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Taliban Minister Defends Order Banning Women From Universities; CNN Speaks With Migrants Stuck At Border After Fleeing Venezuela; Parents, Pharmacies Grapple With Children's Medicine Shortage. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 23, 2022 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): The Taliban have written to them, telling them to shut down.

Students quicky showed their opposition to the new law -- both men and women, including at Nangarhar University in the city of Jalalabad. According to Reuters, male medical students there even walked out of their final exams to support their female classmates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't go to school. Why? They cannot work. Why? Could somebody please tell me why?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): This new policy is the latest announcement on what many are calling the systematic expulsion of Afghan women from all aspects of public life.

And when I traveled to Kabul this spring, I confronted a Taliban official the very day they demanded that all women in work, even on television, had to be masked.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Afghan women are afraid that this is the beginning of your efforts to erase them from the workspace.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Back then, the most senior Taliban government official, Sirajuddin Haqqani, told me that he would safeguard the rights of Afghan women, including the right to an education.

SIRAJUDDIN HAQQANI, INTERIOR MINISTER OF AFGHANISTAN (through translator): There is no one who opposes education for women and already, girls are allowed to go to school up to grade six. What I am saying to you is that very soon you will hear very good news about this issue, God willing.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But that promise never materialized and this week, women's and girls' rights have taken a major step backwards. In fact, officials who pledged they would be different than Taliban 1.0 are now accelerating their march back to that same harsh version.

This is my interview with a Taliban official back in 1996. AMANPOUR (on camera): A lot of people want to know what you're going to do about the women issues. What about women's education, girl's education? Women working -- widows who have no other way to support themselves?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that, especially in Western news media, it's the propaganda that we are against women's education, which is not right. It's not correct.

AMANPOUR (on camera): But the girls can't go to school. We've been to schools here that are all closed.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Since the Taliban came back to power last year, women have been banned from most workplaces, from politics, and from entering public parks and public bars. They even now require a male guardian for long-distance travel.

More pragmatic Taliban sources tell CNN these bans come straight from the Taliban's so-called supreme leader ameer Akhundzada and his kitchen cabinet based in Kandahar. They form the core of the hardline religious leadership.

The United Nations says it's outraged and is calling on the Taliban to reverse the decision. The United States said that it would further alienate the Taliban from the international community and deny them the legitimacy and recognition they crave.

In the last two decades since the Taliban was first driven out of Afghanistan, many urban women were excelling in school and in the workforce, contributing to the country's economy, society, and culture. Now that half the population is being erased from public view and public works, this country is falling ever faster, ever deeper into extreme poverty and hunger as another bleak winter takes hold.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

North Korea reportedly firing two of its short-range ballistic missiles into the waters off Japan. It's the 36th day this year Pyongyang has conducted a missile launch.

A German officer and his national intelligence service is accused of being a Russian spy and passing on state secrets to Moscow. He's been charged with treason.

Japan adopting a plan to maximize use of its existing nuclear reactors -- a major shift after they planned to phase out nuclear power following the Fukushima plant disaster.

Still ahead, migrants stuck at the U.S. southern border after fleeing Venezuela talk to CNN about their long and treacherous journey.

Plus, parents struggling to find kids' medication as cases of flu, RSV, and COVID are on the rise.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, really hard to order Tylenol generic brands, Ibuprofen generic brand, cough syrup, especially for kids.




ROMANS: Texas authorities at the border are now asking asylum seekers to find shelter indoors or go home as the arctic chill moves southward. But for those who wait in line, their journey has been long and dangerous, and this is the final step in their dream of making the U.S. their new home, even as the Trump-era Title 42 restrictions remain in limbo.

CNN's David Culver has more from the southern border.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are those who cross illegally -- streams of people every day, every hour. And then there are those who watch, wait, and face the unknown.

Here in Cuidad Juarez, this is what the U.S. looks like for Yulexi Fernandez (PH) and Lucy Bastillas (PH). "We're not criminals. We're good people," they stress.

The two met while serving in the Venezuelan military. In October, they started their trek north, fleeing political turmoil, hiking through jungles, rafting murky waters, riding a train from on top -- so close to their final destination until policy and this halt their journey.

Before sunrise Tuesday, we watch as Texas law enforcement mobilize sealing off this popular access point to American soil, one of the state's efforts to stop the flow of migrants. But it only reroutes them a short distance down river, creating a new bottleneck for illegal crossings and a tense standoff.

The setting sun ushers in freezing temperatures. By nightfall, migrants settle in on the U.S. side of the river, building campfires to keep warm. Hours later, some rush another border entry point about a mile away. Under Title 42, they can still be immediately expelled on the grounds of COVID prevention.

Lucy and Yulexi determined to enter legally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): She wants to do it the right way, she tells me and knows exactly where she wants to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language). CULVER (voice-over): Far from their Big Apple dreams, unable to return home, stuck in international purgatory. "I'm here with my partner," she says. Discriminated against, they say, because they're migrants, they're women, and they're a couple. To be safe, they avoid public displays of affection and traveling groups.

Another reason they want to get to the other side --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): "When we're there, we're going to help all of our family," she says. The very mention of family triggers emotions Lucy has carried since leaving Venezuela. Lucy, missing her mom and siblings; Yulexi, her 10-year-old daughter.


We hurry across traffic about a half-mile from where we first met the couple and arrive at this local shelter. With nowhere else to go, families line up hoping to escape the freezing cold.

CULVER (on camera): (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): Lucy and Yulexi among the fortunate. This is home, at least for now. We meet some of their new friends -- fellow migrants from all backgrounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (on camera): And how many people altogether are usually in here at night?

ELIAS RODRIGUEZ, DIRECTOR, HOPE CENTER SHELTER: Altogether, 135 has been our greatest number. We don't have the capacity for the demand.

CULVER (voice-over): The church group that runs this shelter bolstered by locals donating their time and food.

And much like border cities in the U.S., Cuidad Juarez is feeling the strain from this migration surge.


CULVER (voice-over): "The city has always been very generous to migrants, but in this case, with so many people, it's difficult. The city isn't prepared for this influx," he says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): Back in the shelter --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): -- Yulexi struggles with having left her daughter behind, telling me, "I don't know when I can give her my love again because right now, I'm just trying to provide for her."

Lucy saying, "The hardest part in this moment, right now, is being so close and not being able to cross."

But echoing from their phone, a familiar song that chronicles a migrant's journey brings back smiles and hope.


Here I come After a dream that I haven't achieved yet That I haven't achieved yet

CULVER (voice-over): "We're going to make it. We're going to make it," she says.

CULVER (on camera): And it's precisely because of Title 42 that Yulexi and Lucy want to avoid doing what the migrants you see behind me are doing. Thousands of them turning themselves in to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol so as to seek asylum officially. But the problem that they would face under Title 42 is that as soon as they enter, they risk being deported to places much farther and much more dangerous.

David Culver, CNN, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.


ROMANS: Thank you, David, for that.

Here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

A state of emergency goes into effect in about 90 minutes for the Buffalo, New York area. A bomb cyclone storm will bring heavy snow and blizzard conditions.

The House will vote this morning on a $1.7 trillion government funding package, hopefully beating tonight's midnight shutdown deadline. The Senate approved it yesterday.

The woman arrested after breaking into Robert DeNiro's home is expected in court today. A law enforcement source called Shanice Aviles the poster child for the problems with New York's bail reforms.

Just ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING," the January 6 committee's final report blames one man for events leading to the Capitol insurrection.

And next on EARLY START, department store Santas making a comeback.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, 3.2 -- as in 3.2 percent. That's how much the U.S. economy really grew between July and September -- the third quarter. That's the final revision, much stronger than the first two readings of the quarter and a sharp recovery, you can see there, from the stall in the economy in the first half of the year.

Looking at markets around the world right now, you can see that Asian shares have closed lower. Europe has opened slightly higher. And on Wall Street, stock index futures also leaning up.

You know, that strong GDP report knocked the Dow down yesterday -- the rate-sensitive tech sector hurt hardest. The good news on the economy was bad news yesterday for stocks. Investors think the Fed will have to keep rates higher for longer to cool this strong economy. The broader S&P 500 fell more than one percent.

On inflation watch, gas prices barely budged at $3.10 a gallon.

Closing out the last full week of the year with strong news about the economy. That strong GDP reading. Jobless claims near pre-pandemic lows. Consumer confidence rebounded to an eight-month high. There are signs inflation is starting to peak.

You know, the Fed's medicine, though, is dinging the housing market. Home sales slowed for the 10th consecutive month -- the longest such stretch on record, going back to 1999.

And you're probably feeling it in those 401(k)s. Stocks are headed for the first -- for a down month and the first down year for stocks since 2018, and the worst year since the financial crisis of 2008.

An economic gut check. The Fed's preferred inflation gauge, the PCE Price Index, is due out later today.

Let's bring in Federal Reserve and economy reporter at The New York Times, Jeanna Smialek.

And Jeanna, you know, I have been going live with that PCE indicator. I mean, it has become Main Street, kitchen table news -- some of these more wonky arcane economic reports that people watch. It's because every week we get a conflicting batch of news.

What is your takeaway from this week and where we stand?

JEANNA SMIALEK, FEDERAL RESERVE AND ECONOMY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via Webex by Cisco): It is such an interesting time to watch the economy because it's incredibly difficult to really classify this economy.

On one hand, like you just said, the housing market clearly seems to be slowing down. We're waiting for that to show up in the rest of the data.

But then, other parts of the economy do reflect they're reaccelerating. We've seen very solid consumer spending. Those GDP revisions I think reconfirm to us that consumer spending has been even stronger than we understood it had been.

And the consumer is the engine of the American economy. They make up 70 percent of all activity in the U.S. economy. And so, if they're strong and if the labor market is strong, which we think we know it is, it's very hard to see how the Fed gets this economy down to sort of the gentle deceleration it's hoping for next year without doing a little bit more on the interest rate side.

ROMANS: It's so --

SMIALEK: You know, it (audio gap) reaccelerating the economy.

ROMANS: It's so interesting because one economist I follow -- yesterday, after that GDP number, he was like look, if we're headed for a recession the American consumer doesn't know it. They say they feel lousy about the economy but they keep spending. And they're spending on experiences, and they're getting raises, and they're job hopping. And so, there's what we feel about the economy and what the numbers are actually showing.

There's -- over at the Chamber of Commerce, there's an economist there who calls it secondhand pessimism -- that the economy is stronger than the headlines reveal.


What do you say to that?

SMIALEK: I think that absolutely makes sense. And I think that when these confidence numbers come out -- because, like you say, consumer confidence -- it looks very low on its surface. Consumers say that they don't feel good about the economy. But I almost think at this stage you have to look at sort of like a core confidence indicator.

The first thing I do when the New York Fed consumer confidence figures come out is go to the job expectations and wage expectations indexes because those ones look very different from the rest of the confidence numbers.

You know, people will tell you that they feel very bad about this economy, but then they'll also tell you that they think they can get a new job if they wanted one and that they think they're going to get big wage increases next year.

And I think that those two things are really sort of where the rubber hits the road on the economy. You might think that everything is going very badly at sort of some macro level, but if you think that you are personally going to make more money next year, you're likely to keep spending.

ROMANS: Yes. We've just come through a really epic, epic phase, too, so it's natural that people would be worried, right, even as things are going well for them.

President Biden wrote an op-ed here saying he feels more confident about America than ever because of his working economic agenda.

Do you think the president's economic plans worked well? I mean, looking back at 2022, was that part of the reason why the economy is doing so well?

SMIALEK: Yes. You know, it's interesting because we've been through a really weird period of extremely active policy coming out of Washington. We had a lot of spending back in 2020, one that probably helped to push up inflation or at least tip the margin. Then we had a lot of sort of more targeted packages this year that probably did help to sort of shore up some of the consumer confidence that we're seeing now -- some of the good spending that we're seeing.

In the sense that some of the president's agenda items did help probably to moderate the gas price increases this year, for instance. And things like that really do matter to consumers.

And so, it does seem like we've had a lot of crosswinds coming out of Washington on the policy front, but at the end of the day, some of that was beneficial to the American consumer this year.

ROMANS: Yes. Next year -- I think forecasting for next year is really hard. We've got a wall of tightening coming and we've never really done something like this before. So I'm sure we're going to be talking again as we get into 2023.

Jeanna Smialek, nice to see you. Thank you. Have a great weekend.

SMIALEK: Nice to see you.

ROMANS: All right.

There's a critical shortage of children's medicine in the U.S. as cases of flu, RSV, and COVID spike and demand surges.

CNN's Athena Jones has more.



ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Melissa Halfon's 18-month-old twins are teething -- a painful process.

HALFON: We just had an infant a few days ago where one of them didn't eat for three days because he had so much teething pain.

JONES (voice-over): Lately, the Brooklyn mother has struggled to find medicines to treat her boys, Walt and Henry, who generally fall ill at the same time.

HALFON: Every drugstore within walking distance of me is totally bare. My husband did have to drive all the way across Brooklyn.

JONES (voice-over): As communities nearly everywhere battle a surge in respiratory illnesses like the flu, COVID-19, and RSV, which can be particularly dangerous for young children, increased demand is driving a shortfall across the country of prescription and over-the-counter medicines for children. The result, empty shelves and limits on the amount of medicine you can buy at CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, leaving parents and pharmacists frustrated and concerned.

From Reno, Nevada --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They get really bad fevers -- our kids -- so I was pretty scared. Nowhere over here, they didn't have anything in stock, so I had to drive 30 minutes to Carson to find some.

JONES (voice-over): -- to Los Angeles --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, really hard to order Tylenol generic brand, ibuprofen general brand, cough syrup, especially for kids.


JONES (voice-over): -- to Spartanburg, South Carolina where children's Tamiflu is out of stock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a delivery date to my wholesaler, which is in North Carolina. So -- and they can't -- they're telling me they can't get it from the manufacturers.

JONES (voice-over): At Cherry's Pharmacy in Manhattan --


JONES (voice-over): -- now, even alternatives to liquid medicines, like chewables and suppositories, are unavailable.

TABOUCHIRANI: It really is a huge problem in our community and across the country.

JONES (voice-over): Sales of children's medications to treat pain and fever are up 65 percent from this time last year, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. And manufacturers don't have a timeline for when supply may catch up with demand.

Pharmacist Charles Tabouchirani is try to make the best of a bad situation.

TABOUCHIRANI: So our shelves where we normally stock Tylenol, Motrin, Advil are completely empty, so I just substituted what is supposed to be there with toys to give it a little scenery. But it is sad that these shelves have been empty for more than six weeks.

JONES (voice-over): As for Halfon and her family --

HALFON: It's frustrating and it's scary. First, we couldn't feed our children because of the infant formula shortage, and now we're facing just another challenge of being able to take basic care of them.


JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Athena.

Just two -- just two shopping days left until Christmas. How do you know when a deal is really a deal or too good to be true? Let's bring in the expert, CNN Business reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn. How and where should we look for deals to decide what to buy?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Right, Christine. So we are flooded with deals right now -- 20 percent off, 30 percent off, 50 percent off. How do we decide what is the best deal? There are a few websites that could help us figure that out. There's camelcamelcamel and honey.

And what these websites do is they track the price history of a product on Amazon and other websites. And knowing the history of a -- of a product's price is really important because sometimes companies will jack up the price and then mark it down and say you're getting a good sale. So we really need to be wary of what are the -- there are sales, but --

ROMANS: Right.

MEYERSOHN: -- but then there are good sales. So consumers really need to evaluate that.

ROMANS: You know, after a couple of years of the malls being pretty bleak because of COVID, mall Santas are back. Tell me more about the Santa industry.

MEYERSOHN: Mall Santas are back. Kris Kringle is back in stores and malls this year, Christine, without restrictions. In 2020-2021, kids couldn't sit on Santa's lap or they had to do it behind Plexiglas or do virtual Santas. But this year, it's back to normal.

I spoke with Mitch Allen, who is the founder and head elf of Santa staffing agency HireSanta, and he told me that demand was up 20 percent from a year ago. People really want their pre-pandemic experiences. But not everybody can be a real Santa, Christine. Mitch told me that the criteria was real beard, real belly, and real jolly. You have to have all three of those things to be a Santa.

And they take it very seriously. There are Santa training schools and universities, and events around the -- around the country. So these guys are -- you know, they really want to bring the cheer to kids.

I don't know if you and I could be real Santas, Christine.

ROMANS: I probably couldn't. You know, my kids were always afraid of the Santa. They were like who is that guy and I don't want to get close to him. They were always afraid of the Santa. I don't know -- there's something wrong with my kids.

Nice to see you, Nathaniel. Have a great weekend.

All right. Coming up, dangerous cold weather sweeping the nation. Thousands of flights canceled for holiday travelers. And the great Gloria Estefan and family talking about their new album.