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Syria Conflict: Trump's Withdrawal Plan Shocks Allies; Tunnels Heighten Tensions On Israeli-Lebanese Border; Court: Korean Air Has Pay Flight Attendant $18,000; Dying Boy's Dad: Muslim Ban Needs To End. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 20, 2018 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

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NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, I'm Nick Watt and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, the U.S. president's shocking announcement that he's pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria.

And a CNN investigation into a California power company that might have sparked multiple deadly wildfires in the Golden State.

And for the first time ever, Reporters without Borders now lists the United States as one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a journalist.

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WATT: With just five days until Christmas, critics say Donald Trump is giving a very generous gift to Russia, Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Trump announced Wednesday, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency."

And with that, he ordered the full withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. Instead of speaking to the nation or answering reporters' questions, the White House released this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We've been fighting for a long time in Syria. I've been president for almost two years. We really stepped it up. And we have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and beaten them badly and taken back the land. Now it is time for our troops to come back home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Criticism of the president's decision has been coming from all quarters. Many insisting that ISIS is not defeated and couldn't now strengthen. Republican senator and Trump golfing buddy Lindsey Graham called the decision a, quote, "stain on the honor of the United States." And others share that sentiment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: The decision to withdraw American presence in Syria is a colossal, in my mind, mistake.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R): Pulling the plug on these troops without giving due consideration to the consequences I think is something that I don't think any of us want to do.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Obama had made this decision, Republicans would be all over him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has reported extensively from Syria and he has more on Trump's surprise decision.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, this was quite baffling, totally unexpected. Nobody saw this coming. I don't think even the troops on the ground in Syria thought they would hear the news they did today. They've had a significant role, an outsized role for their numbers in fighting ISIS and providing some kind of peacekeeping balance there because the Syrian Kurds, the fortise (ph) is for them, are considered terrorists by Turkey, a U.S. ally to the north.

And they've also kept Russia and Iranian influence in check. We saw ourselves in February, their work there but also we have exclusive footage of the past few days, showing the fight against ISIS is far from over.

WALSH (voice-over): Flying low over the fight against ISIS, you can see the battle has been brutal. But it is far from done. ISIS is regrouping out there. Just 10 minutes before Trump's mission accomplished tweet, claim responsibility for an attack in the city of Raqqah.

These pictures are just days old from the city of Hajin (ph), where ISIS' remaining leaders, like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and diehards refuse to give in.

Whatever you hear, this is not defeat. Regardless, the Pentagon is leaving. The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, her statement said, but the campaign against ISIS not over. We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.

But a sudden withdrawal defeats two major U.S. policy goals here. A tiny number of U.S. special forces were limiting Iranian and Russian influence here, calming allies in the region like Israel. They were also keeping in check the Kurdish fighters, who fought ISIS alongside the U.S.

Turkey calls them terrorists and has threatened a full-scale attack. But that bloody confrontation was unlikely as long as the U.S. was here. It was a startlingly complex mission performed by a tiny number of Americans, which we saw first-hand in February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: Does your head begin to spin occasionally when you just look around, going, where do the enemy stop and where does the good news begin?

MAJ. GEN. JAMIE JARRARD, COMMANDER, SPECIAL OPERATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA: It can be complex out here if you try to take in to all those factors. The good thing about being in the military is that we usually have a military mission. And our military mission out here is defeat ISIS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH (voice-over): Even back then, their mission was a geopolitical nightmare. Their heavy firepower killed dozens of Russian mercenaries and Syrian regime fighters when they tried to --

[02:05:00]

WALSH (voice-over): -- retake an oilfield from the Kurds.

Every time, over the past year, Turkey threatened to attack the Syrian Kurds, the ISIS fight took a back seat while the U.S. calmed things down. With this sudden, brash rush to the exit, the U.S. leaves another vacuum in the Middle East which will benefit Turkey and Russia but also leave the Syrian Kurds who defeated ISIS very much on their own.

WALSH: So what next, the term "rapidly," which is how quickly they say they'll be leaving, is relatively elastic. I don't think anyone expects them to pick up sticks and depart tomorrow. But they'll certainly leave many questions in that area.

This is a Trump policy; it may happen differently. It may not happen exactly as advertised. But at the same time, too, he is showing his geopolitical desire to perhaps get himself out. Now he believes the fight against ISIS is over. I think many in the region will hope that they're adequately diminished and they don't come back and have a real territorial presence -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now President Trump's decisions is drawing widespread criticism from allies but also praise from some other key players in the region. Russia is applauding. A spokeswoman from their foreign affairs ministry saying the withdrawal of U.S. troops presents a, quote, "real prospect for political settlement."

President Trump says he discussed his decision directly with Israel's prime minister; the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANNY DANON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, for sure we can tell that the ISIS has been defeated in Syria. You can argue whether it's completed or not. But overall, we can agree with the international community that the fight against ISIS has been successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: But senior political and military figures in Israel are blasting President Trump's declaration of total victory and withdrawal from their neighbor. Syria, opposition party leaders calling it a, quote, "surrender" for the U.S. and a failure for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Others say Russia and Iran will benefit from Mr. Trump's decision. As for Britain, a key U.S. ally, there was a strange statement from the foreign office in London, which reads, in part, "Much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat. They" -- that means ISIS, the threat -- "that they pose."

Now Turkey, another Syrian neighbor, is praising President Trump's decision to pull out. So let's head to Istanbul and CNN producer Gul Tuysuz.

So Gul, President Erdogan seems happy.

Why?

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Turkey for a long time has been saying they view the Kurdish fighting force, who has been the U.S.' main ally on the ground, Turkey considers them to be extension of domestic terrorists here.

They've been warning they're going to launch an operation across their border into Syria to push that Kurdish force away from their borders. They've done this in the past. This would be the third Turkish operation into Syria. The first two were carried out in order to push and expel ISIS from Turkey's borders but mainly to, again, once again, push back that Kurdish fighting force, the YPG, from Turkey's borders.

So we've seen Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying over the last couple of weeks, increasingly more often that Turkey could launch this operation at any moment. Of course, the big headache then would be, you would have two NATO allies, the U.S. and Turkey, squaring off against each other on opposing sides if that was the case.

The U.S. was, of course, there. The troops were there and they were backing the Kurdish force. This is a welcome development for Turkey in many respects, in Turkey's fight against the Kurdish fighting force.

But Turkey is saying that the U.S. pulling up troops from that area is not going to weaken their resolve. So they still signal that Turkey may, in fact, go across the border and carry out an operation into that part of Syria.

WATT: So that happens as the Turkish incursion, the U.S. boots leaving the ground.

Call me crazy, but does this in any scenario push the Kurds into bed with Bashar al-Assad?

TUYSUZ: Well, the Kurds, they're going to have to find an ally. They had U.S. backing this far. That has given them clout and security, of course, you know, when it comes that presence along that northern stretch of Syria.

They're going to be looking at their options. Of course, the one that comes to mind is -- is having closer ties with -- with Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad. Whether or not this has been part of a bigger negotiation or whether or not there's an actual plan that the U.S. pullout is a part of, is something --

[02:10:00]

TUYSUZ: -- we just don't know. But for sure, the Kurds will look to see who it is that can help them, especially as they face down the threat of a Turkish operation.

WATT: Gul, thank you very much for your insights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Joining me now is Christopher Hill, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, South Korea, Albania, Poland and perhaps, most pertinently in this case, also Iraq.

Ambassador Hill, we've heard today just criticism, bipartisan criticism of this decision by President Trump.

I mean, one senior administration official told our own Jake Tapper, "This will put American lives in danger. This is a mistake of colossal proportions."

And we have a Republican congressman saying that Iran is rejoicing right now. Over the past two weeks we had military and diplomatic leaders in the United States saying that the job fighting ISIS is not yet done.

So why do you think the president made his announcement today?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA AND IRAQ: You know, I think when the president does these things, he's got one thing in mind and it's politics. He has a base in the United States and that base has never understood these foreign wars, have never understood our role out there and -- or at least they are perceived not to have understood it.

And so, I think the president is trying to kind of address their concerns about having 2,000 Americans out in the middle of this very tough situation in Syria. I think the second issue is -- and -- this comes up all the time, we have a president who absolutely is not on top of his brief. He does not understand issues. And I can't think of a more complex one than the one in Syria. And he clearly just threw up his hands and said, why are we there? So and to announce it via Twitter without any effort to engage the allies, well, I mean, we've been seeing that every day for the last two years. I think we'll see it for at least two more years.

WATT: Yes. I mean, you mentioned he announced this on Twitter. Out of the blue and catching many people unaware.

I mean, he also, he wasn't out and about today. No one got a chance to throw questions at him. But he did later in the day also post this video on Twitter and explaining a little bit of what he is doing and a little bit of why. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And we have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and we beaten them badly. We've taken back the land. And now it's time for our troops to come back home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: I mean, listen, your career was diplomacy, is this good diplomacy or bad diplomacy?

HILL: Well, you know, where do you begin? Certainly, I think a key word there is land. We've taken back the land. I don't think you can find one sentence that could quite show the degree to which he doesn't understand what this issue is. It's not about the land. There's a lot of desert out there.

This is about the future of the Middle East. This is about radical Sunnis. This is about a lot of issues related to the numerous fissures, division who then in the Middle East. He clearly doesn't understand the affect this has on our allies on like-minded countries.

And on particular, he doesn't understand what is going on with the Kurds, because we now have Kurds in the northern part of Syria who are really going to be very much unprotected.

So, a lot of downstream consequences to this. And you just have to wonder, how could he just kind of summarize this in a sort of a football statement that we beat them and we beat them badly. A lot more going on here.

WATT: And a lot of people today have been saying that the real winners here are going to be Turkey, Iran and Russia. Do you agree with that? And if so, why?

HILL: Well, they're absolutely the countries on the ground, usually when you're on the ground, you have a say in the matter. And if we're going to pull out our troops, we're not going to have much of a say in the matter.

Certainly, Iran is there and Iran has been there supporting Bashar al- Assad. I must say this has been difficult to explain to the American people why we're trying to go after ISIS, but why we're also making very clear that we don't think Assad should be there. And you know, that's confused Americans over the years. Does that mean Assad is in league with ISIS? How does that work?

And usually what you look for in a president who is someone who can explain this stuff to people. But you know, we have -- we don't have a great explainer here. We have someone who has a very, very narrow limited attention span and that's the kind of decision-making you get from this president.

WATT: Finally, I want to draw a little bit on your own deep experience in Iraq. I mean, you know, there are two examples from recent history that I feel are pertinent here. This was President Bush's --

[02:15:00]

WATT: -- "mission accomplished" and also President Obama's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Are these lessons that have not been learned by the current president?

HILL: Well, they haven't been learned because the president doesn't sit through any lessons. Certainly, the fact that President Bush had that frankly, dreadful banner behind him about mission accomplished was something that haunted him through the remainder of his presidency.

I think with respect to Barack Obama, a little more complex in the sense that those troops had arrived in Iraq for the purpose of overthrowing the government and so the problem was, can you take troops that were there in a sort of regime change mode and then make them your friends?

And I think ultimately, what happened was they were sent out and then they're brought back in and then the Iraqis were very pleased to have American troops, that is American troops that they didn't invited.

Of course, none of this really speaks to the fact that I think Donald Trump just looked at this and say, why are we there if we've already beaten them, which we haven't done. And so, he just made this decision kind of on his role. He's on vacation.

WATT: Ambassador Christopher Hill, thank you very much for your time and your insights.

HILL: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Be sure to stay tuned to CNN. Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to hold his annual end of year news conference in two hours from now. We'll bring you any reaction to the U.S. troops' withdrawal from Syria.

Also still to come, not bowing to political pressure, the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates yet again, despite President Trump urging them not to. We'll look at what it means for the U.S. economy. And disturbing new details emerging about California's deadliest

wildfire ever, one that killed 86 people last month.

Could a local power company be to blame -- again?

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WATT: Financial markets in Asia are feeling the impact of another hike in U.S. interest rates, the fourth one this year. Here's a look at the Asia markets, a lot of downward pointing arrows. The board of the U.S. Federal Reserve unanimously decided Wednesday to raise interest rates a quarter point, triggering a sell-off on Wall Street.

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WATT: The Dow fell 351 points, closed at its lowest level of the year. The Nasdaq lost more than 2 percent and S&P 500 were down 1.5 percent. This latest hike is a slap in the face for Donald Trump, who has put unprecedented pressure on his hand-picked Fed chair to move cautiously on interest rates to avoid, as the president put it, "another mistake."

With the markets plummeting and economic growth expected to slow next, year, pressure, though, is squarely on the president, who -- who promised Americans they'll win so much they'll get sick and tired of it. We have more now from CNN's Cristina Alesci.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Dow closing at the lowest level for the year. This is a prime example of economic policy clashing with Wall Street. In fact, stocks were trading positively throughout the morning and then at 2 pm, when the Federal Reserve announced its decision to hike interest rates a quarter of a percentage point, that market immediately turned down.

In fact, when the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, started speaking, stocks ended up rebounding just a little bit and then when investors and traders realized and started to digest his comments, the market swiftly turned negative again.

And what they got from his comments was an indication that the Federal Reserve may continue to hike interest rates into 2019. Again, they were expecting those interest rate hikes that we saw today but they were looking for signs of what's ahead.

And the chairman indicated that the economy is strong. This is something that President Trump probably doesn't want to hear, not that the economy is strong but he doesn't want to hear the Federal Reserve indicating that more interest rate hikes may be on the way.

Again, President Trump tried to pressure Jerome Powell into not hiking rates, and clearly, that didn't work.

And in response to questions about whether there was any political pressure factored in to the analysis at the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell gave a very clear indication that political pressure had no bearing whatsoever on its decision. In fact, he said, quote, "nothing will deter us from doing what we think is the right thing to do" -- back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Investigators in Northern California right now are trying to determine the cause of the terrible Camp Fire that broke out last month, killing at least 86 people. Equipment owned by one utility company is under investigation as to the possible cause.

CNN's Drew Griffin reports, it is the same company already blamed for many previous fires; in fact, blamed for 17 of the 18 fires that ravaged California in a single month, October of last year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NORMA QUINTANA, FIRE SURVIVOR: This area was my studio with big windows.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SR. INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is all Norma Quintana has left of the home she lived in for 30 years, a macabre reminder of the day her physical world turned to ashes.

QUINTANA: The fire was behind us.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): She and her family had five minutes to escape the Atlas Fire in fall of 2017. When they returned, it was all gone.

QUINTANA: I couldn't negotiate the loss. I couldn't negotiate the loss of a home. Couldn't.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Across Northern California, the fires in October 2017, fueled by high winds and drought, would kill 44, burn 8,900 homes and other buildings.

As the burning ended, the burning question began, how did this happen?

JAMES ENGEL, CAL FIRE: We had a number of fires that were the result of some type of ignition from power lines.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Cal Fire investigators concluded that 17 of the 18 fires in October of 2017 were caused by equipment from Pacific Gas and Electric, the multi-billion dollar power company. In 11 of those fires, investigators found evidence PG&E violated state law.

James Engel oversees fire investigations for Cal Fire.

GRIFFIN: Is PG&E doing enough, in your mind?

ENGEL: Well, that's not my call to make. So in the case of those particular fires, they were referred to the district attorney if there's violations of law.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It has actually been going on now for years. 1994, '99, 2004, the Whiskey Fire in 2008, the deadly Butte Fire in 2015, fire after fire that investigators found were caused by a power company failing to follow state regulations to trim trees or maintain equipment.

JOHN FISKE, ATTORNEY: You see a pattern and practice that PG&E is not willing to step up to the plate and do what it needs to do to --

[02:25:00]

FISKE: -- prevent these utility-caused wildfires.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Attorney John Fiske has built a practice pursuing power companies and specifically PG&E for causing fires that are destroying Californians' lives. He's doing it, he says, because the State of California won't.

FISKE: If you had a company that was out in the Atlantic and it kept starting hurricanes and the government just kind of continued to let it start hurricanes, again, you would consider that behavior to be almost sociopathic because people's lives are absolutely devastated.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): PG&E was convicted of six felonies because of a gas pipeline explosion in 2010. Just last month, the president of California's Public Utilities Commission announced a new review of PG&E, telling "The Wall Street Journal" he was, "very concerned, they" -- PG&E -- still "don't have accountability in place."

GRIFFIN: Is PG&E getting the message, do you think?

ENGEL: I think you are going to have to ask them.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): We tried but the company declined and instead sent a lengthy statement, saying it expanded its community wildfire safety program, improving real-time monitoring, enhancing vegetation management efforts, conducting accelerated safety inspections, installing stronger and more resilient poles.

Critics point to the way PG&E has spent its money, awarding its CEO salary and stock worth $8.5 million in 2017 and spending another $8 million lobbying lawmakers in Sacramento to get a law passed that allows PG&E to pass some of the cost of the fires onto customers.

Now PG&E is dealing with this. Last month's Camp Fire in Northern California killed 86 and destroyed the town of Paradise. Equipment from PG&E is being investigated as a possible cause. Attorney John Fiske says it has to stop.

FISKE: In these wildfires, oftentimes the most vulnerable members of our community are affected because they're not mobile and they can't get out. That's how devastating these wildfires are. That's why it's so important that these companies change their practices. It is a matter of life and death. GRIFFIN: Asked specifically about the state investigative reports that found the company violated state law in 11 of those deadly fires last year, PG&E would only say it is looking forward to reviewing those reports.

Prosecutors are reviewing them, too, and deciding if they will again pursue criminal charges against the massive power company. In the meantime, homeowners like Norma Quintana in our report, who lost her home, are suing PG&E -- Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: The United States just joined a club that no one wants to belong to. Coming up, the U.S. is named one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a journalist.

Plus, with no Brexit deal in sight, the U.K. health ministry prepares for the worst: a shortage of critical medicine.

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[02:30:17] NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Nick Watt. Let's update you on our top stories this hour. Donald Trump says ISIS has been defeated and he's ordering all U.S. troops out of Syria. The move took U.S. lawmakers and allies by surprised even top Trump administration officials have said the terror group is still a serious threat. Wall Street closed Wednesday at its lowest level for the year.

The Dow had been in (INAUDIBLE) territory before the U.S. Federal Reserve announced its fourth interest rate hike of 2018. The move was expected but coupled with fears of future hikes that triggered a stiff selloff. The Dow ended the day down 351 points. The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown. The measure keeps things running through February the 8th. But it still needs approval from the House where conservatives are urging President Trump to veto the bill unless he gets funding for his much vaunted border wall.

If the bill is blocked, key agencies run out of funding at midnight on Friday. And the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders has released its list of journalists killed, detained, held hostage, or reported missing in 2018. And for the first time, the United States were freedom of the press has enshrined in the constitution has made the list of the most dangerous places for journalist. The annual report states 80 media workers worldwide were killed doing their jobs.

The top five most dangerous countries are Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Yemen, India, and the United States. The U.S. made the list because of the mass shooting at a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, five journalists were killed. Christophe Deloire is secretary general of Reporters Without Borders and he joins us now from Paris. Christophe, in the past few years these number has been going down if I'm correct and in 2018 we've seen a spike if I'm right, why?

CHRISTOPHE DELOIRE, SECRETARY GENERAL, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: I think there are in fact two main reasons. The first reason is that (INAUDIBLE) regime now consider that they can set new norms on what happens with Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey is that an evidence that now such regime agents working for such a state consider that they can dismember a journalist as normally that's not a very nice word, but has usually drug traffickers in Mexico do.

And the other reason is that hatred against journalists, that is more and more spread through sometimes politicians, sometimes more are groups, etcetera, mafia, of course, mafia groups leads to concrete actions and that we got alarmed for a few years about this extension of hatred. Now, it leads to consequences.

WATT: And, Christophe, I want to talk briefly about the U.S. and President Trump, and I want to play you a couple of clips of him talking about journalists. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that's why 33 percent of the people in this country believe the fake news is in fact, I hate to say this, in fact the enemy of the people. A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Christophe, does that kind of language from the president this enemy of the people, does that actually matter? Does that actually make a difference? Does that actually cause problems?

DELOIRE: Of course, it can have an impact on the field. And we weren't said by American journalists in many states that in face these violence, they feel it when they work, when they investigate, when they try to ask questions to politicians on, of course, it has also an impact in other countries because a lot of bad guys now would like to imitate Donald Trump. And regarding what happened in the Capital Gazette in Maryland in June, four journalists under communication officer of the newsroom were killed.

In fact, they were killed by a guy who has been insulting, who has been harassing them for six years on Twitter.

[02:35:07] So violence through words can lead to violence through physical actions and deadly violence.

WATT: And I mean I wonder what kind impact these statistics have on working journalists. I mean listen, you know, we see 80 people killed during their jobs this year. We also see in, you know, Myanmar, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo thrown in jail for a report that, you know, still stands. I mean the administration isn't saying that what they reported is wrong, but they were thrown in jail. I mean this must impact on how journalists do their jobs. This must make some of us scared.

DELOIRE: Of course, there are a lot of countries where journalists are obliged to free to countries otherwise, they would be killed and we spoke about the killed journalists in the course of their jobs. But they're also all journalist are that are now in jail. Right now, 348 journalists are in jail just because (INAUDIBLE) exercise their jobs. The number of forced disappearances is higher and even the number of journalists who are held as hostage is now about 60 mostly in Syria and Yemen I have to say.

WATT: And I mean, Christophe, as we say we've seen a spike this year. But going forward next year and beyond, do you fear that this trend is going to get worse or are you optimistic that things are going to get a little bit better?

DELOIRE: I would like to avoid to predict the future. But what I can say is that the U.N., the member states of the U.N. have to take action, and a lot of resolutions has been adopted by various buddies of the U.N. Now, we need a concrete mechanism for the implementation of international law. That's absolutely key not only for journalists but for all the citizens on Earth that have a right to free unreliable information.

WATT: Christophe Deloire in Paris, thank you very much for your time. Now, in a few hours, British Prime Minister Theresa May sits down with her Polish counter mark -- counterpart, I'm sorry, a friendly face for her. She says Poland is one of the U.K.'s closest allies and polls in Britain are welcome to continue leaving and working in Britain post- Brexit. But as the Brexit deadline inches closer, British lawmakers spent Wednesday consumed not by their uncertain future but by two words that the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn may have mouthed during parliament.

They appear to be stupid woman. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: They said they put on a vote of no confidence then they said they wouldn't, then they said they would, then they did it, but it wasn't effective. I know it's the Christmas season and the pantomime season. But what we see from the labour front bench and the right onward, gentleman. He's going to put a confidence vote, oh, yes, he is. Oh, no, he isn't. I've got some -- I've got some news for him.

I've got some advice for the right honorable gentleman, look behind you. They're not impress (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Corbyn insists he didn't call the prime minister a stupid woman. He claims he was calling some parliamentarians stupid people. Professional lip readers are divided on the issue. Meanwhile, many in the U.K. are concentrating on plans for a widely feared no deal Brexit, that includes the U.K.'s health industry. If drugs are delayed at the border possibly for months, that could have devastating consequences. But pharmacists say they're already experiencing a shortage. CNN's Samuel Burke reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) so it's routine.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Routines that are part of the fabric of the U.K.'s National Health Service. The supply chain for prescription drugs for conditions like these anchored in the European Union for more than 40 years. Now, that arrangement is at risk under a no deal Brexit. The Brexit Health Alliance, a nonpolitical group representing the health sector says 37 million patient packs including prescriptions are imported from the E.U. every month, 45 million are exported to the E.U.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if you look at the insulin, you can see it's being made in Denmark.

BURKE: The devalued pound that makes that much more expensive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

[02:40:00] BURKE: Pharmacists are also facing uncertainty over future drug supplies from the E.U. Now, Britain's health ministry advises that in the unlikely event of a shortage, pharmacists can provide an appropriate alternative medicine to their patients.

MITRA AZIMI, PHARMACIST: We've got a lot of people coming in with prescriptions where we turn them away and say, look, I can't hold of this item. But we fear we're going to get a lot more shortages, the medicines that we're worried about. I mean the anti-diabetics, the inhalers, they tend to be out of stock.

BURKE: The house ministry says it's planning for the worst. Five hundred companies that supply medicines and medical supplies told to increase stockpiles by another six weeks, to expect delays of up to six months at the borders due to new customs checks, to seek alternate routes of shipment for drugs including air freight, and increased additional warehouse capacity for drugs at ports. That also includes increasing refrigerator capacity at warehouses to stockpile medicines like insulin that must be kept at low temperatures.

And what about people who say that we're scaremonger talking about stockpiling drugs?

LAYLA MCCAY, BREXIT HEALTH ALLIANCE: I think that having pharmaceutical companies stockpiling is in order to reduce the risk of scaremongering. We need that in the worst-case scenario, if there is no deal and there's lots of disruption at the borders, then we have put the right plans in place.

BURKE: The fear is real. But the Brexit Health Alliance says if Theresa May gets her plan through, it would meet the major concerns of the health industry, medicines and medical supplies would continue to cross borders without customs checks during a transition period. Still for James Moore who also takes multiple injections of insulin every day, he's planning his own contingencies while Britain is still in the E.U.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could take my prescription go into a French pharmacy and catch it. It is possible to conceive of hopping across the channel than doing it like that, or flying across to island.

BURKE: This holiday season, the one (INAUDIBLE) and many others desire above all, an end to the uncertainty for what comes after Brexit. Samuel Burke, CNN London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Israel's prime minister is calling recently discovered Hezbollah tunnels between Lebanon and Israel an act of war. Talk is getting tough and the tone more menacing. CNN is at the border, our report, next.

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[02:44:59] WATT: Tensions are rising on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Where Israeli forces have uncovered tunnels, they say, were dug by Hezbollah. And in his most forceful rhetoric, yet, Israel's Prime Minister is calling this an act of war. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from the Lebanese side of the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The line that separates Lebanon from Israel is tense at the best of times. Ever more so, now, Israel is searching for tunnels it claims Hezbollah has dug into Israeli territory. A soldier keeps a close eye through his scope on the CNN crew on the other side of the fence known as the Blue Line.

Since the Israeli operation, dubbed Northern Shield began more than two weeks ago, they've uncovered at least four tunnels. Hezbollah closely aligned with Iran has no comment.

Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the tunnels amount to an act of war. The rhetoric on both sides is taken on a menacing tone.

Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, warned his fighters would respond if Israel strikes.

"Any aggression toward Lebanon," he said. "Any raid on Lebanon, any shelling of Lebanon will definitely, definitely, definitely, be answer."

Lebanon and Israel have been officially in a state of war since 1948. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought for more than a month, but since then, the point is prevailed.

The possibility of small incidents, however, sparking a broader conflict always looms large.

We are right on the border between Israel and Lebanon. And just to give you an idea how close everyone is to one another, this is a Lebanese Army position. Over there under the camouflage are Israeli troops. And right there are U.N. peacekeepers. Hezbollah's forces are nowhere to be seen. Many of them simply local residents who joined the group. On this hilltop, we met two young men who said they had come to enjoy the view. This man who identified himself simply as Abu Wahab, told me, "God gives strength to the army and the resistance, we are with them."

The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon or UNIFIL is tasked with implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the 2006 hostilities, but also stipulated that armed groups, meaning Hezbollah should disarm.

But in Lebanon's complicated political landscape, Hezbollah has managed to keep and build up its arsenal and send its fighters to bolster the Syrian army in its war against the rebels. Israel, worry Hezbollah is growing ever stronger almost daily sends its warplanes into Lebanese airspace.

The Lebanese government has responded to the tunnel report, saying the Lebanese army has been instructed to take all necessary measures to implement Resolution 1701, and maintain calm on the border.

UNIFIL spokesman, Andrea Tenenti, stresses the importance of continued calm despite violations by both sides.

ANDREA TENENTI, SPOKESMAN, UNITED NATIONS INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON: Yes, there been violations from both sides of 1701. What's important to emphasize, that's there have been a violation but it will bring the stability in the South of Lebanon.

WEDEMAN: Stability, yes. But one wrong step and it could blow. Ben Wedeman, CNN, South Lebanon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Korean air has been ordered to pay nearly $18,000 thousand to the flight attendant excoriated in the infamous nut rage incident. This happened back in 2014, Heather Cho, then the vice president of Korean Air and the daughter of the company's CEO demanded the attendant be removed because he served her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of a porcelain bowl.

The court also ruled the attendant is entitled to another $27,000 for Cho's assaults and insults, though it's unclear if he's received that amount.

And after nine -- after months apart and an international outcry, a Yemeni mother will see her son in California before he dies. She landed in San Francisco a short time ago after winning a small victory against Trump's U.S. travel ban.

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[02:51:18] WATT: Yemeni mother is headed to a hospital in California to see her dying son. She arrived a couple of hours ago in San Francisco. Shaima Swileh had been kept from the 2-year-old boy, Abdullah, since October. She finally won permission to come to the United States despite the Trump administration's ban on Yemenis and others from majority Muslim countries traveling to the U.S. Our Dan Simon reports from San Francisco.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nick, what a scene here tonight at the San Francisco International Airport, as dozens of Yemeni Americans came to the International Terminal to welcome Shaima Swileh to the United States. And also, to draw attention to what they say are the inequities of the Trump administration travel ban. And you could tell that the mother, Shaima, she was completely overwhelmed by the situation.

Really, who wouldn't be, she had a long plane ride first time to the United States. And you could see that she was just overwhelmed by the situation with all of those cameras in her face.

She's been through one heck of an ordeal. First, experiencing the pain of a mother whose son has this terrible condition. And second, the ordeal just trying to gain access to the country. We're told that she reached out to the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt some 28 times. She'd been living in Cairo, worked very, very hard to try to come to the United States and it was ultimately the media attention that really forced the State Department to grant this waiver. This is what her husband said just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI HASSAN, FATHER OF ABDULLAH HASSAN: This is difficult time for our family. But we are blessed to be together. I ask you to respect our privacy as we go to be with our son again. The Muslims ban has hurt Yemen-Americans families, and need to end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Well the waiver may have been granted and she's now in the country but it certainly doesn't erase the pain by any means. From here we're told she headed straight to Oakland California to be with her son, to be in his hospital room, to touch him, to kiss him, really to say goodbye, Nick.

WATT: Our thanks to Dan Simon in San Francisco. And the body of the young migrant girl who died in U.S. border custody is to be repatriated to Guatemala on Sunday. U.S. Border Protection, says Jakelin Caal Maquin and the migrants she was with did have access to food and water.

And they say her father claimed that Jakelin was in good health. But attorneys for the family say that neither Jakelin nor her father were given any water during their detention.

The head of U.S. border control, says the agency is just not equipped to handle a surge of families coming through, the remote New Mexico checkpoint.

And after three years of negotiations, Cuba has finally reached the deal with Major League Baseball. The agreement allows Cuban players to join top professional teams in the U.S. and Canada without having to defect.

But the agreement has some strings attached. Among them, the Cuban Baseball Federation will receive a "release fee" when a player is signed to an American team. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, says the deal amounts to state-sponsored trafficking of baseball players.

America's former First Lady Michelle Obama, known for going high, apparently also knows how to go low. Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos with the what, the why, and the how?

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The band seemed to wish Michelle Obama was still first lady. Earlier, she and Jimmy Fallon surprise tourists when their elevator opened.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC: Did you see a magic trick?

[02:55:01] MOOS: But an even bigger surprise was the former first lady's response when Fallon showed her a photo taken right after --

FALLON: -- the Trump inauguration, just waving from Air Force One.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why --

FALLON: can you just walk --

OBAMA: Bye, Felicia.

MOOS: Just two little word.

OBAMA: Bye, Felicia.

MOOS: Maybe you remember hearing by Felicia about a year ago when former Trump adviser Omarosa got dissed by ABC anchor Robin Roberts.

ROBIN ROBERTS, ANCHOR, ABC: She said she has a story to tell, I'm sure she'll be selling that story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will see.

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. She will, by Felicia.

MOOS: What does Felicia mean? It comes from a classic stoner comedy Friday, an annoying character gets the brush-off from Ice Cube.

ICE CUBE: Bye, Felicia.

Moos: When Mrs. Obama said it, most people took it as dissing the Trump's. Columnist Piers Morgan wrote, "Stop it, Michelle, for someone who hates going low, you're -- sniping at Melania just to sell books is a cheap, tacky shot."

Critics definitely weren't letting Michelle Obama forget about her famous high-low rule.

OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.

MOOS: Somewhere in the middle was Michelle's face when she mentioned another than inaugural moment.

OBAMA: Get out, got to go. So, there's that, and then the Tiffany's box. It was just all, you know, a lot.

MOOS: Oh, yes. The awkward Tiffany box handoff. The box containing a picture frame. Mrs. Obama couldn't figure out what to do with it, which is odd since eight years earlier, she presented a similar box containing a leather journal and pen to Laura Bush who stuck it behind her back when they posed for a photo and discreetly passed it off once inside. It's not nice to say bye Felicia to a box. Jeanne Moos, CNN --

OBAMA: Bye Felicia.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And actor Macaulay Culkin is proving you can be left home alone again, and again. 28 years later, he has reprised his role as Kevin McCallister from the much-loved movie that made him a star. But this time, he's not completely alone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MACAULAY CULKIN, AMERICAN ACTOR: Hey, Google, what's on my calendar today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have one event called house to yourself.

CULKIN: Oh, yes. Google add aftershave to my shopping list. Hey, Google, remember to clean these sheets later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I'll remind you. Someone's at the front door.

CULKIN: What do a hell, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like you paid online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the change, you filthy animal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, cool.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: The commercials for Google assistant follows a similar plot to the 1990 Christmas comedy Culkin, Culkin, waking up in an empty house. And spoiler alert, this time he uses Google technology to help fend off burglars trying to break in.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Nick Watt. I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment. You're watching CNN.