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Flynn Sentencing Delayed After Judge's Sharp Rebuke; U.S. Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bill; Actor Sues Fortnite and NBA 2K Over Carlton Dance. Aired 12:-1a ET
Aired December 19, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sentence delayed: The most senior Trump aide to face criminal charges arrived in court expecting leniency but instead the judge told him he could not hide his disgust and there were no guarantees Flynn would not do time.
With her 2-year-old son on life support and close to death, a Yemeni woman is now en route to the U.S. for a last goodbye. A tragic journey delayed apparently by the Trump administration's travel ban.
And 90.5 percent, the statistic of the year. That's the percentage of plastic never recycled and right now sitting in landfills or the ocean, never breaking down.
Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: It was a surprising courtroom stunner. No one more surprised, it seems, than Michael Flynn himself. The former national security adviser was expecting to be sentenced Tuesday for lying to the FBI in the Russia investigation following a deal he cut with the special counsel overseeing the investigation.
Instead, Flynn was on the receiving end of an angry rant from a federal judge, who called out the retired Army general for his conduct and then delayed sentencing for three more months. CNN's Jessica Schneider begins our coverage.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Michael Flynn's sentencing is on hold after a dramatic two-hour rebuke from the judge who hinted Flynn could end up getting prison time for lying to the FBI.
Federal judge Emmet Sullivan scolding President Trump's former national security advisor, telling Flynn, "I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense." The judge even raised the question of treason, asking the special
counsel's team twice if Flynn's conduct "rises to the level of treasonous activity." Judge Sullivan also admonished Flynn for his work with the Turkish government, saying, "Arguably, you sold your country out."
The judge later walked back both rebukes, saying he wasn't suggesting Flynn committed treason and acknowledged that Flynn's lobbying for Turkey did not go on while he worked at the White House.
The judge focused his real frustration and confusion on the circumstances surrounding Flynn's guilty plea, asking why Flynn admitted guilt, even though his lawyers accused the FBI of tricking Flynn into lying about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during that January 2017 interview at the White House.
The sentencing memo where Flynn's lawyers criticized the FBI may have been a major miscalculation and seemed to offend the judge, who said, "I cannot recall any incident where the court has ever accepted the plea of someone who maintained he was not guilty."
Flynn finally admitted he was aware that lying to the FBI was a crime when he was interviewed in January 2017 and his lawyer responded, "No," when the judge asked Flynn if he believed he was entrapped by the FBI.
Judge Sullivan still gave Flynn several chances to rethink his guilty plea. But Flynn repeatedly told the judge he wanted to proceed.
The judge asked, "Because you're guilty of this offense?"
Flynn answered, "Yes, Your Honor."
The judge told Flynn he should consider delaying sentencing until he is finished cooperating, saying, "The more you assist the government, the more you arguably help yourself at the time of sentencing."
Flynn has already met with Mueller's team 19 times but indicated in court he plans to continue providing information.
SCHNEIDER: The two sides are set to file a status report reflecting that cooperation by March 13th and then a second try at the sentencing will follow sometime after that, in early to mid-2019 -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
VAUSE: Joining me now from Los Angeles, civil rights attorney and CNN legal analyst Areva Martin; also retired FBI special agent, CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore.
Good to see you both. OK, Flynn, he had the sweetest of sweetheart deals. The special counsel, the prosecutor recommending no prison time. The problem it seems is that when his defense team submitted their sentencing brief to the court, they included some right-wing media spin like this stuff which we see on FOX News. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Agents did not on purpose warn General Flynn about any potential crimes and they didn't ask him to explain or clarify any inconsistencies in his answers and because they wanted him to be, "relaxed."
This is by its very definition a "perjury trap." You don't tell somebody you're really investigating, let's put him in a relaxed position, let him talk to us and then, by the way, you don't need a lawyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes, Areva, to you, that stuff might work on the FOX News Channel but it doesn't essentially --
VAUSE: -- fly too well in a federal courtroom.
Is this why Judge Sullivan lost it today?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John, I think there are a couple of things that happened in the courtroom.
Definitely, those comments included in Flynn's sentencing report to the court did not help his case. The judge did not take lightly his you know, accusations that he was somehow tricked into lying or that somehow, he didn't know what he was getting into when he gave that interview to the be FBI.
The judge was particularly annoyed, I think, by Flynn's lawyers, you know, their long reputation of his outstanding military career and then for him to have to admit that he lied, you know, while talking to the FBI in the West Wing of the White House.
The judge made that point over and over again as if you know, the White House is a sacred place and that, you know, he committed the ultimate violation. So I think, you know, those statements suggesting that he was somehow entrapped, those talking points of the GOP and the president didn't help him.
I also think the judge was taking Mueller's team to task for giving Flynn what the judge believed to be the sweetheart deal. I think the judge was disturbed by the fact that Flynn did not have to plead guilty with other violations, you know, with respect to the lobbying that he was going for the Turkey -- the Turkish government while, you know, operating as a part of the Trump administration.
So I think the judge was annoyed on two fronts.
VAUSE: He was not a happy judge. Steve, let's talk process here.
As an FBI agent interviewing the national security adviser to the 45th President of the United States, a decorated general, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency or the fourth cousin to the CIA, would you think it's necessary to remind someone like that with that experience, hey, party, it's a crime to lie to the FBI?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if I was -- if I was investigating a crime and I thought that he was about to commit a crime in his testimony to me, I mean, let's be realistic.
I wouldn't say, by the way, I'm -- you know, if you answer this wrong, I'm going to prosecute you for it. I mean that's part of the investigation. That's part of the interrogation. You're not going to tell them.
I think you're not going to ask them to clarify things. I mean, that's -- they're grown-ups. The one thing you would do is notify the White House Counsel. That that seems to be a breach of many protocols.
VAUSE: We'll get to that.
MOORE: But yes -- no, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't help more.
VAUSE: Because, Areva, if you look at the 302s, which is the real- time notes taken by the agents during that interview with Flynn, actually prompt him about specific discussions he had with the Russian ambassador. It seemed to be a pretty big clue that they knew exactly what had taken place yet Flynn kept you know playing dumb.
MARTIN: Yes, I think the judge also, John, was annoyed by that because when you read this document, it was very clear that he had chance after chance after chance to tell the truth and he didn't. He intentionally lied over and over again when he was given an opportunity.
And if you notice at the hearing, the judge gave him yet another opportunity. He said look, if you believe that -- I'm paraphrasing -- that you were somehow pressured into this guilty plea, now is your opportunity to say so. Maybe we can undo this plea that you've entered into. And Flynn said, no, your honor, I don't want to undo it.
The judge says, you know, do you believe that the fact that the two FBI agents themselves are now, you know, under investigation?
Or have been, you know, accused of violating certain protocols, that that somehow, you know, relieves you of your responsibility to tell the truth?
And he said no to that. So the judge today, Judge Sullivan, gave Flynn every opportunity to step back from the guilty plea, to make any kind of argument about entrapment or arguments about being pressured. But he refused to. So he really blew a hole in the whole GOP talking point, this whole entrapment.
VAUSE: Yes, this whole thing that Flynn is the victim of the deep state thing. It was blown out of the water. And that meant that the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had to go back and make up a bunch of new stuff. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The FBI broke standard protocol in a way that they came in and ambushed General Flynn and in the way that they questioned him and in the way that they encouraged him not to have White House counsel's office present.
And we know that because James Comey told us that and he said that the very reason that they did it was because the only reason that they did, it was the Trump administration and they thought they could get away with it.
Those are facts and, certainly, there may be other issues there but that we don't have any reason to want to walk that back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Sarah Sanders and facts are often, you know, are no good relationship. They're fluid.
Here's what Comey actually said under oath to Congress on Monday when he was asked why not advice Flynn about the consequences of lying to the FBI. This is what he said.
The deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, called him, Flynn, "told him what the subject matter was, told him he was welcome to have a representative from White House Counsel there."
"So he knew what where he was going to be asked about. He was an extraordinarily experienced person and so reasonably should be assumed to understand you can't lie to the FBI.
"Second, it's not protocol. The FBI does not do that in non-custodial interviews."
And here's what Comey actually said about how the interview with Flynn actually played out. This was to MSNBC. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: Something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away with in more organized investigation, a more organized administration. The FBI wanted to send agents into the White House itself to interview a senior official. You would work through the White House counsel and there would be discussions and approvals and it would be there.
And I thought, it's early enough. Let's just send a couple of guys over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Steve, what Comey is actually saying is that there was nothing sort of inappropriate about you know, how the FBI agents went about this. If there was any break in protocol, it was on you know, the behalf of the White House which was very disorganized at the time. The agents they simply did nothing wrong.
How do you see it?
MOORE: Well, he's talking a little bit like Sarah Sanders right now because he knows well enough as I do from a hard experience that you do not go into an agency without notifying their people.
I was thrown out of a DEA office for going to interview a DEA agent who was a witness, who is not even a suspect and literally thrown out for violating that protocol.
So to go into the White House, I mean, yes, you advised Flynn. Yes and that's great and I -- and I admire that. But you also realize that what -- who Flynn works for is bigger than Flynn himself and it is -- it is undeniable protocol to notify the White House Council.
VAUSE: So what is it in your opinion because that protocol was not followed despite you know, Comey sort of you know, I would kind of beat the bureaucracy attitude. I was you know, sort of going up against the bureaucracy if you like. Because that bureaucracy wasn't followed, what are the implications for the interview with Flynn?
MOORE: Well, it has really no implication for the legal part of the interview with Flynn. They told Flynn that he could have kept White House counsel there if he wanted so that has no bearing in what happened there.
I think it's more indicative of the relationship between the FBI and the White House at that point and the fact that nobody seemed really willing to follow the rules at that point.
VAUSE: You know, the president and his supporters have talked a lot about the relatively light sentences which have been handed out so far as a result of the Russian investigation. Here's one of the talking points. Listen to this. This is Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the Special Counsel, does he want to interview the president?
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Yes, good luck. Good luck. After what they did to Flynn, the way they trapped him into perjury and no sentence for him, 14 days for Papadopoulos. I did better on traffic violations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes. Areva, you know, Giuliani did better on traffic violations but you know, what they don't agree sort of talks down you know, essentially lighter sentences equate to no crime here, nothing serious to look at.
But you know, having the judge talk about Flynn selling out his country, of possible treason, does that now undercut the argument which we are hearing from Trump's supporters?
MARTIN: Giuliani's argument that there was some kind of "perjury trap"," Sarah Sanders using the word "ambush," all of these terms are absolutely ridiculous. Rudy Giuliani can't get away from the facts.
The facts are Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer a pled guilty is now sentenced to three years in prison. Michael Flynn, the president's national security adviser pled guilty and could be facing possible jail time. The list goes on and on.
In terms of Paul Manafort, the president's you know, campaign manager is to this day sitting in jail found guilty convicted on you know multiple charges in one court and pled guilty to charges in another court.
So we've not seen a president in any times that have had the number of people that have been either pled guilty or convicted of crimes that you know, similar to what's happening with the Trump administration.
And we have not seen a president under the kind of criminal investigation from his you know, nonprofit organization, his transition team his campaign, his administration, every aspect of Trump's in life personal and professional is under criminal investigation.
So Rudy Giuliani can try to dismiss, he can try to minimize it, but the reality is this president is in serious legal jeopardy and we have credible, you know, congresspeople, elected officials now talking in real terms, in real time about impeachment two years into this president's term.
VAUSE: Steve, we're out of time. I got 30 seconds. But the message coming from this judge now, to those who may be thinking about a deal with the special counsel, or the special prosecutors.
Special -- if Robert Mueller can't keep his end of the deal that there'll be no prison time, what does that do to those who may be thinking about flipping?
MOORE: Kind of -- kind of wipes out any leverage he has. The judge --
MOORE: -- wants to know they're all in from the beginning. And, you know, it's just -- you know, that's the bottom line, it's all in. I don't want to get political about it, but that's what it is.
VAUSE: Yes, OK. Steve, we appreciate your -- you know, enlightening us about how this process works.
Areva, also, thank you for being with us. (END VIDEOTAPE)
VAUSE: Well, President Trump's charitable foundation is closing its doors. Prosecutors say the organization was less charity and more like a personal piggy bank to serve Trump's business and legal interests. Details now from CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Trump Foundation was originally created to donate money to charitable causes. But Donald Trump stopped contributing his personal funds a decade ago; instead, relying on other people's money, like WWE's Linda McMahon, who, with her husband, reportedly donated $5 million.
But the New York attorney general alleges the money didn't go to charitable causes at all but instead helped pay off Trump creditors and helped the then candidate win the White House.
Donald Trump has denied the foundation did anything wrong, yet the lawsuit says, during the presidential campaign, Trump allegedly used the foundation for his own benefit by using foundation money to settle a dispute with Palm Beach, Florida, over a flagpole he put up at Mar- a-lago.
The town agreed to waive $120,000 in unpaid fines if Trump's club donated $100,000 to a charity for wounded veterans. The donation was instead paid by the Trump Foundation.
According to "The Washington Post," Trump's foundation also allegedly paid $12,000 for a football helmet signed by then Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
Trump's foundation also allegedly paid $20,000 for a 6-foot tall portrait of Trump painted during a gala at Mar-a-lago and another $10,000 for a painting of Trump himself at another charity gala.
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Trump had used it to buy things that basically, he shouldn't have bought. Things he should have paid for with his own money he used his charity's money to buy.
KAYE (voice-over): The attorney general's lawsuit accuses Trump and his three eldest children, who are on the board of the foundation, of persistently illegal conduct. That includes allegedly using foundation money to hold a campaign rally, disguised as a charity event, before the all-important Iowa caucuses.
It found so little oversight on the foundation's spending that its board of directors hadn't even met since 1999. And the foundation's treasurer wasn't even aware he was on the board.
KAYE: And about that Tim Tebow helmet and artwork the foundation allegedly purchased, the New York attorney general is saying now that the Trump Foundation will have to sell off its three physical possessions, including Tebow's signed helmet and the two paintings of Trump himself. Trump reportedly paid $42,000 for them using foundation money and says
they're now worth $975 combined, based on an IRS filing -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: Just 100 days now until Britain leaves the E.U. and a no-deal Brexit is looking more and more like a real possibility. After another marathon cabinet session, ministers are now planning for what's considered the worst-case scenario, with the Brexit secretary calling it an operational priority.
Britain is putting 3,500 troops on standby to support the government in case of a no deal. Families and business will be sent official advice in the coming weeks on preparations they should make now. Businesses will also have access to a 100-page document online with advice on what needs to be done in case of a no deal exit.
When we come back, a Yemeni mother finally granted a visa to see her dying child in the United States. We'll tell you what U.S. officials are saying about the trip at first being postponed. That's coming up.
Also, governments around the world are calling on Myanmar to pardon two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in prison for exposing a massacre by the military. We'll have those details next.
VAUSE: It appears the U.N.-brokered ceasefire is holding in the Yemeni caught city of Hudaydah. Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition have been fighting for control of the area.
Minor skirmishes have been reported by both sides. A source for the coalition says the Houthis should withdraw by the end of the year, December 31st. In turn, Saudi-backed forces will leave by January 7th, a week later. This city is crucial for the entry of aid and millions of lives, right now, are hanging in the balance.
A Yemeni mother has finally been granted a visa to visit her dying son in the U.S. She's expected to arrive in the coming hours after being stuck in Egypt. The family says she was denied entry because of the Trump administration's travel ban. CNN's Dan Simon has more now from Oakland.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a bittersweet moment for the family of this toddler who is on life support at the Children's Hospital here in Oakland, California. The family, of course, is elated that the boy's mother will not be able to come to the country to say her goodbyes to her son but they're sad in that he has such little time left.
A short time ago, I had the opportunity to speak to the boy's father, who told me about his reaction upon learning that his wife will now be able to come to country. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMON: When you heard that the State Department issued this waiver for your wife, what did you think?
ALI HASSAN, ABDULLAH'S FATHER: To be honest, it was the best thing I've ever heard in my life. It was like my wife calling me, crying with happiness. Like she is going to see her son for the last time. She was literally crying of happiness. I'm like -- she's like, thank everyone that support us, thanks to the social workers, thanks to a lot of things, everyone that help us.
Thanks to care in Sacramento Valley. It's crazy, to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIMON: The bottom line is, I think it's fair to say, that a wrong has now been righted. All this mother wanted to do was to see her son one final time. But the Trump administration's travel ban prevented her from coming to the country. She is from Yemen and Yemen is one of those predominantly Muslim countries that is on the administration's travel ban list.
Ultimately it seems the media glare is what caused the State Department to go ahead and issue this waiver. And I can tell you State Department officials actually apologized to the mother over the hardship this has caused her and her family -- Dan Simon, CNN, Oakland.
VAUSE: It's been a year since two Reuters journalists helped uncover a massacre of Rohingya Muslim men in Myanmar. Now those reporters sit in one of Myanmar's most notorious prisons, convicted in what has been called a sham trial for exposing state secrets. CNN's Matt Rivers went to the site of the massacre and looks back on the past year.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The oldest was 45. The youngest just 17. Ten men and boys picked out by security forces from a crowd of Rohingya Muslims who had fled their burning village. They were tied up with rope, forced to kneel and watch as their shallow grave was dug in front of them.
A day later, they were all executed, most of them shot by security forces, some hacked to death by their Buddhist neighbors, all tossed into a mass grave. ANTONI SLODKOWSKI, REUTERS MYANMAR BUREAU CHIEF: This was one of the stories that are seared in your mind and keep you awake at night, especially for Wa Lone, who became almost obsessed with finding out the truth.
RIVERS (voice-over): The massacre was unveiled by an explosive investigation by Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Inn Din was just one of many reported massacres during a brutal military crackdown which started last August after attacks by Rohingya militants.
The U.N. estimates at least 10,000 people died and 720,000 were forced to flee to Bangladesh.
But the Reuters investigation achieved something nothing else has. It resulted in seven members of the military being jailed, the only crime Myanmar authorities have admitted to during the crisis.
Their reporting was also used as evidence in a damning U.N. fact- finding report, which concluded that the military general should be prosecuted for genocide, findings which Myanmar rejected.
That U.N. report also showed satellite images of Inn Din in the aftermath of the military's operation. The Rohingya side of the village was completely burnt to the ground while the Buddhist side stayed untouched. The population used to be 90 percent Rohingya. Now it's zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Rohingya --
RIVERS (voice-over): CNN recently traveled to Inn Din on a government-led tour and saw the burnt treetops bearing scorch marks of the fires that burned that Rohingya village to the ground. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo made this journey a year earlier to find out what happened here.
SLODKOWSKI: It was an extraordinary feat of investigative journalism. It includes one after another stories from the people who actually did this and, in some cases, were actually very proud of what they've done.
RIVERS (voice-over): Then, last December, the reporters were arrested after meeting a police source for dinner.
SLODKOWSKI: They were hooded. They were taken to an interrogation site.
RIVERS (voice-over): They were then put on trial for possessing state secrets under a rarely used colonial-era law, the official secrets act, despite evidence that it was a setup.
SLODKOWSKI: There was one remarkable moment, when one of the police officers, he testified that the police organized the sting operation. RIVERS (voice-over): That testimony landed the police officer in jail for a year. The journalists were also convicted and sentenced to seven years in Yangon's notorious insane prison.
SLODKOWSKI: Their story has never been refuted or rebuked or challenged by anybody, including the authorities. This story stands.
RIVERS (voice-over): Exactly one year after Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested, they were named "Time" person of the year, along with other journalists in what the magazine calls "The War on Truth."
The front cover shows the men's wives holding their photos, a reminder of the families they had to leave behind while they languish in jail.
Pan Ei Mon was pregnant when her husband, Wa Lone, was jailed. Now she has to bring up her baby daughter, Thet Htar Angel, alone.
"I have to be strong enough to struggle," she says, "but I don't know until when. I can't fall, as my daughter is with me."
Chit Su Win, the wife of the other journalist, Kyaw Soe Oo, also has a young daughter, who, at 3 years old, is becoming increasingly aware and asking questions.
"She asks, 'Why doesn't Daddy live with us? Doesn't he love us?'
"And then I have to explain to her. I say her father is working in the prison. He is not leaving us. I lied to her and told her he is staff."
The families now await an appeal hearing set for Christmas Eve and governments around the world are also pushing for a pardon from Myanmar's de facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.
AMAL CLOONEY, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Our message to her now is, well, these were your own principles. You've actually slept in the prison where these journalists now sleep. You have the power to get them out.
RIVERS (voice-over): The case of the two journalists and their future is now being seen as a vital test case for the rule of law in a country trying to move toward democracy after decades of military rule -- Matt Rivers, CNN.
VAUSE: And coming up here, shining a light on one of the world's most pressing problems and we put a number on it: the international statistic of the year.
[00:30:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, thanks for staying with us, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with an update on our top news this hour. A U.S. Federal judge has delayed sentencing Michael Flynn after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe. The Former U.S. National Security Adviser will have at least three more months to tell investigators everything he knows. Flynn told the judge he has accepted responsibility for his crimes, and he walked back earlier suggestions that he was entrapped by the FBI.
The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly passed a major criminal justice reform bill, passing 87-12 on Tuesday. A House vote is likely later this week. The bill aims to ease sentences for nonviolent offenders. President Trump says he will sign that bill, and it provides a second chance for those who earn it.
The British government speeding up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, the Prime Minister's office says ministers have agreed to an emergency contingency plan, if essential -- it is essential, rather, if parliament rejects the Prime Minister's Brexit deal. Britain's defense secretary says 3,500 troops will be on standby to support the government if there is, in fact, a no-deal exit from the E.U.
The number that best sums up 2018, the international statistic of the year, is 90.5 percent, 90.5 percent. That's the amount of plastic wastes that has never been recycled. The numbers from the United Nations report that found in 2015, most of the billions of tons of plastic wastes ever produced, ever produced, is sitting somewhere, right now, in the environment.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh travelled to the Pacific, near the Island of Midway, for an up close look at the harm to marine life caused by a never-ending build-up of plastic and trash.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You get more of a sense of scale. We head out from the atoll towards the reef that encircles it, closer towards the endless plastic of the great Pacific garbage patch. It's often him under the surface and almost invisible underwater soup of tiny fragments. Not easy to spot, like this, a sunken barge, used to ship fresh water here, when this was a Cold War, early warning station.
Man comes and leaves, but this isn't his home, it's theirs. Listen. That's the sound of dolphins talking. Well, far more intelligent animal in the sea than us, now. They just seem to be following us wherever we go, staggering, completely unafraid, possibly not used to seeing boats that often.
But, in an ocean which as we've been seeing is being changed really permanently by man's behavior, and something just so staggeringly beautiful and calm. Contrast cannot be more stark, the message in these bottles that have floated thousands of miles to get here, is clear. The trash from your quick convenient gulp can end up anywhere on earth and last forever.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: For more now, Jenna Jambeck, Environmental Engineer at the University of Georgia is with us. It was Jenna's ground-breaking study back in 2015, which first raised the alarm that a lot more plastic was being dumped into the oceans, perhaps, thousands of times more than anyone actually realized at the time.
[00:35:13] So, Jenna, this statistic of the year (INAUDIBLE) a bit like, you know, the word of the year in a way, shining a light on some of the biggest problems or the issues which we're all facing, and this number, this 90.5 number, does it on a couple of levels in terms of our past behavior, ignorance of that behavior, as well as ignorance of the consequences of that behavior.
JENNA JAMBECK, ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Yes, I mean, I think what makes plastic so useful, and we've seen such an increase in it, is actually what it makes it super hard to manage in our waste stream and most people aren't aware of that fact.
VAUSE: You know, here's how one of the judges for the International Statistic of the Year, broke down the 95 -- 90.5 percent number. Over the last 60 years, we've produced more than 8 billion metric tons of waste. Plastic makes up most of that at 6.3 billion metric tons, and here is the terrifying number, just over 90 percent, has not actually been recycled.
And that leaves 5.7 billion metric tons of plastic waste which is out there somewhere in landfills or in the oceans, or in the stomachs of whales or turtles or whatever, and if nothing is done by 2050, there could be more than 12 billion metric tons of plastic.
But here's the thing, how can you make those really big numbers relevant to somebody who can't visualize what all of that actually means to them?
JAMBECK: Right, yes. No, I think, when you're thinking about that quantity of plastic that we had produced since 1950, that's actually equal to 80 million blue whales. And the majority of that has become waste. And that's because much of the plastic that we use is sort of quickly utilized for single use items and packaging, so that means that majority of that 6 billion metric tons has become waste that is challenging to manage.
VAUSE: But why isn't there this effort to recycle? I mean, this -- you know, the International Statistic of the Year and the study, which you're involved in, looks at, you know, the benefits of recycling if you can work out a way to monetize all of this trash, you'd be a trillionaire.
JAMBECK: Yes. But, you know, again, plastic is so useful. We can mold it. We can color it. We can texturize it. All of the wide variety of plastic products and way that we can use it, means, it's actually very hard to recycle because you can't necessarily mix colors.
You can't necessarily mix polymers and additives and things like that, so it makes it a huge challenge for recycling. And so, it doesn't really have a value for people to collect and process this at the back end.
VAUSE: Yes. And as much as people, sort of, can't grasp what all of this means, there's the flip side of that with these campaigns which are well-intentioned, but sort of, you know, misdirected the anti- straw movement which started back in 2015. It began with the video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose.
And while the campaign which followed highlighted the problem of all the plastic rubbish out there in the oceans, straws only make up a tiny fraction of that. But there's been this incredible amount of energy and effort placed, you know, into, you know -- removing plastic straws which are from everywhere and replacing with renewable materials.
That's a lot of energy which is being, you know -- I don't want to say wasted, but it's not being spent where it should be, where the real problems are.
JAMBECK: Yes. I mean, I think, you can spread awareness through those campaigns. And so, they do have some good consequences. But, I also know that it's not -- those aren't our only solutions, just like recycling, increasing it from this nine percent rate, isn't going to be our only solution.
There really has to be this integrated approach. And where we don't even have any waste management infrastructure, that's also where we need to be targeting our resources.
VAUSE: You said there needs to be this overall integrated approach, because -- and it's a pressing problem. You know, the U.N. found that plastic pollution has impacted about 800 species, you know, on the planet. Microplastic particles, they just don't breakdown, they stay. They've been found in food supply.
And all this research show, it's still in the early stages, said no one knows the scale of the problem or the long-term impacts will be, but, it doesn't take a whole lot to work out that, you know, this is not good, all of these plastic piling up, you know, in landfill and in the oceans and in the water supply.
Yet, in many places like here, in Georgia, authorities aren't even doing the easy stuff, you know, like charging people for shopping bags, plastic shopping bags. This is a low hanging fruit which is meant to change people's behaviors. Yet, you know, there are authorities out there and governments and, you know, big corporations which aren't doing the bare minimum.
JAMBECK: Yes, I mean, I think there are some policies that could be implemented that could really see the needle move on this issue.
VAUSE: So, I guess, at the end of the day, Jenna, it's all about, you know, simple ways of changing people's behavior, which shouldn't be that difficult, but I guess sometimes, it's harder than it actually looks or it seems. Thank you, Jenna. Good to see you.
JAMBECK: Thank you. [00:40:07] VAUSE: OK, when you got just one claim to fame, when we come back, the star of a 1990s sitcom, heading to court, to defend those moves.
VAUSE: A '90s dance move is at the center of a lawsuit against video game developers. The creator of the so-called Carlton Dance is suing Fortnite and NBA 2K, claiming they've both copied his famous moves. And a man with his own famous moves, CNN's Samuel Burke has this report.
SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: The first time Alfonso Ribeiro did that famous Carlton Dance was back in 1991, on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he's kept on doing it ever since, even on Dancing with the Stars, which he won in 2014.
Now, this lawsuit says the games, Fortnite and NBA 2K have unfairly profited from using his likeness and from exploiting his protected creative expression. The absol in-game purchases with characters called Fresh and So Fresh, doing what appears to be The Carlton. You can judge for yourself.
Lawyers we've talked to say the actor certainly has a case, arguing that this is a dance people identify Ribeiro with. They cite prior cases like game show hostess, Vanna White, suing Samsung for intellectual property infringement back in 1993, when they showed a humorous ad of a blond robot, turning letters. She won.
Ribeiro isn't the only one suing. The same law firm is also representing the teen who calls himself the backpack kid, in the lawsuit against Fortnite for their use of his signature, The Floss. It's estimated Fortnite has earned billions in revenue and was the most downloaded gaming app in 2018.
Epic games declined to comment, while 2k games did not respond to a request for a comment. Now, one CNN anchor asked me if we're even allowed to do The Carlton as we cover this story, and since it's for editorial purposes, I can show you how it's done.
Samuel Burke, CNN.
VAUSE: Thanks, Sam. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is next. You're watching CNN.
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