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CNN NEWSROOM

Weapons Inspectors Gain Access to Douma, Syria; Trump Slams Report His Lawyer Cohen Could Flip; World Reacts to North Korea's Suspension of Nuclear Testing; India Pushes to Punish Child Rapists; At Least 10 People Killed in Clashes over Social Security; Earth Day Highlights Environmental Crisis; Record Number of Women Running for U.S. Political Office. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 22, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Chemical weapons inspectors finally arrive in the Syrian city of Douma but many fear they may be too late to gather evidence.

U.S. President Donald Trump comes to his attorney's defense.

And taking aim at plastic pollution. How experts and activists are coming together on Earth Day. It is a worldwide problem.

These stories and much more ahead. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen and NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: It has been two weeks since a suspected chemical attack in Syria killed dozens of people. And now after days of being held up in Damascus, an international monitoring group is able to investigate.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says its fact finding team collected samples in Douma on Saturday. They will test for banned substances, including chlorine and sarin, which the U.S. believes the Syrian government used to bomb the rebel-held town.

We want to warn you, this next video is disturbing.

After the attack, activists released footage of people being hosed down. Other video showing dead children and gravely wounded civilians. The dead, foaming at the mouth.

Meantime Syria and its powerful ally, Russia, deny there was a chemical attack at all.

CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is following all of this from Moscow.

Bottom line here, Sam, Russia is trying to convince the world there was no chemical attack when it's widely believed there was. Russia has also denied it was behind the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. when the world widely disagreed with that.

So the world is saying to Russia, you're not telling the truth and Russia continues its denies. It is a an odd dance, isn't it?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a very odd dance. And it's one that will go around and around almost indefinitely until, at least, the OPCW comes out with its findings which may be some time away.

They have to ship the samples back to Europe and distribute them to the laboratories around Europe that do this kind of testing and then report back. Now what the OPCW will not do is ascribe blame to anybody.

What it will only do is say what, if any, chemical weapons were used in these attacks. There have been allegations that the Russians and the Syrians may have sanitized the area. This area of Douma is under the control of the Russian military police, who have been able to escort journalists safely in there.

But apparently only on Saturday was it possible for the OPCW to get their people in. This is an independent organization that works with the help of the United Nations but not under the United Nations. And the Russians have been calling for some time for this whole process to be questioned, really, because, in their view, there either wasn't an attack or there was one staged by the Syrian rebels.

That allegation actually goes back to the beginning of the year almost, when the general, the head of the Russian armed forces, said that the Russians and Syrians had intelligence that the rebels were planning what they call a false flag attack.

So it is all a question of muddying the water. But it has had some resonance with critics of Western airstrikes, not only outside of the West but within the British body politic, for example. A lot of criticism, a lot of suspicion that perhaps these airstrikes that were carried out with aircraft from the United Kingdom, France and led by the United States were premature, that they acted without sufficient information. That charge of course rejected by the governments of those three countries.

ALLEN: And as far as the reaction from the world on this, the U.S. has kind of waffled this week on whether it's imposing more sanctions on Russia for the alleged chemical attack.

What's the view from Moscow on that?

KILEY: Well, again, I think that the Russians have certainly been rattled financially by the targeted sanctions the United States imposed some weeks ago. Now they had a very profound effect immediately on, for example, Rosol (ph), which is the big aluminum company here, listed on --

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KILEY: -- overseas stock exchanges. Its share price has crashed by more than 50-70 percent.

The ruble tumbled by 4 percent, continues to be extremely weak. That was the last time around that the Russians -- sorry, the Americans imposed sanctions on the Russians.

Then we had that business between Nikki Haley a week ago announcing that more sanctions were coming down the tracks toward the Russians, that was stopped the following day by president Donald Trump.

There were some talks on the fringes of the IMF last Friday between Steven Mnuchin and his Russian counterpart in D.C., again on the issue of sanctions, a suspicion perhaps that, once again, Donald Trump is backpedaling or soft-pedaling with the Russians.

The Russians are very, very seriously affected by sanctions, whatever they may say; their economy is being stifled by the sanctions that go back to the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine some years back now.

So those are the areas where the Russians are most sensitive and most vulnerable. In matters of international diplomacy, allegations of support for chemical weapons within Syria and so on, they are very good at throwing out chaff, if you like, and questioning the veracity of the sorts of reports coming out of the West.

ALLEN: And speaking of odd dances, yes. The relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin would be one also. Thanks so much, Sam Kiley for us there in Moscow.

In other news involving president Donald Trump, he is harshly pushing back against speculation his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, could turn on him. The president lashed out on Twitter against "The New York Times" after an article suggested Cohen might cooperate with investigators looking into his business dealings. Our Boris Sanchez has more.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president lashing out on Twitter Saturday, attacking, among others, "The New York Times" and one of its reporters, Maggie Haberman. The president taking exception to an article published Friday that indicates that he's had a troubled relationship historically with his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The article suggests that Cohen could potentially flip on President Trump, something that searches have told CNN that legal experts have told the president he should prepare for; that is, if Michael Cohen has any incriminating information about President Trump, that he may comply with investigators in order to get a more lenient sentence.

The president responding to those suggestions via Twitter, saying that he does not believe that Cohen would do that, even going as far as to say that other people in similar situations have made up stories to investigators in order to get lighter sentences.

Now the reporter behind that story, Maggie Haberman, is standing by her reporting. She cites six different sources that indicates that historically President Trump has treated his personal attorney like an animal. Listen to this.

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MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Michael Cohen, over the years, has done all kinds of things at the president's urging because the president wanted him to, because he came to intuit what he thought the president would want. It didn't always work out. Sometimes those things were handled in a way that was rather ham-fisted or that came back to bite the president later. The Stormy Daniels case would be one of them.

But Cohen was basically trying to do right by his boss and was seeking his boss' approval. And Trump, time after time, treated him -- you know, Trump is very fond of using the phrase, "like a dog."

He treated Cohen quite poorly over a period of time.

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SANCHEZ: Also drawing the president's ire on Saturday, former FBI director James Comey, who has continued his media tour, promoting his new book, "A Higher Loyalty," a book that is disparaging of the president.

Trump on Saturday calling James Comey yet again a leaker who revealed classified information. The president also went further in his attacks on Democrats after news Friday that the DNC had filed a lawsuit that named members of Trump's campaign as well as Russians and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, suggesting that those three conspired to interfere in the 2016 election. The president mocking that lawsuit on Saturday -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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ALLEN: In other political news, former U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not committing to supporting President Trump for reelection. Romney was a fierce critic of Trump during the primaries of the presidential race in 2016.

But two months ago, President Trump fully endorsed Romney to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate from the state of Utah and Romney accepted the president's endorsement.

On Saturday, the former Massachusetts governor did not win his party's nomination for that Senate seat. That means he will have to compete against a state lawmaker in a Republican primary vote in June.

Let's talk politics and the Trump White House with --

[04:10:00] ALLEN: -- Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent for "The New York Times." He joins us now from Brussels.

Nice to see you, Steven.

First of all, let's talk Cohen, the story about the president's fixer, his attorney, Michael Cohen, who has allegedly done Mr. Trump's dirty work involving payoffs to porn actresses. Now Cohen is being investigated in a civil and federal court.

How damaging could this be for the president?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think it could be very damaging. Michael Cohen knows a lot of the secrets. James Comey talks about President Trump acting like a mafia boss and maybe that's a bit harsh.

But Trump has had a private business. He trusts very few people. He trusts his family, which we know; his daughter, his son-in-law most of the time. He probably trusts his accountant and he normally trusts his lawyer.

Michael Cohen has been one of his important lawyers. So he has handled a lot of the nasty stuff in Trump's life and probably a lot of the complicated stuff.

There is still the report out there, which Mr. Cohen has denied but others suggest might be true, that he had traveled to Prague during the campaign to meet with a Russian. Again, he denies it.

But there's no question he's in some trouble; when the FBI raids a lawyer's home and office, it's usually because there's a big issue there. And Mr. Trump is clearly very upset that the FBI would be looking into his private businesses.

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ALLEN: Right. And we'll talk about that.

Yes. The question of Cohen flipping and cooperating with investigators has the president flipping out. He is furious, especially at "The New York Times" reporter Maggie Haberman. She's repeatedly gotten scoops from the White House and hasn't had to walk them back.

Bottom line, though, the big story from the fired FBI director this week, Comey, was about whether Trump wanted his loyalty. And now his most trusted lawyer's loyalty is being questioned.

One can understand that would make this president quite angry.

ERLANGER: Well, it does clearly. I think Maggie Haberman defends herself very well. The thing that was almost amusing was Trump saying that never talks to her, when of course he talks to her a lot. She's been coverage him for a very long time. And there is this wonderful picture on Twitter of them together in the Oval Office. ALLEN: Right.

ERLANGER: But Trump feels this investigation coming closer to him. There is no question. It is distracting from the other things that he is trying to do as president. His supporters resent it. He resents it but you have the feeling that the jaws of justice are crunching down.

And he really hates it.

ALLEN: Right, he can feel it moving in on him from many directions.

Which might be the bigger threat, Russia collusion or Cohen?

ERLANGER: Well, it is hard to know. Frankly, I'm not inside Mueller's head or his office. But I think it would be very hard to prove that Donald Trump himself was aware and involved in any collusion with the Russians.

Now people who work for him may have been -- or maybe they didn't see it as collusion or maybe they just were looking for help wherever they could get it. A presidential campaign that looked very dark from them, particularly from the beginning. So I really very much doubt Trump himself will be personally grabbed by that.

Now if he turns out to have broken the law before he became president or in his private business, there is always the question of whether a president can be indicted, particularly when he is in office.

Again, I don't believe unless the Democrats win resoundingly in the midterm elections Trump will be impeached. If he is impeached, I very much doubt he'll be convicted. But this will be hanging over his head throughout his entire presidency it feels like.

And so it is really going to get in his head. I mean, this is a man who is very impulsive, who believes that a good offense is the best defense, who will almost tweet anything if he feels his supporters will be moved by this and is feeling cornered. There's no question. This is not a happy place for President Trump to be.

ALLEN: So maybe he can cling to North Korea and the hopeful door opening there as a bright spot. We'll have to get into that next time, we'll have plenty of opportunities --

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ALLEN: -- to do that. Thank you, Steven Erlanger, as always.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Natalie.

ALLEN: And coming up after the break, North Korea, as we just mentioned, suspending its nuclear tests just days before a summit with the South. We'll have a live report from Seoul on what this could mean for the people there.

Plus former presidents and more than 1,000 mourners gathered to honor the life of former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush.

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ALLEN: North and South Korea are less than one week from an historic summit. As a goodwill gesture, the North says it will no longer test its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. That surprise move is getting generally favorably reaction around the world, it is indeed a hopeful sign.

Paula Hancocks joins us now from Seoul.

I guess the question is, Paula, what will we learn about his motives in what Kim Jong-un really wants in this upcoming summit?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the key question that no one has the answer to. The only person who knows why Kim Jong-un --

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HANCOCKS: -- is doing this is Kim Jong-un himself.

It was an interesting announcement, saying that he was no longer going to test nuclear and missile program. What we heard before was second- hand from the South Korean envoy that had been to talk to Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and he told them that he wasn't going to test any weapons during negotiations.

So he's gone one step further. He had already said that he believed he had completed his nuclear and missile program at the beginning of the year, in his New Year's address, when he started to open his hands toward South Korea.

He had said that he was happy with where his country was as regards that program. Now there certainly are some positive feeling about Kim Jong-un saying this. There are also questions about whether or not it will actually lead to denuclearization.

Will this mean that the North Korean leader is willing to give up any of these weapons?

There is a resounding feeling that Kim Jong-un is simply not going to give up all of his nuclear weapons. He has consistently said he wouldn't. He has consistently said that it is part of his state ideology; it's written into the constitution. He believes North Korea is a nuclear state.

So it's very difficult to see how you get from that positive statement on Saturday to an agreement which the United States would be happy with, which is complaint, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

ALLEN: So much riding on this initial meeting. It will be so interesting to see what comes out of it. We know you'll be covering it for us. Paula Hancocks, there in Seoul, thank you, Paula.

Tough, loving, compassionate and funny, that is how family and friends described former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush at her funeral on Saturday.

Our Kaylee Hartung reports from Houston.

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JEB BUSH (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: As I stand here today to share a few words about my mom, I feel her looming presence behind me. And I know exactly what she is thinking right now.

"Jeb, keep it short. Don't drag this out."

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barbara Bush wanted a simple funeral service. Perhaps more important to the former first lady, she wanted it to run on time and it did. With 1,500 invited guests, her extraordinary life and legacy was honored.

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN: Barbara Bush was the first lady of the greatest generation. She was candid and comforting, steadfast and straightforward.

REV. RUSS LEVENSON, ST. MARTIN'S EVANGELICAL CHURCH: What you saw was what you got. What was in here came out here.

HARTUNG (voice-over): There was laughter, courtesy of Barbara's own jokes.

SUSAN GARRETT BAKER, FRIEND: He may not be able to keep a job, but he is certainly not boring.

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BUSH: She called her style a benevolent dictatorship, but, honestly, it wasn't always benevolent.

MEACHAM: Mother and son needled each other to the end. In her final days, while the 43rd president was visiting, Ms. Bush asked one of her doctors if she would like to know why George W. had turned out the way he had.

And then she announced, "I smoked and drank while I was pregnant."

HARTUNG (voice-over): There were tears, as her granddaughters read scripture and her grandsons served as pallbearers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She opens her mouth with wisdom.

HARTUNG (voice-over): And an overwhelming sense of appreciation and respect for the matriarch of a Republican political dynasty.

BUSH: The little things we learned became habits and they led to bigger things, like be kind, always tell the truth, never disparage anyone, serve others.

HARTUNG (voice-over): The service to celebrate Ms. Bush, her wit, candor and her commitment to literacy was also a tribute to the love she shared with her husband of 73 years.

BUSH: My dad is a phenomenal letter writer. And he would write Mom on their wedding anniversaries, which totaled an amazing 73 years.

Here is one of them, written on January 6th, 1994.

"Will you marry me? Oops, I forget, we did that 49 years ago."

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BUSH: "I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I'm even happier today. You have given me joy that few men know. You have made our boys into men by bawling them out and then right away by loving them.

You have helped Doro be the sweetest, greatest daughter in the whole wide world. I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara's husband."

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HARTUNG (voice-over): On the way to her final resting place at George H. W. Bush's Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, a motorcade through the city of Houston gave this community an opportunity to join in the final goodbye -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Houston, Texas.

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ALLEN: Important to note that Barbara Bush was only the second woman in the United States to be both the wife of a president --

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ALLEN: -- and the mother of a president.

Billions of people are celebrating the planet Sunday. It is Earth Day and shining a light on a major pollution problem across the world. Coming up, I'll ask an expert, how we can help fight plastic pollution?

Plus: salacious accusations against an American actress and her alleged part in a secretive sex cult.

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ALLEN: Welcome back. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories. (HEADLINES)

ALLEN: Sunday we celebrate the planet we all call home. More than --

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ALLEN: -- 1 billion people around the world observe Earth Day. And this year, they'll focus on plastic pollution. Look at that video right there to get a sense of how bad it is. It is a global problem that is much more than just not recycling a water bottle.

Environmentalists say enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times; 50 percent is used only once before being thrown away. And it can take from 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose.

Our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is joining us with more on the plastic pollution wrapping our planet and it is certainly a huge problem.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Happy Earth Day.

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ALLEN: Happy Earth Day. We have a long way to go.

CABRERA: We usually do not have good news about it. You've got your reusable bag; we do what we can. But it's up to governments and corporations to --

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ALLEN: Some cities have banned plastic straws, won't use plastics --

CABRERA: Australia has done that; California, no plastic bags, either, but we've got a ways to go and that plastic, by the way, also not only does it not degrade for 500-1,000 years but it does so slowly and as that happens, the particles become small enough for marine life to have issues here.

Eight million metric tons we dump it into the ocean to add to the 5 trillion pieces of plastic that are already in the world's oceans. And about a million sea birds get killed annually as a result of that, about 100,000 marine mammals as well.

Plastic does degrade and when it degrades to the point where you can no longer see it and it becomes microscopic, that's when marine life can ingest it. So fish will eat it, inadvertently, and then we eat the fish. And you know what happens there.

So absolutely not only harming marine life but also us as well. Let's talk about where the garbage patches are. The word is a bit of a misnomer because it's not something you can see from space. Even if you were in a cruise ship it's not like it's a giant island of trash. It's widely dispersed, which is why it's difficult to get rid of.

And the boundaries aren't perfectly circular. In fact because of waves and currents, they become diffuse. So this is the area that we know most of the concentration is at across the Eastern Pacific and across the Western Pacific.

The problem is you get this convergence zone here, where the wind doesn't do much and so all that garbage just kind of sits there and accumulates to the point where we're now at 5 trillion pieces of plastic.

As I mentioned, marine life has a very hard time doing so, but there is what we have here on this Earth Day 2018. We always focus on different things. There are so many things to focus on.

How do you make plastic?

You need oil. So there's that. CO2 emissions go up about 50 percent under the atmosphere and half of that goes into the world's oceans. We have had issues with marine life and also with coral, almost half of it at the Great Coral Barrier Reef in Australia is gone because of the bleaching there. The water temperature is going up.

ALLEN: We are going to talk about a possible solution and talk with a plastic expert about what he thinks about that. Ivan, thank you.

Despite the dangers of plastic pollution, there is some hope; scientists may have accidentally discovered how to break plastic up. Robyn Curnow has that for us.

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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): PET is found in everything, from plastic bottles to clothing. First developed in the 1940s, it is now a major part of our plastic problem.

Euromonitor International forecasts that more than 600 billion PET bottles will be made next year alone. PET can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment. But now, scientists have stumbled upon a shortcut.

JOHN MCGEEHAN, PROFESSOR, STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH: To a couple of years ago, there was a Japanese group that have made this spectacular discovery of a bacteria that can digest PET plastic in a recycling dump in Japan. And what we've done is we've taken the enzyme that this bacteria produces --

CURNOW: That enzyme is called PETase. It works, but it doesn't work fast enough to use on an industrial scale. Using this particle accelerator in Oxfordshire, U.K., begin along with his colleagues in Brazil and the U.S. examined the enzyme right down to the atomic level. They found that by tweaking it slightly, it could break down plastic at an even faster rate.

MCGEEHAN: The bacteria can break this down in a matter of days or weeks. But what we're hoping to do with the enzyme is just in the same way years, an enzyme and a biological washing detergent breaking down grass stains. These enzymes we hope can break down PET, ideally in a matter of hours. That's our goal. CURNOW: McGeehan says it was the scientific community that developed plastics. And now that same community must use all the technology at their disposal --

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CURNOW: -- to find solutions to problems plastics have caused.

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ALLEN: Let's talk about this issue with an expert on plastic. Dr. Marcus Eriksen is an ocean pollution expert and executive director and co-founder of the Five Gyres Institute.

Marcus, thanks for joining us. It's good to see you.

DR. MARCUS ERIKSEN, FIVE GYRES INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: We just saw a story about technology that may help break down plastic, sounds like a hopeful step. There's a lot of innovation in this area.

Will that help?

ERIKSEN: You know, it's interesting technology and might have a place inside the middle of a landfill where it's already buried. But PET, there are already systems to get back PET bottles, redemption programs where bottles are a nickel or 10 cents a bottle are very effective to get those bottles back and keep them within a circular economy.

That's what we are after. I have one hesitation for GMO organisms is that if you lose those out into the environment in the oceans, we have got boats and buoys and fishing nets and safety equipment and life jackets, all these things already made of plastics. I don't want those getting eaten by some organism that we invent.

ALLEN: Yes, even whales are getting stuck in fishing apparatus and being killed. We see a lot of those videos on YouTube.

Marcus, I know that years ago you built a boat made of plastic, called it Junk and sailed it from California to Hawaii to bring attention to the issue of plastic in our oceans.

How many years ago was that?

And are we getting the message in a significant way in this world?

ERIKSEN: That was one thing that we did about 10 years ago. And that's when I saw that there wasn't a lot of attention to all of the other gyres in the world where plastic accumulates.

South of the equator, the South Pacific, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, the West Pacific, East Atlantic, are all unknown ocean regions. I've sailed through all of those five gyres since then and I'm finding all kinds of impacts from plastics. Like we typically find bottles in the middle of the ocean bitten by

sea turtles or by trigger fish. Once (INAUDIBLE) plastics, (INAUDIBLE) go out to sea, they have devastating impacts but not just on land.

We were in the desert just about two years ago with a veterinarian. And he took me out to the desert and he said, look, you have got plastics impacting camels. And he showed me a camel skeleton, inside the rib cage, I pulled out a massive wad of about 200 plastic bags that that camel had ingested.

So it's (INAUDIBLE) plastics. So it's what I see happening the last 10 years --

ALLEN: That's unbelievable, by the way.

Go ahead.

ERIKSEN: Yes, it was so shocking to me. And he showed me five of these skeletons. Each one had a wad of plastic bags in its gut. And plastic bags are one of several single-use plastic items. What I'm seeing that's encouraging are more and more communities and states across the U.S. that are saying the single-use plastic, the concept of using material designed to last forever for a product we throw away is kind of nonsensical.

So we're seeing more communities replacing those, like plastic straws with paper straws, plastic bags with reusables, plastic bottles with reusable stainless steel mugs. So we are seeing that cultural shift, where like cigarettes became taboo to smoke in public, we are seeing the same thing with single-use plastics, the straw, the bag, the foam polystyrene cup are becoming a bit taboo to have around because of their ability to pollute so easily.

ALLEN: Is there one place that people begin to wrap here that can go on the Internet?

What are the keywords they should put in so they can understand how to pull back on their use of plastic?

ERIKSEN: I think if they go to 5gyres.org, that's the number 5-G-Y-R- E-S, there's a whole list of things that you can do in your home, your office, your school to get to a zero-waste culture. And that's what we're after.

ALLEN: All right, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, thank you so much. We really appreciate your help on this one.

ERIKSEN: Thank you. My pleasure.

ALLEN: So Happy Earth Day, everyone, and good luck with that mission on plastic.

Actress Allison Mack is known for playing Superman's friend on an American TV show. Now she is facing charges of sex trafficking for a mysterious organization. We'll have that story ahead here. Plus a record number of women are running for office in the U.S. this year and many of them say that one person is the reason for that.

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ALLEN (voice-over): That is gunfire in Riyadh as Saudi security forces shot down a toy drone that flew too close to palaces in the capital Saturday. The government said there was no major security breach but officials are investigating.

Security has been tightened around the palace as recently as reforms by the crown prince risk angering religion hardliners. And Iran- backed Houthi rebels who are in a long-running conflict with Saudi Arabia have tried to target Riyadh with drones in the past.

India's cabinet has approved a measure to make child rape punishable by death. The prime minister has been under increasing pressure due to sustained public protests over sexual violence, particularly the recent rape and murder of a young Muslim girl.

We get the latest from CNN's Nikhil Kumar in New Delhi.

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NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: First, they were shocked, then outraged, another law has been changed as the rape and murder of a defenseless rural Muslim girl continues to shake India.

Responding to growing public anger, India's cabinet passed an executive order, Saturday, making the rape of a girl below 12 a capital crime punishable by the death penalty. Only months ago, the same government, led by India's prime minister Narendra Modi, rejected calls to introduce capital punishment in case of the child rape.

But Modi has been under pressure ever since the girl's case hit headlines this month.

And investigators say she was abducted, brutally raped and murdered by several men. Eight Hindus have been arrested in connection with her death. Their motive: to drive her community of Muslims out of their town. That's according to investigators.

Now, there's a long-standing concerned about sexual violence here, but many are also angry at the religious politics. And as for Modi, his Bharatiya Janata Party is the political face of the Hindu right.

Two senior party members are reported to rally in support of the men accused of attacking the little girl. Both have now stepped down from their positions in the state government. While the changes to the law still need to be approved by parliament, many activists who work in this area have been calling for better enforcement of existing legislation, not new laws.

They also cite India's entrenched patriarchy as a major cause. They also want better education to end what many say is a cultural problem --

[04:45:00]

KUMAR: -- where women are routinely marginalized, often with violent consequences.

As for Modi, response to the protesters, harsher penalties may not be enough -- Nikhil Kumar, CNN, New Delhi.

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ALLEN: A television actress in the U.S. has been indicted on sex trafficking charges. And it's shining a light on a mysterious company that calls itself a self-help group. Prosecutors say it's a pyramid scheme and an abusive sex cult. Our Polo Sandoval has the story.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The group claimed to be a female mentorship group but the details that we found in this federal indictment show that it also had a dark side, according to federal authorities.

And before we break down this document, recording some of the details, could be disturbing for young viewers.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Federal prosecutors indicting actress Allison Mack on sex trafficking charges Friday. The actress best known for her role on the CW series "Smallville" is accused of recruiting women to join a sex cult.

According to federal prosecutors, Mack recruited women under false pretenses to perform sexual acts for Keith Raniere, the group's leader and sole male member of a secret group within Nxivm.

STANLEY ZAREFF, FRIEND OF ONE VICTIM'S FAMILY: She is dangerous. She is sick. She is evil. She is dark and she has done harm to many people. Imagine having your initials burned into a woman's body. That's happened.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Raniere has also been indicted on sex trafficking charges. Both he and Mack face claims that many so-called slaves were branded on their pelvic areas with Raniere's initials.

Mack and Raniere have pleaded not guilty. On its website, Nxivm purports to be a self-help program providing, quote "an ethical humanitarian civilization."

In a statement, Nxivm defended their founder. "We're currently working with the authorities to demonstrate his

innocence and true character. We strongly believe the justice system will prevail in bringing the truth to light."

If convicted, both Mack and Raniere face at least 15 years in prison.

SANDOVAL: Federal investigators say that the women who participated in this group were forced to hand over collateral, things like nude photographs or information on their family. That would then be used against them if they did not comply with orders.

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ALLEN: Polo Sandoval reporting there.

Long-time actor Verne Troyer has died. He stood less than a meter high, 3 feet, but he was always a big hit on the big screen. Troyer appeared in more than 50 films, TV shows and music videos during his career. But perhaps his most memorable role was as Mini-Me in two "Austin Powers" movies, costarring with actor Mike Myers.

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ROBERT WAGNER, ACTOR, "NUMBER TWO": He is exactly like you in every way except one-eighth your size.

MIKE MYERS, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN, "DR. EVIL": Breathtaking. I shall call him Mini-Me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Myers offered his condolences in a statement.

"Verne was the consummate professional and a beacon of positivity for those of us who had the honor of working with him. It is a sad day but I hope he is in a better place. He will be greatly missed."

The actor was hospitalized earlier this month but the cause of death hasn't been made public. Verne Troyer was just 49.

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ALLEN: Kneeling during the American national anthem may have caused NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick his career in professional football but the controversial athlete has admirers around the world. On Saturday, Kaepernick was honored by Amnesty International with its

highest distinction, the Ambassador of Conscience award. Kaepernick has not played since 2016. He has filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging the owners have conspired to keep him out of the league.

A record number of women are running in the midterm elections in the U.S. in November. Most of them have never held any public office or even run before but say they are so frustrated with U.S. president Donald Trump they have to act. CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah spoke with two female candidates fighting for change in Washington.

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KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From marching to running.

DR. KIM SCHRIER, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS, WASHINGTON: The march was the start. Marching is not enough and so citizens just like me became activated.

LAH (voice-over): Dr. Kim Schrier, Washington state pediatrician, marched in 2017. By 2018, she quit her job. Now, she's a Democrat running for Congress.

LAH (on camera): How would you describe yourself?

SCHRIER: I am the citizen/pediatrician/activist mom with a fire in her belly.

LAH (voice-over): Washington Congressional District 8, an open congressional seat where mountains and agriculture meet high-tech towns dotting lakes.

SCHRIER: This is a country that innovates.

LAH (voice-over): Dr. Schrier, also a type 1 diabetic, talking healthcare and kitchen table concerns to constituents over coffee.

SCHRIER: We're going to do it with our whole community.

LAH (voice-over): In voter gatherings, many here say the midterms didn't matter before.

LAH (on camera): Why now are women paying more attention in these midterms?

JENNIFER KIM, KIM SCHRIER SUPPORTER: I just felt like this is the time. I can't just sit back and not do anything.

LAH (on camera): Will women be the difference maker in 2018?

SCHRIER: I'm counting on it. Really having a misogynist-in-chief -- to have as our president a man who grabs women's bodies and has been disrespectful all the way through to women, that drives us. LAH (voice-over): And it's driving a historic number of women to run for office, most of them Democrats. According to Rutgers University, more than 450 women are running for

Congress this year. A record-breaker. Many of them like Elissa Slotkin, first-time candidate.

ELISSA SLOTKIN, FORMER ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS: Michigan 8 is mid-Michigan. It's in the middle of the state in the middle of the country.

LAH (on camera): This is a district that Trump won by a lot. So what makes you think, as a political newcomer, that you can win here?

SLOTKIN: Yes. Well, first, it's just the energy that's in this --

[04:55:00]

SLOTKIN: -- system. Folks who voted for Donald Trump, folks who voted for the current congressman who are just fed up. I hear from people who are just sick of Washington not getting anything done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump.

LAH (voice-over): For her, it was what Washington did do. The push to repeal ObamaCare in the House.

SLOTKIN: I saw my representative in the group there, beaming and proud and smiling from ear to ear that he had just voted to repeal health care without a replacement, without any plan. And something just broke for me.

LAH (voice-over): Slotkin's mother had died of ovarian cancer, allowing her insurance to lapse, unable to afford it.

SLOTKIN: You just don't get to do this, no. So we decided to try and fire him.

What do you do? They have you over a barrel.

LAH (voice-over): The Democrat is a former CIA analyst. She deployed to Iraq then worked at the State Department.

Susan Ivick voted for the incumbent Republican congressmen in 2016.

LAH (on camera): Have you ever shown up for a political event before?

SUSAN IVICK, MICHIGAN VOTER: I have not. I'm disagreeing with a lot of things, so it's time to do something about it.

LAH (on camera): Is this the forgotten Midwest?

SLOTKIN: I certainly think that everyone in this town that I talk to, everyone in my district, feels completely unheard, underrepresented and left out of the conversation in Washington. Absolutely.

LAH: So do these two women stand a chance?

They absolutely do. Kim Schrier in Washington leads the Democratic field when it comes to fundraising. Elissa Slotkin, she has kept up with the incumbent, in fact, outraising him in the first quarter. But they still face tough races and many women who are running for the U.S. House this year are facing tough races as well against incumbents.

But experts who watch this do believe that by the end of November 2018, there will be significant gains in female representation -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

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ALLEN: More politics and our top stories just ahead. Another hour of CNN NEWSROOM right after this break.