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Markets Struggle to Reverse December Downturn; Trump White House; Indonesia Tsunami; Japan to Resume Commercial Whaling; Guatemalan Boy Sickens, Dies in Custody; Sudan Cracks Down on Anti- Government Protests. Aired 12m-12:30a ET

Aired December 26, 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): It has been a rotten December for the global markets, right now struggling to reverse course in Asia. but despite investor fears, President Trump says now is the perfect time to buy.

A whale of a decision by Japan a couple of hours ago that has sparked outrage among conservation groups.

Plus, what began as protests over bread have turned deadly in Sudan as a growing number of demonstrators call for President Bashir to go.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier. It is great to have you with us.

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VANIER: So financial markets around the world are struggling to close out the year on a high note after a dismal December. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei is looking to recover from a 5 percent loss on Christmas Day. Let's look at the numbers. The Nikkei is down 0.59 percent and the Shanghai Composite is down, just barely, 0.02 percent.

U.S. president Donald Trump is encouraging investors to buy while prices are low. Wall Street suffered its worst losses Christmas Eve ever. The selloff intensified amid conflicting messages from the White House and President Trump has been looking for someone to blame.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we'll see. They're raising interest rates too fast, that's my opinion but I certainly have confidence. But I think it will straighten. They're raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good but I think that they will get it pretty soon.

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VANIER: Let's head to Hong Kong and get the view from there. Andrew Sullivan is standing by, the former head of sales trading at Haitong International Securities.

We're trying to figure out what to make of the financial market's downturn. Tell me what you are seeing on the markets today and how you interpret it.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, SECURITIES TRADER: Well, I think we're coming into the end of the year. It has been a bad year and I think a number of funds are just looking to, you know, almost clear the decks. Certainly in the U.S. markets, you know, there's some tax loss selling at this time of year as well.

So -- and there's a lot of uncertainty and that's one of the biggest things that the market doesn't like. The reality is, though, you know, the economy in the U.S. and in Japan is actually doing quite well and certainly the Fed sees a slight threat from inflation.

VANIER: So are you saying this is more to do with the financial markets themselves and less to do with the core strength of the economies?

SULLIVAN: Yes. I mean I think we are seeing, you know, a slowdown and there's a worry that, because of the tariff wars, we will see a speeding up of the slowing economy globally. But actually, you know, fundamentally at the moment the U.S. markets, the U.S. economy itself is doing quite well. You know, we've got a rise in inflation environment.

We've got a low figure for unemployment, which is the Fed's objectives. So, you know, it is qualified on those ones. You know, in Japan we are seeing quite good economic stability coming through from the economy there; we're just not seeing any inflation, which is still a concern there.

I think the trouble is that the trade war is overhanging and the increase in protectionism and, more importantly, the fact, for the first time since really the financial crisis, we don't see a global approach from the central banks.

Each one of them now is looking very much at its own economy and the requirements for that, you know, individual economy, which, again, is causing disparity between the central banks and their attitude.

VANIER: It sounds like you've got only a moderate amount of concern.

Maybe you agree with Donald Trump, now is the time to buy?

Maybe you think it is going to go up?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think the thing is that, you know, if you look at the broad markets, yes, there's a lot of pessimism out there but there's still a lot of good individual companies for investors to focus on.

Certainly if we look at the tariff wars and the trade in China, a lot of these companies are moving their manufacturing overseas, freeing up assets in China, which can allow for redevelopment or change of use, which can see money flow back to shareholders.

So I think you have to look more at the individual companies and also, you know, look at companies that do well through all stages of the cycle. There are still a lot of those out there.

So I don't think there's a great reason to sort of jump off a cliff. I think we are seeing a lot of people sort of clearing the decks at the end of what has been a bad year to have cash available to start next year afresh.

VANIER: "The Wall Street Journal" -- and I'm no expert on this so perhaps you can educate me. "The Wall Street Journal" has a great story out right now about how so much of trading now is computerized.

And a lot of this is done on algorithms --

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VANIER: -- which apply some sort of investment recipe and that's why you see bigger swings now than perhaps you would have done before in the markets and why those swings occur more rapidly than they would have done before.

Does that feel like it applies to what is happening now?

SULLIVAN: Well, I certainly think on days where you will see low trading volumes or thin trading volumes, that certainly can be true. You know, algorithms are based on a lot of historical data and try to predict from historical data what is going to happen in the future.

You can set the algorithm to be aggressive or passive or whatever you want, so that can cause greater swings.

The other point is though that, you know, the rise in ETFs is also causing a bigger impact on the market because, at the moment, investors decide to get out of their low-cost ETFs, which are tracker funds, they sell the whole of the index. Obviously that then weighs further on the downside for indexes.

VANIER: All right. Andrew Sullivan, great to speak to you because, you know, here in the U.S., the financial markets and the fact that they've been going down, it is the worst December in a long time. It is raising questions about whether we might not be, you know, at the end of the boom cycle in the U.S. economy.

So it is great talking to you, getting some perspective and you're telling us to moderate our concerns. Andrew, thank you.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome.

VANIER: President Trump tweeted only twice on Christmas Day, wishing everyone a merry Christmas, even the fake news media. Now in his reckoning that would be us.

But his mood at the White House hasn't exactly been festive as he railed about funding for his border wall, Democrats and the man he fired as FBI chief, James Comey. CNN's Abby Phillip has details from Washington.

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ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When President Trump started his day here at the White House on Christmas Day, speaking to troops stationed all over the world but he ended that session with 10 minutes of a wide-ranging question and answer session with reporters, filled with grievances and attacks on Democrats, blaming them for the partial government shutdown that's caused him to be here in the White House and not in Florida for Christmas Day.

President Trump talked at length about his border wall, saying he was willing to keep the government closed until he is able to get money for a border wall or for fencing. He also blamed Democrats for failing to support a border wall even though he claims they've supported it in the past.

He likened it to how, after he fired James Comey, Democrats suddenly wanted to defend James Comey, who they had, in the past, criticized for his handling of the 2016 election.

Now President Trump's mood at the White House on Christmas Day is just part of what he's been demonstrating publicly on social media for the last several days. He's been tweeting extensively about this border wall, criticizing his enemies and airing grievances this holiday week.

But he ended his session in the Oval Office by saying this. "It is a disgrace what is happening in the country," but he wished everyone a merry Christmas -- Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.

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VANIER: Alice Stewart does me the great honor of joining me on Christmas night in the studio.

You are a CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. I want to show you Donald Trump wishing everyone a merry Christmas. By the way, merry Christmas to you.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Merry Christmas.

VANIER: This is how Donald Trump wished everyone a merry Christmas.

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TRUMP: It is a disgrace what is happening in our country but other than that I wish everybody a very merry Christmas. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

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VANIER: All right. Look, I won't make you dwell on this too long.

It is safe to say he's not very good at this?

STEWART: No, he's not. VANIER: All of the ceremony stuff.

STEWART: No, he's not. Today of all days, there are 365 days of the year, he could take one, one day and just say merry Christmas, I wish everyone well and it just didn't happen that way. Usually the best thing to do is just if you cannot restrain yourself, just tape a merry Christmas message and play that. Unfortunately that --

VANIER: It wouldn't have been hard to keep it error free.

STEWART: It would not have been. These are times where it is really easy to do the right thing. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

The bad thing is we have that in comparison to the pope, who says, look at our differences and our fraternal differences and use those as opportunities to come together and use those as good opportunities to bridge the gap.

VANIER: I'm pretty sure I heard a collective raising of eyebrows when you compared Donald Trump to the pope.

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STEWART: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

VANIER: Donald Trump says he will keep the government partially shut until he gets the funding for his border wall but the Democrats -- this is what surprised me. The Democrats have no political incentive to give it to him. First thing they're going to do and they said as much is, on January 3rd, they're going to put a text to the floor that could reopen the government.

And they'll dare Donald Trump to strike it down and keep the government shut.

How does this work out for him?

STEWART: Right. The Democrats have zero incentive and motivation to build Donald Trump's big, beautiful wall or steel slats but they do have motivation to --

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STEWART: -- address an issue that 85 percent of people in America want to see addressed, which is providing protections for DREAMers, children of illegal immigrants who are in this country, DACA. They want that. That is something they can get done.

And this is an opportunity for Democrats to say to this president, we will work toward the money that you want for your big, beautiful wall if you do what Democrats have wanted and indeed what 80 percent of Americans want, which is providing protections for DREAMers.

So this is an opportunity for them to get what they want and the president to get what he wants. VANIER: But on the wall specifically, they and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said, no, never, in no way will we give money for the wall. For security, yes; but for the wall, no.

STEWART: And that's where it is time to come together and have this conversation. Chuck and Nancy have had their -- a couple of meetings with this president and they said, no, we're not going to give you money for the wall but we'll give $1.3 billion for border security.

The president said, I want $5 billion for my big, beautiful wall. Now it is time to come to the middle and have these conversations.

VANIER: Real quick before I let you go, the markets are not doing well.

How serious a problem is it for this president?

Because it is starting to raise questions of maybe there's going to be a downturn in the economy. This is a president who said it is all about people's bottom lines.

STEWART: It is a concert. I look at the markets like I look at a lot of things when it comes to this president and politics, long ball, and not looking at it from the short term.

I think this president has a lot of knee-jerk reactions. I think his frustration with the Feds right now is more of a personal issue. He asked them not to raise interest rates, however, they did.

The problem internationally and when world markets look at this, there's uncertainty across the world when it comes to what is going to happen with Brexit, what is going to happen with the U.S.-China relations, what is going to happen with the markets across the world.

So the overall worldwide economic uncertainty makes what is happening in America even more great. Overall, the economy is, I think, on an upward trend. We need to let things play out.

I would like to think that things are going in a good way in the upper trend and the world needs to just have faith in the long-term stability of the American markets. I think the Feds did the right thing. I would like to think the president would lay off them for a while and things will play out.

VANIER: He says now is a good time to buy.

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VANIER: Alice Stewart, thank you. You have to come down and visit your family more often. A treat to have you on set.

STEWART: Thank you, Cyril. I love being here.

VANIER: Thank you.

Syrian air defenses reportedly intercepted and downed a number of Israeli missiles near Damascus. Syria's state-run news agency says three soldiers were injured in the assault on an ammunition depot. In a statement on Twitter, Israel defense forces said its aerial defense intercepted an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria.

Next up, Japan abandons the International Whaling Commission over a decades-old impasse. Why this decision sparked outrage amongst conservation groups.

And Indonesian authorities are searching for tsunami survivors and warning the danger may not be over. Stay with us.

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VANIER: Rescuers in Indonesia are using drones and sniffer dogs to search for survivors of Saturday's tsunami. At least 429 were killed and that number is expected to rise even further. More than 150 are still unaccounted for.

Crews are searching a 100-kilometer stretch of Java's devastated west coast right now. More than 16,000 people have been displaced by the tsunami. The volcano that caused it, Anak Krakatoa, is still erupting and that's the danger. Residents have been warned to remain watchful.

Indonesia's geological agency said it has adjusted sensors near the volcano to detect volcanic tremors instead of just the stronger earthquake tremors.

Japan is leaving the International Whaling Commission so it can restart commercial whaling in July. The country says it will only hunt whales with what they call healthy population numbers and only within its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in accordance with international law.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling more than 30 years ago. Let's go live to Will Ripley in Hong Kong.

Will, Japan has been at loggerheads with the anti-whaling commission for years. Why are they pulling out now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is not a surprise. This announcement was widely expected, especially after Japan recently failed to win the support of the IWC. They wanted to make it easier to get the votes to end the commercial whaling ban. You know, there are a lot of factors at play here.

Japan has a nationalist ruling party that views whaling differently than much of the rest of the world. They view it as part of Japan's heritage, centuries of tradition. And they've grown frustrated with years of international criticism over the whaling that they say is for research purposes, even though a lot of people accused them of the research whaling expeditions really being cover for commercial whale hunting.

I can tell you, when I lived in Japan, there were things like whale meat festivals at some local schools, even though the consumption of whale meat has dropped drastically over the last several decades.

What we know is Japan's whaling fleet is expected to resume commercial operations in July of next year and this does defy a 1986 ban on global whaling.

We are hearing condemnation from Greenpeace in particular. Sam Annesley is the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, sent a statement to CNN that I want to read part of.

It says this announcement was deliberately timed over the Christmas holiday.

"It's clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of the year, away from the spotlight of the international media.

"But the world sees this for what it is. The declaration today is out of step with the international community, let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and this majestic creatures."

Japan's chief government spokesperson says that Japan will be whaling in its own waters and it is going to stop its highly controversial whale hunts in the Antarctic. Those were a major source of friction between Japan and Australia.

So I guess it is a bittersweet victory for animal rights activists. They wanted to see Japan stopping the whaling in the Antarctic but, nonetheless, the fact they will step up whaling in their own waters, very concerning to many.

VANIER: But what about the big question behind all of this?

The commission got countries to stop whaling back in the '80s because it was killing off whale populations.

Are the whales in less danger now than 30 years ago?

RIPLEY: It depends on who you ask. Greenpeace says no, many whale species are still in danger, that modern fleet technology has led to overfishing, both Japanese coastal waters and on the high seas. And they say it caused the depletion of many whale species.

They point to whale populations, especially larger whales like blue whales, fin whales, sei whales. They say those have not recovered. But if you speak with Japanese fisheries they say other types of whales, like the minke, have recovered and sustainable hunting could be resumed.

Japan is not the only nation doing this, Cyril. Norway and Iceland are also currently openly defying the international ban on commercial whaling. VANIER: Thank you for all of the context, Will Ripley. Thanks a lot.

An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala has died in U.S. custody, just weeks after a Guatemalan girl died while in U.S. detention. Now border officials say they are changing how they treat children in their custody. More on that when we come back.

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VANIER: In El Paso, Texas, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials are dropping off hundreds of undocumented immigrants at a bus station and they're leaving them there.

Police say families with small children are among the groups who immigration officials are leaving to fend for themselves. As many as 500 more people could be dropped off Wednesday.

A nonprofit shelter usually helps migrants in El Paso but right now it is overloaded so volunteers are scrambling to try to find other places for people to get housing, food and medical care.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they're putting new policies in place following the death of a second migrant child in U.S. custody this month. They will now carry out secondary medical checks on all children, focusing especially on children younger than 10. An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died on Monday. That's less than a week after he arrived in the U.S. with his father. CNN's Jean Casarez has more.

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JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saying that an 8-year-old little boy, a Guatemalan national, who was apprehended in New Mexico with his father, has died while in their custody. At this point they do not have an official cause of death.

According to the timeline released by the CBP, it was the morning of Christmas Eve and a Border Protection agent noticed the child appeared to be sick. The little boy and his father were transferred to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, initially diagnosed with a common cold.

That all changed according to officials when they discovered the boy had a fever. He was released from the hospital mid-afternoon with prescriptions for antibiotics and ibuprofen. But it was hours later, Christmas Eve night, that he began to vomit. He was transferred back to the hospital and he died shortly after midnight on Christmas.

Now compare that with a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl and her father. They were apprehended by the Border Patrol crossing into New Mexico in November. Jakelin Caal Maquin also began vomiting. Her health deteriorated and, despite medical attention, she died two days later. Her body was just returned to Guatemala.

But now the Border Patrol's Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a review of this most recent death to determine the official cause -- Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.

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VANIER: Sudan is cracking down on massive anti-government protests across the country. Witnesses say security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas into crowds on Tuesday. At least 37 were killed since the protests began a week ago, according to Amnesty International.

The demonstrations started over fuel shortages and a spike in food prices but they grew into wider calls for President Omar al-Bashir to resign. He says the protesters are traitors and foreign agents.

Joining me is Isma'il Kushkush, a Sudanese American independent journalist.

Start by telling me what is going on in the capital to the best of your knowledge.

Are there more protests planned and what is the security deployment like?

ISMA'IL KUSHKUSH, JOURNALIST: So today trade unions organized a march where they met in downtown Khartoum and had a memorandum to deliver to the president, Omar al-Bashir, calling for his resignation.

They were met with tear gas and bullets and violence. Sudan erupted in protest for the last seven days against high bread prices, that being the trigger. But given the overwhelming -- the overall political discontent in the country, people have taken the protests from protesting high bread prices to calling --

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KUSHKUSH: -- for the resignation of the president and for the regime to fall.

VANIER: This started as a grassroots movement a week ago but I know the political opposition now supports it.

Is this still a people's movement?

KUSHKUSH: Yes, I think it is definitely a people's movement. I mean it started without any particular organization, without any political party or group organizing this. It started against high prices, between -- the price of bread tripled from 1 pound to 3 pounds. It started with high school students in a northern town, which has a long history of labor organizing.

And from there it has gone to different cities and then to the capital. It is now down to political opposition, who called for their political base to join the protest, whatever political activists or even professionals, journalists, doctors, engineers and others who joined the protest.

VANIER: The president promised reforms to address all of this, the price of bread, the fuel shortages, to just improve the economy.

Was that just a line to appease the protesters or do we know if he has real measures in the works?

KUSHKUSH: Well, there are measures the government said they will take, such as raising the minimum wage but this has been said before. And I think, for the protesters, this is just repeated rhetoric that's been said before and that they haven't seen any meaningful change on policies or opening up the political (INAUDIBLE) in the country.

VANIER: Protesters have been demanding the ouster of the president, as you told us, and they've been chanting an Arab Spring slogan that we used to hear across the Arab world in 2011.

Does this feel like an Arab Spring moment to you, a turning point for Sudan and perhaps for the rule of Omar al-Bashir?

KUSHKUSH: Well, in 2011, protests took place -- did take place in Sudan as well. They were crushed (INAUDIBLE) again in 2012 and 2013. And, again, they were put down violently.

I would say this time it does feel a little more different, it does feel more serious. People are unsatisfied with the political situation, even more so with attempts to allow the president to run in 2020 for the upcoming elections.

He's already been in power for 30 years. So there's a great deal of anger and frustration. It does feel that today especially might be a tipping point.

VANIER: All right, Isma'il Kushkush. We will keep a close eye on this and see how it develops. More protests planned in coming days. This has been going on for a week. Isma'il, thank you so much for joining us.

KUSHKUSH: Thank you.

VANIER: Thank you for joining us on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. Up next, 25 years of "WORLD SPORT." That's ahead.