well.

VANIER: Right. And Russia has been resisting the sanctions or coping with sanctions for a number of years now.

So I wonder, is all of this enough?

Will Russia see this latest move, for instance, the fact that the U.S. is getting ready to send a warship or preparing to send a warship in the Black Sea, will they look at this and think, OK, well, there's only so far we can go?

Or will they think, well, actually there -- the response is very limited?

HALL: It'll be interesting to see. Well, one would hope for the former, that Vladimir Putin would say, look, I have --

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HALL: -- taken as much advantage as I can of the situation that we have. And that situation is a Western alliance, NATO, that is -- that is more divided and more preoccupied with its attention elsewhere than it's been -- it's been in recent past. That we'll argue.

The United States is also distracted with its own internal political situations. The U.K. also, you know, is distracted with things like Brexit. So I think that Vladimir Putin has calculated that he's going to take as much as he can, take as much geopolitical advantage as he can.

And then when he starts to get pushback, the hope, of course, on the Western side is that he'll say, OK, that's as far as I can go without really starting something that I don't want to be involved in. So we'll see how far he's willing to push on this.

VANIER: Is this any different -- is this much different, in your view, from what the Obama administration did and would have done in similar circumstances?

HALL: It's -- there are some similarities and some -- and some differences. The Obama administration was relatively aggressive, I would say, with sanctions and other attempts to message the Russians about what displeased the United States and the West.

However, the Obama administration was very concerned and reluctant to send, for example, defensive weaponry to Ukraine, to help the Ukrainians defend against what is essentially a Russian invasion of the eastern part of their country and, of course, what happened in Crimea.

So this is a bit more aggressive. But it still falls within the general category of sort of not routine operations but acceptable operations, the freedom of navigation, the freedom of ships of all countries to travel to these locations. So I'd say it's a bit more aggressive and we'll see what Putin's reaction is.

VANIER: All right, Steve Hall, CNN U.S. security analyst, thank you very much.

HALL: Sure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators just introduced a resolution, calling Saudi Arabia's crown prince complicit in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The resolution says Mohammed bin Salman should be held responsible not only for Khashoggi's death but also for Yemen's humanitarian crisis, for the blockade of Qatar and the imprisonment of political dissidents.

That resolution is non-binding but senators are working on another tougher measure targeting Saudi Arabia and that one would curtail U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, suspend arms sales with the Saudi kingdom and officially rebuke the crown prince.

Now there are new indications that North Korea is doing little to slow its ballistic missile program. Satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN show the North is expanding a key long-range missile base in the mountainous region near the Chinese border.

Apparently a new facility is also being built 11 kilometers away. We're learning this as U.S. president Donald Trump is considering a second summit with Kim Jong-un to press the North Korean leader to hold up his end of the bargain on denuclearization.

Now I want to take you to the state of Texas, where former U.S. president George H.W. Bush lies in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston. There will be a second memorial service in a few hours before he is laid to rest at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

On Wednesday, thousands of mourners, President Trump and every living former U.S. president, gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington to pay tribute to America's 41st president. Jamie Gangel reports.

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JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Washington says goodbye to President George H.W. Bush. Every living U.S. president, royalty, world leaders, politicians and dear friends at the National Cathedral, a ceremony filled with tears and laughter.

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: As Dana Carvey said, the key to a Bush 41 impersonation is Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne. GANGEL (voice-over): Former Senator Alan Simpson, a longtime friend, recalled how Bush helped him during a crisis.

ALAN SIMPSON (R), WYOMING: He reached out to me while I'm tangled in rich controversy and taking my lumps and he said yes. There were staff members, all who told me not to do this. But Al, this is about friendship and loyalty.

GANGEL (voice-over): Brian Mulroney, former Canadian prime minister, praised Bush's leadership as the Cold War came to an end.

BRIAN MULRONEY, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, CANADA: No occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush.

GANGEL (voice-over): The son eulogized his father ...

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To us, he was close to perfect but not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. He wasn't exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor.

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BUSH 43: The man couldn't stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And, by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us.

GANGEL (voice-over): -- and praised him for teaching him how to lead in public life and in private.

BUSH: Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, I just smile, knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom's hand again.

GANGEL (voice-over): And a final departure from Washington for the 41st president aboard the same 747 he used while in office taking him home to Texas for the last time.

GANGEL: Special Air Mission 41 has now landed back in Texas. There will be a final memorial on Thursday and former President George H.W. Bush will be laid to rest at his Presidential Library -- Jamie Gangel, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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VANIER: Brian Karem, CNN political analyst, joins us. He's executive editor of The Sentinel Newspapers.

Brian, you followed all the day's events, obviously.

Most memorable moment of the day for you?

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I guess it was when George Bush Jr., George W. Bush, handed Ms. Obama some candy prior to going up and speaking. I think that was a very touching moment when Michelle Obama, he reached over, he had pulled out the candy and gave it to her.

And the smiles they exchanged and the warmth that they showed each other was genuine. And I thought that was probably one of the most poignant moments of the whole day.

I think it was also pointing; it was very telling for this administration, how diminished our current president looked against the other heads of state who sat there.

VANIER: So I want to show, back to back, first of all, when the current president, 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, walks in, shakes hands with Barack Obama, who's sitting next to his wife, Melania Trump, shakes hands with Michelle Obama.

But you have two other living presidents sitting in the pews beside them, does not shake hands with them and that moment was set upon.

And then -- and just to complete that picture and compare and contrast, because we saw Bill Clinton, we saw Jimmy Carter. This is George W. Bush walking in, going out of his way to shake hands with every -- there's the candy there. We see the candy.

All right, your turn.

KAREM: Yes, I think it was -- I mean, it was a difference in grace, a difference in elegance. And it was sad and poignant and pointed to all this country has been and could be and how the current president is kind of an anti-president. He comes in and shakes up the mores.

And we kind of want our presidents to be dignified and to show some respect and to be observant of others and to show some quiet dignity and that hasn't been the case of this administration.

And it came back in a very subtle yet haunting way today at the funeral for another leader, who has been called, in repose, you know, the last great moderate president.

VANIER: So I want to play for you the words of his son, the 43rd president George W. Bush. Here are some of his words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH 43: Of course, Dad taught me another special lesson. He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage and asked with love and his heart for the citizens of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Is it fair to look at that -- I mean is he just eulogizing his father?

Or is it fair to look at that as also a silent criticism of a man we know he doesn't like very much, the current president? KAREM: Well, I think those words would have been said about President Bush no matter who the current president is. So in fairness to his son, I mean as a son, as a father, I looked at those and was very -- it was heartwarming.

And so, yes, he was eulogizing his father as best as he could. But because of the current conditions in the White House, you can't help but look at it as a subtle rebuke of the man who is the President of the United States, whether it was meant to be or not, because the very words that he says of his father, the current occupant of the White House has shown none of those characteristics.

So even if you are just eulogizing your father, you look at the current occupant, you go, wow, it would be nice if we had that once again.

And so it -- I don't think he meant it as a rebuke of President Donald Trump but it stands as a stark and very significant reminder of what we've had in this country and what we lack now.

VANIER: So again, I want to compare and contrast and listen to some of the things that Donald Trump has had to say about the Bushes, the whole family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one.

What the hell is that?

Well, I think Bush is probably the worst president in the history of the United States.

Poor Jeb Bush --

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TRUMP: I mean, this poor guy, with his low energy, it's sad, you know, it's sad. I came up with that term, it became so defining it's like having it on his forehead. I am low --

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VANIER: Now for somebody who has defined his political persona that way with those direct attacks, I think it's not going out on a limb to say that he's guaranteed to get criticism on a day like this because you can't climb up that hill. You can't, I should say, climb up from that hole you've dug for yourself and then --

KAREM: There you go.

VANIER: -- and then portray civility on that day. But my question is this.

KAREM: Sure. VANIER: Has Donald Trump actually and has this White House actually learned from the last significant political death that we saw in this country, that of John McCain?

And the reason I ask is because at the time he equivocated on Twitter as to the tone that he set, the flag at the White House didn't go down immediately and all those things were corrected this time.

KAREM: Well, I think this president faces a very steep learning curve. It's a 90-degree slope. And so, I think that there were people on his staff who were well aware of what happened last time and corrected it.

But I don't think Donald Trump has changed any. I think he's impervious to change. That's one of the things that people love or hate about him, is that Donald Trump is Donald Trump. And the things that he says about -- that he said about Bush, he doesn't regret any of those.

You have to understand, in Donald Trump's world, this is mere hyperbole, this is chutzpah. He doesn't take it as seriously as others take it. He doesn't realize sometimes that his words have meaning and have weight. And as the President of the United States, has a particular amount of weight to them.

I give him the benefit of the doubt in that regard. I think he's impervious to change, I think he's impervious to that type of learning.

But that's also scary because he is the President of the United States and, at the end of the day, he represents and serves all of us. And I think he's done it poorly and I think that, today, you saw him, sat with his arms crossed. People were giving him grief for not following the Apostle's Creed and all of that.

But I think Donald Trump was just being today the quintessential Donald Trump. Somebody took his phone out of his hand. So thank goodness, he didn't, you know, tweet during the middle of the service. I would have almost expected that. Had he done so, in fact, as I said earlier, that I was speaking to a member of the White House staff today.

He said, we just hope he gets through this without embarrassing himself. And that was the big hope for the President of the United States, going in today's service for another president who had died.

VANIER: That's an interesting observation. Brian Karem, thank you so much for joining us.

KAREM: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: The chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei is under arrest in Canada. Meng Wanzhou was taken into custody while changing planes in Vancouver and faces extradition to the United States.

Authorities aren't sharing details of the case but the U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether Meng violated trade sanctions against Iran. Our Matt Rivers is following this from Beijing.

Matt, what more do you know?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really, Cyril, this is something that is ongoing and developing and something we'll watch the next couple of days. We can't talk that much about it in terms of the details of the specific case because Canada has this law where they could put what is called a publication ban on a case like this.

So we can't talk about the specific charges that Meng is facing in Canada now, nor the evidence to back that up. But here's what we can tell you.

She was arrested on December 1st while changing flights in Canada, this according to Huawei, the company in which she's the CFO and deputy chairwoman of its board. She was taken into custody by the Canadians. Huawei says they did that on behalf of the United States because the U.S. wants to extradite her to the Eastern District of New York, where she's facing unspecified charges.

That's about all we know so far in regard to this specific case. And if we did know more, we couldn't say it because of the publication ban. That said, that publication ban doesn't prevent us from talking about the broader context of all of this, which is that Huawei, according to reports by "The Wall Street Journal" and Bloomberg and others, is under investigation right now by the Department of Justice for violating sanctions that the U.S. has in place against Iran.

This arrest that took place in Canada might have something to do with that. We can't be too specific because of that publication ban. But no matter what you call it, this is a huge escalation between the United States and China. This is a big deal arrest. This is not just the United States charging an executive in absentia.

This has actually been taking the steps to have her physically brought to the United States to face criminal charges. Beijing will be wildly upset about that. There's a lot of speculation here in China already, Cyril, that if you're a Western CEO in China, maybe you should think about taking a vacation right about now because there could be retaliation down the line.

But this all happens in the broader trade deal that is being negotiated right now between the U.S. and China and that nothing happens in a vacuum and so those negotiations will be very difficult to begin with and this won't make it any easier.

VANIER: Matt Rivers, you're --

[00:20:00]

VANIER: -- looking at this from your observation post in Beijing, we'll talk again next hour. Thanks.

We'll take a very short break. When we come back, saving the Great Barrier Reef. We'll show you a promising project to combat the effects of climate change.

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VANIER: Nations from around the world are gathered in Poland for climate talks. They're trying to agree on how to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius. Experts are warning that target may not even be ambitious enough.

After a 1.5 degree rise in temperatures, the impact of climate change grows exponentially and it could be catastrophic. CNN is exploring the consequences of past inaction and how what comes next could be much worse if warming doesn't stop at that critical threshold, 1.5 degrees.

The meetings in Poland come just as a sobering report warns that worldwide carbon emissions will hit an all-time high this year. The Global Carbon Project says the emissions which are blamed for global warming, are expected to rise by 2.7 percent this year.

The project blames the increasing use of coal for most of this increase as well as emissions from transportation. The biggest emitters in 2017: China, the United States, the European Union and India. Together they account for almost 60 percent of all emissions.

One flashpoint in the war on climate change is the Great Barrier Reef. You see global temperature rise has already caused massive coral bleaching. That could mean economic disaster for millions.

But there is still hope. Ivan Watson explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "An underwater snowstorm."

That is how a veteran marine biologist describes the annual event, when the coral on the Great Barrier Reef begins to spawn.

PETER HARRISON, SOUTHERN CROSS UNIVERSITY: The coral spawning is always magical and it was great to see all these egg-sperm bundles coming off these corals.

WATSON (voice-over): This year, scientists are on the scene, scooping coral spawn. It is an experimental effort to save this natural wonder of the world from the ravages of climate change, a pilot breeding project aimed at increasing the fertility of coral.

HARRISON: The baby corals are -- [00:25:00]

HARRISON: -- going into big floating lava pools on the reef system. So it is really exciting that we can go from these ideas, capturing coral spawn at small scale and starting to scale it up to much larger areas, many more pools and literally millions of larvae being developed on the reef.

WATSON (voice-over): Off the coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a sprawling marine habitat that is larger than Italy.

But it is in trouble; in the summer of 2016, vast amounts of coral suddenly started bleaching, turning bone white.

DAVID WACHENFIELD, GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AUTHORITY: What we saw in 2016 and 2017, the marine heat waves that led to coral bleaching and the death of coral was like nothing we have ever seen before.

WATSON (voice-over): Scientists estimate the record warm temperatures killed more than half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef in just two years.

CNN traveled to Australia last June, to look at a government effort to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into projects to help save one of the country's largest tourist attractions. With temperatures milder in early 2018, there were signs of recovery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we do see little ones coming --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- yes.

WATSON: At the tips of some of the dead coral, these little spots of color, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And they will grow again, as long they don't bleach again.

WATSON (voice-over): But with the Australian summer fast approaching, meteorologists are issuing ominous warnings. A heat wave in the nearby state of Queensland has already contributed to raging bush fires.

With the climate's warming trend continuing, scientists have revised their previous target. They now say it is crucial to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels instead of 2 degrees in order to avoid looming planetary disaster. Scientists fear marine heat waves will likely follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we think about forecasting the weather for the Great Barrier Reef, the climate of the entire planet and the Great Barrier Reef has already changed and it is still changing.

And so it is getting harder for scientists to be confident about predictions of the future. We are entering into uncharted territory. Almost every year is warmer than usual. And, in fact, that is becoming the new norm.

WATSON (voice-over): That is why Professor Peter Harrison's breeding project targets heat resistant coral.

HARRISON: These corals that have survived the last two bleaching events we know are heat tolerant. And, therefore, they are the ones that we really need to be kept on the spawn farm, because they will provide larvae that gives us a fighting chance to try and overcome the problems of increasing sea temperatures and mass bleaching beds.

WATSON (voice-over): It's an ambitious effort to save a marine habitat. But given the scale of the challenge, for now, it's just a drop in the ocean -- Ivan Watson, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: When we come back, the power of a protest movement, France backs down and gives into the demands of the Yellow Vests. But the protests aren't over yet.

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[00:30:00] VANIER: And welcome back, I'm Cyril Vanier. Let's look at your headlines. Growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine are prompting the U.S. to make plans to send a navy warship into the Black Sea.

Russia captured three Ukrainian ships and two dozen sailors, in the region, just last week. Both countries have ramped up military operations.

Satellite images obtained by exclusively by CNN, show North Korea is expanding a key long-range missile base in the mountainous region, near the Chinese border, and it appears a new facility is also being built 11 kilometres away from that one, this comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is considering a second summit with Kim Jong-un.

In a report, the British attorney general says the U.K. could be trapped in endless negotiations with the European Union, by Theresa May's Brexit deal. How to maintain trade between the E.U. and Northern Ireland would be the sticking point. Downing Street was forced to publish the warning after MPs held the government, in contempt, for not publishing the full legal opinion.

And about face from the French government, a rise in fuel taxes that was planned for next year, has now been scrapped. The decision comes after weeks of violent demonstrations, but now, the protests are still gaining steam. Our Jim Bittermann tells us why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is about as close as a total climb down with the government, as you can come. The presidential palace confirming to CNN tonight, that there will be no fuel tax hikes in 2019.

The government had planned to raise fuel taxes on January 1st to finance its environmental programs. But because of those protests across the country, with the so-called Yellow Vest Movement, those protests led to the government to abandon their plans.

The problem is, though, that in the process of the last couple of weeks, as the protests have gone on, other people or other French have joined in with their own demands. For example, the pensioners want to see their pensions raised. School students at high schools and in some universities were blocking canvases with their demands.

And on Sunday night, one of the larger truck drivers' unions here has called for a strike by truck drivers, so, the government was feeling mounting pressure. And the question is, whether this climb down will be enough to get rid of the blockades and to get things back to normal.

It's an open question. We will just have to wait until Saturday. Some of the protesters say they're going to continue those protests, this weekend.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Millions of refugee children need many things to survive, but to thrive, they need to play. Coming up, the Sesame Street Muppets head to some of the poorest places on earth, to teach young kids who have nothing, how to learn by having fun. Stay with us.

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[00:35:00] VANIER: Millions of children around the world will spend this holiday season, in one of the least festive places you can imagine, a refugee camp. Displaced from their homes by war, violence, disasters, these children face a precarious existence, devoid of the most basic necessities most of us often take for granted.

There's a chronic shortage of nutritious food, fresh water, warm clothing, healthcare, education. According to the U.N., as of 2017, more than 68 million people, worldwide, have been displaced. Twenty- five million of them are classified as refugees. That means often living in squalid, unsafe conditions.

And half of the refugees, in the world, are children, under the age of 18, kids who have no means to fend for themselves. One critical factor affecting these children has often been overlooked, and that is play time.

It's a way for them to cope with the trauma, a way of keeping their minds and bodies engaged in healthy activities, a way for them to be happy, even if only for a moment, in other words, bringing a moment of sunshine into their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHILDREN: Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away. On the way to where the air is sweet, where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: And perhaps, no one understands better, the importance of play, in the development of young children than these guys, the people behind Sesame Street. As soon, they -- and the Sesame Street Muppets will begin working their magic on Syrian and Rohingya refugee children. All of these, thanks to a $100 million grant from the LEGO Foundation.

All right, with us, from New York, to explain more about this, are Sherrie Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Bouchie, Vice President of the LEGO Foundation. Thank you so much to both of you for joining us. Our team here really loves the idea behind what you're doing.

Sherry, perhaps, I'd like to start with you. And, can you explain to us what it's like? Your teams have experienced doing this, going to see some of the unluckiest kids, in the world, and telling them, hey, I'm going to play with you.

SHERRIE WESTIN, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL IMPACT & PHILANTHROPY, SESAME WORKSHOP: Well, I think, the thing is, you know the power of Sesame Street, and it's proven educational content. We have almost 50 years of experience, and you're right, these children deserve a childhood. But most importantly, they deserve quality early childhood development.

And many have left everything they've known, their schools, their homes. They've been through a great deal of crisis, as you could imagine. And the most important thing to do is to reach them in those critical early years with quality learning.

VANIER: How do they react?

WESTIN: Well, you can see from some of the images you're showing that one of the things I love is these Muppets have just universal appeal, and children, everywhere, connect with them, they relate to them, they bring joy to the children. And so, it's a wonderful thing to see children reacting to the Muppets. But most importantly, we're reaching them with education.

You -- I think you mentioned a little bit about the statistics at the beginning. And less than three percent of all humanitarian aid goes to education, and a fraction of that goes to early education.

VANIER: And so, also, almost nothing, in other words? Almost none of the money goes to education and you're right, this gets overlooked. I did not suspect that.

WESTIN: Right. Well, somewhat understandable when you think of a refugee crisis. There's shelter, there's immediate needs to save lives. But as this crisis are more and more extended, where children and families are displaced for much longer periods of time. If we're not investing in education, we're not giving these children a path forward, and that's an entire generation, lost.

VANIER: Sarah, tell me why the LEGO Foundation wanted to zero in on this?

SARAH BOUCHIE, VICE PRESIDENT, THE LEGO FOUNDATION: Well, the LEGO Foundation believes deeply that every child should have an opportunity to learn and grow in a playful and meaningful way. We have spent the last 10 years, really evaluating what evidence works, to help children grow and learn.

And we have seen that playful ways, when things are meaningful and joyful and interactive and iterative, that children learn better, and they're more engaged, and when they're more engaged, it helps to develop these critical neurological connections that are needed in order for healthy brains to grow.

And in a situation like this, when you know that kids are experiencing so much trauma, having the resilience that you need in order to grow strong is important. And we feel like if we can do something, we should. And drawing attention to this issue is really important to us.

[00:40:07] VANIER: And tell me a little bit more about that because I read your literature and it's very eloquent in a way it explains that, you know, these are not -- these are children who've been hurt, who've often been traumatized. I mean, in the case of Rohingya children, and we've covered this extensively on CNN.

There are people who fled their homes. They saw -- often they saw murders, they saw sexual violence against their parents, against their neighbors, and all of a sudden, they find themselves displaced in a place that they've never been in before. Many of them are in Cox's Bazar, now in totally different country, in Bangladesh.

You will be working. Sesame Street will be working with some of these children. What exactly are their needs and their fragilities?

BOUCHIE: Well, there's one really important thing, we know from Science that kids need basically three things, three things when children are behind.

First of all, you need to intervene early, and make sure that there is a caring adult in their life that can help to ground them and give them a sense of routine and boundaries and help them to process the feelings that they have.

We know that you have to give them opportunities to develop critical life skills, and those are the kinds of skills that help you regulate, when do you prioritize things and how do you hold back when you're excited about things?

And we know that in order to help them grow and develop that reducing stress is really important. And play does all three of those things, in a really critical way. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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VANIER: Sherrie, this is -- this is a sad question, I honestly wish I didn't have to ask it, but is it ever too late? Do you ever work with children where you think, if we had only got to them earlier, we could have, of course, corrected?

WESTIN: Listen, that is the whole point of this, I think the reason this grant is so important and before it, the MacArthur grant, because quite frankly, a year ago, MacArthur stepped up and they were the first to invest a significant amount, $100 million, audacious philanthropy, in reaching young children in crisis settings.

And they hoped, as we did, that it would be a catalyst for others to step up, because we know if we reach them in the early years, we have the greatest chance to change their trajectory, to give them a path forward. And for LEGO to step up and give a grant of the same size, $100, this is really transforming humanitarian response.

And we want it to enlighten others, for others to do the same. Because if we can change the way we respond to humanitarian crisis and invest in reaching children in those critical early years, we literally can change their outcomes.

And if they don't have the tools they need to thrive, how can they be expected to rebuild their societies? This is an investment in a more peaceful stable world for us all, if we're starting to invest in giving children a path.

BOUCHIE: There are two partners on the ground, the International Rescue Committee and BRAC, each in the Syrian response region in Bangladesh, who are working extremely hard with children and their families in all different sorts of ways.

And we're proud for them to be a part of this consortium and the grant, and would encourage anybody who wants to find out more to think about the three recipients, plus New York University that the LEGO Foundation has chosen.

VANIER: Well, thank you so much to both of you, Sherrie Westin and Sarah Bouchie, for your time and also your eloquence in explaining to us what this is all about. Thank you very much.

WESTIN: Thank you for having us.

BOUCHIE: Thank you.

VANIER: And we were proud to be able to bring that story to you. Thank you for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. We've got "WORLD SPORT" right now with the one and only, Kate Riley. I'm back at the top of the hour, stay with us.

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