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Isa Soares Tonight

Zelenskyy Touts Success Of U.S. Trip As Putin Responds; Benjamin Netanyahu Announces Israel's New Government; Winter Storm Threatens Holiday Travel; U.S. Prepares For Once In A Generation Arctic Blast; U.K. Border Force Walking Out Of Airports Over Christmas; Afghan Women Demand Right To Education. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 22, 2022 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: Hello and a warm welcome to the show, I'm Christina Macfarlane in for Isa Soares. Tonight, the

Ukrainian president claims a successful trip to the U.S. while the Russian president downplays Patriot missiles.

Then, Benjamin Netanyahu announces Israel's new government, considered the most right-wing in history. Who's in what post and what it means for

Israel's future. And later, a once in a generation Winter storm collides with holiday travel across the U.S., what to be ready for if you're heading

out over the river and through the woods this Christmas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is back home after a surprise, dramatic trip to Washington. It was while he was there that the U.S.

announced a new $1.8 billion security aid package to Ukraine. It will include the Patriot Missile Defense System, which Ukraine has been pleading

for. Mr. Zelenskyy says he's grateful and happy for the U.S. support.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE (through translator): I am coming back from Washington, coming with good results that will really help. When

we say patriots in Ukraine, and in the U.S., it means defense of state, and people in both cases. This issue is resolved for Ukraine as well as the

financial support. There are other agreements as well, more on them a bit later.


MACFARLANE: Well, the Kremlin isn't sharing that joy. It warns that the new aid from the U.S. is setting up Kyiv and its western allies for a,

quote, "long confrontation with Russia". The Kremlin also says, the aid will prolong suffering, despite the fact that the Russian missile attacks

are depriving millions of Ukrainians of heat and light. Earlier, Putin dismissed the Patriot Missile Defense Systems altogether.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Well, as for the Patriots, this is a rather old system, and it doesn't work like our S-300.

Well, nevertheless, those who oppose us proceed to state that this is a supposedly defensive weapon. OK, we'll just keep that in mind, and there is

always an antidote, and those who are doing this are doing it in vain.


MACFARLANE: Well, Kylie Atwood joins me now live from the U.S. State Department in Washington. And Kylie, we knew that this visit came at a

crucial point not just of the war, but actually politically in the United States as well with Republicans set to take over the house earlier next


So, did President Zelenskyy succeed, do you think, in uniting the house and continuing support for Ukraine?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well listen, I think that his speech yesterday to the joint session of Congress was

incredibly moving, incredibly poignant. Very clear in saying that he is grateful for everything that the United States has done so far and then, of

course, pleading for more.

We did see support in that chamber from both Democrats and Republicans, standing applause multiple times. There are some Republicans who are still

holding out and not saying that they are fully on board for support to Ukraine without an end state, at you know, levels that we have seen thus


So, we will keep an eye on those Republicans. It's a question as to how impactful those Republicans can actually be, however, because the majority

of folks on the Hill are supportive of the plea that President Zelenskyy is making. And I do think it's important to note that he really tried to speak

to the American people.

You know, talking about how Christmas is coming in Ukraine, they will not have electricity, many of the Ukrainians, but they all have the same hope

here. They're all hoping for freedom here. They are all pushing towards victory. We just spoke with the Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, in his

ear and press conference here at the State Department.

He said that the United States and Ukraine have the same overall goals, and one thing that we will be watching for, however, is a conversation between

the U.S. and Ukraine about, you know, how to end this conflict. It's dragged on now for over ten months, going into next year.

It will hit a year-long point, and the Secretary of State said that he spoke with his colleagues in the G7 this morning, and one of the things

that they discussed is that peace proposal that the Ukrainians have put on the table. And we're learning from the White House that Biden's national

security team is going to be reviewing that plan alongside the Ukrainians, to try and, you know, figure out if there's any piece in it that they can

really push forward here.


MACFARLANE: Yes, that peace plan is something. I think it's a ten-point peace plan, isn't it? That President Zelenskyy has been pushing for, for

some time now. We also know that Congress is due to vote on a big spending bill for Ukraine. I think some $44 billion in humanitarian and military aid

yet to come. How likely is that to pass?

ATWOOD: That's highly likely to pass. I mean, they are still kind of -- some folks holding out, they're still in the final stages of that here in

Washington. But most people are supporting it, and as you said, there is a massive amount of support for Ukraine in that bill. And when you talk to

folks on the Hill, they think that, that, you know, $45 billion could last for at least the first six months of next year.

And then, the question will be, you know, how do they line up everyone to get on board to pass another spending bill, in terms of military and

economic support for Ukraine. That Zelenskyy is saying they're going to need through the course of 2023 on the whole.

MACFARLANE: Yes, more to come, of course, from the U.S. and more requests ever coming from the Ukrainian president. Kylie Atwood there live for us,

thank you very much. Well, President Zelenskyy says the Patriot system will be vital in protecting Ukrainian airspace from Russian missile attacks.

Retired Army Major General, James Spider Marks, explains why?


JAMES SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Here's the Patriot defense system. This is critical. This is -- this will plus up in terms of air

defense capabilities, but this is one battery. One battery will provide point defense in the vicinity of Kyiv, I'm assuming that's where that will

be placed. It will provide the appropriate coverage over Kyiv, but Ukraine is a very large country.

There are more Patriot systems that would provide that additional coverage where it needs to be, where their infrastructure is, where their population

centers are, where their key military facilities are. That's essential. What is not listed here is the F-16, United States has chosen not to

provide the F-16 to the Ukrainians.

Now, bear in mind, the Ukrainian Air Force is using Soviet and Russian-made equipment. They, the Ukrainians, are going to transition at some point to

western aircraft. They're going to transition to aircraft like this. Now is the time to begin that transition, and the Ukrainians have a history of

having trained with the California Air National Guard.

So, they not only know how to fly these things, they know how to employ them. Two distinct possibilities that need to be addressed, and two

functions that need to be addressed. You just don't fly a fighter, you have to fight the fighter. Also, what we are looking at is high mobility, really

what we're talking about is Abrams tanks.

That will provide the Ukrainians the ability to conduct offensive operations and to sustain those offensive operations against the Russians.

Right now, what we see is approximating a stalemate. I hate to use that term, but Ukraine does not have right now the ability to push the Russians

back across the border. These capabilities would provide that.


MACFARLANE: Major James General Spider Marks there. Now, the war in Ukraine was near the top of the agenda as Vladimir Putin spoke to the man

who's led Israel's -- who is to lead Israel's next government. Benjamin Netanyahu will be back as prime minister after announcing an 11th-hour deal

to form a new governing coalition.

It follows weeks of uncertainty after Israel's election last month. The new government will likely be the most right-wing in Israel's history. It's

expected to include lawmakers once thought of as being part of the extreme nationalist fringe. Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem and has more now on what

this news means, not just for Israel, but the entire region.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Christina, Benjamin Netanyahu really taking it up to the last minute. He had a midnight deadline to

inform the Israeli president that he had managed to form a government. And was really in the last sort of 15 minutes of that deadline that we were

given the notice that he had successfully called the Israeli president, said he was going to form a government.

Now, while members of Netanyahu's own Likud Party are accepted to -- are expected to take on some of the most high-profile positions of foreign

minister, defense minister, justice minister, it's some of the other ministers that are expected to form Netanyahu's government that are causing

some concern even amongst Israel's allies. Here is why?


GOLD (voice-over): The new Israeli government setting off alarm bells around the world, even allies warily eyeing Benjamin Netanyahu's new

ministers who make up the most right-wing government in Israeli history. A stark change from the last coalition, every minister announced so far, a

man, and are orthodox, except for Netanyahu himself.

Most recognizable is Itamar Ben-Gvir, once convicted of anti-Arab racism and supporting a Jewish terrorist group, now, national security minister in

charge of Israeli police. Eager to allow Jews to pray at Jerusalem's holiest site where only Muslims are now allowed to worship. A place that

has parked intifadas and even wars.


Former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon warning Washington will be on high alert.

DANNY AYALON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: If they will perform what is conceived, and what unearths provocations, for instance,

change of status in temple mount or unchecked enlargement of new settlements. This could be a very big problem for Netanyahu and for the


GOLD: Then there is Bezalel Smotrich, another far-right settler lawyer- turned politician has been named Minister of Finance, and has also been given power to appoint the head of the Israeli body which controls border

crossings and permits for Palestinians. Smotrich supports abolishing Palestinian Authority and annexing the West Bank. Israel's staunchest ally,

the United States, perhaps hoping the rhetoric won't match the actions.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We will gauge the government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities.

GOLD: Other appointments causing uproar include a gay rights opponent who has vowed to ban pride parades to a position in the Education Ministry. And

proposed changes to the law of return for the restricting who is considered Jewish enough to be permitted to immigrate to Israel. Netanyahu, for his

part, has repeatedly claimed that the buck will stop with him.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: I've had such partners in the past and they didn't change an iota of my policies. I decide the policy

with my party.

GOLD: But as the government has taken shape, his critics, like this cartoonist say he's creating a monster he won't be able to control.


GOLD: And Christina, there are a few hurdles that this new government has to pass before they can even be sworn in. Namely, they actually need to

pass around three bills that will help some of these ministers, and more controversial ministers, even be able to take on their roles.

One of them actually is for Aryeh Deri, he has actually previously been convicted of tax offenses, and so, he needs a special bill that will allow

him to circumvent some of the rules about serving ministers before he can serve. But all those bills are expected to pass. Netanyahu and his allies

have a comfortable 64-seat majority, and this new government, and Benjamin Netanyahu, are expected to be sworn in and come into power sometime within

the next week and a half. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Our thanks to Hadas for that. Now, after hours of testimony, social media analysis and combing through hundreds of documents, the

January 6th Committee is on the cusp today of publishing its final reports. And it has already begun releasing some of the evidence it compiled during

the last 17 months.

They include 30 transcripts and witness interviews, some with major players in Donald Trump's orbit. CNN's political correspondent, Sara Murray, is

joining me now live from Washington. And Sara, we're still waiting for the full reports to be made public. But in the meantime, there has been the

release of testimony by a key White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson with -- I mean, what can only be considered a bit of a concerning revelation.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. You know, we had heard previously from the committee that they were concerned that there

were some lawyers who may have tried to encouraged witnesses to mislead the committee. And what we're learning from this Cassidy Hutchinson testimony

is a lot more detail about all of that.

She talks about the first attorney who is representing her, Stefan Passantino, who is a Trump ethics lawyer in the Trump White House. And at

one point, you know, he's essentially telling her that she should stop cooperating with the committee, saying contempt is a small risk, running to

the right is better for you.

In this transcript, she says, you know, that's really when her relationship with this Trump ally lawyer broke down. She talked about the pressure she

faced not just from this attorney, but also other allies and Trump world to sort of stay loyal to the former president with this insistence that they -

- she would be taken care of if she stayed loyal.

You know, they sort of dangled job opportunities in front of her. She said she felt like Trump was always looking over her shoulder during this

period. Now, she also was key in pointing out to the committee that Stefan Passantino, the attorney, did not directly tell her to lie to the

committee, but he said, I don't recall isn't perjury.

And the committee, they don't know what you can and can't recall. Obviously, this is all stuff that was very concerning to lawmakers. It was

also concerning to Cassidy Hutchinson, who eventually switched attorneys and testified publicly in that bombshell, you know, public hearing.

And this is just one of the transcripts we're getting from the committee. As you mentioned, we've also gotten a couple dozen others. Those were

largely from people in Trump world who opted to plead the Fifth when they talked to investigators. People like Roger Stone, people like John Eastman,

who is an election lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, who's a former top official at the Department of Justice.

All of these folks took the Fifth when it came to the committee questioning.

MACFARLANE: Yes, an excessive use of the Fifth, it seemed.

MURRAY: Yes --

MACFARLANE: And we will wait to see if -- once that 800-page document drops. Thank you very much for now.

MURRAY: Thanks.


MACFARLANE: Well, we want to check in on U.S. stock markets right now which, again, getting battered. The Dow, the Nasdaq, and the S&P are all

down sharply. You can see the current numbers here with more than two hours still to go, down by almost 2 percent.

And there's been ongoing worries about interest rate hikes and job market - - the job market and a possible recession early next year. This has really been a December to forget for the stock markets, with all three major

indices down sharply from November.

All right, still to come, it's unclear just how bad China's COVID-19 outbreak is right now. W.H.O. says it has yet to receive some crucial data

and a little later.


MACFARLANE: Now some news just coming into us in the last few minutes. The former crypto king and disgraced founder of FTX is being freed on bail. A

short time ago, Sam Bankman-Fried made his first appearance in a New York federal court. He was extradited from the Bahamas on fraud and conspiracy


Court records show that two of his close associates have pleaded guilty to multiple charges. CNN reporter Kara Scannell is joining us now live from

New York. And Kara, what more are we learning about the conditions of his bail?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Christina, that's right. This court hearing just wrapped up a few moments ago. It was Sam Bankman-Fried's first

appearance in the U.S. since his extradition last night. So, the judge agreed to a bail package that was proposed by both the prosecutors and

attorneys for Bankman-Fried.

Here are a couple of the conditions, $250 million bond. Now, prosecutors say that they believe that is the largest one in a financial fraud case. In

addition to that, he's going to be required to be in home detention, staying at his parent's house in Palo Alto, California, and in addition, he

will have to wear an ankle bracelet.

His location will be monitored at all times under this agreement. There are a number of other conditions involving his inability to have any firearms,

sort of passports, and also he's prohibited from opening any new bank accounts or engaging in any financial transactions over a $1,000.

Which the judge said shouldn't be a problem, given the sufficient notoriety that he's now facing since the collapse of that crypto trading firm. Now,

in addition, we learned today was that prosecutors described some of the evidence that they have. I mean, they call this a fraud of epic

proportions. They say that they have multiple cooperating witnesses, including those two former top executives who pleaded guilty.


And they said they also have the testimony of dozens of former FTX and Alameda Research. That was the hedge fund associated with this, who are

talking to them as well as encrypted messages. And you know, this is the first time Bankman-Fried has been in a U.S. courtroom. He was wearing a

Navy suit, a white buttoned-down shirt, and you could hear the clanking of the shackles that were around his ankle as he walked to the defense table.

Now, after this hearing, he was having to get fitted with an ankle bracelet. We believe he's leaving right now, being escorted out of the

courthouse there. You can see the crush of photographers and the security around him. He's there with his parents, they were here in court sitting

with him.

The third row right behind him, and we can now see they're trying to make their way through this crowd of reporters. You can see the top of his head

there with his hair really now just pushing to get into this SUV. And Bankman-Fried only spoke once during court, when he was asked if he

understood the conditions of the bail.

And what the consequences would be if he did not conform with the conditions. And he told the judge, yes, I do. Doesn't look like he's making

any comments now as he's trying to get into this SUV along with his parents, after what has been a very dramatic week for the former founder of

FTX, since his arrest last week in the Bahamas and his extradition here today. Christina?

MACFARLANE: So Kara, just while we have these pictures live with us in the background here, tell us what is going to come next for Bankman-Fried. When

is he next due in court? What are the next steps here?

SCANNELL: So, the judge said that he will next appear in court on January 3rd. He was not arraigned today on these charges, so he did not enter a

plea of any crime -- to any other crimes. There we see him leaving, you can't really see in the windows of that SUV there, but we did see him enter

it, and now he will presumably try to make his way to the airport at some point to return to California so he can begin serving this home detention

sentence now that he's been fitted with this ankle bracelet.

MACFARLANE: Yes, quite the media scrum as you would expect behind you there, Kara. As you say, an unprecedented 250 million bond there to have

him out on bail for now. Kara Scannell, thank you very much for bringing us the latest there. Now, the World Health Organization says it hasn't

received any data from China on new COVID-19 hospitalizations ever since the country decided to roll back its unpopular zero COVID policy.

Without this information, it's hard to get any sense of the extent of China's latest outbreak. Areas that are hit hard by rising COVID-19 cases

are now having to ration drugs often used to manage flu-like symptoms. Other medications are almost impossible to get and it's causing a lot of

frustration. Beijing has repeatedly been accused of downplaying its COVID- 19 outbreaks. I want to bring in epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding who's live for us at this hour.

Thank you for joining us. Eric, this feels so much like deja vu here. You know, thinking back to the early days of the Wuhan outbreak. We know that a

new study was published this week, suggesting that China's abrupt change in policy could result in 1 million deaths. What do you make of that figure?

ERIC FEIGL-DING, EPIDEMIOLOGIST & HEALTH ECONOMIST: Yes, thanks for having me back. It's -- it is deja vu because I remember being here almost three

years ago, talking about and trying to warn about this. I think the problem right now, China has multi-fold. It relaxed way too fast, the restrictions

came way too fast. And then China is under-vaccinated.

There's actually 130 million elderly over the age of 60 who are under- vaccinated, who do not have a booster. And in this day and age, that's just not enough. And China's vaccine, workhorse vaccines, CoronaVac and

Sinopharm, they're notoriously some of the weakest vaccines out there.

And they do not have a bivalent update that Omicron vaccine that's rolled out either. So, it's a trifecta of problems, and, you know, China is the

last country in which has virgin fields of uninfected people. And right now, they are just very vulnerable. And this is just the beginning. The

chief epidemiologist of China says, this is just going to be the beginning, and it's going to be much worse and they're going to predict another wave

around the Chinese lunar new year.

MACFARLANE: Yes, concerning as that -- as that looms, as you say, in the new year. The W.H.O., as we were saying are concerned by China's under

reporting of cases. I know that you, yourself, have your own contacts in China. What have people been telling you about the state of hospitals,

availability of ICUs, and how the Chinese government are reacting internally to this?

FEIGL-DING: Yes, it's pretty clear. You cannot hide the fact that there's ambulances rushing around, hospitals are completely full in the major

cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and the crematoriums are running nonstop, 24/7.


There is even reports that cremation workers have stopped, you know, protecting themselves because they've all been infected as well. You know,

and there's a backlog of refrigerated trucks and bodies needing to be cremated. So, you know, you don't even need these hospital reports to the

W.H.O. to tell you that there is an alarming crisis on China's hand.

And some model say they're going to peak soon, but I think it's just -- it might peak in a few cities. But in many ways, many people are staying home

because they fear with the rising surge. Schools are closed in Shanghai, for example, for the next month. And altogether, I think China is in a

world of hurt.

There is no escaping that China is going to have a cataclysmic -- and if you think about it, 1 million deaths in China is not that much at all.

There's models out there also that show 1.5 to 2 million deaths easily within the next 3 to 5 months.

MACFARLANE: So, in allowing to -- in allowing this virus to spread uncontrolled, which is what China are doing right now, what potential is

there for variants to emerge? And are we already seeing those variants crop up in other parts of the world?

FEIGL-DING: Yes, China is dealing mostly with the BF.7 variant, which is one of the Omicron sub-variants of BA.5. It is highly evasive, but, you

know, in many ways, the variants, if you allow the virus to spread into 800 million people, 60 percent of China, it will actually develop even more

further variants. And so, you know, in certain ways, the key is to stopping transmission.

Stopping transmission is the key and the current vaccines that they have are basically hospitalization reduction vaccines. And again, they're much

weaker than MRNA vaccine. Like the CoronaVac has been shown to be 50 percent less effective than the MRNA vaccines, in terms of preventing

hospitalizations. So, their vaccines are not working as well.

The only good vaccine they have is the cansino aerosolized mucosal vaccine, which the United States doesn't have, and hopefully that vaccine that

they're just starting to use will stop infections. Because with the Omicron, it's so evasive, it will leap-frog over current existing immunity,

and that's why it's triggering massive wave to be worse and worse, and again, triggering more and more variants that could easily threaten the

world. And not to --


FEIGL-DING: Mention, threaten the world in terms of medical supply equipment for the next few months.

MACFARLANE: To that point, Eric, how concerned should the rest of the world be viewing this? Especially as we were saying at the top there, this

feels very reminiscent of early 2020.

FEIGL-DING: Yes, I think this is very worrisome. Now, the rest of the world has been infected, the rest of the world has had a big burn through

in many ways, in which a massive numbers of people have been infected while China has not. So, in many ways, while China's surge may be worse than

other parts of the world right now, they are having it for the first time.

But Wuhan, remember, was very isolated and China rushed in, hugged doctors and nurses from across China to Wuhan originally. But they can't do that

anymore. This -- with the lunar new year approaching, when everyone visiting, traveling for holidays, this is going to be throughout China,

china is going to have a crunch.

They have fewer hospital beds in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong has way better vaccines, and Hong Kong still have humongous mortality. So, I think, you

know, in the next few months, if China loses control of this virus, I think the supply chains are going to be infected -- affected. You know, we have

shortages of children's fever medication in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and China does too.

And if China, the factory floor and the producers zoning(ph) medicines are also disrupted and diverted for domestic use, just like India shut down a

lot of their exports in medicine during their wave, then I think the rest of the world will actually feel it in terms of medical equipment and

medicines supply crunch.

MACFARLANE: It's really important to have your perspective on this, I'm sure we will speak again as this evolves. But for now, Eric Feigl-Ding,

thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it. Now, still to come tonight, a once in a generation Winter storm is sweeping through the U.S.

just in time for the holidays.

We're live in snowy Chicago next. And that mega storm is turning the roads and the airways into a traveler's nightmare. It's that time of year again,

holiday travel chaos. We'll have tips on how to cope just ahead.




MACFARLANE: Welcome back.

It is that time of year again. Time to load up the family and the pies and fly or drive home for the holidays. But depending on where you are, that

may not be so easy.

First up, a winter weather advisory across huge swaths of the U.S. But this is not just any cold snap. Experts are calling it a once in a generation

winter storm. Omar Jimenez is -- it's very cold outside of Chicago, Illinois, and Pete Muntean is inside Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Omar, I want to go to you first. Certainly, got the short straw this Christmas, haven't you?

You know, every time I hear about this bomb cyclone, I get a little nervous.

How is Chicago preparing for what is to come?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, you don't have to presume I'm cold. I confirm I'm very cold here in Chicago, like so many others. Now this is

what officials are worried about with this storm.

You can see with the snow. It's not just falling up and down; it's going completely sideways. And so, it's not just going to be the snowfall event

but the wind gusts that can really, really kick up over the next 24 hours, as temperatures plunge into the negatives.

I want to show you where we are right now. You notice this huge dome. This is Chicago's salt dome, as it is known. It is filled with 50,000 tons of

salt that these crews use to treat these roads.

You can see this front-end loader in here, what he's doing is he's trying to organize it and the trucks will pull into where I'm standing right here.

And this operator will load that salt on top of the trucks.

Those trucks will then go out into Chicago's streets to try to calm that, the ice that is expected to build up in a major way over the last (sic) 24

hours. We are just speaking with the commissioner of the city Department of Streets and Sanitation, who told us a little bit about how they are going

to tackle this winter event, take a listen.


COLE STALLARD, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF STREETS AND SANITATION: We are going to have over 300 pieces out on the street pretty much now through the end

of this thing overnight to try to keep up with this snow.


STALLARD: The goal is to keep up with it. But like I said, we will be fighting that wind. That wind is going to be coming out at us, so we could

be getting snow about an inch an hour. So our spreaders can only move as fast as traffic allows. So with that rush hour, it's going to be, take it

slow, be safe, make sure you've got fuel in your tank.


JIMENEZ: And this is something of what I'm talking about right here. You see the truck --


MACFARLANE: And the weather is so bad that, unfortunately, as you can see, we've lost Omar there. But let's turn to Pete Muntean, who is in O'Hare

Airport for us in Chicago.

And Pete, I believe it's something like 1,400 flight cancellations already and the storm has not even arrived yet.

So how bad are these disruptions going to get?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The number keeps going up. In fact, just (INAUDIBLE) 1,967 flights canceled in the U.S., 5,000 flight delays. In

fact, here in Chicago O'Hare, the FAA just imposed a ground delay program, meaning flights are being held on the ground as much as 2.5 hours because

of the snow and ice here.

Snow really just starting to fall just now. The big concern is tomorrow and the biting cold temperatures, according to United Airlines. That makes

things really hard for the ground crews, the Marshall Plans (ph), for them to load bags on board.

It's supposed to be a high of 2 degrees Fahrenheit here tomorrow. Chicago O'Hare is number one for flight cancellations nationwide in the U.S.;

Denver is number two, Chicago Midway is number three.

But this is so important for our international viewers, because this is a huge connecting airport, not only for American Airlines; it is the biggest

hub for United Airlines. I got to see United Airlines network operation center, where crews there are scrambling to try and get passengers onto

different connecting flights, trying to salvage some of those trips.

The big tip we are hearing from travel experts, if you can re-book your flight, book a flight that is nonstop. It alleviates the chances or more

chances for delays and cancellations and may get you out of some of this mess. We are only seeing the beginning here tomorrow, 1,000 cancellations

nationwide here in the U.S.

MACFARLANE: Goodness me, that is quite something. As you heard from Pete there, book a direct flight. don't be wasting your time with connecting

flights. Pete Muntean there live for us in Chicago, thank you.

Well, meanwhile here in the U.K., the government is urging people to rethink their Christmas travel plans or expect serious disruptions. Border

Force employees are set to go on strike for eight days across airports in the country.

They are demanding more pay and better working conditions. And staff at three more train companies are set to walk off their jobs on Boxing Day.

They join a number of other rail operators who have strikes planned during the holiday period.

With all this travel chaos, travelers are wondering, what can I do?

I'm one of them. To give us some solutions, let's bring in travel correspondent for "The Independent" Simon Calder joins us.

Thank you.

Have you ever known a Christmas quite like this for travel chaos?

SIMON CALDER, "THE INDEPENDENT": Absolutely not. I've been covering Christmas travel disruptions pretty much since Biblical times. And

honestly, we've never had this combination of problems, particularly and acutely in the U.K.

But I think worldwide, people are more invested in this Christmas season than they have been in any other before, because, for an awful lot of

people, COVID kept them apart from loved one's over the last two Christmases.

And so, this is the one they've set their heart on. So the stakes have never been higher and the problems have never been more extreme.

MACFARLANE: We just want to be with our loved ones this year, right?

You are absolutely right. Here in the U.K., train strikes are becoming a daily reality. I have to say, it's something I think we are all kind of

learning to live with. But it's the border strikes over Christmas that are really causing concern. They are set to begin tomorrow.

So can you just give some advice to travelers about what's coming down the track here?

CALDER: Yes, it's completely uncertain, as you say. As from, well, just a few hours' time here in London, you are going to see the two biggest U.K.

airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, the passport checking staff will certainly walk out.

It's part of a pay dispute that's been dragging out for a while. That's also going to happen at Manchester airport, at Glasgow, Birmingham and at

Cardiff airports.

Now because we've never actually seen what happens, I've just been taking a look at, for example, at London Heathrow, busiest airport in Europe. Before

7:00 am, you have 50 wide bodied aircraft coming in from around the world, perhaps slightly fewer, if they're caught in the Midwest snow.

But anyway, that's over 10,000 travelers coming into Heathrow.

And the big problem is, can you get those people off those aircraft and through the border, making sure that that is secure?


CALDER: And if you can't -- and if, for example, pilots are told, keep passengers on board, we haven't got room for them, of course, everything

starts to unravel because departing passengers can't get onto the aircraft.

And if you are filling up your gates, if you're filling up the terminal, then, eventually, something has to give in terms of diversions and



CALDER: I should stress that the airports are all telling me, we think it will be fine. There are contingencies in place. There's military personnel

who will be moving in and doing some checking. But of course, they don't have all the expertise and experience that U.K. Border Force has.

MACFARLANE: So picking up on that point from a, you know, customer's perspective, if your flight is delayed or canceled, whose responsibility is


Is it going to be yours to re-book your flight?

Should you rely on the airline?

CALDER: Fortunately, Europe has extremely strict rules on what needs to happen if your flight is disrupted, significant delay or a cancellation.

The airline that cancels it, for whatever reason, has to look after you. It has to re-book you as soon as possible on another airline, if need be, at

its expense.

Certainly, it has to provide a hotel and meals until you are ready to go. So much, much more generous to the passenger than in the U.S., where

obviously, if the weather is bad, then that's your lookout.

So everything is kind of very high stakes at the moment. Talking to the airports, the one thing that they want everybody to do coming in, well, to

the U.K. from anywhere in Europe or from the U.S., from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, use the E gate. So get your passport


And if you are over 12, you can use the E gates, you should be able to speed through. Of course, that will make it much easier for you and for the

thousands of people in the queue behind you.

MACFARLANE: I like that you have your passport with you as a prop. You are absolutely right, that will certainly help with getting you through the

airport a lot faster. Simon, it's great to have your insight. At least we are not facing a bomb cyclone here in the U.K. I'm talking to our American

viewers. Thank you very much.

All right, still to come tonight, shock and now action after the Taliban take away yet more freedoms. These brave women say enough is enough. That

is next.




MACFARLANE: Women in Afghanistan are raising their voices to defend their basic human rights.


MACFARLANE (voice-over): Seen here in this video, they are shouting, "Education, work, freedom," as the Taliban suspend women's university

education. Fawzia Koofi is an Afghan politician and women's right activist.


MACFARLANE: She lived through the Taliban's last attempt to suppress women's education in the 1990s. When we sat down, I began by asking her

about the situation on the ground.


FAWZIA KOOFI, AFGHAN POLITICIAN AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Today, not only universities but all education institutions were deemed, like, private

schools and private courses, everything was shut down. And in a way, it looked like a military city, absolutely a military city. Like, Taliban

heavy machine guns at the, you know, gate of any university.

They were taking pictures and sharing it with me because I have personally gone through this also. So I nearly couldn't sleep last night because it

was not even about women's rights anymore. It's about the future of our country.

It's about how dark everything looks for all of us, not only for women born in Afghanistan, for their parents, mothers, fathers but for all of us

because, you know, we built hope in the last 20 years. Not only talents but hope. To see everything is being, like, slowly shattered step-by-step is,

of course, painful.

MACFARLANE: And you, yourself, as you say, have been through this or going through for this for the second time because you were there in the 1990s.

You were a medical student when the Taliban enacted these rules.

It seems that every policy that has been put in place by the Taliban in the last year has targeted women and girls.

What is this obsession they have with suppressing the life of women in Afghanistan?

KOOFI: Well, first of all, I think they are so scared of the women's empowerment because women were the only or the first group that challenged

Taliban's ideology as they first came to power 15th of August last year.

Remember, women went to the streets, protested, even in small numbers. This means that they have challenged the Taliban's hegemony of power and Taliban

know that the more society is educated, the more women are in power, the less power and control they will have.

They see women and their, you know, education, their empowerment as their enemy. And that's why if you look at from last year until now, gradually,

one after the other, they have really made a complete law, now locked it by the last decree, which stops women from going to university, right?

It looks like a lot, starting from minor steps, eventually becoming tougher and tougher. I think they devised the policy when they were in power in

1996. They started by major steps. First was, like, banning girls from education and universities.

Now after one year, they are bringing all of those measures back, including forced burqa and all of the measures. Apparently that is how they can keep


MACFARLANE: So what can be done?

What can the international community be doing more to leverage, you know, the Taliban in terms of the power that they have?

You know, what would you like to see?

KOOFI: Well, first of all, I think the international community should regard the problem of -- the people of Afghanistan, the women of

Afghanistan as their own problem because, in just Afghanistan, discrimination can get to any borders. Taliban's victory has inspired many

radicalized groups.

Now it doesn't have to be an Islamic radicalized group, it can be any military religious group that could be in our borders. So for that, I think

what we can do, first, we'll have a unified position.

I'm disappointed that many occasions, when I see different positions proven by politics and geopolitics by international community, these countries

have a different motive. The Western world has a different motive. So we need a unified position.

Second, the Taliban must be put on trial for their acts against humanity. What's happening are crimes against humanity, because they are gradually

depriving women from their rights.

Sanctions, you take action, just, not like, statements and all of these things, that's not really helping. They're nice but it doesn't help. So

they are sending $40 million every week to Taliban central bank, while people of Afghanistan are living under poverty line.

You know, the country is in the age of starvation, you know that. We all know that. We all receive these reports and messages. The Taliban don't

feel themselves accountable. So I think there should be concrete actions, Sanctions, travel bans, you know, putting them on trial, in fact.

Because there has been no political measure whatsoever. It has always been military and now friendship.

MACFARLANE: Have the West become already too complacent over the Taliban, even in a year, given the reversal we've seen of so many of their policies

regarding them?

KOOFI: I think the world has now kind of really lost hope or shifted policy to other -- of the war in Ukraine that they don't know what to do in

Afghanistan. They think it's OK, it's a part of people's lives. They think it's a normal situation.

I don't think it's a normal situation. I think, if the world really doesn't act now, it can get to any issues. I think we really need to chase

Taliban's, you know, founders, donors and those who are supporting Taliban. I think we need to really get out of the security-centric approach only,

because the Taliban promised that they will fight ISIS.

And that's why the world is so naive to believe them, that they can fight ISIS, while Taliban exists it actually can motivate other military groups

to come and pursue the same policies.

MACFARLANE: That's a dangerous precedent.


MACFARLANE: What does this spell for the rest of Afghanistan?

Already in a humanitarian crisis because Western countries are refusing to give aid, as you know, unless or until the Taliban reverse their policies

of equal rights.

KOOFI: The humanitarian -- it is going to Afghanistan actually, later to the U.N. and so I hope that will continue because that is reaching the

people. And through the U.N., no access of Taliban should be allowed to the humanitarian. Although on (INAUDIBLE) $60 million (ph) going to the

Taliban, central bank, that there should be some checks and balances, clarity on how the money is being spent.

But I think, you know, since one year that women have been deprived of working and job opportunities, $1 billion to our economy because of that.

So it's not about women's rights anymore, it's about security of Afghanistan, it's about the economy, it's about our future. And it's about

global security.

As women are fighting for the global security, I think we need to really stand meaningfully beyond the statements with them. Listen to them, give

them the platform and see, what do they want?

Because, I mean, my concern is, how much the world actually wants to engage with women of Afghanistan as they are getting with Taliban?

They meet Taliban ministers, they give them private jets, allow them to travel to different countries. But women of Afghanistan cannot leave their

houses. So I think that double standard sometimes makes us worry what the world wants, really.

Now many people tell me it's like the country that doesn't actually talk to the international community because they're not being honest. Now I think

the world needs to prove to the people that they are honest when it comes to their core values.

MACFARLANE: Thank you so much for joining us, giving us your report. Appreciate it.

And a few hours ago, the Taliban minister for higher education held a news conference to explain the decision to ban women from universities. He says

they banned women for violating Islamic dress rules and other Islamic values.

We've also heard from U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, warning the U.S. and its allies, warning the U.S. and its allies will impose costs on

the regime.

We will be right back after this short break.




MACFARLANE: Brazilian football legend Pele will be spending Christmas in a hospital in Sao Paulo, as his health worsens. Pele was admitted late last

month with respiratory infections and complications from colon cancer.


MACFARLANE: And thank you all for watching. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up after the break.