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New Zealand Prime Minister: Tougher Gun Laws On The Way; Trump versus Nielsen on Hate Groups; Trump Approval Rating Ticks Up; Brexit Chaos; 'Leave Means Leave' Supporters Marching to Westminster; New Zealand Prime Minister Promises Tougher Gun Laws; Cyclone Idai Takes Heavy Toll in Southeast Africa. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired March 19, 2019 - 00:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The prime minister of New Zealand is taking swift action as that nation grieves the loss of 50 people killed in Friday's terror attack. Officials resolve to ensure that this never happens again.

The White House bracing for the Mueller Russia probe findings, preparing to claim executive privilege to control what Congress and the public see.

Also ahead this hour, a humanitarian disaster of large proportions after a massive and horrifying cyclone plowed through Southern Africa. Hundreds of people still missing.

Live from CNN World Headquarters, welcome. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Around the world, good day.

At this hour, we have updates on two mass shootings that shattered the peace in two diverse places. One took place Monday morning in the Netherlands. Police say a man opened fired on a tram there, killing three people. The 37-year-old Turkish man arrested for the shooting had previous run-ins with the law but police are unsure of the motive there.

This happening again days after the mass shooting on Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand. Just a short time ago the prime minister spoke to her country's parliament, she announced on Monday that she and her cabinet had agreed in principle to toughen New Zealand's gun laws. It is a swift response to the shooting at two mosques, a shooting that left 50 people dead and dozens more wounded.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: Those loved ones were brothers, daughters, fathers and children. They were New Zealanders, they are us. Because they are us, we, as a nation, we mourn them.


HOWELL: In the meantime, the grim, complicated task of releasing the bodies of victims is underway. They've only been able to release one of the victims to their family; keep in mind, this process could take many days, many weeks or longer.

Let's go live in New Zealand, our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson following the aftermath of these terrible shootings.

Ivan, we heard from the prime minister a short time ago, the nation is mourning but also resolve to toughen gun laws and religion to what happened.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To toughen gun laws and she was talking about how this was New Zealand darkest day, the 15th of March. And explaining what steps the government is doing to protect the country and the population and to console the population.

As for the key suspect who faced a murder charge in a Christchurch court on Saturday, this is what she had to say about him.


ARDERN: He's a terrorist. He's a criminal. He's an extremist. But he will when I speak be nameless. And to others, I employ you speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.


WATSON: And it is in the interest of what she is saying that I want to bring up a man named Farid Ahmed, a survivor of the attack, whose wife was tragically killed, describing how he had to explain that to his daughter.


FARID AHMED, NEW ZEALAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: She said, are you telling me, we don't have a mother?

I said yes. But I'm your mother now, I'm your father now. And you are my mother and you are my daughter. We have to change the role. So calm down, take it easy, you are allowed to cry but don't lose your mind.


WATSON: Hard for some to believe but this same man who lost his wife, the mother of his daughter, said that if he saw the suspect, he would hug him, if he saw the suspect's mother, he would hug her, too.

[00:05:00] WATSON: Sticking with that message of love and tolerance that people have been repeating all around New Zealand since last Friday's deadly terror attacks.

HOWELL: Everything you just shared with us made the hair stand on my arms. Just amazing to understand that a person would be able to want to hug the suspect after something like that and also a man that said not to lose their minds. It's a lot.

I also want to ask you about the prime minister speaking about social media when she was speaking to officials there. She said that social media should be held to greater account, for the content they make available and how they monitor and control it.

WATSON: That's right, New Zealand is waging this battle. As are the social media sites, to try to control the images, the video streams that the suspect was livestreaming as he began shooting people. And she had some choice words, for the social media sites. That they're not just the postman; they're the publisher. They can't all just be profits, there has to be responsibility as well.

And Facebook has said, that it's working as part of this Internet task force with Microsoft and Twitter and Google. To help try to restrict some in these images that have gone around, But it's clearly very difficult. Because those images, just multiply exponentially after the initial terrorist attack within minutes.

A court here in New Zealand ruled, for example, that the image of the suspect needs to be blurred from now on. Nobody should even show this person's name; that said we are seeing this image popped up here and there.

For example, the president of Turkey has been running excerpts of the shooting video at campaign rallies ahead of elections at the end of this month. And the deputy prime minister of New Zealand addressed that with the foreign minister of Turkey, saying that this kind of action could endanger New Zealanders, abroad and here at home.

Another example of groups that are using this tragedy for political goals, a spokesperson for ISIS in a rare audio message, about 25 minutes long, addressing the attacks here in New Zealand and calling for vengeance and revenge.

ISIS right now controls a very tiny piece of territory, is surrounded and very much on its last legs in a corner of Syria, George.

HOWELL: A very different reaction, pure disgust for the use of that material or any other use. Ivan Watson, thank you for the reporting. We wish our condolences to people and the families who have lost loved ones.

Back here in the United States, the secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said the primary terrorist attacks in the United States still come from Islamist militants but emphasized domestic hate groups cannot be ignored.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: But we should not and cannot and must not ignore the real and serious danger posed by domestic terrorists. We, too, have seen this faces of such evil with attacks in places such as Charlottesville, Pittsburgh and Charleston.

And in the wake of the New Zealand tragedy, I want to make one thing very clear. We will not permit such hate in the homeland. There is no room in this great nation for violent groups who intimidate or coerce Americans because of their race, religion, sex or creed.


HOWELL: She said they're using the same mass murder tactics seen in New Zealand. She referred to violent groups but she didn't specifically mention white supremacists or white nationalists.

Let's talk about more this now with CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell, Josh joining us this hour from Los Angeles.

Great to have you with us, Josh.


HOWELL: So we just heard from Secretary Nielsen, saying as a nation hate cannot be tolerated. Compare that to the thoughts of her boss, the president, who says white nationalism is not a growing threat.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that white nationalism is a national threat around the world?

TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess, if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet.


TRUMP: They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing.


HOWELL: So, Josh, clearly the secretary is walking down a tightrope compared to the comments of her boss.

CAMPBELL: She is indeed and they are certainly out of sync. And there's two things of interest there, when you played that, the president responding to the question, one thing he said was we don't really know what's going on. We don't have enough information, that is inconsistent with what his intelligence community -- why they exist, to provide him information. I found it hard to believe that the president of the United States,

who is briefed in the aftermath of any major incident, for him to say we will have to wait and see, I think that's troubling.

The larger issue is -- with any agency that exists to protect the homeland -- they have to have that buy-in and support from the top in order to fully execute the mission. So you have the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, law enforcement in the United States saying we have a problem.

But if the president, their boss, isn't using his place on the world stage to call out the radicalization, it really makes their job a lot harder. So I think, although you see the secretary saying this is an issue, until the president is on board and using the weight of his office to do so, I think it's really unfortunate for our agencies.

HOWELL: The president said we'll have to wait and see, but we don't have to wait and see because the facts are readily available to us. Let's take a look at them.

The FBI saying that hate crimes are up 17 percent in 2017 and the majority, the vast majority of those incidents, 90 percent, were targeting minorities.

Also according to the Anti Defamation League, over the past decade, right wing extremists have accounted for 73 percent of extremist related murders, compared to just 23 percent associated with Islamic extremists.

For the record, Josh, those are the facts.

CAMPBELL: They are the facts and the president knows that. The FBI data that you cite, this is annual data that is collected, publicly available for a reason, so that law enforcement agencies have a snapshot and understand what the threat is, where they need to dedicate resources.

And the FBI briefs this information to the White House, our policymakers so they can set the stage and set the tone. So for the president to not be aware of what is going on here, it is either very bad staff work on his part, which I don't imagine, because even in the White House, you have political appointees but you also have folks in the National Security Council that are career officials.

That information is getting to the White House, it's getting to where it needs to go. Whether or not they are receptive to it is a different issue. But the data is there and they have to understand that these facts and figures are collected for a reason. This is a national problem that we have to address.

HOWELL: And when it comes to hate, these hate crimes, we heard from the prime minister of New Zealand, speaking to the house of parliament. One thing that stood out was that she insisted gun laws in that nation will change. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARDERN: Part of ensuring the safety of New Zealanders must include a frank examination of our gun laws. As I've already said, Mr. Speaker, our gun laws will change. Cabinet met yesterday and made a principal decision 72 hours after the attack.


HOWELL: So the government there is moving quite quickly. That in sharp contrast to what we see here in the United States.

CAMPBELL: It is indeed swift action on their part. I was thinking about the number of these incidents that we've covered here in the United States, where you always simply have the same pattern. You have an incident, you have a mass loss of life, the shocked, people that are upset, followed by no action.

You have calls for, OK, something has to change. But it never does. We always move on to the next thing. So kudos to officials there in New Zealand, especially the prime minister, for stepping up and saying this is something that we have to address.

One thing that is interesting about the attack that happened in New Zealand, when compared to other attacks in the United States, obviously gun control is a highly politically charged issue but if you look at the shooter, it appears as though he obtained the weapons legally. At least he had a license that he obtained legally in order to get the weapons.

So that says for all of us who are looking at policy changes or issues that are there that can actually be enacted, they can. Because this isn't someone who got weapons illegally, something beyond the control or scope of law enforcement. If there are real common sense solutions that are put in place to stop people who are depraved, may be prone and exposed to violence, from gathering these weapons or war, then you will not see the mass loss of life.

So the issues are there, we continue to see this over and over again, just when this happens in the United States, there's a lot of hemming and hawing but not a lot of action.

HOWELL: On the heels of what happened there in New Zealand, another attack that we're talking about. This time the attack --


HOWELL: -- on a tram in the Netherlands. The motive is still unknown but it happened in a similar place like New Zealand, where gun crimes are very rare.

CAMPBELL: Again, this is a global problem. We look at the United States, you look at the attacks that we looked at over the past two years. Whether it's white nationalism, regardless of the motivation, you still see that hatred that is out there.

And when you factor in the mediums that are being used on social media, you've people that are physically not connected but are able to communicate with each other and continue to radicalize, this is a growing problem.

Props to the officials in the Netherlands, who took the subject into custody, they will look back and determine, what is this person's past?

What was motivating this person to act?

I'm sure we will hear from them. But it comes back to those who are leaders on the global stage not being afraid to step up and say that these issues need to be addressed. This is a growing problem and it all goes back to, I can tell you as a former FBI agent, until you actually define the problem, until you describe the problem, what it is that you are dealing with, whether it's in your country or internationally, you will never get around to actually solving the problem.

So that's the missed opportunity here, especially here in the United States, we don't see the president, we don't see elected leaders stepping up and saying this is a global problem that needs to be addressed. They tend to look the other direction, which is very unfortunate, because we're going to see these attacks again happen and it's going to take that kind of leadership for us to really move in the direction. We have all of the policymakers, all the global community, working together to stop this hate from spreading.

HOWELL: Josh Campbell with perspective and insight, we appreciate it. Thank you for your time.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.


HOWELL: Any time now, the special counsel Robert Mueller's report to the U.S. attorney general is expected. It could happen again any day now. And White House lawyers want to see it before it is submitted to lawmakers.

And if word goes public, Mueller has been investigating whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russia. Sources say the attorneys want a chance to claim executive privilege over information collected from documents and interviews with White House officials.

But such a move could set up a political and legal battle. Democrats, would almost certainly sue over the presidential claim.

Let's talk more about all of this now with CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron joining us this hour from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us, Ron.


HOWELL: On the heels of the report from the Special Counsel due out any day now. Let's take a look at where the President stands right now in the polls. Here is the snapshot, 42 percent approval rating for President Trump. That's up 2 percent from a month ago. 51 percent disapproval -- the lowest number since the start of his presidency. And a new CNN poll showing that 71 percent of people polled say he economy is in great shape. The highest number since February of 2001. So Ron, that's the snapshot with that information. And the Democrats gearing up obviously for 2020.

The Mueller report due out any day, where does President Trump stand right now?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, his approval really has been incredibly stable with -- between 37, 38 percent, 36 sometimes on the low end. And really no higher than 45 at the high end.

He's the first president in the history of modern polling to never reach 50 percent at any point during this first two years. And this poll today I think is actually a pretty good reflection of his situation because on the one hand we do see a tremendous amount of satisfaction with the economy. 71 percent saying the economy is in good shape and you can never count out an incumbent when economic satisfaction is that high.

On the other hand, the polls also a pretty clear indication of what I like to call the Trump gap which is the gap between the people who are satisfied with the economy and those who are satisfied with the performance of the President.

I mean his approval rating is 29 percentage points below the share of people who say the economy is good. That's an extraordinary divergence and if you look at some of the key groups in the electorate that really move towards the Democrats in the November election last year college educated white voters were really at the top of the economic pyramid in the United States.

80 percent of them say the economy is in good shape. Only half that -- 40 percent, say that they approve of his performance as President. And that's the price he pays and that's how he avoid himself as President. And that is precisely the price he pays for the way he has comported himself as President.

Those are voters who are saying things are basically going well in the country economically. But yet, the way that Trump has -- his values, his language, his demeanor everything about the way he has approached the presidency still leads to disapproving and that is the risk that he faces is in 2020.

HOWELL: All right. So you talk about that divide, Ron, are the people who seem satisfied with Mr. Trump, and also those who are not satisfied with him.


HOWELL: Those who see him as a divider, notably straddling the line on issues of hate specifically on the issue of white nationalism as we heard earlier in the show and in the wake of the new attacks that took place in New Zealand. The President's people are defending him.


CONWAY: He has denounced bigotry many times. And I wouldn't be working here if I believed otherwise.

MULVANEY: You've seen the President stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty. This president is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that.


HOWELL: Ron -- their reactions seem clear, straightforward. But when the President speaks about the same topic, he does seem to offer, you could say shades of gray.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. Look, I mean the President has been -- you know, I think it's a mistake to say that the President is kind of impulsive or off the cuff especially when he talks about race. He is very precise in what he does say and what he doesn't say.

And consistently throughout his career on the national stage he has refused to truly condemn and isolate white nationalists. I mean if you recall -- what is it -- four years ago, three years ago, this month on CNN Jake Tapper he would not condemn David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi just before southern primary's voted in Charlottesville.

He talked about very fine people on both sides, it included neo-Nazi, chanting Jews will not replace us. And then, of course, again in New Zealand, he minimized the threat of white nationalism.

I don't think that's because he believes that white nationalists are a significant portion of the country or of his coalition. But his coalition is centered on voters who are the most uneasy about demographic and cultural change. Some are between 60 and 65 percent of Republicans say that Islam is more -- is incompatible with American values since it's more prone to violence. And the President has been unwilling to draw a line between those views and the more radicalized expressions of that that lead to violence, and any kind of attack.

It is pretty clear by now, that he's very deliberately not reading that out of in essence a diverse intolerant society.

HOWELL: Ron, the President has taken issue with any suggestion that his rhetoric could have any connection to hateful acts as we saw in New Zealand tweeting this. "The media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So ridiculously," he said.

But here's the question, the attacker in New Zealand, he did mentioned his appreciation for President Trump in his lunatic rambling manifesto. Can Mr. Trump truly pass the buck here when it comes to his own words.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, as you say lunatic rambling manifesto. You can only go so far with that. But there's no question that the President has used, continued to use language that by now he unequivocally knows excites and animates these extremist voices.

I mean he talks about immigrants as invaders. He talks about immigration as an invasion knowing that for many on the farthest fringes of the right in these white supremacists and nationalist organizations, they view that as evidence that they are gaining ground on society.

They have the ostensible leader of the free world echoing and using the same kind of language that they use to talk about these changes in society. Unquestionably I think it's energizing for them.

And whether he meant deliberately to do that or not, I think there is always a wink and a nod. But even if there wasn't he knows now that it is having that effect and yet he persists in using that language. And that is a choice.

HOWELL: Ron, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.


HOWELL: Theresa May's Brexit plan was dealt another blow, leading to new concerns over a constitutional crisis in Britain. We'll have the more on that.

Plus this.


HOWELL (voice-over): Brexiteers in the north of England are marching to Westminster to send a message, that leave means leave. CNN was there to hear their views, that as the news continues.






HOWELL: You could call it a surprise announcement in the saga that is Brexit. The Speaker in the House of Commons is throwing the rulebook at Theresa May. After the British prime minister struck out twice, trying to get her deal, her Brexit deal approved by Parliament, John Bercow decided to put a 400-plus year-old rule into play, blocking Theresa May from a third attempt; that is unless substantial changes are made. Listen.


JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS: What the government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the house the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by 149 votes.


HOWELL: This means the prime minister will have no deal in place when she heads to the E.U. summit later this week. Keep in mind, we are now just 10 days away from when the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union.

On the road, supporters of the Leave Means Leave campaign are marching to Westminster. CNN's Nick Glass braved the buses, the bad weather and even Stanley the bulldog to catch up with them.


NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The long march, English style, 14 days on the road from the north of England to Westminster; a total of 277 miles, they tell us, all to impart a basic message: leave means leave.

These walkers all voted for Brexit, believe in it passionately and feel utterly betrayed by the politicians. The talk was mostly of politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It must be Germans are prepared to issue (INAUDIBLE) international debt, I can't see it working.

GLASS (voice-over): It may have looked like a procession of country ramblers but the purpose is deadly serious.

GLASS: How much of the march are you going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lot, God willing. God willing, I'm going all the way to Westminster.

JOHN TULLEY, MARCHER: (INAUDIBLE) and it's just a big room full of clowns then.

GLASS (voice-over): The march began on Saturday in the wind and the rain.

GLASS: That's quite difficult to handle in the wind, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really. It's great stuff.

GLASS (voice-over): And almost in secret, a great challenge for us and quite a few marchers, was actually to find it.

GLASS: So are you on the march or not?


GLASS: They're over there.



GLASS: It is. They're half a mile ahead of you.

GLASS (voice-over): The organizers did not want any agitators from the Remain campaign to disrupt the march, so kept on changing the meet-up point. Nigel Farage, arch Brexiteer, was the star turn arriving somewhere in that in green hunter's coat and flak cap, flanked by bodyguards.

By then, Stanley the bulldog was there, too, his owner merely interested in getting a picture of Nigel on the new Brexit betrayal bus and not bother (INAUDIBLE) talk.

NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER UKIP LEADER: Whatever tricks they play, if they extend it, if they don't deliver it, if we even have to fight this again, we will beat them again.

GLASS (voice-over): Nigel then set the pace and a brisk one at that in his blue trainers, he won't do the whole march herself, just join in from time to time.


BARRY LOCKEY, MARCHER: We're being betrayed massively, right in front of our eyes. Theresa May and all them Parliamentarians are liars.

GLASS: Come rain or shine, there were only about 100 or so marchers in all, but what's not in doubt is their determination and collective fury at the politicians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say it's not about them; it's not about how many people we had at the beginning. It's all about how many people are there in the end. We'll make a count when we get there.

GLASS: The end will be a mass rally outside Parliament on March the 29th.

Nick Glass, CNN, with the Leave Means Leave March.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The march continues. The month of march is soon to end and Brexit, we'll see!

New Zealand is following other countries jolted by the terrible actions that took place in that country. Coming up, we take a look at the tragic connection between the availability of powerful weapons and mass shootings.


HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers there all over the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell, and happy to be with you. Here are the headlines we're following for you this hour. The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, led tributes to

Friday's shooting, the victims in her country, at Parliament a short time ago. She spoke about those victims. And a day earlier, she and her cabinet promised tougher gun laws would be coming soon.

The response, again, is in the wake of Friday's mass shooting, a shooting that killed 50 people, dozens more wounded, when a gunman opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A Turkish man is in custody in the Netherlands, suspected of shooting three people to death and wounding five others. This happened on a tram Monday morning in the city of Utrecht. the manhunt for the suspect lasted for several hours. Authorities initially suspected terrorism, but the gunman's motive at this point remains unclear.

Sources say White House authorities want to see the findings from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation before they are submitted to Congress, so they can claim executive privilege over certain information. The U.S. attorney general will decide how much of that report is shared with lawmakers and how much of it is shared with the public.

As we mentioned, the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, announced her government has agreed in principle to tougher gun laws following the massacre in that country. Phil Black takes a closer look now at how mass shootings in other parts of the world have spurred governments to take action.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Zealand is just not used to this. The extraordinary pain, the confusion that follows a massacre of the innocent using weapons designed for war.

[00:35:08] Gun ownership here is high, especially among farmers and hunters. Gun violence is low, so in recent years, politicians have found it easier not to change laws which allow ownership of military- style weapons like those used in Christchurch.

JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand's gun laws. The clear lesson from history around the world is that, to make our communities safer, the time to act is now.

BLACK: The man accused of attacking the mosques is a, Australian citizen. His homeland endured its own difficult conversation on gun ownership after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, where 35 people were killed with by a man with semiautomatic weapons.

Then Prime Minister John Howard, the lines of a bullet-proof vest visible beneath his suit, explained to angry gun owners why he was taking away some of their guns.

JOHN HOWARD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We believe that it is in the national interests that there be a dramatic reduction in the number of automatic and semiautomatic weapons in the Australian community.

BLACK: The most recent government figures from a few years ago show annual gun deaths in Australia have since dropped by around 70 percent.

The United Kingdom also experience the pain of mass gun violence in 1996, when a man entered a school, shooting dead 16 children and a teacher in the Scottish town of Dunblane. He used four handguns. Those weapons were outlawed within two years.

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We owe the debt to the people of Dunblane. We said MPs would vote to ban handguns. MPs have had that vote. The people have spoken. Parliament has spoken. Handguns are banned. We have honored our debt to the people of Dunblane.

BLACK: Norway was forced to think about the importance of its sporting gun culture after a lone domestic terrorists killed 77 people using semiautomatic guns and explosives. That was 2011. In 2018, the country finally moved to ban military-style rifles.

New Zealand's government has promised rapid change, with the details of new gun laws to be announced within the week. And it's now supported by some of those who previously resisted gun reform, like the country's deputy prime minister.

WINSTON PETERS, NEW ZEALAND DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: The reality is that, though, that after 1 p.m. on the 15th of March, our world changed forever, and so will some of our laws.

BLACK: New Zealand, like other countries before it, has come to the conclusion that there is a link between the availability of powerful weapons and how easily its citizens can be massacred by a committed individual.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


HOWELL: Massive and horrifying. That is some are describing the impact of a tropical cyclone in Mozambique. We'll have the very latest as the communities there begin to assess the damage.

Also, scientists say they have found, in the stomach of this beached whale, what raises serious concerns about the state of our oceans.


[00:40:22] HOWELL: Welcome back. More than 8 million people are under a flood warnings in the American heartland. The extensive flooding follows a powerful bomb cyclone, as it's called, a bomb cyclone that slammed the central United States last week with hurricane-like winds and blizzard conditions.

Flood records were shattered in 17 places, and more rivers will likely break cresting records this week. The flooding is already responsible for at least three deaths.

Several countries in southeast Africa are coping with the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai. The president of Mozambique warns that 100,000 people are in danger and that his country faces a real humanitarian disaster of large proportions.

Here's CNN's Tom Sater with more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This used to be housing. People didn't stand a chance here.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Misery in the wake of the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the coffins outside. There's more coffins and bodies inside. Lots of people suffering.

SATER: This church, like more than 2,000 square kilometers in East Africa, wasn't spared from Cyclone Idai with its whipping winds and drenching rain that cut a trail of destruction through Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.

The storm began on land over a week ago, then moved offshore, strengthened, then powered back as a named cyclone.

The president of Mozambique warns that the death toll alone in his country could exceed 1,000.

This town of Beira, home to half a million people, was directly in the storm's path. A dam also burst here, adding to the devastation.

The Red Cross says some communities are completely cut off, with no communications, and no way to reach them, as many roads have been washed away.

Rescuers in dinghies are searching for survivors, finding a lucky few clinging to the trees above the waters. Mozambique's president says more rescue equipment, as well as doctors and volunteers, are on the way.

FILIPE NYUSI, MOZAMBIQUE PRESIDENT (through translator): I spoke with people, and they are calm and aware of what is happening. They said water is a problem and that we need to reinforce food supplies and also medicines.

SATER: Still, with so many missing, in an area that was previously struggling from dry conditions, the scale of the damage from Cyclone Idai may only just be emerging.

Tom Sater, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Tom, thank you. Another sad example of how plastic is a major threat to marine life. Take a look.

Forty kilos of plastic bags were found inside the stomach of a beached whale in the Philippines. Experts at a natural history museum there say it's the most plastic they've ever found in a whale. They believe it died of dehydration and starvation.

The museum is now urging governments to take action against those who continue to treat waterways and oceans as dumpsters. Just stop using those things, I suppose.

Plastics are leaving a permanent mark on our environment. About 8 million tons of plastic go into our oceans every year, which is like dumping one garbage truck into an ocean every minute. It adds up to five trillion pieces of plastic in our ocean.

By 2050, the United Nations predicts there will be more plastic in the water then fish. That's something to think about.

Thanks for being with us for NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. WORLD SPORT is next.