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Syria Claims Violation of Its Sovereignty by Turkey; Pope Francis in Mexico; British Academy Film Awards; Senate Republicans Concerned over Supreme Court Vacancy; Japan Economic Woes; Ehud Olmert Begins Prison Sentence. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 15, 2016 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: The crisis in Syria, Damascus goes to the U.N. over what it calls Turkey's gross violation of in sovereignty.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The soldiers here tell us that ISIS positions are literally only a few miles away from this position.

HOWELL: Our Fred Pleitgen and a CNN exclusive. We take you to the frontlines of the government's battle with ISIS.

And in Mexico, the pope takes on the drug cartels calling them quote, "merchants of death."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the BAFTA goes to "The Revenant"

HOWELL: "The Revenant" wins big at the British Academy Film Awards. We ask what it might mean for the Oscars.

From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Good day to you. We begin this hour with the crisis in Syria and new news from Turkey, denying reports that its soldiers entered Syria over the weekend. The Turkish defense minister telling a state-run news agency that Turkey has no intention of sending in ground troops.

All of this comes as Turkey brushes aside appeals to stop shelling Kurdish militias in Northern Syria. Turkey says it is retaliating against the Kurdish rebel group, the YPG, which the U.S. considers an ally in the fight against ISIS.

Washington has urged Ankara to show restraint but Turkey is not backing down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMET DAVUTOGLU, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (TRANSLATED): We will retaliate against every step by the YPG. YPG and the forces behind it should be aware of Turkey's stance. The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area and will not go close to it again.

It will not attempt to shut that corridor ever again. It will not have delusions of using Menagh Base to attack the Syrian opposition. It will evacuate that airbase.


HOWELL: The Turkish prime minister there. So, while diplomats try to reach an agreement on the details for a cessation of hostilities in Syria, the Kremlin revealed Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin that they had a frank and constructive phone conversation. On Sunday, Mr. Obama urged Russia to end its air campaign in Munich. U.S. Senator John McCain accused Russia of using Syria as a quote, "live fire exercise for its military." Listen.


JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Russia has indiscriminately bombed civilians and moderate opposition groups for months with impunity. U.S. Intelligence leaders have stated publicly that U.S. interventions has stabilized the Assad regime and helped it back on the offensive.

And now, as we sit here today, Syrian, Iranian, Hezbollah, and Russian forces are accelerating their siege of Aleppo. It is no accident that Mr. Putin has agreed on a cessation of hostilities when he did.


HOWELL: Russian air strikes have no doubt shifted the momentum of this conflict. The Syrian army says that Moscow's support has helped to push back ISIS militants.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen was given exclusive access to the regime's frontlines against ISIS and has this report from Eastern Syria.

PLEITGEN: In the Eastern Syrian Desert on the fringe of ISIS's self- declared caliphate, the Syrian army readied its artillery, canons, tanks, and armored personnel carriers have dug in.

We are right on the frontline in the Syrian military battle against ISIS. The soldiers here tell us that ISIS' positions are literally only a few miles away from this position. The top commander for this area tells CNN his forces constantly clash with ISIS here.

He didn't want to appear on camera because of Syrian military rules and instead designated a civilian working with him to speak on his behalf.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE) "Over there is the village of Garbhwati," he says. "It's considered to be the alternative capital of ISIS." The Syrian military recently launched a major offensive in the north of the country winning back some territory but also causing tens of thousands to flee towards the Turkish border.

The U.S. says Syrian forces mostly combat moderate rebels and put very little effort into fighting ISIS. But the troops here say that is not true. "For three months now, ISIS has not been advancing, he says, they've only been retreating. And Assad's army acknowledges that Russian airpower has had a big impact."

"Everything is much better since our Russian friends came in, he says. They gave us the capability to conduct pre-emptive strikes and also aerial surveillance to warn us in advance about ISIS attacks."

[03:05:12] And they vow to continue their push eastward deeper into ISIS heartland. The commanders here say that that they are on the move forward. And one of their predictions is that if nothing else goes wrong they think they can be in Raqqa by the end of the year.

But they still are far away from achieving that goal. And in the past ISIS has shown it can rebound after being pushed back.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Eastern Syria.

HOWELL: Back now in the United States and the race for the White House. The rhetoric is getting more heated among politicians after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

President Obama has every intention, he says, of naming a replacement to the court. That is despite republican vows to delay or even to block outright that nominee. But it won't happen this coming week. The U.S. Senate, which must approve the nominee, is in recess.

The White House says the president will announce his selection when senators return from recess. Fair to say Mr. Obama faces an uphill battle with this.

Ryan Nobles explains what's at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A moment of silence for Justice Antonin Scalia.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did not take long for the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to get political in the republican presidential primary debate.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It's called delay, delay, delay.


NOBLES: One by one the GOP candidates paid homage to the conservative line and predicted that any Obama nominee to replace him would be unsuccessful.


JEB BUSH, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will not have a consensus pick when he submits that person to the Senate.


NOBLES: But President Obama is pushing forward promising to nominate someone quickly and warning Senate republicans to not play politics with the court.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should everyone.


NOBLES: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called on the president to wait and leave the decision in the, quote, "hands of the voters" and the winner of the race for the White House.

Rank and file republicans like Lindsey Graham said any Obama nominee will have a tough time being confirmed.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: The practical consequence is that no one will be appointed that's not a consensus choice.


NOBLES: And as the president and Senate leader squabble it will be against the backdrop of an increasingly divisive presidential election.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Elections have consequences.


NOBLES: Hillary Clinton rushed to support Obama's right to pick the nominee and push the Senate to confirm.


CLINTON: It is outrageous that republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail have already pledged to block any replacement that President Obama nominates. NOBLES: The republican candidates vowed to stand in the way. And once

elected, nominate a conservative in the mold of Scalia.


TED CRUZ, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the most important judgments for the men and women of South Carolina to make is who on this stage has the background, the principle, the character, the judgment, and the strength of resolve to nominate and confirm principled constitutionalists to the court? That will be what I will do if I'm elected president.


NOBLES: Setting the stage for a rocky few months in Washington with the future of the Supreme Court and the White House in the balance.

HOWELL: No one is declaring victory in the republican debate that happened this past Saturday. But the real winner might be the U.S. network CBS which carried that debate. A whopping 13.5 million viewers tuned in, easily beating the democratic debate that was held earlier in the week.

Republicans across the country are really upset about the void that was left in the Supreme Court by the death of Antonin Scalia. He was a main conservative voice of the court. And many senators including the two running for president are not mincing words when it comes to their intention to delay approval of anyone that President Obama nominates to replace him. Marco Rubio spoke to CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN'S CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You talked about what kind of nominee you would be OK with. One name that has been floated for the Supreme Court for President Obama to nominate is District Circuit Court Judge Srinivansan.

And in 2013, the Senate confirmed him, 97 to zero. You were one of those 97, you voted to confirm him. So, President Obama were to put forward his name. Why not support him since you've done it in the past?

MARCO RUBIO, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there is a different criteria. Obviously it's a heightened level of scrutiny. They have to go through judiciary. I usually don't comment on nominees until they've gone through that process.

[03:10:01] The next president will have a chance to appoint somebody. And when I'm president of the United States I'm going to look for someone like Justice Scalia.


HOWELL: Joining us now is Ron Brownstein, a CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic. Ron, good to have you with us. So, President Obama has indicated he will nominate someone to fill

that vacancy in the Supreme Court. But you know, the question is, will the Senate even prevent a vote from coming to the floor to confirm?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So far, that is the indication from republicans, that they will essentially have a blockade against any nominee that the president puts forward.

Now, that is of course the starting position. And we will see how the politics unfolds. In particular, there are seven republican senators defending states that have voted for President Obama. And we will see whether they will hold to that position over time as the public reacts to this idea.

But in the initial response they are basically saying they will try to hold out until the next president. Almost an unprecedented declaration.

HOWELL: You know, Ron, for our viewers around the world, just explain the balance. Justice Scalia, how significant, how important was he in the balance of the Supreme Court? With this vacancy, what are the stakes? What's at stake now?

BROWNSTEIN: It's enormous. Really could not be more important. You know, the Supreme Court, like all other institutions in American political life has become more polarized. And we have had a number of cases most famously Gore versus Bush in 2000, but many others in which the five republican appointed Supreme Court justices voted together against the four democratic appointed Supreme Court justices.

And of course, that is the key here. If President Obama could nominate and confirm a fifth democratic appointed justice given the kind of trends we have seen with the occasional exception like the gay marriage position where Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan goes the other way.

We would see the first democratic liberal majority on the Supreme Court since the 1970s.

HOWELL: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: And that is why republicans are drawing such a hard line here trying to hold out against that possibility and hoping to recapture the White House in November 2016.

HOWELL: Ron, I know you saw that republican debate. I'm sure you saw that moment when Donald Trump -- all the candidates really, but Donald Trump pointed out, he said, delay, delay, delay. So, explain to our viewers this concept of the Thurmond Rule?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, you know, it isn't a literally rule. The Thurmond Rule applies to the idea that the Senate will slow walk or move very deliberately on any nominees not only to the Supreme Court but to the appellate courts when the president is in his final year.

I mean, the fact is that there are presidents on both sides. In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt nominated a justice to an open seat in election year and was confirmed very quickly. In the Senate, in 1980 -- late 1987, President Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, of who of course the Supreme Justice. And he was confirmed by the Senate in 1988, in February of 1988. He was confirmed unanimously by the democratic controlled Senate.

On the other hand, in 1968, when President Johnson tried to elevate a justice, Abe Fortas is close colleague and ally for many years to become chief justice this democratic controlled Senate balked at that.

I think, you know, look, you know, there really isn't a kind of precedent here for what republicans are saying where they would refuse to even consider a nominee. Now, you know, even if they consider the nominee they might vote it down. But I don't you can look back over the last century and say that the Senate has blankly refused to even contemplate the possibility of the president getting a nomination.

HOWELL: Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst. Ron, thank you for your insight.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you. Extraordinary moment.

HOWELL: It is indeed.

For more on the fight over Scalia's replacement, you can visit our web site at

You're watching CNN Newsroom.

Still ahead, Japan's economy is shrinking again. We look at the latest GDP numbers and how global investors are responding to it.

Plus, a former Israeli prime minister denies any wrongdoing before he begins serving prison time. Stay with us.


KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN Word Sport headlines.

We start with a dramatic day in the English Premier League. After hosting league lead Leicester, the Emirates at one point on Sunday, let to save Leicester City fairytale season which gets even better with the potential for an 8-point lead over the second place Arsenal, but the Gunners had other plans to match. Well, it's even late until Danny Welbeck regains head on the balls to make it 2-1 for the Gunners. Also (Inaudible) and cut Leicester lead down two points.

Now the key fixes with the thrilling match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. But Tottenham at Dele Alli for the first time since 2010. The hero spurs with Christian Eriksen to score the game winner in the 85 minutes this coming on his 24th birthday no less.

Tottenham now unbeaten 12-0 matches and move within 2 points of the Foxes. England's Rugby World Cup campaign where little sure of a disaster last year but their kings may command in the Sixth Nations championship. And so far things are going well for the new coach Eddie Jones against Italy and Rome. England made the slow start but Jonathan Joseph will get a hot strip of tries to put the game out of reach. England wins 40 points to nine. They win seat England also sit top off the table.

And that's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN's Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

Japan's economy shrank more than expected in the final quarter of last year. The GDP fell 1.4 percent as consumer spending dropped adding to fears of a global slowdown.

Despite that news, Japan's stocks surged at Monday's open. China's shares however, slumped on the return from week-long lunar New Year holiday.

Let's get the very latest from Hong Kong. Manisha Tank is here with more on the numbers. Manisha, good to have you. So, Let's start with China. All eyes were on the Shanghai Composite, which closed down at .63 percent. What are the take always from trading today?

MANISHA TANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We were poised that the open, George, to see how far down that market was going to open because actually things had been shut down for the week for the lunar New Year holiday. This was the first chance to see how Shanghai stocks and China, and the sentiment about China how investors would -- investors would respond to the big market sell-off last week.

So, at the open, the Shanghai Composite was down 2.8 percent. Now we've ended the session down a lot less than down that 0.6 percent or so. So, really narrowing those losses over the course of the trading day. And this despite getting trade figures from China which were miserable really and really underling the feelings about the Chinese economy and its weakness right now.

So, even then, you might be thinking that the result would have been better, would have been even worse than the day, but actually a narrowing of the losses that we saw earlier. All of this also today in the wake of an interview conducted over the weekend by Ka-shing with the central bank governor.

And this really an important interview, an then from Zhou Xiaochuan. People were really watching what he was going to say about foreign reserves in China, which have actually sunk to their lowest level in 2012. So, what happened here when we were talking about foreign reserve is they've been selling dollars to buy Yuan to really make sure that there is come underlining strength in the currency.

[03:20:03] A very important sign of how people are feeling about the economy in robustness and it was very important for this to happen. But many investors have been saying that sort of thing isn't sustainable over time. How long can you do it? Normally we don't get comments from central banks governor but we did

today, and that could have been something that helped with the stabilization on the market. And there you can see, so "It is normal for foreign reserves to rise and fall as long as the fundamentals face no problems."

So, again, no one really changing their feelings about the Chinese economy. Overall, we still know that China has the same of between 6.5 percent and 7 percent growth. It's just the beginning of the year, this is just the first trade number that we got for January.

And then, going to the other revisions and estimates and many other indicators that we will have to watch as time goes on. So, really the take away from today on the Chinese market with, yes, the market is down but it could have been a lot worse.

HOWELL: In Indonesia I'm looking there at the Nikkei and it was up at 7 percent. So, let's talk about, you know, trading in Japan. We had this news that the economy shrank in the final quarter of last year. So, the big question, you know, who are we to make of Abenomics.

TANK: Yes. Well, many people asking about that question. I'm thinking tomorrow's papers here in Asia there are going to be lots of editorials on this one, George. Well, what are people making of Abenomics? Well, that is not doing a great deal really, especially when you have a GDP number that comes in down 1.4 percent annualized and 0.4 percent on the fourth quarter.

Again, the thing with this kind of data is this is a preliminary estimate and we can expect revisions by early March. But even so, if you break down the numbers we have seen this drop in the personal consumption level, the amount that people are spending there in Japan. And this has always been a big concern is really getting this, getting money moving.

Now one of the ways that the central bank have been trying to achieve that is negative interest rates which effectively mean it cost you money to keep -- it keep to cost your money to keep your money parked. You want to get it moving banks need to be lending to one other, they need to be lending to companies. And that's what the central bank is trying to encourage.

So, you might be asking, well, with that number in GDP how come the market surge? Well, we saw an 11 percent drop for the Nikkei last week. So, a bounced back of some 7 percent. And then we saw the original bounced back across the market as you can see the Hang Seng also up and the ASX up in Sydney.

There are high hopes about what's happening outside the city, about what's happening outside Asia. We had a positive close on Wall Street with a late rally on Friday. And that is also something that people will be keeping an eye on and looking very much at global demands very much at what can be done and what is happening externally.

And this is why more and more people are now talking about central banks and saying unfortunately, for central banks when your interest rate get that low you don't have much left in your arsenal to help these economies, George.

HOWELL: But I guess when you look at the Asia-Pacific region right now and not a bad snapshot considering it could have been worse, I supposed. So, Manisha Tank, we thank you so much for being with us this hour.

Now for a look European markets just opening now. And you can see that the FTSE 100, the DAX, also the CAC 40, and the Zurich SMI, all are making gains right now.

Now on to Jerusalem, Israeli police say that two Palestinians were shot and killed after they opened fire at officers outside the Damascus gate in Jerusalem's old city late Sunday. Official told Reuters three other Palestinians suspects were killed in two separate incidents the same day. The violence has escalated in Israel since October.

A former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert is starting his 18- month prison stint on bribery charges. He arrived at the prison in Central Israel just about 30 minutes ago.

And we go live to Israel this hour. CNN's Oren Liebermann has been following this story for us. Oren, I'd like to talk about what happens to him in prison. This is a person who held high office, you know, he is a man who knows state secrets. So, will he be mixed in with the rest of the prison population? Or will there be special plans for him?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He will be kept separately, George, in an area that's known as ward 10. An area that was recently renovated specifically meant to keep those who have state secrets or those who have other reasons to be kept separate from the general prison population.

It holds accordingly to Israeli prison authority, a maximum of 18 people. And now with Ehud Olmert, there are four people in that ward 10. We saw him arrived at the prison known as Maasiyahu just about 20 or 30 minutes ago.

We didn't have much of a shot of him. He got out of his car flanked by two secret service agents. He walk walked to the door of the prison. That's where the secret service agents left him and he was turned over to the care to the administration of the prison authority for at least the next 18 months.

As for ward 10, he is separate because as you mentioned, he has state secrets so he has to be kept, according to the prison authority away from the general population that has members with the background in organized crimes. So, it is for state security reasons.

Other than that, the prison authority says he'll be treated like any other prisoner. He's given a certain amount of items that he's allowed to have. He has a TV in his room, a desk, access to a living room, a room where he can talk to his lawyers.

[03:25:04] That is fairly normal. Now he will be spending 18 months there as part of the holy land affair. He could spend even more time in prison because this is not the end of his legal problems. Still this morning, Ehud Olmert released a video saying he has done nothing illegal. Here's a part of that video.


EHUD OLMERT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (TRANSLATED): During my years of activity, I also made mistakes, though, I don't think they were of criminal form. For some of them I'm paying an expensive price. Maybe too expensive. With a heavy heart, I accept the sentence. There is no man that stands above the law.


LIEBERMANN: I'm not sure what difference this video will make at this point. As we've said, George, he has 18 months in prison. And possibly more.

HOWELL: Oren Liebermann, live for us in Jerusalem. Oren, thank you for your reporting there.

Within hours, Pope Francis is expected to bring a message of hope to one of Mexico's poorest regions. We'll show you how the State of Chiapas is preparing for his arrival.

Plus, why a 17-year-old boy spent his hard earned money to spread - spread joy at a school. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. This is CNN Newsroom. Good to have you with us

The headlines this hour. Former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert is now at a prison in Central Israel to serve an 18-month sentence on bribery charges. He denied corruption allegations and in a statement before he entered prison just a short time ago. Olmert is the first former Israeli Prime Minister to go to prison.

[03:30:01] Republicans in the U.S. Senate are concerned about the vacancy in the Supreme Court following the death of Antonin Scalia. Many of them say they will not accept whoever President Obama nominates to replace the court's conservative icon. President Obama says he will name a nominee when the Senate returns from recess.

The Turkish defense minister says that Turkey has no intention of sending ground troops into Syria. He made that announcement while denying reports that Turkish soldiers entered the neighboring country over the weekend.

All of this comes as Turkey brushes aside appeals to stop shelling Kurdish militias in Northern Syria.

Diplomats are trying to hammer out the details of a ceasefire agreement for Syria. CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson reports a phone

call between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin underscored a key sticking point in these peace talks. Russian air strikes.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, that phone call between President Obama and President Putin really seems to highlight some of the concerns that have been expressed here in Munich. The Kremlin focusing on one aspect of the call. The White House focusing on another aspect.

The Kremlin saying that it was important for United States and Russia to work together to fight terrorists. But of course it's that definition of terrorists that has been at issue here and the Kremlin seems to consider anyone that is against President Bashar al-Assad is -- considers them a terrorist.

The United States of course takes a very different view, it's ISIS and Al Qaeda that are terrorists inside Syria. The White House for its part emphasized in that phone call that Russia should stop bombing the moderate opposition.

We certainly heard from the moderate opposition here saying that they are monitoring the situation very carefully. That they are prepared. And of course, this is all about getting those peace talks up and running again.

They are prepared to get back into those peace talks if they see that Russia stops the bombing. But the leader of that delegation here, a former prime minister of Syria spoke to what he saw is actually happening on the ground. Russia creating facts on the ground. This is what he told the conference here in Munich.


RIYAD HIJAB, FORMER SYRIA PRIME MINISTER (TRANSLATED): Since its intervention in January of this year, I ask you that we have 58 clear massacres committed by the Russian military against Syrian civilians. Alone in the last 10 days, the Russian air force and its army have intensified and maximized their attempts to punish the Syrian people for their position in demanding their rights.

Even before I came here today, I have news from Deir al that they are seeking to extend Assad's rule south to the Jordanian border.


ROBERTSON: So, President Obama and President Putin's phone call is really to try to move towards this cessation of hostilities that was agreed a couple of days ago, is now less than five days away to when this is supposed to be hopping.

The United States and Russia are supposed to be sort of leading a task force to create the modalities to make this happen. But I've got to say, listening to a lot of the delegates here at the security conference in Munich, there is a real concern here they don't really see that United States has leverage over Russia at this time. They say Russia creating facts on the ground, Russia in the position

really where it can push its offensive not only in Aleppo but also in the south of Syria, as well. And really it will perhaps be a lot of the delegates here that the conference considers that really the peace can only come when Russia has essentially done what it wants to do on the ground in Syria, and then maybe say that it's time for peace.

The United States at the moment still a big hope -- that's the word at the conference here a big hope that peace talks can get up and running. But a lot of people are really concerned and doubting that that actually can happen.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Munich, Germany.

HOWELL: Pope Francis is using his visit to Mexico to highlight the problems of drug violence and violence in that country. He is also meeting with the poor and enjoying some unexpected moments along the way. Take a look.

A patient sang for the pope on Sunday during a hospital visit in Mexico City. Pope Francis kissed the girl on the forehead and offered a blessing. At mass, he urged followers not to succumb to evil.


POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (TRANSLATED): Jesus doesn't answer the devil with any proper words. He answers him with the words of the Scripture. He does not answer with his own words because brothers and sisters, you do not dialogue with the devil.

You cannot have a dialogue with the devil because he will always beat us. Only the strength of the Word of God can defeat him. We have chosen Jesus and not the devil.


HOWELL: Now as the pope travels through Mexico, he is calling on citizens there to create their own quote, "land of opportunity." And he is taking his message to some of Mexico's most violent cities.

[03:35:01] CNN's Shasta Darlington has this report.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pope Francis helicoptered into one of the most dangerous places in Mexico on his second full day of this trip. Ecatepec, a sprawling suburb outside of Mexico City, notorious for its poverty and notorious for its violence.

In fact, the pontiff's decision to visit Ecatepec ruffled more than a few officials said there. Of course, it thrilled the hundreds of thousands who lined the papal route hoping to just catch a glance of Pope Francis on his way to celebrate mass.

The mass itself was surprisingly critical. He lashed out at what he called the temptations of wealth, fame, and power. And during the Angelus he was even more direct. He called on Mexicans to try and create a land of opportunity instead of a country where young people are destroyed. Take a listen to this.


FRANCIS (TRANSLATED): I want to invite you today again to be on the frontline, to be the first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico, a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream. No need to be exploited in order to work.


DARLINGTON: Back in Mexico City, he visited a children's hospital. Many of the patients suffering from cancer. There were some tender moments, for example, when he gave one boy the rosary and asked him to pray for him.

Another girl sang Ave Maria. On Monday, he's off to Chiapas, Mexico's poorest state, also the main entry point for Central American immigrants trying to reach the United States.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Mexico City.

HOWELL: The pope's Monday schedule puts him in Chiapas, where he is expected to spend the day focusing on that region's indigenous people. It is one of the poorest areas in Mexico but still a lot of work and preparation went into this visit. And the expectations and the hope for change are evident.

Putting on the finishing touches in the poorest state in the Mexican federation. Preparations are underway for the pope's arrival to the colonial City of San Cristobal delas Casas, a city that some believe the Mexican government would prefer to keep out of the spotlight.


PEDRO FARO, FRAY BARTOLOME HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER DIRECTOR: The fact that he is coming to Chiapas is a very important and historical sign because it is here where Bishop Fray Bartolome delas Casas was. Then Samuel Ruiz Garcia was also here, one of the most important theologians who chose the poor, the marginalized.


HOWELL: With the pope set to arrive later today, security has been stepped up. Federal police and soldiers on duty at key venues in the city. And there is excitement in the air.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (TRANSLATED): We're full of hope, full of joy, full of faith because he's coming. I think it's a new inspiration for Mexico, which is a little sad and depressed. We've been through a lot of social economic issues recently insecurity. I think that Pope Francis's visit to your country will undoubtedly leave us with a new hope.


HOWELL: Esperanza, hope, in a state where a little more than 76 percent of the population live in poverty even as work continues to spruce up the city's picturesque 71th century cathedral where the pontiff visit.

Pope Francis in his typical fashion has chosen to celebrate mass with indigenous communities, some of the states poorest at a humble sports center in the city. Two decades ago, the Zapatista movement, an insurgency by some of Chiapas indigenous highlighted the plight of the region's impoverished Mayan Indians.

The guns are silent today, but rights activists say the age old issues of development, poverty, and discrimination remain. They are hoping that the pope's visit will shine further light on the realities in Chiapas. For otherwise, though, they just want a chance to be part of this historic visit.

The pope is also expected to return to the Vatican on Thursday after his last stop in Ciudad Juarez. A visit to a prison there is also on his agenda.

You're watching CNN Newsroom.

Still ahead, record cold is moving across the Eastern United States. Coming up, you'll see the effects of that and find out just how low the temperatures could go.

Plus, why a Utah teenager saved his money for a year and a half to make a very grand gesture at his school.


HOWELL: Stepping outside in the northeast? Maybe you better bundle up. Bitter cold temperatures are gripping many parts of the U.S. This video you see is from Boston, Massachusetts and it shows sea smoke drifting over the water. And its fog that is formed when very cold air moves over warmer water.

Boston hit a record low, negative 9 degrees on Sunday. And now, look at Chicago, it was so cold on the Windy City, you see these chunks of ice? They were floating around in Lake Michigan.

For more on this let's turn to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri who is in the International Weather Center. Pedram, it looks cold.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You have pretty much as cold as it gets, for parts of the country at least, right? You know, the coldest Valentine's Day in 100 years' time when it comes to New York City in particular. And about two dozen records were set across this region of the northeast. And typically, the coldest air of the season is locked in back towards the Midwestern United States.

But just the general direction of the cold air coming in south locked in there for the mostly densely populated region. So, we had readings as cold as minus one. Last time temperatures dipped below zero Fahrenheit in New York City were actually the first term of President Bill Clinton being in office back in January of 1994 there.

Boston is minus nine, the coldest temperatures Boston has seen since the 1950s. And you had as low as 18 below across portions of say Western New York. But I want to show you something here because if you take a look at a town like Watertown, New York, right down here, travel some 2500 miles of the north of the town of Alert, Alaska. This is actually the most northerly most town that is populated year round in the world.

It sits there at the 82-degree latitude no mark, about 500 miles of the north of the Arctic Circle. It was warmer there and they haven't seen sunlight since October. Warmer there than down towards portions of New York City.

So, really it shows you the incredible nature of the cold there. And in fact, Scott Kelly, ISS, aboard the ISS, astronaut there from NASA sharing with us a photograph from space looking down towards the Northeastern United States. All the clouds just offshore here with the brutal cold air there that was in place, you noticed a little dusting of snow back towards areas to the west across that region.

But really a dramatic change in the forecast. Because temperatures not one warm up above freezing but get up to about 54 Fahrenheit, that's about 12 or 13 degree Celsius in just a matter of a couple of days from this below zero temperatures they were observing in space.

Pretty mild especially approaching the next weekend across that region of the northeast. But we do have another winter weather maker back behind this. About 70 million people dealing with winter storm warnings that are in place and light snow showers generally a theme here.

[03:45:12] It doesn't look like much in the way of heavy snow. But it will snow across Washington, Philadelphia, even New York by later this afternoon by just a couple of inches. I think a couple of inches are not going to hurt as much as the 20 below zero in spots that they saw across this region, George.

HOWELL: Twenty below zero?


HOWELL: I think I'll pass on that. Pedram, thank you so much.


HOWELL: Sunday marked Valentine's Day around the world in many places. And many people took that opportunity to celebrate their love. Take a look at this massive light Rose Garden in Hong Kong. It served as the picturesque backdrop for couples taking selfies.

The installation is made up of 25,000 LED roses that light up the night sky. It was created in South Korea, and Hong Kong is its first stop on a world tour.

So, Hong Kong maybe showing off 25,000 roses. But a teenager in Utah made hundreds of his classmates very happy when Valentine's Day came for them three days early.

Daniel Woodruff with the CNN affiliate WUTV has more on this story from Smithfield, Utah.

KAYEDIN CRAW, STUDENT: It meant a lot.

DANIEL WOODRUFF, WUTV REPORTER: Kayedin Craw is still a little bit giddy.

CRAW: I felt very special actually.

WOODRUFF: After what happened at school.

CRAW: I brought it at home and my mom's like who gave you that? Hayden.

WOODRUFF: Hayden Godfrey.

HAYDEN GODFREY, UTAH BOY WHO GIVES FLOWERS: I want to make as many people happy as possible.

WOODRUFF: The high school senor who's good deed has quickly become the talk of the town.

GODFREY: I got around 800 flowers out there.

WOODRUFF: One for every girl at Sky View High School.

GODFREY: I don't think a girl should be left out during Valentine's Day.

WOODRUFF: Hayden ordered the flowers himself, recruited some friends and just before school ended on Thursday for the long weekend passed them out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was holding a flower. I just thought that was so cool.

WOODRUFF: Impressive, right? Well, especially when you consider it cost this student nearly $500 to pull off. Hayden works here at Lee's marketplace as a bagger. He's been saving all of his money to buy those flowers. And you can bet there is no way he could have done that with just one paycheck.

STEVE HOGGAN, LEE'S MARKETPLACE STOCKER: There is no way. There is no way.

WOODRUFF: Steve Hoggan knows. He is Hayden's boss.

HOGGAN: To spend your money like that. It takes someone with real heart.

WOODRUFF: Now you might think Hayden is the luckiest guy in school right now. Eight hundred girls with flowers, 800 potential dates for this big man on campus except.

WOODRUFF: I already have a girlfriend, so.

WOODRUFF: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really sweet of him to do this.

WOODRUFF: He's taken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To watch every single one of those girls walk out of school with a big smile on their face. It makes me very happy and very proud of him.

HOWELL: Now that guy is a class act. Good on him.

Next here on CNN Newsroom, we take you to London. A look at the red carpets at Britain's biggest night in film, the BAFTA Awards. Find out which films swept the top prizes as CNN Newsroom rolls on.


JAVAHERI: Weather watch across the Americas. The heart of February. We are watching some snow showers scattered about across portions of at least the Ohio valley, parts of the Tennessee Valley. Also hitting in some light snow showers, about 64 million people dealing with wintry weather over the next or so 24 hours.

But the storm system is still not going to do much in the way of significant accumulations. It's quite widespread, yes, but generally speaking, 5 to 10 centimeters. Few isolated spots, lake affects areas will pick upwards of 20 centimeters.

Some of these areas the lake should be frozen but it has been so mild. Of course, the lake effect is still in place across that region. The cold air we had at this weekend historical places like New York City, the coldest Valentine's Day in 100 years, and also coldest single day about 22 years -- 28 years or so coming out of portions of New York City.

[03:50:09] But notice Boston also setting record temperatures. Toronto, Watertown, all of them getting in to the minus 15 to minus 25 raging. Incredibly cold. But notice how quickly it rebounds over this region, New York is at 12 degrees, it does cool off just a little bit.

In Charlotte also, the temperatures go from 1 up to 15 degrees. And of course, the weather always rise the balance itself out. So, you go to the opposite side of the United States we've had record heat in place that it is going to break down just a little bit over the next coming couple of days.

So, we'll leave you with the perspective from the United States, San Francisco makes it up to around 22 degrees. Sunny skies in Los Angeles and notice some evening showers possible around New York City.


HOWELL: OK. So, the Oscars are just two weeks away, and "The Revenant," starring Leonardo DiCaprio maybe the movie to beat after its big night at the BAFTA Awards in London. The 19-century American wilderness epic won five categories Sunday including best film.

DiCaprio himself took best actor honors for his gritty portrayal of the American frontiersman in the 1820's. Alejandro Inarritus also won best director for the film. Brie Larson also picked up the best actress award for her role in the kidnapping survivor drama, "Room."

And Kate Winslet won for best supporting actress for the film "Steve Jobs."

For more on the BAFTA Awards, let's bring in film critic Richard Fitzwilliams joining us now live in London. Good to have to have you with us this say. So, let's talk about the BAFTAS. Were there any big surprises? Good or bad in your view?

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, FILM CRITIC: There is no doubt at all a lot of it was predicted. But "The Revenant's" night it most certainly was as you just said, best picture. It was challenged by spotlight, which of course was a flawless movie about a journalistic expose of priests and child abuse in Boston.

That was an excellent film but it wasn't cinematic. It was the fact that "The Revenant" was on such a broad canvas that it was so fascinating, so atmospheric, that was what I think swung it.

And also the fact that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directed a movie on an absolute epic sweep. And this was DiCaprio's evening. No question he was always going to win, and he did win. And this means that the Oscars is very, very. Remembering "The Revenant's" success at the Globe to choose, only the fourth Western in the history as best picture.

HOWELL: Well, in your opinion, you know, obviously "The Revenant" did well, but who might have been snubbed there at the BAFTAS?

FITZWILLIAMS: Well, Carol did very badly. I mean, what was so fascinating where this was a mix of so many different themes. We had three movies, "Carol," "Brooklyn," a bridge of spies set in the 1950s. We had two Western, "The Revenant" and the "Hateful Eight."

We have also had several movies dealing with sexuality, Carol, "The Danish Girl," and "The Lobster." And what I think what we were looking at in this ceremony was the various other movies. Each one of them in different categories only got a single award.

I mean, Brie Larson for "Room". A wonderful performance as a mother who had been kidnapped. And I think that, again, at the Oscars she is likely to be a certainty. Kate Winslet was up against really tough competition, Rooney Mara in "Carol." But winning "Steve Jobs" his manager in that movie -- and that was a wonderful movie but it didn't do well at the Box Office.

And also Mark Rylance versus Idris Elba, I suspected Elba might win as the brutal commander in "Beasts of No Notion." But in fact, Rylance that won. [03:55:06] Equally, diversity is a problem at the BAFTAS, there is no doubt about it. The black British actor, John Boyega won the E.U. rising star award and definitely deserved to. As if Coperdia won for "Am," a heart wrenching documentary. The famous singer Amy Winehouse and her tragic life.

But there is no doubt that there is a conversation that will be taking place here on getting greater diversity in the future years.

HOWELL: And I want to talk just a bit more on that. This concept of diversity. Obviously, it's quite the controversy. Our Nima Elbagir spoke with several actors and actresses about it there at the BAFTAs. But can the Oscars learn anything from the BAFTAS about diversity.

FITZWILLIAMS: I think that they most certainly can because obviously the Oscars are two years had actually we know from the OscarSoWhite controversy, which is discouraging an all-white nominee list for the best actors.

Now, the BAFTAS have, as I mentioned, a long way to go on this. The Oscars have announced a radical program which will be enforced by 2020. And it will be a challenge but it's won that they must meet because you can't have an awards ceremony from an institution which is 94 percent white, 77 percent male and the average age of 62.

The BAFTA's are looking at their membership, looking how they can change. It's an also -- it's a question of opportunity, it's a question of the right stories, and it's a question of the depth of the various roles. We know the talent is there.


HOWELL: Richard, thank you.

FITZWILLIAMS: What chances are they being given.

HOWELL: Thank you, sir. Thank you for being with us. And we appreciate your insight.

And we thank you for joining us here on CNN Newsroom. The news continues after this.