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Washington Braces for Trump to Weigh In On Shutdown Deal; The Great Human-Computer Debate; Students Aiming To End The Stigma Of Menstruation. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 02:00   ET




Lawmakers on Capitol Hill say they are close to making a deal to avoid another shutdown but there's no telling yet if the President will agree to the compromises they have hammered out.

Plus, bracing for Brexit, how some companies are preparing ahead of the looming deadline.

Well, amid airstrikes and artillery, ISIS is clinging to its last enclave in Syria, the town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani. These are some of the people who have fled the area but thousands of civilians could still be trapped inside. One woman who escaped described horrifying conditions, saying food is running low and ISIS is using human shields.

The top U.S. General in the region, Joseph Votel, says, the fight for the town will be difficult.


GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It's heavily urbanized, it's laden with a lot of explosive hazards, improvised explosive devices, for example, and kind of a prepared defense by ISIS. They have had the opportunity to prepare this for a while. And there is a presence of civilians in the area, family members of ISIS and then others that reside in the area. And so I think this poses, you know, a significant concern for us as we do this.


CHURCH: CNN's Ben Wedeman and his team have been on the ground reporting from frontlines, they have seen firsthand how intense the fighting is and filed this exclusive report.


BEN WEDEMEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So we have to leave our position now because the morning began with heavy exchange of machine gunfire followed by loud explosions. We went up to the roof and started to take incoming rounds. Then some sort of explosive device landed next to the building were in. Now, we have to pull out because it appears that there has been serious ISIS counterattack. And we have is seen some of the S.D.F. troops pulling back as this goes on. Although some of the officers are urging them to go forward. But what ISIS fighters were taking advantage of the early morning fog, which is often their tactic to try to make advances, and it appears indeed they have. And that's why we have to move back.

I am Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from the frontlines in Eastern Syria.


CHURCH: With government funding set to run out on Friday, U.S. lawmakers say they have an agreement in principle to avoid a shutdown. The tentative deal includes more than $1.3 billion for new border fencing and an agreement on the number of beds budgeted for immigration officials to detain undocumented immigrants. Senator Richard Shelby was among the negotiators and says he hopes the White House will sign off on the agreement.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), A.L.: Our staffs are going to be working feverishly to put all the particulars together. But that's all we can tell you now. We are not getting into the numbers and everything but it's something that is a part of all of our work. And we believe if this becomes law, of course, it will open the government.

REPORTER: You have signed off from the White House to potentially go ahead and signature?

SHELBY: We talked to - from time-to-time, as you well know, from the White House representatives and they know what's going on here and we'll go from there.


CHURCH: President Donald Trump repeated his case for a border wall at a rally in El Paso, Texas Monday night. CNN's Kaitlan Collins was there.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump held his first campaign rally of the year in El Paso on Monday night. And as he was coming on stage, word got to the president that his congressional negotiators on Capitol Hill had reached a tentative deal to avoid a government shutdown when the government partially runs out of funding at the end of the week.


Now, the President said he had not been fully briefed on the deal yet but this is what he knew.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: As I was walking up to the stage, they said that progress is being made with this committee. Just so you know, we're building the wall anyway. They say that progress has been made with this wall.

COLLINS: Now, that last line there from the President about building the wall anyway could be a key indication of where he is going to go next on this.

Now, we've been talking to White House officials and they say it's not clear whether or not the President would agree to this deal. They are just now looking at it, assessing it and seeing what's in it. And right now, they say that they are keeping their options open.

One of those options that we've heard from the White House officials in recent days could be that the President could sign whatever deal that congressional negotiators come to but still try to use federal funds to build additional barriers anyway since this deal that they've reached right now only has a little over a billion dollars in it right now for barrier structures. That's far less than what the demanded back in December when he shut the government down, which was $5.7 billion.

So the question now is is this something that the President can agree to that he'll he sign and then will he or will he not continue to try to use federal funding to continue to emerge and build additional funding - additional barriers on the southern border with that.

Right now, we're waiting to see what the President's reaction will be.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, traveling with the President in El Paso.

CHURCH: Joining me now is Siraj Hashmi. He is a commentary writer and editor at the Washington Examiner. Good to have with us.


CHURCH: So just days before another possible government shutdown, it looks like that threat has been averted with the democrats and republicans reaching an agreement in principle. Now, the big question, of course, is will the President agree to this deal? What do you think?

HASHMI: Well, right now at this moment, the devil will obviously be in the details. What we know so far is that it doesn't seem to really meet the expectations that President Trump set forward. In the previous shutdown, he asked for an area north of $5.7, $5.6 billion, an additional funding for the border wall. And he also wanted - I mean, in the very first shutdown, he wanted $25 billion.

So what we're seeing now from this new deal and this new agreement, and I have - I don't really have much of a sense that Trump will sign onto this, is even a farther cry from the $5.6 billion.

CHURCH: Right, yes. Let's look at that. Because, initially, the four lead bipartisan negotiators refused to reveal any details on this deal. But now, we're learning that it includes $1.375 billion for a physical barrier and a reduction of the number of I.C.E beds to 40,520.

So both the House and Senate will need to get something to the President's desk before the government funding deadline on Friday. Is that doable? And when you look at these numbers, does it look like a good compromise? And you don't think that the President will get behind this?

HASHMI: No, President Trump will not get behind this, you know. If it's $1.375 billion, we don't know if this is additional funding to go the $1.3 billion that they have already for border security. And it's also for a, quote, unquote, physical barrier. It's not for a wall at the moment that we know of, and also capping I.C.E. beds from 49,000 down to 40,000, that's sort of roughly 17 percent reduction.

President Trump is going to sign on to I.C.E. capping of beds because that's going to basically force, you know, both Customs Border protection and I.C.E. to basically go on with the catch and release policy, which possibly could rise crime but it could definitely increase the number of court cases that don't actually get settled in immigration court, which is something that has been much of a thorn in the President's side on this.

CHURCH: But this is the closest the two parties have gotten to at least getting some sort of deal that both sides appear to be fairly excited about at Monday evening, didn't they, that they had reached this point. what would need to be the next move then to get the President on board?

HASHMI: Well, obviously, they're going to have to meet with President Trump first and kind of get his feedback on this. I can't imagine he is going to sign onto this where we might be looking at another shutdown.

And, you know, a bipartisan conference committee, that was the original agreement that they had to the previous shutdown, the 35-day shutdown. And that's something that President Trump said, okay, you have until this date to get it done.

Well, we just so happen to be past the deadline and it's - right now, they have five days or so to basically get a deal done. And they're going to have to go back to the drawing board and get something that President Trump asked for.


And it's actually kind of interesting that Congress would be like, we are really proud of this deal. You know, this is really going to meet his expectations when it's not a complete far cry from from it.

CHURCH: Yes, they were very happy with themselves.

I do want to ask another question before you go, because, of course, there was one topic republicans and democrats could agree on Monday. Members of both parties denounce freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for what they called anti-Semitic comments. She later issued a statement saying she unequivocally apologized. Will that be enough though to calm her critics?

HASHMI: Well, if you looked her actual apology, you know, she still - she said that she unequivocally apologized but in the same statement made in a remark about foreign lobbying and domestic lobbying with respect to APAC as well as a fossil fuel industry and the N.R.A. So it seems like she's kind of holding on to this idea that lobbying has a far more influence than it does in Congress.

And it's going to be tough for her to get over this hump because she has made it almost her entire position to focus on boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel and her previous comments with respect to Israel hypnotizing the world, she hasn't been able to escape that.

And if she happens to seek higher office, whether it'd the Senate down the line or even President down the line, well, she can't serve - she can't seek the presidency because she wasn't born in the United States, but if she wants to have a higher profile, she really - she has to have a more forceful denial - or not a forceful denial but a more forceful apology and really recognize that she messed up here.

And if it weren't for democrats calling her out, I doubt she would ever apologized for those comments.

CHURCH: Right. Siraj Hashmi, thank you so much for your analysis.

HASHMI: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Authorities are looking for the cause of a deadly fire in a New Delhi hotel. Police say at least 17 people lost their lives when flames raced through to the hotel in the Indian capital. 35 were rescued. The hotel is in an area popular with tourists and close to New Delhi's financial center.

A refugee footballer jailed in Thailand is back home in Australia. Hakeem al-Araibi got a hero's welcome Monday. He was arrested in Bangkok last November on his honeymoon. It was because of an extradition request from his native Bahrain. Al-Araibi is a critic of Bahrain's government and says he'll face torture if returned. He also has asylum in Australia where he plays for on Melbourne.

Under mounting international pressure, Bahrain dropped its request and Thailand set him free. It is what the footballer told reporters on Monday.


HAKEEM AL-ARAIBI, REFUGEE FOOTBALLER: I just - I would like to thank Australia and it's amazing to see all the people here, all the Australian people, all the media, they supported me. And I just - I want to thank the Australian government, Australian people. I want to thank this man, his fight so much for my cares [ph], and I want to thank him so much. And I thank the media, all the human rights, and thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And the man on the left there was former Australian National Football Team, Captain Craig Foster, the ex-soccer skipper led the campaign to bring al-Araibi out.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran toppled a Shah and shattered once close relations with the United States. And 40 years on, there's no indication from Iranian leaders to suggest those relations will improve. The view from Tehran, that's still to come.

Plus, U.S. Secretary of State is in Central Europe looking to go reengage with allies, but why now the and what kind of response is getting? We will have the latest from Budapest.

And businesses don't like uncertainty, and there's plenty to go around in Britain at the moment, how companies are are preparing as the Brexit deadline looms.

We'll be back in just a moment.



[02:16:42] CHURCH: A new report from the Pentagon warns that Russia and China are developing lasers that could target and destroy U.S. satellites. The report says both countries are looking for exploit U.S. reliance on space-based systems for everything, from navigation to weapons systems and intelligence gathering. Satellites also detect missile launchers from other countries. The Trump administration says this is one of the reasons it's creating a space force.

Well, Mike Pompeo is the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Hungary since 2011. It was the first stop on a tour of Central Europe aimed at reasserting American ties to the region and countering the growing influence of Russia and China.

CNN's Atika Shubert has the details.nn happens the details.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Budapest on a diplomatic mission to reassert U.S. influence and push back on Russia and China, in particular Russian gas and Chinese technology in the form of telecommunications giant, Huawei.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We must not let Putin drive wedges between friends in NATO. Russia is not the only power that wants to to erode freedom in this region. There is an experience of states in Asia-Pacific region that shows that Beijing's handshakes sometimes comes with strings.

SHUBERT: It's been almost eight years since a U.S. Secretary of State was in Budapest. Since Prime Minister Viktor Orban was elected in 2010, the previous Obama administration had given Hungary the cold shoulder for Orban's increasingly anti-democratic policies undermining the independence of the courts, the central bank, cracking down on the media and free speech. But in U.S. President Donald Trump, Orban sees a natural ally with similar views on immigration and the media.

The visit is the validation Hungary needs just as its fellow E.U. members threatened to sanction the Orban government for failing to uphold democratic principles.

PETER SZIJJARTO, HUNGARIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE: The Trump administration has similar and the same stance in general policies. Both governments are patriotic where national interest come first, first and foremost, to protect the safety and sovereignty of the country, to fight migration, to be in line to defend the borders and protect the Christian heritage. We support the fair treatment of Israel. We base our policy with mutual respect. The world is not better if some countries lecture other countries.

SHUBERT: During the visit, both Hungary and the U.S. agreed to hammer out details on their defense cooperation agreement allowing for U.S. troops to operate in Hungary as part of NATO, a positive start to Pompeo's European tour.

Atika Shubert, CNN Berlin.


CHURCH: The British Prime Minister will face lawmakers in the coming hours with U.K. growth at its weakest level in six years and only 45 days left until Britain leaves the European Union. Theresa May is likely to see some unhappy faces when she delivers her Brexit update.

Right now, the E.U. is sticking to its guns, refusing to budge on the backstop. That's the so-called insurance policy for avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The E.U. chief Brexit negotiator says the ball is now in Mrs. May's court.


MICHEL BARNIER, E.U. CHIEF NEGOTIATOR: I heard Theresa May herself say that she hope to open a dialogue with the opposition.


So here is what I can say. Something has to give on the British side. Clarity or movement is needed in the United Kingdom.


CHURCH: Well, in the meantime, Britain's economy has hit the brakes harder than expected. It grew just 1.4 percent in 2018, 0.2 percent of that in the final quarter of the year. The British government says, don't blame Brexit pointing instead to a slowdown in China.

But businesses are on edge over the possibility of a chaotic divorce from the E.U. If there is no deal by March 29th, that could mean big delays at the borders.

CNN's Anna Stewart hitched a ride with a truck driver on the continent who was taking car parts back home to the U.K. She got his views on Brexit and an unexpected serenade.


GORDON TERRY: When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.

ANNA STEWART, REPORTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Gordon Terry has been driving a truck for 25 years. And today, he is my chauffeur through France.

TERRY: Even if I say so myself, I'm a fairly good crooner.

STEWART: He's been on the road for two days, hauling car parts made in Italy to a factory in Liverpool, England. With three hours to the channel crossing Calais, we had plenty of time to talk politics.

TERRY: There is only one Brexit.

STEWART: Which is?

TERRY: No-deal Brexit.

STEWART: No matter what, even if it means businesses have to close?

TERRY: It will create more industry. It will create more work for the youngsters that they think we're robbing them off

STEWART: So in your mind, short-term pain.

TERRY: Yeah.

STEWART: But long-term gain.

TERRY: But long-term gain.

STEWART: His bosses at Alcaline Haulage don't see it that way.

DAVID ZACCHEO, OPERATIONS MANAGER, ALCALINE HAULAGE: We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds just for the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit.

STEWART: David Zaccheo is Alcaline's operations manager. His trucks make 10,000 channel crossings each year, hauling parts for major carmakers, like Jaguar and Land Rover.

ZACCHEO: It's a little bit of red there today.

STEWART: Zaccheo tracks his rigs in real-time, troubleshooting potential delays that could shut off supply.

Wow, this is one truck that we've probably got on.

ZACCHEO: This is one truck. So we literally see what's actually happened.

STEWART: Most of the parts hit the assembly line as soon as they reach their destination. It's called just-in-time manufacturing, and Zaccheo's clients swear by it.

Some are stockpiling parts, others shifting production out of the U.K. ahead of the Brexit deadline, worried a no-deal could grind things to a halt.

What's the worst case scenario? What does that look like?

ZACCHEO: There will be just blockades, vehicles parked up because we don't know what's going on. We are not sure ourselves what is going on happen.

STEWART: We're coming off the motorway now. We are approaching the border at Calais so we can go over to the U.K. Currently, we don't need to show any customs forms, U.K. is part of the E.U. customs union, part after of a single market. This is what could change come March 29th.

U.K. port officials say a customs check could lead to miles of delays on each side of the border. This is how Alcaline is coping, buying a helicopter to ensure it can deliver parts on a deadline. The backlog could hit the Euro tunnel when nearly 1.7 million trucks passed through last year.

We go through a security check, and within minutes, we were on our way again onto a train that will carry our truck under the channel.

Terry rides in a separate coach with the other drivers. The shuttle is a marvel of modern engineering and a main artery of the European economy.

40 minutes later and it's back on the highway, now on the U.K. side where businesses are hoping for more direction.

Anna stewart, CNN, at the channel crossing.


CHURCH: Venezuela's opposition leader is calling for more mass protest as the country prepares to mark Youth Day. Juan Guaido wants President Nicolas Maduro to step down and for the military to allow aid convoys into the country. Guaido Tweeted a video of himself Monday saying his team has delivered its first shipment of vitamins and you nutritional supplements. He did not say where the aid came from or who received it.

Guaido says 300,000 people could die if more supplies are not allowed in soon. He says blocking the aid is a crime against human it humanity.

Well, Iran is marking the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Thousands marched through the streets of Tehran on Monday to commemorate the 1979 overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran. The celebrations come at an especially tense time, relations between the U.S. and Iran are the worst they have been in years.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, a show of defiance against the U.S. during Iran's celebration of 40 years of the Islamic Revolution. Many saying they are not impressed by what President Trump says is his tough stance against Tehran.

Trump is a stupid and crazy man, this Iranian navy sailor says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States policy is doomed to be exploded, to be clubbed.

PLEITGEN: Many in the crowd mocking the U.S. One children's stand even had what appeared to be a Bugs Bunny type figure in death to America chants.

Iran's Islamic Revolution culminated with Ayatollah Khomeini returning from exile in 1979. On February 11th of that year, the U.S.-backed shah was officially overthrown. Iranian students later overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days.

U.S.-Iranian relations never recovered. Speaking exclusively to CNN, the head of Iran's elite revolutionary guard corps ripped in to Washington.

The Americans and other big powers know that conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran would fail, he says, so they have started a soft war, a cultural, political and economic war against us. And our people have understood that. They are resisting and they are prepared.

The Trump administration scrapped the Iran nuclear deal last year and has since hit Iran with crippling economic sanctions. The White House saying Tehran is destabilizing the Middle East with its ballistic missile program.

Iran says its missiles are for self-defense, the country's president vowing to continue their development. We have not asked and we will not asking for permission from anyone to develop our missile capabilities. And we build a wide range of missiles that include ground-to-air, air-to-air, land-to-sea and ground-to-ground, he says.

40 years after the Islamic Revolution, Iran is arguably one of the strongest nations in the Middle East but also one in economic turmoil as sanctions continue to take their toll.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN Tehran.


CHURCH: And we have this just into CNN. Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has arrived in Baghdad for an unannounced visit with U.S. military officials and the Iraqi Prime Minister. Now, that follows a surprise stop in Afghanistan on Monday. Shanahan met with President Ashraf Ghani amid uncertainty at the U.S. troops in the country.

We saw dueling rallies in the U.S. border town of El Paso each with a different narrative about life on the border and we will try to determine which one is correct.

And then later, a polar bear invasion in Northeastern Russia, what's forcing them into one remote community and frightening villagers?

We'll be back with that in just a moment.


[02:30:34] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for you this hour. U.S.-backed forces are locked in a fierce battle with ISIS and the terror group's last Syrian enclave. This exclusive footage shows some of the fighting around Baghouz (INAUDIBLE) a woman who fled the town says food is running low and ISIS is using human shields.

The British government says it's not right to blame Brexit as the country's economy grows as its slowest pace in six years. The latest U.K. growth figures painted gloomy picture, just 1.4 percent growth in 2018, and only 0.2 percent of that in the final quarter of the year. Congressional negotiators have reached an agreement in principal to avoid another U.S. government shutdown. Sources say it includes more than a billion dollars for border fencing, but specifically prohibits a concrete wall.

No word yet on whether the White House would agree to it. Government funding runs out on Friday if there is no deal. Well, Mr. Trump made his case for the border wall again on Monday in El Paso, Texas. The president repeated what he had said in his State of the Union address that the city saw a dramatic drop in crime once a border wall was erected. But the city's mayor tells CNN that's just not true.


DEE MARGO, MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: We were going back (INAUDIBLE) 2005 one of the safest cities in the nation. The barrier went up and the fence went up in, and it's only about 10 miles long, and the total fencing in the El Paso sector is about 78 miles and it's not continuous. Now, it does -- it's part of the process for border security, but it's not the total panacea. But the remarks that the president made in the State of the Union were stated originally almost verbatim by our attorney general some weeks ago and that's where the erroneous comments came from that were not correct.


CHURCH: Well, regardless of the facts, Mr. Trump doubled down on his argument while in El Paso.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't care whether a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat. They're full of crap when they say it hasn't made a big difference. And I've been watching where they have been trying to say, oh, the wall didn't make that much. Well, you take a look at what they did with their past crimes and how they made them from very serious too much lesser. You take a look at what the real system is. I spoke to people that have been here a long time. They said when that wall went up it's a whole different ballgame.


CHURCH: All right. A bit of fact checking here. Here a look at the FBI's numbers. Violent crime in El Paso peaked in 1993 and by 2006 had fallen by 34 percent. The border wall was not built until two years later. While those are just the numbers, let's get a look at some reality along the border in El Paso. Ed Lavandera has that.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Maynard Haddad doesn't minced words when it comes to President Trump and his hometown. He owns H&H Car Wash Cafe, the only place in El Paso where the customer is always wrong even a president. Why do you think Trump is saying the things about El Paso that he is saying?

MAYNARD HADDAD, OWNER, H&H CAR WASH: Because he doesn't know who the hell he's talking about.

LAVANDERA: Maynard's cafe opened in 1958. You can get a car wash and (INAUDIBLE) while you wait. And while we waited, Haddad told us he voted for Trump and didn't hold back his thoughts on the rest. You've never felt unsafe here?

HADDAD: Oh, hell, no.

LAVANDERA: He keeps repeating that El Paso used to be this horribly dangerous place.

HADDAD: You know, well, then he needs to go to school.

LAVANDERA: President Trump has falsely claimed El Paso's wall along the Rio Grande dramatic changed this border town.

TRUMP: The border City of El Paso, Texas used to have extremely high rates of violent crime. A wall was put up. It went from being one of the most dangerous cities in the country to one of the safest cities in the country overnight.

LAVANDERA: That's just not true. El Paso has never been one of the most dangerous places in America. Crime statistics show violent crime was dropping for many years before the wall was built. In 2008, and crime jumped a little after the wall was built. You don't feel like the president is trashing El Paso?

[02:35:01] ADOLFO TELLES, CHAIR, EL PASO COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: I don't think so. LAVANDERA: But some El Paso Republicans like Adolfo Telles say Trump

us still right about what a border wall can do to cut down crime and threats.

TELLES: If you were living in a house and you know that there are illegal people wandering around your house at 2:00 in the morning, is that a serious crime from your perspective? People just get quiet when you put it that way.

LAVANDERA: Silvestre Reyes is a former democratic congressman of El Paso and spent nearly 30 years as the top border patrol agent along this stretch of the border. He remembers when a simple (INAUDIBLE) fence was the border wall.

SILVESTRE REYES, FORMER BORDER PATROL SECTOR CHIEF: It was ineffectively referred to as the tortilla curtain.

LAVANDERA: Silvestre says there's enough border wall already in place and he says the president is lying to make the case for more. When you hear the president say El Paso used to be one of the most dangerous cities in the county before the wall.

REYES: He's full of it. This is my home. And he's mischaracterized El Paso as kind of Wild West and a violent crime ridden area until the fence went up, and that's totally false.

LAVANDERA: Maynard Haddad will be paying close attention from his car wash and he left us with one last warning for President Trump. If President Trump comes here and repeats the exact same thing that we know is wrong, how is that going to go over in this town?

HADDAD: Not real smart. Not real smart. He better go back to where he belongs. Back east.


CHURCH: Ed Lavandera with that report. While Donald Trump was making his case for the border wall, former El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke was making his case for against it. He held his own rally just down the road from Mr. Trump's. O'Rourke says his hometown is safe not because of the walls, but in spite of walls.


BETO O'ROURKE, FORMER CONGRESSMAN, TEXAS: A president describes Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. We have the chance to tell him and the country immigrants commit crimes including violent crimes at a lower rate than do Americans who were born in this country. El Paso has been the safest city in the United States of America not in spite of the fact that we're a city of immigrants, but because we are a city of immigrants.


CHURCH: And O'Rourke has been mentioned as a potential competitor to Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. So far, O'Rourke has avoided the question when asked. All right. Let's take a short break here. But up next, guess who's coming to dinner? Polar bears invade a remote Russian village looking for food. What the community is doing about it. Plus --




CHURCH: Are computers clever enough now to beat a human in a debate? I'll have the answer for you on the other side of the break. Stay with us.


[02:40:38] CHURCH: Hundreds of villagers in Northeastern Russia are scared for their lives after an invasion of polar bears looking for food. Some people have been attacked and parents are afraid to send their kids to school. CNN's Matthew Chance reports now from Moscow.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is a particularly vivid illustration of how a changing climate in the Arctic is having an impact on the local wildlife and leading to these potentially lethal encounters with humans. Russian officials say dozens of polar bears searching for food have gathered in and around this remote settlement in Novaya Zemlya of Russia's northeastern arctic coast. Local residents have recorded them rifling through a local garbage dumb searching for scraps, even entering apartment blocks desperate for something to eat.

Now, the bears would normally be hunting seals. But a lack of pack ice means that those seals are out of reach. Of course, this is absolutely terrifying for the human population of the area. Local Russian officials have released statements saying that the bears have already chased and attacked a number of people. They say locals are scared to leave their homes or to send their children of course to school. Now, because polar bears are a protected species in Russia, a decision has been taken not to shoot the animals dead.

Instead, Russian officials say they're planning to sedate them and to transport them away from these human settlements. However, the bigger picture again is that the rapidly changing climate in the Arctic is throwing up these extraordinary challenges for all of its inhabitants. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.

CHURCH: Wildfires are raging in New Zealand and they could burn for quite a while yet. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with the very last latest on this. So Pedram, what's the story?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It is a scare perspective for folks across New Zealand, Rosemary. Fire officials their latest estimates are this fire could continue into month of March, well into the month of March. So really speaks to the significance of what is happening here across New Zealand. The images kind of show you the damage that has been done. The extreme heat has been in place. The drought of course has been widespread across this region.

And frankly, not only are we in the hottest driest time of the year, but we're also in the most dry location on -- in the country there on the island nation of New Zealand, so certainly not going to help out in this particular period. And then you look back just into early 2018 through much of 2018 really. We had the fourth hottest year on record and then the past 60 years top four hottest years on records much like we've seen around different parts of the world.

New Zealand along those same lines experiencing the record heat in place as well. In fact, the current fires in place the worst forest fires in 60 years going back to the middle 1950s, the last time they had a fire this with this much damage are already in place. We know some 3,000 people have been evacuated. Officials allowed about 500 people to go back into Pigeon Valley, the community there just south of the flames. They allowed them to go back for a couple of hours in the past day or so to gather further belongings because they might not be able to go back beyond this if conditions worsen.

And we know some 2300 hectares have been consumed. But firefighting efforts now increased from 150 yesterday up to 200. This is the single largest firefighting efforts on any fire in the country's history there. You know, as 12,000 volunteers have come to help with the flames across this region, 23 helicopters, three airplanes, even four drones hovering above this flames right now looking for infrared hot spots there to try to detect those hot spots and make a better effort in putting these fires out.

But we know climatologically speaking, 13 millimeters, that's all it takes to stop a spread of wild fires, 50 millimeters is what it takes to extinguish it. There is a storm system there. But it really comes in with a good news bad news kind of an angle because you look at how it approaches and advance of it, it will be windy. It will be warmer back behind it more humid and also cooler temperatures, so things might get a little worse before we can see some improvement.

And the forecast at this point doesn't right there on the northern tip of the south island, Rosemary. And it looks like Thursday morning our best bet here to get some rainfall and allow the firefighters to make some ground on this incredibly large fire in that region.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Thank you so much for bringing us the details on that. Appreciate it, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thanks, Rosemary.

[02:45:01] CHURCH: Well, people are great at arguing. And so, as it turns out, are some computers. On Monday, human world class debater Harish Natarajan, faced off against IBM's Project Debater. The first artificial-intelligence system built to debate humans.

So, who came out on top? Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First arguing for the resolution today will be IBM Project Debater.



PROJECT DEBATER, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PROJECT, IBM: Greetings, Harish. I have learned you hold the world record in debate competition wins against humans. But I suspect you've never debated a machine. Welcome to the future.

High quality preschool is one of the best investments of public dollars, resulting in children who fare better on tests and have more successful lives than those without the same access.

NATARAJAN: I think we live in a world where there are real constraints on what governments can spend money on. And even if those are not real, those are nonetheless political.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harish Natarajan, arguing against the resolution subsidized preschool, declared our winner. Our congratulations to them.

Which of the two debaters better enriched your knowledge? Let's see what that number is. Project Debater better enrich the knowledge of the audience on that side. So, a little bit of a split decision.


CHURCH: Well, there you go. Well, in some parts of the world, a girl's period can mean the end of her education. Now, an Oscar- nominated documentary aims to help change that and end the stigma of menstruation. You will hear from the film's director and producer, next.


CHURCH: A period should end a sentence, not a girl's education. That's the motto of a nonprofit called, The Pad Project, founded by high school students in Los Angeles who wanted to end the stigma of menstruation in other parts of the world.

And their work has helped young women in India do just that. Many girls in a village outside Delhi have been forced to miss classes or leave school altogether because they couldn't get clean pads to use when they had their periods.

Often leading to health problems. But when a sanitary pad machine was installed in their village, the women not only fought that stigma, they began to create and market their own pads. Giving them financial security and independence. They named to their brand, Fly, because they want women to soar.

Their story is featured in a documentary called Period. End of Sentence. Which is up for an Oscar at this month's Academy Awards.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know pads, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't even heard the name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't even know how to use it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all use cloth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls don't have much freedom. We aren't encouraged to work or be independent

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A machine is being installed in your village.


CHURCH: And thanks for being with us director and producer Rayka Zehtabchi. And Oakwood high school student, Mason Maxam. And congratulations to you both on the Academy Award nomination for your short -- a documentary, Period. End of Sentence. Well done.

[02:50:08] RAYKA ZEHTABCHI, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER, PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE: Thank you so much, we're so happy to be here.


CHURCH: So, Mason, I want to start with you and just find out how you and your fellow students became aware of the challenges these young Indian girls faced. And how did you come up with this idea of a machine that makes sanitary pads for girls and women?

MAXAM: I actually joined this project in seventh grade. So that was almost 3-1/2 years ago. But my teacher, Melissa Burton actually attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N. and she discovered this issue at a conference that they held.

She went to the U.N. with a group of students including her daughter, Helen Yenser. And they found out about the issue, and from there, they decided to make a documentary. After that, we worked on fundraising for the documentary. We hosted two kick starters. And also did bake sales and yoga funds to raise the money.

And so, with that grassroots fundraising, we were able to fund the documentary which then we found Rayka. So that's led us to where we are today.

CHURCH: It is extraordinary. I mean, your achievement is unbelievable. Of course, the statistics are shocking. In developing countries, like India, between 25 percent and 57 percent of adolescent girls miss school or drop out because of their periods.

And if girls receive seven four years of education, they will marry an average of four years later and have 2.2 fewer children. If they attend only one additional year of secondary school, their lifetime wages could increase by up to 20 percent, raising their country's GDP by billions of dollars. So, if India enrolled just one percent more girls in school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. So, Rayka, the economic incentive for India and other developing nations to keep girls in school is evident in these numbers. But most leaders don't seem compelled to take advantage of women's schools. Why is that, do you think?

ZEHTABCHI: Right. Well, basically what we discovered when we were there shooting the film is that it's really a deeply rooted cultural taboo. It's something that's been buried for so long. I think, the biggest issue here is that women are not talking about their periods. Wives are not talking to their husbands, mothers are not talking to their daughters.

So, I think, naturally, when you ignores something that's so natural, all of these myths sort of arise around it and, and that's what we're really seeing here is really an understanding of what the woman's role is in Indian culture in particular.

CHURCH: You're right. And Mason, how has this pad machine changed the lives of these women and girls in this particular rural Indian village?

MAZAM: Not only has it allowed women to actually have their first jobs, but it's also worked on the stigmatizing periods, and opening a conversation which previously had not existed. So, I think that the pad machine has so many different benefits that we haven't been able to see until fairly recently.

I know that even between the two times that Rayka went to in from India, the differences around the conversation were drastic. And the way that women and girls were talking about it had changed tremendously.

They originally had to tell the men of the village that the machine was a Huggies diaper machine, but now they are able to have an open conversation with the men in the village, and actually tell them what they're doing and what they're spending their time doing.

CHURCH: Extraordinary. And Rayka, as the director and producer of this documentary, why did you decide this was a project you needed to work on when the students came to you?

ZEHTABCHI: Well, how can you not be inspired by the work that these incredible young women are doing? And I had just graduate from USC film school right when I was approached to direct the documentary. And so, I was very close in age with these girls. And definitely, I thought there was a connection between me and the girls in Los Angeles as well as the women in India.

It felt very actionable and I think we're really seeing the results of that now. There's really been a real time shift in in these women and men's behaviors and thinking around menstruation.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course, you know, we're seeing this happen in this small rural village. So, Mason, I did want to ask you, could this pad machine be reproduced and sent to women and girls in other countries were access to pads is also a challenge?

[02:54:53] MAZAM: Yes. So, this documentary is really a byproduct of the nonprofit that Oakwood students have started. And that many people who worked on the film are actually on the board of. So, with this nonprofit, we do hope to put pad machines in other surrounding villages, and have put some in surrounding villages.

Also, with the help of Action India, our partner organization, we were able to put different pad machines in different villages. And I think it's also important to mention that this isn't a problem that just faces girls in developing countries. It also faces girls and women in our own country in the United States.


MAZAM: So, I think that the pad machine and the stigmatizing menstruation in general is something that can benefit women and girls all over the world.

CHURCH: Very good point. And Rayka, your documentary screened across the United States at film festivals in 2018. And now, it has been nominated for the Academy Awards. How does that make you feel, and what impact do you expect it to have on helping girls right across the globe?

ZEHTABCHI: Well, we first made this film because we wanted to spread awareness about this issue. And I think, having the Academy Awards being on the world stage has really given us an opportunity to share this message with the world. And I think, you know, also seeing a group of young women behind it is the most important thing to really prove that, "Hey, we can be talking about our periods loud and proud." And you know, this all started in a classroom.

And it's possible if we can do it, anybody can. I think -- I think it's really a group effort here.

CHURCH: Yes, and just to finally, of course, this issue has gained attention around the world with the Dutchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. Telling wedding guests to send sanitary pads to girls in India rather than give her gifts when she married Prince Harry. Mason, what did you think of that gesture? And will other influences like her around the world get on board with this, do you think?

MAZAM: I think that it's really amazing that the conversation has opened up to people all over the world. Especially people with a large amounts of influence like Meghan Markle. So, I think that any influence or any person in a position of authority or a position in society where their voice means so, so much.

It's really important to speak out about this issue, and I'm proud to see that so many people have, and I can't wait to see more people do the same thing.

CHURCH: I absolutely agree with you. I congratulate both of you. I think this is an incredible breakthrough. Rayka Zehtabchi and Mason Maxam, thank you to both of you for joining us. ZEHTABCHI: Thank you so much.

MAZAM: Thank you.

CHURCH: Let's hope some of those influences are watching and will do something. Thank you so much for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter, and I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment. You're watching CNN, don't go anywhere.