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ObamaCare Struck Down but Still in Effect; Ryan Zinke Out as U.S. Interior Secretary; COP24 Climate Summit to Keep Paris Climate Deal Alive; Family of 7-Year Old Who Died in U.S. Border Patrol Custody Call for Investigation; Police Use Tear Gas at Latest Yellow Vest Demonstrations; European Regulator Launches Inquiry into Facebook; China's Reported Detention of Christians Raises Crackdown Concerns; Beef an Overlooked Cause of Global Warming; Egypt Unearths 4,400-Year-Old Tomb. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 16, 2018 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Celebrations in Poland, close to 200 nations keep the Paris climate deal alive with the U.S. still on board.

Plus another member of the Trump administration out the door following multiple ethics investigations.

Also ahead, Facebook faces backlash in Europe for its data breaches. We'll have an expert to talk about the problem and what lies ahead for this major tech company.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. NEWSROOM starts now.


HOWELL: Another day, another high-level resignation at the White House. A day after President Trump named a pick for his new chief of staff, he hopped onto Twitter to announce the resignation of his Interior Secretary. Ryan Zinke has faced multiple ethics investigations and was reportedly under pressure to step down.

"The Washington Post" reports he was given an ultimatum to leave by the end of the year or to be fired. Zinke joins a long list of top officials to leave the administration. You see the list of names and faces there, all people who have been shown the door.

His exit comes as Democrats are set to gain control of the House Committee on Natural Resources in charge of oversight of the interior. CNN's Boris Sanchez picks it up from here.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can tell you the White House was closely watching Ryan Zinke's legal situation amid his departure as the Secretary of the Interior. Zinke's been accused of misusing agency resources to advance his own personal finances.

There are more than 15 different inquiries that were opened by the inspector general of that agency into Zinke's behavior, questions about his lavish spending on travel, whether his wife was using government vehicles, his involvement in a casino deal in Connecticut and one that's now being investigated by the Department of Justice, this land deal that he struck in his home state of Montana with the head of Halliburton.

Zinke has denied all allegations against him. In a tweet, he justifies his departure by saying he didn't want to spend thousands of dollars to try to clear his name. He is a favorite target of Democrats, who are relishing his departure, including the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

He wrote on Twitter, quote, "Ryan Zinke was one of the most toxic members of the cabinet in the way he treated our environment, our precious public lands and the way he treated the government, like it was his personal honey pot. The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him."

We should note Saturday night was the congressional ball here at the White House, with President Trump greeting several members of his cabinet as well as members of Congress.

Zinke was here on hand. The reports out there that the White House forced him out, CNN still trying to confirm that. We can tell you that the administration certainly wanted to put some distance between yet another member of the president's cabinet with questionable ethical behavior and the White House -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Boris, thank you.

It is important to point out that ObamaCare is still the law of the land, despite a federal judge striking it down as unconstitutional on Friday. The deadline to sign up for the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, has now expired except for a handful of states, where the deadline is January 31st.

President Trump welcomed the judge's controversial decision. Listen.


TRUMP: I believe we're going to get really good health care. Exciting things happened over the last 24 hours. If everybody is smart, because we have a lot of Democrats here tonight. I'm very happy about that. People don't realize that I have a lot of friends who are Democrats. We have Democrats here.

And if the Republicans and the Democrats get together, we are going to end up with incredible health care, which is the way it should have been from day one. It's going to happen.


HOWELL: The current president there.

We also heard from the former president, Barack Obama, who is quick to reassure Americans that their health care is not going away because of this ruling. Mr. Obama posted a lengthy response on social media that you see right there, telling those who depend upon ObamaCare that the judge's decision, quote, "changes nothing for now."

Let's talk more about this now with Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City University of London. He's live from our London bureau at this hour.

Always a pleasure, Inderjeet.


HOWELL: Let's start with ObamaCare, the law struck down by a federal judge. And since Mr. Trump took office, that law has been struck in the kneecaps plenty. Politically, does this new law --


HOWELL: -- put the law into peril, with Democrats in a stronger position to campaign?

Or Republicans, are they energized here with -- happy to see this law teetering on the brink of oblivion?

PARMAR: Sure. I think this particular decision and the entire politics of the health care act is really deeply symbolic for President Trump and for the GOP more broadly. They've seen it as the symbol of Obama and what Obama stood for. They've weaved a rhetoric that Obama, the liberal; Obama, the African American, has brought America to its knees, sold America and liberalism has basically brought America down.

They sought to try to chip away and try to destroy that. They've appealed to that symbolic politics against Obama. Unfortunately, health care is something which everybody relies on. And this has given a lot of people coverage.

I think President Trump and the GOP is not trusted by Americans. So in a way, it's having an opposite effect, which is galvanizing more Americans against Trump. And we saw this in the midterm elections, where the Democrats campaigned heavily on health care.

And Americans don't trust the GOP or President Trump with their health care. I think it will boomerang against the president in the long run.

HOWELL: The polls, statistics show that most Americans support health care in the United States. It does seem there is a difference between Republicans, Inderjeet, and Democrats, some who see health care as a privilege, others who see it as a human right.

The question here, do you see a path forward with a new House of Representatives and this president on this very delicate issue?

PARMAR: This is a key issue, delicate issue. But I think in the end, it's a partisan issue in a deep way as well. But I think everybody, even those people who voted for President Trump, who have been enjoying the fact that you can have health insurance for preexisting medical conditions, that protection, that security has affected millions and millions of people.

They've now gotten used to that. And when President Trump tried to divert attention by anti-immigration and so on, kind of militarizing the whole issue of the asylum seekers at the border, Americans rejected that. The House basically threw that out.

And I think what President Trump is really doing now is trying to win back that initiative. I think it would probably be something that Democrats would want to approach with caution, trying to work with him. They're better off defending their positions than trying to extend the positions and to work with President Trump.

He is now, if you like, the label on him is, he's not reliable on health care. I suspect that is going to play very heavily in the politics of 2020.

HOWELL: Want to shift now and talk about the revolving door at the White House. "The Washington Post" reporting that the U.S. Interior Secretary was given an ultimatum to leave by the end of the year or to be fired.

Here's the thing: Zinke reportedly wanted to stay on, at least through his Christmas party, where he invited lobbyists, conservative activists and even posed for a photo in front of a large polar bear, wearing a Santa cap, despite being mired in these ethics investigations.

What do you make of the White House pushing him out?

PARMAR: Well, they have to push him out just like they have to push out a lot of other people. You showed the graphic earlier on. This Trump White House is in a deep, spiraling crisis. There isn't a single dimension or aspect of the administration which is not under investigation, where its associates and appointees haven't resigned or been dismissed or haven't misused their office.

It starts with President Trump. He believes he owns the government. It's a personalist, kind of authoritarian attitude toward government. You don't serve the government; you don't serve the public; you serve yourself. You're going into a great position, you basically milk it for everything you can get.

That starts from the top. That's a very deeply corrupt attitude toward what's supposed to be the most advanced democracy in the world. And I think people are beginning to see that more and more. What it leads to in the end is very difficult to say. But we saw in the House elections in November that Republican voters,

who are affluent, college-educated, are running away from President Trump's administration. He's achieved big parts of the agenda they wanted -- tax cuts, corporate deregulation and so on.

I think now they believe he's bringing the whole country into disrepute and the Democrats have shifted a little bit further to the conservative Right. And I suspect they're thinking, we can go down that road. We can have somebody doing this sort of thing without the corruption, which is at the core of this particular administration.


HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar, thank you so much.

PARMAR: Thank you.

HOWELL: Speaking of the U.S. president, before he won the presidential election, Donald Trump promised to rip up the Paris climate agreement. Soon after he became president, he took aim on making good on that promise, as you'll remember in this sound bite.


TRUMP: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.

So we're getting out but we will start to negotiate and we'll see if we can make a deal that's fair.


HOWELL: But in Poland, at an all-important climate conference, that deal is alive and well. The U.S. still on board. Delegates from nearly 200 countries okayed the rules to put the Paris climate accord into action, prompting celebrations, you see. The countries, which include the U.S., can't actually leave the agreement until 2020.

Let's go live to Poland at that conference. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has been following events there.

Nick, tell us more what came out of the agreements.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is certainly a piece of good news, frankly, for the planet. There was a moment during these last two weeks before negotiations where it was possible, people were fearing, we might not see an agreement and we have an urgent task ahead as humanity over the next 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or the planet will not be recognizable as it is now. That is scientific fact.

It's not a belief system or something you can debate. So some degree of relief that we saw, this rulebook, come through very late last evening, about 9 o'clock or so. We've got the first indication they've managed to finally agree.

it was a historic moment by the climate change summit president. A lot of cheering. Essentially, it puts in the rules. The Paris agreement in 2015, that Donald Trump wants nothing to do with, was basically the world, saying we need to do something about climate change.

But they hadn't worked out the fiddly mechanism, the technicalities, how you would measure emissions, emissions reductions and how transparent people would be about what they were doing. Also they hadn't worked out how necessarily they would financially compensate nations poorly affected by climate change.

This got through. There was a sense of relief certainly. Many activists here saying they've done just enough to keep the climate change agreement of Paris on the road. But there were two very substantial problems.

The first was the United States, with strange bedfellows of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, last weekend deny some of the key science here, refusing to work on the main report that's behind a lot of the climate science here.

That put a bad tone, frankly, over the remaining days of negotiations. It was got around on in the text by them, instead of welcoming that report, as they had been asked to, welcoming the timely completion of the report, essentially saying we're glad it was done on time, not endorsing what it said. So they got around that hurdle.

The second one was a last minute problem from Brazil, who, the owners of the lungs of the Earth, the Amazon rainforest, wanted to see the accounting of carbon trading, the complex scheme on which emissions are traded between different nations or accounted for. They wanted that very advantageously in their favor. That whole thing has been kicked down the road until next year's summit.

Some saying it's good because they didn't come out with a bad solution, others saying it's a loophole that hasn't been addressed. But yes, a cloud certainly in terms of this summit having denial of the science being thrown around during it. But certainly a silver lining. People are focusing on they have a rulebook now and that's moving forward.

HOWELL: Important to point out, this is the same agreement, the very same agreement the U.S. president promised to pull out of. That can't happen until 2020.

Given the fact that there were U.S. representatives there, who signed onto these rules, are some seeing this as an opening, perhaps attitudes are shifting about this agreement?

WALSH: Yes, no. In the long term, yes. We have career U.S. diplomats who have given much of their lives to the science of climate change. It's a fact, it's happening, just to reiterate that.

I think many say that their presence here inside those negotiating rooms was not acting as a spoiler. They weren't trying to throw a wrench in the works, so to speak. I think that may be because they would have said, we're leaving at the end of 2020.

Donald Trump gets his way. So the rules don't really affect us. But that would have been an assistance to those trying to get this job done. Politically on a higher level, the U.S. has been a bit of a sideshow here really. They held a fossil fuel promotion event on Monday that had many jaws drop --


WALSH: -- at a climate change venue, to come here and try to sell the very thing that's the heart of the problem to people. That was interrupted by protesters, a much younger generation, who will inherit the mess that we're making of the planet right now and be left to fix it or live through it.

So they were shouted down by those voices. But I think many are seeing the denial of climate change as something of an aberration. The rest of the world accepts it. So I think in the Maldives, it may be underwater soon. There's their representative here, saying you can't deny the physics. It's just going to happen. And I think the really good news, the rulebook, is at least in place and, maybe couple of years from now, this will be seen as a strange aberration in the progress of science here -- George.

HOWELL: The facts are the facts, the stats are the stats. As you say, this is happening. Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in Poland, thank you.

Now to the death of a migrant girl in the United States sparking a great deal of controversy and outrage. Ahead, we will take you to the Texas border, where protesters took to the streets, demanding changes in immigration policy.

Also this: the scene in Paris, France. Yellow Vest protesters aren't giving up though fewer numbers than we've seen before. What they now want on their fifth weekend of demonstrations as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.




HOWELL: The scene on a bridge -- the Santa Fe Bridge in the state of Texas on Saturday, protesters coming together, demanding an end to the Trump administration's immigration policies.

They are outraged, of course, following the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl after being taken into U.S. custody. The Guatemalan consul says that the girl's father has no complaints about her treatment. But Jakelin Caal Maquin's family are calling for a thorough and objective investigation. They clarified in a statement that she was not suffering from lack of

food or lack of water when she was taken into custody by U.S. authorities and had not been crossing the desert for days.

The statement reading in part, quote, "Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years, an escape from the dangerous situation in their home country."

CNN's Ed Lavandera was in Texas following the developments and has this report for you.




LAVANDERA: -- details from the father of the young Guatemalan girl who died while in Border Patrol custody shortly after crossing into the United States, a little more than a week ago.

According to a statement from the father's attorneys, the father is grateful for the efforts of first responders including those Border Patrol agents and medical personnel who treated his daughter. We've also spoken with the consul -- the Guatemalan consul who has spent some time here in El Paso, speaking extensively with the father.

He tells me that the father told him that he has "no complaints" about the way Border Patrol agents treated him and his daughter shortly after they were picked up or they turned themselves into Border Patrol agents on the night of December 6th.

And he says that he believes that those Border Patrol agents after his daughter had fallen ill inside the bus that was taking them from the border point entry, all the way to a border patrol station some 95 miles away, that those agents and the medical personnel did everything they could to save his daughter's life.

So this is the first details that we've heard from this young girl's father; the family says they are devastated. He has been housed in a shelter here that helps migrants and migrate refugees here in the city of El Paso.

The director of that shelter spoke a little bit about the condition that his father that the father is in and how he's dealing with this ordeal.


RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE, EL PASO, TEXAS: He's very grateful with what he saw, the response and the attempts that were made to save his daughter's life. At the hospital, his daughter arrested a couple of times and they were unable to revive her.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: The family of the young girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, also says that they're rather frustrated by the speculation of exactly how the young girl died. The father in the statement also confirms that and confirms the timeline put out by the Department of Homeland Security that the first signs that this young girl was in some sort of distress came at 5:00 in the morning, on the morning of December 7th, while in the middle of that bus ride from the border to the Border Patrol station, some 95 miles away.

But the family says that any speculation as to what the exact cause of death should not be discussed, that the official cause of death has not been ruled on by the medical examiner here in El Paso. And they're urging everybody not to -- not to speculate as to what might have caused the death of this young girl. Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.


HOWELL: Ed, thank you.

On Tuesday, a delegation of U.S. lawmakers plan to tour the Border Patrol station where Jakelin was taken.

In Paris, protesters took to the streets for a fifth straight weekend. Though the numbers were not nearly as strong as we've seen before, authorities say only about half as many Yellow Vest protesters came out compared to last weekend.

Many of the demonstrators were peaceful but some turned into violent skirmishes with police. CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman has this report for us from Paris.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another day of pandemonium in the heart of Paris, it was thought this Saturday's protest might be smaller after President Emmanuel Macron's latest concessions among them raising the minimum wage and after the Strasbourg terrorist attacks.

Yet several thousand Yellow Vest protesters braved at the bitter cold to return to the Champs-Elysees.

Jacques, 66 years old is protesting for the first time in his life.

"Macron," he says, "has not given us a crumb of what we demand. We can't live this way."

Those demands include the introduction of Swiss-style popular referendums, lower taxes and dignity.

"We want to work to please ourselves, not just to survive," says Sylvan.

The day's demonstrations began largely peacefully. By afternoon, however, the boulevard was thick with tear gas and chants for the president to resign, some tearing up the cobblestones for the battle not eager for attention. Eight thousand members of the security forces were deployed in Paris Saturday, far outnumbering the demonstrators.

Gil, a protester, tells the riot police they should switch sides and don yellow vests.

"Today, they're here. But we have to ask, where is this going?" he says.

"Will they hold? For how long? We can see they're tired, they shoot for nothing."

Maybe for nothing, but shoot they did. This is Act 5 --


WEDEMAN: -- the 5th consecutive week of protests here. And it doesn't appear, even though the numbers are smaller, that the protests are in any sense coming to an end. Act 6 may very well be a re-run -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Paris.


HOWELL: Ben, thank you for the report.

Live around the United States and in the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

And still ahead, Facebook could be in deep trouble. This thanks to a massive security breach that is bedeviling the company. And it's costing billions.

Plus China is already accused of launching a campaign against Muslims. Now there could be signs it's targeting Christians. The latest as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.




HOWELL: Welcome back in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following this hour.



HOWELL: Social media giant Facebook has often been accused of putting its corporate profits ahead of its users' privacy. In 2018, it was a banner year for data breaches there.

Most recently, photos belonging to millions of Facebook users were exposed to third party developers without permission. Now Facebook could face a multibillion dollar fine for not reporting these data breaches in a timely manner.

The Irish Data Protection Commission oversees Facebook's compliance with European law and is supposed to be notified of any problems within 72 hours. But Facebook waited two months to inform the agency of this massive security breach in September, the largest in Facebook's history.

Here's a look back at Facebook's very difficult year on this very serious situation.

The most recent revelation comes on the heels of two major embarrassments that took place in December -- in September, rather -- 29 million users had their personal data stolen, including names, e- mails, phone numbers and birth dates.

Before that, 50 million accounts were exposed to hackers through a glitch in one of Facebook's features.

Back in March, private data of hundreds of thousands of users were improperly shared with an outside firm called Cambridge Analytica for political purposes. The firm, now out of business, denied that it misused the data.

With me now, Jesse Bockstedt, an associate professor of information systems at Emory University here in Atlanta.

Thank you for your time.


HOWELL: One thing to point out, this is a serious situation where you have the photos that people uploaded but thought weren't going to be shared. They were apparently, through a bug, available to third-party developers. It raises that question again of privacy issues and trust.

BOCKSTEDT: Yes, I think Facebook has got a lot of work do in managing the complexity of this ecosystem with all these third-party app developers. It's one thing to put your trust in Facebook but then to extend that trust to the third-party developers is something users have to understand.

With these photos that were uploaded and not posted, I think it really brings to light the fact that users need to understand how the data that they're sharing on Facebook is used, not only with Facebook about across other platforms and other apps that access Facebook.

HOWELL: Here's the thing, though. The simple fact that Facebook is storing these photos that were uploaded, that comes as a surprise to many people.

BOCKSTEDT: Yes. I think it does. I mean, from a technical standpoint, Facebook is claiming this is for user experience to have those photos available. If they come back, if they choose to post them later or if an error occurs when they're posting originally.

But there's a tradeoff between user experience and privacy and data protections for their consumers.

HOWELL: So again, we find Facebook thrust into the spotlight, questions of using people's private data, making sure that officials were notified in a timely manner.

Where does this put the company as far as finding a path forward with all of these investigations?

BOCKSTEDT: I think they're on the hot seat yet again. As you noted, there's been multiple breaches and issues over the last few months. They really need to go forward with a strong hand in security and data privacy.

This is one of the leading technology companies in the world. They clearly have the resources and the capability to do a good job in this. It's been lackluster performance as of late. To be frank, pop- ups in New York City like they held on Friday really aren't the solution.

HOWELL: Right, right. This is a bit of an unrelated topic but I'd like to ask you about it. We talk about the companies like Facebook on the hot seat for data breaches, for issues around trust.

But you also have U.S. lawmakers, who seem out of touch on some of these very important tech issues that are center stage, as we saw, with the CEO of Google, when asked about the iPhone. Let's take a look and listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does that show up on a 7-year-old's iPhone who is playing a kid's game?

SUNDAR PICHAI, CEO, GOOGLE: Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company and so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Might have been an Android. It's just -- it was a hand-me-down of some kind.


HOWELL: He said iPhone. He said iPhone.

What do you make of that?


BOCKSTEDT: Well, you know, as a professor who teaches this type of stuff, this is kind of hard to watch, to see our lawmakers not understand how these companies work.

Information technology evolves extremely quickly, as well as the businesses around it. There's always going to be a lag for the legislative process and regulators to keep up and understand.

Frankly, it's going to get more severe as we think about the use of new technologies that become very pervasive, like facial recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning. So there's a duty, I think, that legislators and regulators have in order to understand how these companies work -- and users at large.

HOWELL: The question is, will they keep up with the curve here?

BOCKSTEDT: I think they're going to have a difficult time. I think history has shown that that's the case. Things are just evolving more and more quickly. You know, I think legislators need to invest time and money into having experts and knowledge around these things.

HOWELL: We appreciate your expertise here. Jesse Bockstedt, thank you very much.

BOCKSTEDT: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead on NEWSROOM this hour, a popular American TV ad once touted beef as the phrase, "It's what's for dinner." But now the beef industry is facing new pressures around climate change, which seems to be accelerating. We explore that ahead.




HOWELL: Welcome back.

There are fears that Chinese authorities may be cracking down on Christians. The U.S.-based nonprofit China Aid says a pastor and his wife are among 100 Christians recently detained. The pastor, Wang Yi, is seen here. He was reportedly arrested on charges of, quote, "inciting subversion of state power."

Let's bring in CNN's Will Ripley, who is following the story --


HOWELL: -- Hong Kong.

Will, what more can you tell us about this case?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that Wang Yi, a high-profile pastor, a former legal scholar, along with his wife, were part of a group of 100 Christians detained early last week in the city of Chengdu in Mainland China.

This is a very controversial figure for the Chinese government, for the Communist Party, because Wang Yi leads the Early Rain Covenant Church. It's an unregistered church. The way it works in China, if you want to practice religion, you have to register with the government. There's actually a national religion bureau. The purpose of that bureau is to monitor religious activity and make

sure that, essentially, the religious groups are supporting the Communist Party, which is the sole ruling party in China.

Wang Yi purposefully did not register with the government and some of his actions the government would find highly inflammatory. I want to show you a picture, where you can see him, holding up a sign in Chinese.

It says, "Pray for the nation on June 4th," referring to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest. That is a taboo subject in China. But he has tackled it in his religion sermons and that's likely what made him a target of the Chinese government.

Unclear what's going to happen going forward. But we know that, in the past, people from churches who have been detained are sent to these reeducation centers, where they're basically accused of being brainwashed by the government, trying to get them back in line, back into the Communist Party support category and out of this category that China basically views as trying to subvert the government.

HOWELL: Will, now to the broader issue, the larger question of religious crackdown in China.

What are we seeing from that?

RIPLEY: Well, there is a lot of concern that there is this growing wave, this systematic human rights abuse when it comes to religion. It's not just Christians being targeted, although this is the story they're talking about today.

Think about the hundreds of thousands of Muslim leaders who, essentially -- of course, Buddhists in Tibet as well. These are religious groups that human rights activists say are being persecuted for their religion.

China says these are efforts, at least in the case of the Uyghurs, to combat violent extremism. But critics believe they're essentially turning parts of the country, where these religion groups operate, this Orwellian surveillance state. Even the United States has actually placed China in its category, one of 10 countries in the world, that are countries of concern when it comes to religious freedom.

So this case certainly is going to sound a lot of alarm bells for people who are trying to advocate for Christians and other religious minorities in China. China is an atheist state. But freedom of religion is supposed to be guaranteed under Chinese law. But in practice, many say that it just isn't happening -- George.

HOWELL: Will Ripley, live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you.

Some scientists say that people better cut down on the amount of meat they eat to prevent climate change. That's not going down very well in some parts of the world.


RAYMOND BUTLER, OWNER, NIXON LIVESTOCK COMMISSION: It doesn't get that cold down here. And in years past, we used to go months and months of freezing weather, even down here in East Texas.

WALSH: So you're saying, you are seeing it get warmer down here already. But you want it to get really bad before you'll believe the scientists?

BUTLER: Right. Yes.


HOWELL: One view from the world's beef capital for a close look at the impact on global warming.






HOWELL: A jump over the table, scenes in Poland as delegates from nearly 200 countries okayed the rules to put the Paris climate accord into action, prompting a great deal of celebration. Those countries, which include the United States, cannot actually leave the agreement until 2020.

Along with reporting from the COP24 climate conference in Poland, CNN has been exploring the consequences of actions that contribute to climate change. Our Nick Paton Walsh traveled to Texas, the world's beef capital, to investigate a major and often overlooked cause of greenhouse gases.



WALSH (voice-over): What do you eat and what does it cost you?

The planet, your children's future.

How does it affect our struggle to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Texas is the beef capital of America, the world. Meat was once a luxury but now it's at the core of life here. It's a tribal symbol. Meet Bevo the steer, the mascot.

The grill out: burger, sausage, steak, ribs. Excess is the point.

So beef and climate change, how are they related? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't ask me that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not today, because this is delicious.

WALSH (voice-over): Beef and dairy agriculture are a key and often overlooked cause of the greenhouse gases humankind must rapidly curtail if we want to live like we do now.

This amphitheater of teenage dreams closed now, but it's for a generation who may see these excesses, these heights of everything being everywhere and cheap, end in their lifetime.

WALSH: Think about it this way, half a pound of beef causes as much greenhouse gas to be emitted as driving 55 of these cars for one mile.

WALSH (voice-over): If mankind were on this planet for the length of this football game, it would have this much time left of the game to fix it.

As the sun rises over beef country, 12 million cattle in Texas, where the extraordinary toll of something so natural as beef on the planet emerges.

We have to make drastic changes by 2030 to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. If we don't, beef and dairy will cause --


WALSH (voice-over): -- 10 percent of greenhouse gases. If we do meet other 2030 emissions targets, they'll cause much more, 30 percent. Either way, we must act.

America's hunger has hit an unnatural edge here, radically compressing the cattle's space to roam and time to fatten.

The first thing that hits you is just the smell. There's just so many, so tightly packed together. There are 19,000 here, on this feedlot, fed the corn that gives their flesh the fatty taste that we're used to. And there are nearly 1.5 billion cattle on Earth, one for every five people.

The United States and world will likely, this year, eat a record amount of beef. We're going the wrong way. But it is the bottom line, livelihoods, that understandably matter more here.

WALSH: Now, when I said global warming, you said, "They say."

Do you believe in it or do you think this -- ?

BUTLER: I don't believe in it.

WALSH: Why not?

BUTLER: I just don't.

WALSH: Why? BUTLER: I just -- it's hard for me to believe that global warming has something to do with the rainfall.

WALSH: What would it take to change your mind about that?

BUTLER: There would have to be a drastic change in our weather. Yes, we have -- go through droughts. But that's a normal period. We go through droughts, we have rainfall. We go through winter.

Here the last couple years, we haven't had much winter. It doesn't get that cold down here. And in years past, we used to go months and months of freezing weather, even down here in East Texas.

WALSH: So you're saying, you are seeing it get warmer down here already. But you want it to get really bad before you'll believe the scientists?

BUTLER: Right. Yes.

WALSH (voice-over): Wherever you roam here, the land is inured to the love of beef. Dusk and the endless acres here seem haunted by the corn that went before.

Nearly 100 million acres of corn are planted, grown, fertilized, processed and transported around America, the biggest producer in the world.

Feeding cattle corn means clearing carbon-absorbing forests for fields, adding to the animal's emissions from burping, farting and manure, that's CO2 but also the more potent nitrous oxide in methane.

It's not just cattle using up land; pigs, sheep and chickens all mean animal agriculture takes up as much of the planet as the United States, most of Europe, China and Australia combined. Or put another way, the land mass of Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got the ribs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got pork loins. I got ribs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got brisket, I got sausage.

WALSH: So how do we change or can we?

There is hope and it is both distant and tiny.

Enter cultured meat. It's never seen a cow, doesn't emit any gas and grows in a dish. And it's developing fast.

DR. MARK POST, CHIEF SCIENTIST, MOSA MEAT: In 2013, it had -- this would be about $20,000. I mean, two, three years from now, it's $0.25 cents. WALSH: What does it taste like?

POST: This tastes like meat.

WALSH: Mosa Meat's Mark Post is getting funding from food giants and even the co-founder of Google. By 2021, he hopes this might be served as an initial alternative and, years later, become the mainstream.

The process is natural to a point, giving a single stem cell taken from a cow, all the nutrients it needs to divide again and again, but no instruction, as with the living cow, to stop.

Ten billion cells are formed and woven, with these fatty cells for flavor, into one burger or even a steak one day.

Are you vegan yourself?

POST: I'm not. I should be, but I'm not.

WALSH: You like meat?

POST: Yes, I do.

WALSH: And is any of this -- ?

POST: It's kind of sinful, I think. But it's -- I do. We really -- we really need to do something about this to avert all of the environmental effects of meat production, which is going to increase. In 2050, we will need 70 percent more meat, on this planet, than we currently have.

WALSH: But it can't come soon enough. And however naturally we make beef, we can't change soon enough either. Consider this, it's never going to happen. But if we all went vegan tomorrow, we would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, a huge change to cure part of the problem.

Are we even ready for that or more, to keep existing as we do now? -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Texas.


HOWELL: A spokesperson from the U.S. meat industry said they've made changes and are leading the way in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They said U.S. beef farming proportionately emitted less gas than other countries and that a drastic reduction in meat consumption would impact human health.

It's being called a one of a kind discovery --


HOWELL: -- in Egypt. These well preserved -- the tomb -- of a high priest untouched for 4,400 years. Archeologists found hieroglyphics, sculptures and inscriptions decorating the tomb. Some of the drawings appear to depict the official and his family. The head of Egypt's Antiquities Council says more discoveries are

expected, including the owner's sarcophagus.

With the holiday season in full swing, NBC's comedy sketch show here in the U.S., "Saturday Night Live," closed out the year with a Christmas twist. Their cold open, "It's a Wonderful Trump," took us to a world where the president was never in office. Take a look.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "DONALD TRUMP": Michael Cohen, shouldn't you be in jail after you flipped on me?


I would never, ever flip on you. You're my best friend. And since it's Christmas, I just want to say that you taught me everything I know.

"TRUMP": Oh, come on, Michael.

"COHEN: No, no, no, it's true. Every single thing I've done is because you've directed me to do it. And I hope everyone knows it.

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR, "ROBERT MUELLER": I have something for you.

"TRUMP": Is this a subpoena or your final report?



No. It's a picture of my grandson. I've been spending so much more time with him since I don't have to investigate some idiot for treason.

"TRUMP": Wow. This night has put everything into perspective. I've had an epiphany. I guess the world does need me to be president after all.

KENAN THOMPSON, COMEDIAN, "CLARENCE": Yes. That was not the lesson at all.


HOWELL: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell in CNN Center in Atlanta. "NEW DAY" is next for those in the United States. For those around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is up next.