Return to Transcripts main page
Mudslides Kill More than 200 in Colombia; Ecuador Votes for President; Controversies Overshadow Trump White House; More Russia Opposition Protests Expected; Tillerson and Mattis Talk Tough about Russia; The Rise and Fall of Michael Flynn; Russian "Fake News" Network Uncovered; Iraqi Christian Community Becomes a Ghost Town; Pope Visits Italian Earthquake City; French Artist Tries to Hatch Eggs. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired April 2, 2017 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hundreds are dead, just as many more are missing as the torrential rains overflow rivers in Colombia. We'll have the latest for you.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus more revelations linking former national security adviser Michael Flynn to Russia.
HOWELL: And take a look here. These were the scenes in Moscow last week. Thousands of people taking to the streets to protest corruption. Today, more protests are expected.
ALLEN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. From CNN World Headquarters, NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: It is 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. We begin in Southern Colombia, people there digging through rubble after devastating mudslides that took place, many of them hoping to find relatives and friends still in that debris. More than 200 people are missing, at least 254 are presumed dead.
ALLEN: Some families barely able to escape before their homes were destroyed. The Colombian president visited the region affected on Saturday. A CNN crew was there when the president spoke with a victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(Speaking foreign language)
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: The Colombia president there, speaking with people. He also says that he suspects climate change could be to blame. Our Rafael Romo picks up the story.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: It all happened very fast. According to a witness, it started raining Friday night about 10:30. And the floodwaters rose so fast that people had to run for their lives. Many houses were flattened, bridges collapsed and highways were washed away.
It happened in Mocoa, capital of Putumayo province in Southern Colombia. Mocoa is surrounded by three rivers which overflowed as a result of some of the heaviest rains the city has seen in years.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said in just one night Mocoa got about one-third of the rain that would normally fall in a full month. The president also said the death toll would likely rise because there are still many people who are missing.
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, PRESIDENT OF COLOMBIA (through translator): We do not know how many there are going to be. We are still searching. But the first thing I want to say is that my heart, our hearts, the hearts of all Colombians are with the victims of this tragedy.
ROMO (voice-over): Santos has declared a state of emergency in the region. Electrical power and water were out in the Mocoa and the hospital system was shut down, according to firefighters. About 1,000 police officers and soldiers are helping in the search and rescue efforts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The difficulties we are facing are that it is still raining in the region and the avalanche turned up a considerable amount of land.
There are mobility issues on almost 80 percent of the roads and, where the road ends, it is three hours to the place where the avalanche took place.
ROMO: President Santos reported authorities have found 10 children who are alone and officials don't know if their parents died or are trapped somewhere in the debris -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
HOWELL: Rafael Romo was reporting there. Thank you.
ALLEN: In Venezuela, an abrupt about-face with the country's top court. The supreme court has reversed the ruling to strip the congress of power. The original decision published Wednesday sparked violent protest. HOWELL: The high court is stacked with supporters of the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, who now says, quote, "The controversy is over."
But there was still anger on the streets of the capital city on Saturday. CNN was here. Thousands demonstrating in Caracas in a show of support for the opposition-led national assembly.
Moving on now to Ecuador, voters there will head to the polls in just a matter of hours to pick the nation's next president. They are deciding between the pro-business candidate, Guillermo Lasso, or another five years of leftist policies with his rival, Lenin Moreno.
The election will affect the future of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Lasso has promised to kick him out of the Ecuadoran embassy in London if he wins the election.
ALLEN: New details concerning President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn are coming in.
HOWELL: We're learning now that Flynn did not list payments from a Russian television network and two other companies linked to Russia on a financial disclosure form that he signed in February. The payments do, however, appear on an amended form that was signed by Flynn on Friday. Ryan Nobles has more.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House has just released financial disclosure forms from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The forms tell us quite a bit about where Flynn made his money in 2016.
He took in a total of $1.5 million. He also had three different income sources, from speeches among them. The television network RT, which is the state-run television network. Also a cargo company and a cyber security firm.
Each one of these speeches paid Flynn at least $5,000. That's the minimum necessary to be reported on these forms. But we know through House Democrats that the speech that he gave to RT allowed Flynn to make as much as $45,000.
What's interesting about these three expenditures is that Flynn did not report these income sources on his February form but then added them on his March form.
The RT speech in particular is something that we've known about for some time. But we'd originally been told that the income from this speech was given for a speakers' bureau, not from RT directly.
This updated financial disclosure form shows the speech was indeed paid for by RT specifically.
You can bet this information is going to become a big issue for Democrats in particular as they continue to investigate the Trump campaign's connection to the Russian government as the Russian government's attempts to intervene in the American election -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: Ryan Nobles, thanks for the reporting.
Let's now bring in Jacob Parakilas, he is the assistant head of the U.S. and Americas program at Chatham House, joining us from London.
Great to have you with us. First, I want to read you the new statement that's coming from Flynn's attorney regarding his amended financial disclosure form.
It reads as follows, "General Flynn had only just begun a financial disclosure filing process. At the time he left the White House, he filed a draft form explicitly listing his speakers' bureau contract and he expected to engage in the usual process of consultations with the White House's counsel's office and Office of Government Ethics office regarding what he was expected to disclose.
"That process was suspended, however, after he resigned. When the White House asked him this week to complete the process and itemize the specific speaking events, he did so."
That is very important context to add to this story, Jacob, that we are following.
But, again, what does all of this tell people, the optics, regarding Mr. Flynn's trustworthiness and credibility?
JACOB PARAKILAS, CHATHAM HOUSE: I don't think it fundamentally changes the story. We have known for a long time that Flynn gave a paid speech to dinner celebrating the anniversary of RT. It's not exactly secret information that RT is a Russian state-owned enterprise that exists to advance the interests of Russia.
So this doesn't tell us anything new about Flynn's relationship with RT. It does tell us that he didn't think it was necessary immediately to disclose this. And I think most people would probably expect, if you are a high-ranking military officer and you were giving a speech to a media entity belonging to and advancing the interests of the Russian state, that would be something that you would probably want to disclose in the first round.
HOWELL: It's always interesting to get the perspective of people who are watching this story outside the United States. Obviously, this is the big story here the discussion about Michael Flynn seeking immunity and not getting that. Also all the questions about Russia and ties between Trump World and Russia. The question though being, what would you surmise is the state right now, the state of affairs, with the Trump administration, given so many different situations that they are dealing with? PARAKILAS: I think it's very hard to get a clear picture. Certainly the image from Europe is of lack of clarity, of being unsure where the U.S. government stands at the moment because there are so many threats, not only of the Russia story but also of everything else that's going on with the U.S. administration.
There's not a clear sense here of who in the United States government, aside from Donald Trump himself, is actually speaking for the U.S. government because you still have a Defense Department, a State Department, which are understaffed. It's not clear when the next budget is going to be signed, how that will change U.S foreign engagement with foreign policy, with defense policy.
So there are still a lot of open questions about how things are going to evolve over the next few months.
HOWELL: This is an administration struggling with the clarity and focus to get its agenda moving forward. But at the same time, Jacob, keep in mind, this is a president who spoke directly to many people in this country, speaking directly to the needs, their concerns, really indicating that there are two different universes, in fact.
People who saw the country one way, others who saw it differently and had very important needs that they wanted met.
So the question I have for you, given that there are people, many Trump supporters, who are looking at these things that are happening but are still supporting their president, the President of the United States, what's the perspective across the pond there about that?
PARAKILAS: Well, there's a very similar dynamic going on here, whether you look at the British vote to leave the European Union or the upcoming French elections and the rise of populism and nationalism in the European context.
So there's a lot of interest in how -- because the U.S. is, as it were, farther down the path. The U.S. election happened in November. The French elections are until later this year. German elections are also until later this year. So there's a lot of curiosity here and concern about how this shapes up.
If actually you get a nationalist president in, how they actually interact and intercept with the existing bureaucracies and whether the basics of how national policy is made remain the same.
There's a huge amount of curiosity and a huge amount of concern about whether this is an indication of what Europe's future looks like as well.
HOWELL: Jacob Parakilas, live for us in London. Jacob, thank you.
ALLEN: President Trump has three meetings with world leaders on his calendar for the coming week. Going to be a busy one. On, Monday, Egypt's president El Sisi will visit the White House in his first visit to Washington since being elected in 2014.
Wednesday, Mr. Trump will host King Abdullah of Jordan and Thursday and Friday --
ALLEN: -- Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Mr. Trump at his Mar-a-lago resort in Florida for their first face-to-face meeting and Donald Trump, our president, has said it should be a difficult one for him.
So up next here though, Russia is breaking for more opposition protests. We'll take you live there when we come back.
HOWELL: Plus the Russian president has been showing his respect for the Russian Orthodox Church. But some are asking, is it about political savvy more than spirituality? Ivan Watson takes a look for us as CNN NEWSROOM continues.
ALLEN: The search is on for a missing South Korean cargo ship off the coast of Uruguay. That's according to the Yonhap news agency citing South Korea's foreign ministry. The ship is from South Korea. The agency says crew members made a distress call Friday, saying the ship was sinking. Agence France Presse reports the Uruguayan navy says two sailors were rescued, the search continues for the others.
We turn to Russia, where more protests are expected to begin this hour after last Sunday's huge anti-corruption demonstrations.
HOWELL: Live images in the Russian capital, Moscow. this hour; 12:18 pm at the time. Some of the biggest rallies in the country since the protest wave of 2011 took place. Hundreds of people, including a prominent opposition figure, were arrested in Moscow for taking part last week -- last weekend.
ALLEN: Paula Newton is in the Russian capital for us and she joins us live.
Paula, what do they expect this weekend?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the pictures we are looking at are (INAUDIBLE) -- Red Square itself remains closed. And this follows the action by the government yesterday, saying that they observed five websites, at least, that they took down, saying that they were getting ready to assemble what they call an illegal protest.
In fact, the police department here, with the blessing of the interior minister, saying that the conduct of any action you see in terms of protest is unauthorized and they will take action against protesters if they try to assemble.
The whole situation there, as you can see in front of Red Square, is still a bit confusing. We are going to have to monitor over the next few hours to see if people do come out.
As you recall, the protests from last week, last weekend, there were many arrests. Some say as many as 1,000 people. And that may have acted as a deterrent.
NEWTON: Right now the leader of that protest, Alexei Navalny, still remains in prison but is promising more protests.
ALLEN: A little heavy-handed by the police last weekend. So we'll wait to see what happens today.
While you are here with us, of course, we have been talking about the investigation into Russia's involvement, perhaps, in the U.S. elections. I want to ask you -- we are going play a sound bite, two sound bites that we got from the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the secretary of defense, James Mattis, who were in Europe this week.
Here is what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to obviously have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, most particularly Eastern Europe, in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Russia's violations of international law are now a matter of record from what happened with Crimea to other aspects of their behavior and mucking around inside other people's elections and that sort of thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: So both members of the Trump administration, talking about Russia there and being pretty blunt there, especially Mr. Mattis.
What has Russia had any response to this?
NEWTON: Reaction on several fronts, specifically to those comments, the foreign ministry really fighting back and saying we consider the actions of NATO on our borders to be aggressive.
But Natalie, what you are seeing is an escalation on the war of words. As one Russian lawmaker commented, it does look a lot like we are back to square one, where we were with the Obama administration.
But it's also significant the fact that the ministry here has come out with a strongly worded statement, basically trying to act as if the U.S. coalition in Syria is complicit with ISIS questioning, the civilian casualties that the U.S. coalition, Russia claims, is responsible for on the ground.
And as I say, Natalie, given the heated environment right now with all of those investigations going on on Capitol Hill and the realization from both the Kremlin and the White House that any kind of normalization in relations is way in the offing, if it's even going to happen in this administration, you can certainly see the tension between Moscow and Washington and in these dueling statements back and forth that have been going on for the last 48 hours.
ALLEN: Absolutely. Very difficult time between the two countries. Paula Newton in Moscow, thank you.
HOWELL: Also in Russia, the recent past has seen the Russian Orthodox Church become the spiritual pillar of what some call Putinism.
ALLEN: It's another way for the Kremlin to promote a Russian national identity. Our story is from Ivan Watson in Moscow.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russian Orthodox faithful staging a show of force. Clerics and uniformed Cossacks marching around St. Isaac's Cathedral. This church in St. Petersburg is at the center of a debate over the resurgent role of the Russian Orthodox Church in modern-day Russia.
VITALY MILONOV (PH), RUSSIAN LAWMAKER: We're going to the true, real values, family, church, state.
WATSON (voice-over): Firebrand lawmaker Vitaly Milonov (ph) wants the church to play a bigger role in Russian society.
MILONOV (PH): This disease of anti-Christian activity will pass and, of course, in every country, like Russian America, will face a new, good renaissance, revival of true values against fake values.
WATSON (voice-over): During the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church was the target of brutal persecution. Atheists, Communists demolished churches like Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.
And though they left St. Isaac standing, the Soviets pillaged its treasures and executed its top priest. A recent government proposal to hand the cathedral to the direct management of the Russian Orthodox Church sparked rare public protests. Secular demonstrators formed a human chain around the building.
They demand the church remain a museum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am fine with the church as long as they mind their own business. But when they overstep their boundaries, like, say, on the question of abortions or middle school education or taking buildings like this, well, I'm not OK with that.
WATSON (voice-over): In the quarter century since the end of the Soviet Union, once loyal members of the atheist Communist Party have publicly embraced the Russian Orthodox Church. The Kremlin now works closely with the church's leader, Moscow patriarch Kiril (ph), who gives speeches in the national parliament.
But there are some rare critics within the clergy, who warn that the church has gotten too cozy with the Kremlin.
"I'm against this political union," says Father Andrei Kurayev (ph), an ex-speech writer for --
WATSON (voice-over): -- the former patriarch of Moscow.
"The church is being perceived as a ministry of the government that can threaten and arrest people," he says, "and this is very bad."
In 2000, Moscow rebuilt the demolished Christ the Savior Cathedral. That's where dozens of bishops from Russia and across the world gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the enthronement of patriarch Kiril (ph). In the front row of the congregation, volunteers from a new group of religious activists that calls itself the 40s-40s (ph) movement.
"We were experiencing the second baptism of Russia," the group's leader tells me.
"If there were no orthodox Christianity," he adds, "there would be no Russia."
Russia is still officially a secular country that is home to many religions but, as it enjoys its rebirth, the Russian Orthodox Church seems more and more like an extension of the Russian state -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Moscow.
HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, he was the U.S. president's national security adviser for only a few weeks. We now take a look at the political rise and fall of General Michael Flynn.
ALLEN: Plus, how Russia's army of Internet trolls tried fooling the U.S. during the 2016 election with a barrage of fake news.
HOWELL: CNN NEWSROOM is live from Atlanta, Georgia, this hour. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, you are watching CNN.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): -- Natalie Allen. Our top stories right now.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did not include thousands of dollars in payments from three Russian companies on a government financial disclosure form that he filed in February.
Flynn did include the fees in an amended disclosure form, which he then filed on Friday and in a just released statement, his attorney says that Flynn acted properly. CNN's Randi Kaye takes a closer look at Flynn's political rise and fall.
GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce the next President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was a lifelong Democrat, yet during campaign 2016, General Michael Flynn found himself on the trail stumping for then Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
FLYNN: As a kid who grew up in a very strong Democratic neighborhood up in the state of Rhode Island, I don't recognize the Democratic Party that I learned about.
KAYE (voice-over): So when he first met Donald Trump, Flynn was impressed.
FLYNN: I felt the conversation that we had was enlightening to me.
KAYE (voice-over): Flynn is a retired three-star lieutenant general who holds three college degrees, including an MBA. He has 33 years of military experience, serving as a commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and later as the director of intelligence for U.S. Central Command.
And President Barack Obama nominated him to be the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's main spy service, in 2012.
He was forced out of that role two years later, he says, for publicly questioning Obama's narrative that Al Qaeda was close to defeat.
He later told Politico, "That was Obama's big lie, that the enemy was on the run and we were beating these guys."
Flynn felt he still had more to give to his country. So come 2016, he aligned himself with Team Trump.
FLYNN: Get fired up. This is about this country.
KAYE (voice-over): In July last year, at the Republican National Convention, Flynn delivered a fiery speech. FLYNN: We are tired of Obama's empty speeches and his misguided rhetoric. This, this has caused the world to have no respect for America's word nor does it fear our might.
KAYE (voice-over): He also had harsh words for Hillary Clinton.
FLYNN: Lock her up. That's right. Yes, that's right. Lock her up.
KAYE (voice-over): That same month, Flynn was scrutinized after he retweeted a message bashing Jewish people. It was in response to comments the Clinton campaign had made about Russia hacking the Democratic National Committee.
He retweeted this controversial comment that said, "The USSR is to blame. Not anymore, Jews, not anymore."
Flynn later apologized.
KAYE: After Trump won the election, he named Flynn as his national security adviser. No one could have predicted Flynn would only hold that job for 23 days. That's right, 23 days. Flynn resigned after misleading the vice president and others about the substance of phone calls he'd had with the Russian ambassador.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked with General Flynn yesterday and the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia.
KAYE (voice-over): Turns out, that wasn't true. Secret transcripts of Flynn's intercepted calls showed Flynn did discuss sanctions, a potential violation of federal law.
After Flynn texted Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 25th to wish him a Merry Christmas, the ambassador texted Flynn three days later, asking, "I would like to give you a call.
The next day they talked by phone --
KAYE (voice-over): -- the very same day President Obama ordered extra sanctions on Russia.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn's resignation.
KAYE (voice-over): Flynn later wrote this letter of resignation, explaining he'd inadvertently briefed the vice president and others with incomplete information.
Flynn also raised eyebrows in August 2016, during a speech when he referred to Islamism as a, quote "cancer in the body of Muslims." FLYNN: We are facing another ism, just like we faced Nazism and fascism and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism. And it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet. And it has to be excised.
KAYE (voice-over): As Flynn's lawyer likes to say, his client has quite a story to tell -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
HOWELL: And General Flynn recently seeking immunity.
Again, as Randi Kaye points out, his attorney saying he has quite a story to tell, immunity in exchange for testimony. But that has not been taken up yet.
ALLEN: This week experts testify before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that the Russian government had an army of Internet trolls that tried to dupe the country during the 2016 election.
HOWELL: In some cases, it worked, in fact. Brian Todd shows us how.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It started with several tweets alleging a terrorist attack at the Incirlik airbase in Turkey last summer. Russian state media outlets, RT and Sputnik, posted variations of the story. Soon, even Donald Trump's campaign manager apparently thought it was true, repeating it on CNN.
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There's plenty of news to cover this week that I haven't seen covered. You had the NATO base in Turkey being under attack by terrorists.
TODD (voice-over): No attack had in fact occurred at the base. Researchers say it's an example of fake reports spread online, on purpose, with the help of pro-Russian users in what's believed to be a disinformation campaign supported by Vladimir Putin, all designed to influence elections and sow dissent and confusion in the West.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a coordinated information campaign and a deliberate strategy. So they pick their objectives in the information space.
TODD (voice-over): In another case, a leaked email from Hillary Clinton's campaign in which she asked a question about a treatment for Parkinson's disease, was spun into a fake story alleging she was sick, triggering allegations and chatter that the Democratic candidate had the disease.
Researchers say the story was shared and reposted by pro-Russian sites and read 8 million times, evidence, experts say, of how Russia was trying to throw last year's election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How easy is it for them to spread bogus stories? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once they build an audience with their accounts, it's very easy to do that just through amplification. Anytime you have the ability to promote a story hundreds or thousands of times, than that puts into trending feeds. Once it's in a trending feed, it takes on a life of its own.
TODD (voice-over): Experts who researched Russia's fake news campaign testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, explaining how Putin's government uses an army of trolls, online critics, who push their agendas to confuse and frighten audiences in the West, an idea that played out dramatically on the Showtime series, "Homeland," a troll factory, where hundreds of employees toll away, hosting fake tweets under fake names.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HOMELAND")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq Bob. That's me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Navy Wife.
That's me, too.
TODD (voice-over): Their marching orders, post phony stories and tweets and spread them as widely as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a newsstand, talking points in your folders. Get outraged.
TODD (voice-over): Experts say the real-life troll factories used by Russians may not look as slick as the TV version but they are real. They say paid trolls who spread fake reports can amplify their impact using botnets, thousands of other people's computers infected with viruses and harnessed to do their bidding.
Analysts say Putin's goal is to create distrust among Americans and their allies in their political systems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't just want to discredit U.S. elections, they wanted to discredit Hillary Clinton. Sowing division within the European Union, these are all things that are part of the Russian agenda.
TODD: When asked about accusations of Russian interference in America's elections, Vladimir Putin said, quote, "Read my lips, no."
But experts who testified before Congress say we can expect Putin's government to continue to support fake news campaigns. They say, for Putin, it's easy, it's effective. And best of all for him, it often can't be traced directly back to him -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: Brian Todd giving us a very good explanation of what fake news is. But just so important to point out the difference, the distinction between fake news and the dedicated men and women, the people who are really committed to good, quality journalism, who got into this profession to give people the news.
ALLEN: And what's so important is that they say, you know, when people, the citizens are ill informed or uninformed, you no longer have democracy. It's very, very scary --
ALLEN: -- what is going on and people can't decide what is credible and what is not.
HOWELL: I know here at CNN, we are all committed and dedicated to pushing forward with news.
ALLEN: We certainly are.
Coming here, once the ancestral home of many Christians, one Iraqi town has basically been abandoned. Wait until you see what ISIS did to their church. That's ahead.
HOWELL: Plus Pope Francis heads to Northern Italy to bless the rebuilding of a city ravaged by a deadly earthquake. Details ahead as CNN NEWSROOM continues.
ALLEN: A Christian community right outside Mosul, which has been under siege for many, many months and more than that, ISIS, was abandoned after ISIS took over. More than 60,000 people fled as the militants vandalized, looted and burned their homes.
HOWELL: One of the town's biggest churches actually became a place for target practice. And the rest of the area is a ghost town. Ben Wedeman reports for us.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A small flock has returned for mass in the charred ruins of the Church of Mary the Immaculate in Qaraqosh near Mosul.
ISIS set fire to the church and used its courtyard as a firing range.
Jakub Panak (ph) came home to Qaraqosh a week ago and has yet to recover from his shock.
"I felt pain," he recalls, "my eyes filled with tears."
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Setvana (ph) is back just for mass and says, "This is the first time I returned to this church."
And then she's at a loss for words.
Archbishop Yohanna Butos Moshi (ph) struggled to help residents through the trauma but worries the specter of ISIS still hovers nearby.
"We expected everything in Qaraqosh. Theft, damage and destruction," he tells me.
"But arson, for us, is a message, a threatening message that the idea of ISIS is still here in the region. And that's what we fear."
Today this once-prosperous Christian community is a ghost town of empty streets, blown-out buildings, gutted shops, everywhere reminders of ISIS' hatred for everything Qaraqosh stood for.
Workers have erected a large cross at one of the main roundabouts to signal the town's liberation. But it's just a symbol. Before ISIS took over this town in the summer of 2014, more than 60,000 people called it home.
Now months after it was liberated, only a handful of families has returned. Without electricity and running water, without help to get life moving again, most residents are hesitant to return.
Businessman Tofiq Sukka (ph) moved back two months ago. At a generator running nearby he shows a list of everything ISIS looted from his businesses.
"The central government," he says, "hasn't restored power or water. It's completely neglecting the Christians."
Some residents have returned, briefly, to bury the dead. Friends and relatives bid final farewell to 83-year-old Nasira, a nun who fled Qaraqosh and died in Erbil. She, at least, has returned in death to the town of her birth -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Qaraqosh, Northern Iraq.
HOWELL: Ben, thank you for the report.
Pope Francis is visiting the Northern Italian city of Carpi, it's the site of the devastating earthquake that took place back in 2012. More than 20 people were killed and dozens of buildings destroyed in that 5.8-magnitude earthquake.
ALLEN: Earlier the pope celebrated mass in front of the Cathedral of Carpi, which just reopened last week.
HOWELL: Delia Gallagher is live with us in Rome, following the story.
More on the pope's visit -- Delia.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George and Natalie, the pope is just finishing mass in front of the Cathedral of Carpi, which as you mentioned, just opened last week after five years from the 2012 earthquake which devastated this area known as Emilio Romana (ph) in the center north of Italy.
Now why is the pope returning there five years later?
Pope Benedict XVI toured the area right after the earthquakes happened. But as so often happens, then the spotlight turns away and the people are left to carry on and try to rebuild their lives.
Pope Francis has come back with a message to say we are still here with you, we are reopening this cathedral, which is a moment of celebration. But there is still a lot of work to be done in this town and other towns.
In the afternoon, the pope will go to a nearby town called Mirandola, which still has a cathedral that is closed from the damage due to the 2012 earthquake. Now interestingly, just after the mass, the pope is going to bless some stones that is are going to be used to help rebuild other church offices in the area.
One of those stones is coming from a church in Iraq. You just had Ben Wedeman's report on a Christian church in Mosul. One of the stones from a church in Iraq that was destroyed has been brought here to Carpi. The pope will bless it and it will be used to help rebuild this Italian town.
He will also meet with some of the families of the 28 people who lost their lives in the 2012 earthquakes, including a Muslim family. This is an area with immigrant population from India and Pakistan. The pope will lay a wreath at a memorial for the victims of that 2012 earthquake -- George, Natalie.
HOWELL: Delia Gallagher live for us, following the pope's visit there. Delia, thanks for the reporting.
CNN NEWSROOM will be back after the break.
HOWELL: Yes, it is April but March Madness is not quite over yet. The semifinals wrapped up on Saturday and the teams played with the NCAA men's basketball title are set. North Carolina, one nail-biter, against Oregon, edging out the Ducks, 77-76.
ALLEN: And now they'll take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Monday's final. It's the first championship appearance for Gonzaga, which beat South Carolina in their semifinal, 77-73. It is familiar territory for North Carolina, the Tarheels aiming for their sixth national championship.
Will Gonzaga stop that?
We will see.
Finally this hour, some artists paint, some sculpt.
HOWELL: Well, one artist in France has am entirely unique way of doing it.
ALLEN: You could say.
HOWELL: Cyril Vanier reports for us.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): At first glance, the latest performance hatched by a French artist may not look like much. But Abraham Morcheval (ph) hopes he really lays an egg this time. And that would be a good thing. Morcheval (ph) is on display at the Contemporary Art Museum in Paris, where he is mimicking a mother hen, using his body heat to incubate 10 eggs inside this vivarium (ph) --
VANIER (voice-over): -- until they hatch.
"I will, broadly speaking, become a chicken," he recently told reporters. Museum visitors seem to love it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is putting all his passion (ph) into his like art.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's great.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going to sit there for days. Like how are they doing that, you know.
You see the commitment.
VANIER (voice-over): Morcheval (ph) has made a career out of artistic stunts like this. Last month, he spent a week in a body-shaped slot inside a rock.
In 2014, he spent two weeks inside a bear sculpture. The artist says the best way to understand his subjects is not from a distance but by entering them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I think that for him and, in the end, for the visitors, it's about having new perspectives on the living world. In the end, maybe the borders between men and animal are more porous than we imagine.
VANIER (voice-over): Morcheval (ph) will be able to leave his enclosure for up to 30 minutes a day although he doesn't even have to get up to relieve himself. His artistic game of chicken is expected to take 21-26 days -- that is, if he doesn't crack first -- Cyril Vanier, CNN.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Natalie, I have to say, that is just eggs-traordinary.
ALLEN: That is one unusual story.
ALLEN: I know. I'm not even going to make eye contact with you for that.
ALLEN: Thanks for joining us this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For viewers here in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For other viewers around the world, "BELIEVER" with Reza Aslan starts in a moment.
Thank you for watching CNN and putting up with my corny jokes.