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Deadly Tornadoes and Historic Floods Devastate Central U.S.; Israeli Prime Minister Facing Deadline to Form Coalition Government; European Leaders Wrangle over Top Jobs; Nepal Could Change Requirements for Everest Permits; Trump Sides with Kim Jong-un on Missile Tests; At least 55 Inmates Killed in Brazil Prison Riots. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired May 29, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Relentless storms once again batter the U.S. Midwest. Strong tornadoes, severe flooding, the disasters seem never ending in hard-hit areas.
Plus Huawei lashes out as the Chinese tech giant says the restrictions from the U.S. government against its products go against the Constitution.
And a new U.N. report says North Koreans are trapped in a vicious cycle of deprivation, corruption and repression. A closer look at their struggle to survive.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.
CHURCH: A trail of destruction is all that's left after days of tornadoes and floods ravage the U.S. heartland. In Kansas, the city of Lawrence is in shambles, a large tornado flattened dozens of homes and 15,000 customers are without electricity. More than 50 twisters have been reported across eight states in the past two days.
The storms have been blamed for at least one death in Ohio. Crews are starting to clean up after at least three twisters ripped through the state, destroying houses and scattering debris.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma is preparing for a worst-case scenario as it braces for more floods. Levees near the Arkansas River are under pressure as the river reaches its highest level ever. At least one person drowned.
Back in Ohio, a tornado plowed through Brookeville, just outside of Dayton and that's where Michael Sussman says he survived a direct hit to his house while he was in it and here's how described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SUSSMAN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I got six staples in my scalp I've got some abrasions. I was standing in the front room and something -- it was a miracle -- told me to get into the hallway. And as I moved into the hallway, the front room got completely blown up. The roof got took off.
My daughter and her boyfriend were smart enough to be in the bathroom and they were buried in debris and it was pretty devastating.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: To say the least.
Did you see the roof get ripped off?
SUSSMAN: So in the moment, you really don't know what's going on at that point when you do go into shock. So the last thing I really remember, I stayed conscious, was looking at the front window and thinking, this is going to be bad.
And I'm 59 and it was the worst thing I've ever seen. So at that point I knew that, if we survived, we were going to be lucky. And we were lucky because we did survive.
BOLDUAN: In those moments, what do you remember feeling?
SUSSMAN: Well, it was an ominous feeling looking at the weather. I didn't hear the train so much. The wind and the rain were blowing much harder than I'd ever seen.
And they had a hurricane actually, believe it or not, in Brookeville, Ohio, about 18 years ago and they were 70-80 miles per hour winds. So I've seen strong winds.
But this was an ominous feeling. Like I say, something made my body move two foot to the left. Thank God because the entire front room I was standing in is no longer there.
And there are many other houses back in the flats that are totally destroyed. Mine's not the only one.
BOLDUAN: Your neighborhood, I can only imagine. You were just able to go back in to see what was left of the house and your neighborhood.
How do you describe it?
SUSSMAN: Pretty emotional. You know, people walking around staring. I have been through a fire so I kind of knew some of the feelings. But when you're looking through rubble and walking over your roof and trying to find pictures of your family and the things that you can't replace, it's pretty rough, pretty rough to go through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Tornado survivor Michael Sussman talking with our Kate Bolduan.
CHURCH: Israel's prime minister is racing to form a new coalition government. If Benjamin Netanyahu does not reach a deal by the end of the day, that could trigger a new election. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more from Jerusalem.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the deadline for Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition grows closer and closer, the Israeli leader says he is still trying to work to break the deadlock. But there were few statements coming from the political parties Tuesday, everyone eyeing that Wednesday at midnight deadline.
The impasse remains all about the draft law to draft more orthodox Jewish youth into the military. The former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman wants it passed as is with zero changes. The ultraorthodox parties demand changes to the law.
So far that is where the negotiations are stuck. And yet, despite all of that, political analysts say fresh elections still aren't likely. Negotiations often go down to the wire even with that rhetoric growing more and more hysteric as the deadline draws closer.
But never in Israel's history has a government not been formed after an election even if it's once again going down to the last moments, seconds before midnight on Wednesday. The expectation from analysts is that a compromise will still be reached. We'll see how that plays out on Wednesday -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.
CHURCH: The political push is on for the top jobs in the European Union. But the fragmented European Parliament election result is complicating things.
German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron are at odds over who should lead the European Commission while the E.U. Council president insists that the discussion should focus on the process and not the possible candidates. Erin McLaughlin has the details.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Battle lines are being drawn here in Brussels for the E.U.'s top jobs. Four jobs in total up for grabs. The president of the European Council, the president of the ECP, the high representative and the top job being the president of the European Commission. Jean-Claude Juncker's job.
Twenty-eight leaders met over an informal dinner to discuss what matters most to them, bringing the diplomats, I'm told that they want something that's balanced between the different political parties, they want something that is gender balanced as well. If you look at who took the top jobs in 2014, they were --
MCLAUGHLIN: -- overwhelmingly men. They want to see some women in the mix this time. And then finally, they want to see a geographical balance.
But whatever they decide, keep in mind they are going to need approval of European Parliament, a majority there which is currently highly fragmented due to those election results on Sunday.
So, at this point, Tusk has a mandate to negotiate with parliament to come up with some sort of consensus and that needs to be reached by the end of June -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.
CHURCH: It's Everest Day in Nepal, the anniversary of the summit of the world tallest mountain. On May 29th, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first individuals to successfully scale Mt. Everest.
And now, 66 years later, there is a growing debate over climbing regulations after 11 people died this season. Right now Nepal only requires climbers get a permit regardless of their experience. But that might change as more amateurs take the trek. CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Everest base camp more than 5,000 meters above sea level.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've been hearing still already feel how (Inaudible).
So that one straight ahead of us, the black one, that's the summit of Everest.
The mountain that claimed so many lives this year peaks out in the distance. Even here at base camp because we aren't acclimatized the altitude hits like a ton of bricks, the slightest movement makes your head spin.
Our cameraman, Rajesh stayed at the helipad with oxygen shooting from above while we make our way down. The season is ending. The camp mostly deserted, no longer a sea of tents. Those who were here are cleanup crews and among the last to make it down like 17-year-old Mrika Nikqa and her father, Arindi, from Kosovo.
A father-daughter team is pretty extraordinary.
ARINDI NIKQA, MOUNTAINEER: Yes.
DAMON: How did it feel for you? What is it like?
MRIKA NIKQA, MOUNTAINEER: Well, it felt awesome, it was pretty good.
DAMON: I mean, it's a combination of pride and anxiety?
A. NIKQA: It's responsibility.
A. NIKQA: Big ones.
DAMON: Yes. I assume before you went up to the top you are hearing about all of these deaths that were happening.
M. NIKQA: Yes.
A. NIKQA: We saw dead bodies in the way.
M. NIKQA: You know what, when you decide to come and climb Mount Everest you prepare yourself that you are going to see dead bodies, maybe something can happen to you, your father or whoever you're climbing with. So, you just -- you prepare. Like you see a dead body and it's OK, I have to -- it's gone. I don't want to be like him, I have to move on. I have to go. It is what it is.
Everyone has their own motivation. So, my first motivation is my mom and my brother so I have to go up and get down safely because they are waiting for me. I'm not staying up there.
DAMON: Nepal says this year's deaths mostly happened from altitude sickness. Which many are blaming on an hours' long backlog within the mountain's death zone where each breath only contains a third of the oxygen at sea level.
The Nepalese government stories of a logjam were overblown and says that this years' deaths were due to weather not the number of permits issued. Just nine more than last year. There were only a few favorable summit days and that created the rush to the top.
And then there is as we heard from those who have been summiting for years, the lack of experience of an increasing number of climbers. There is no experience requirement to obtain a permit. But in light of what happened this year, the Nepalese government is looking at changing that.
Did you deliberately wait until the very end to take your clients up?
PASANG TENZING, SHERPA, EVEREST GUIDE: Yes, definitely. There were people I feel really, really sorry about them because they were super slow, they didn't have much technique to go up the mountain. It looks like they have no mountain experience except for Everest. So, these are the people created a lot of problem on the mountain.
DAMON: Just walking up from doing the interviews down there it felt like this massive taxing effort. I didn't expect that it would be and it should be but again, my body isn't used to being at this altitude.
And then of course, when you are here the weather can change so quickly. I put on all my layers and this is just a little bit of an idea of what it's like when you are trying to take on a summit. Like Mount Everest when you are dealing with lower levels of oxygen, when you are dealing with these extreme temperatures and why it's so important to make sure that you are prepared and that you know what your body is trying to tell you.
For us, after two hours here without proper acclimatization, it's time to leave -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Everest base camp, Nepal.
CHURCH: We'll take a short break. Still to come, a grim picture emerges from North Korean defectors. A new U.N. report documents systemic corruption that demands bribes for citizens to survive.
And feuding with Facebook: why Canada may find Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in contempt of Parliament. Back with those details in just a moment.
CHURCH: Donald Trump just can't let go of his latest attack on his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Tuesday, he tweeted this, "I was actually sticking up for sleepy Joe Biden while on foreign soil. Kim Jong-un called him a low I.Q. idiot and many other things, whereas I related the quote of Chairman Kim as a much softer low I.Q. individual. Who could possibly be upset with that?"
We get more from Abby Philip.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump arriving in Washington today after four days of pomp, circumstance sumo wrestling and golfing in Tokyo.
Before heading home, the president making a brief stop to mark Memorial Day with U.S. troops aboard a warship in the region.
TRUMP: And I have to wish you all a very happy Memorial Day, right. Memorial Day is very special back home and I always like to be back in the U.S. as you do for that day.
PHILLIP (voice-over): And though almost no official business was on the agenda for his ceremonial visit, the president still caused a stir after cranking up his flattery of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as denuclearization talks with North Korea falter.
TRUMP: He's a very smart man, he gets it well. PHILLIP (voice-over): And insisting that North Korea's recent short- range missile launches were not a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution.
TRUMP: My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently. I view it as a man, perhaps he wants to get attention.
PHILLIP (voice-over): His top national security adviser, John Bolton, looking on as the president openly undercut him and his host and top U.S. ally in the region, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe.
SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The 9th of May, North Korea --
ABE (through translator): -- launched a short range ballistic missile. This is violating the Security Council resolution.
PHILLIP: And North Korea was not the only issue where President Trump differed from his national security adviser John Bolton. He also said that he did not want regime change in Iran, which is something John Bolton has long sought. He has been very public and open about it.
And this trip seems to have really laid bare this rift between Trump and his top national security adviser, who sources tell us has bothered Trump a little bit with his hawkishness -- Abby Philip, CNN the White House.
CHURCH: Chinese tech giant Huawei is taking a dramatic next step in its legal fight against the U.S. government. Earlier Huawei announced it has filed a motion for a summary judgment on its legal motion challenging the U.S. law that bans federal agencies from buying its products.
Huawei says the law violates the U.S. Constitution. Our Sherisse Pham has that report.
SHERISSE PHAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A chance to compete in the U.S. market isn't going to happen. Huawei has been blocked out of the United States for the better part of a decade. The latest move from the Commerce Department is even more crippling than this lawsuit.
Huawei has been added to a trade blacklist. That means U.S. companies like Google and Qualcomm can't supply software and computer chips to Huawei. One analyst I talked to said a Huawei smartphone without Android operating system and without access to Google services is like a brick.
And without access to key parts like U.S. computer chips, rolling out 5G networks, something that Huawei has been leading on, is going to be pretty difficult. And Huawei executives today acknowledging that the latest restrictions from Washington is a threat to their business -- Sherisse Pham, CNN, Xinxiang.
CHURCH: Facebook probably isn't getting new friend requests from the Canadian Parliament. CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a no-show Tuesday at an Ottawa hearing and so was the social media giant's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.
The officials sent in their place were grilled by lawmakers on privacy and the spread of disinformation. CNN's Paula Newton has more from Ottawa.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The thing to remember is that this was an international committee. They claimed these lawmakers to represent more than 400 million people and they were absolutely fuming that Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, in their words, "blew them off."
It's true Facebook did in fact send two other executives and they were absolutely grilled. At issue here is what this social platform will do to protect people's data and privacy and what they will do to try to mitigate all of that to the effects of that misinformation we see, whether it's about elections or vaccinations.
It's really interesting; in one very testy exchange, they actually brought up an interview that our own Anderson Cooper did last week with Facebook executive, a V.P., where this executive had claimed that a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker in the United States, that made her look drunk, was not taken down for valid reasons.
Take a listen now to an MP from the U.K. on what he thought about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMIAN COLLINS, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: I think it sets a very dangerous precedent. And your colleague, Martha Vickers (ph), said last week to CNN that basically Facebook's policy is that any political content, any disinformation content related to politics will not be taken down, though we know it's put it up for users so they can see the facts were disputed but will never be removed.
COLLINS: I think that if you are going to allow your platform to be abused in this way by people producing disinformation films targeted at users, to try to interfere with democracy, and the best you're going to do is put a flag on it to say some people dispute this film, I think that's a very dangerous precedent.
(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: Yes, dangerous precedent, he says. And the heart of the matter now is what these lawmakers will do to legislate this, to bring in new regulations in all of their countries about what to do about a social platform like Facebook and if they will actually be held to account for videos like that and whether those kinds of new laws will have any teeth, including very severe fines.
These lawmakers say that they will act and in the meantime they are still calling for Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to show up to one of these hearings -- Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.
CHURCH: We turn to Brazil now, where we are following a wave of gang violence inside several prisons there, claiming dozens of lives. Shasta Darlington reports from Sao Paolo.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The violent clashes that left 55 prisoners dead over the last two days has now been blamed on infighting between rival factions in the same criminal gang. That's because Brazil's --
DARLINGTON: -- lucrative drug smuggling trade is largely operated from behind prison walls, making their fight for supremacy vicious. This latest bout of violence began on Sunday during family visitation hours, when 15 prisoners were killed in one prison by their fellow prisoners.
They were strangled and choked and in some cases stabbed with sharpened toothbrushes. There was a second bout of violence on Monday at four different prisons, where 40 inmates were killed by their cellmates. In fact, their bodies weren't found until a routine inspection by prison guards going to cell to cell, where they found these prisoners had been strangled.
As a result, the federal troops have been sent in to secure the prisons to try and quell this violence. The governor of Amazonas says they have identified some 200 prisoners who could be the victims of further violence and they are being protected and isolated while they transfer nine gang leaders to maximum security prisons.
The concern here is that the violence could spread. In fact two years ago, more than 100 inmates were killed in an outbreak of prison violence and rioting. When the country's two biggest drug gangs went to war over the smuggling routes.
This is, of course, a major challenge for the new president, Jair Bolsonaro. But it could end up giving him a boost in the opinion polls because Bolsonaro himself is considered tough on crime and he's repeatedly bowed to crack down not only on criminal organizations but on prison violence and he could take this opportunity to really flex his muscles -- for CNN, I'm Shasta Darlington in Sao Paolo. (END VIDEOTAPE)
CHURCH: Millions affected by appalling levels of hunger. The latest U.N. report catalogues the human rights abuses in North Korea.
And then later this hour, hiker lost for 17 days in a Hawaiian jungle tells her incredible story of survival. We're back in just a moment.
CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM I'm Rosemary Church. Time to take you through the headlines this hour.
Well, a new U.N. report paints a damning picture of North Korea. A nation so corrupt the only way for people to survive is to pay bribes to officials for food, healthcare, shelter and work. And there is concern that President Trump plays a role in diverting attention from the human rights abuses. Brian Todd has our report.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In President Trump's mind, North Korea is an economic powerhouse just ready to be unleashed, something he described to reporters in Japan on Monday.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un understands the unbelievable economic potential that country has. It's located between Russia and China on one side and South Korea the other. And it's all waterfront property. It's a great location as we used to say in the real estate business. And I think he sees that.
TODD: But now a new U.N. report says North Korea is in reality the opposite. An increasingly desperate poor country so write with corruption that according to a person who escaped "One cannot lead a life in North Korea if he or she does not bribe his or her way."
GREG SCARLATOIU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Access to a decent housing job, all of these cannot be accomplish unless (INAUDIBLE) North Korea has never been as corrupt as it today under the Kim Jong-un.
TODD: The U.N. says many aboveboard jobs in North Korea don't pay salaries. And bribes have to be paid to get jobs in the growing black market economy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens to people who can't pay bribes?
SCARLATOIU: If they cannot afford to pay bribes they might end up being in prisons, sent to prison camps and other types of detention facilities. TODD: In North Korea, buying and selling things openly which with
westerners consider completely normal is potentially illegal. So defectors say officials can extort anyone caught doing business.
LEE HAN-BYEOL, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): In North Korea markets, if we get caught by guards the only way we get back on property was to paying bribes.
TODD: And defectors have told CNN people are turning to black markets because the lack of food is so desperate.
JI SEONG-HO, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: It is a horrendous state and there is a lot of suffering. And many children are taken to the streets for begging. And the quality of life in the countryside is even worse.
TODD: Officials are bribed with cash, cigarettes and other goods defectors say. The reports say women are especially vulnerable in this vicious cycle. Many women bribed border guards to get into China where their fate can be equally horrifying.
MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Once they're in China they're very high levels of anxiety and fear because they are vulnerable to sex trafficking. And many of these women end up being sold off as brides and then they can be sold among the peasants in the rural areas or forced into commercial sex activities.
TODD: Analysts are now concerned that many of these abuses are being swept aside, with President Trump's eagerness to strike a nuclear deal with Kim Jong-un.
NOLAND: The President seems to turn a blind eye both to the brutality of the regime operating a gulag as well as its corruption. Kim jong- un is the head of a mafia family. He's got a bunch of lieutenants under him who in a kind of pyramid scheme all predate on the population and they are allowed to keep some of their ill cotton gains as long as they keep on kicking some of it back to the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: North Korea has always denied the human rights abuses and the regime responded to this U.N. report with one of its diplomatic missions telling the Reuters News Agency that the report is "Politically motivated for sinister purposes." And that all of these reports are based on fabricated information from defectors. Brian Todd, CNN Washington.
CHURCH: For more on this, Daniel Collinge joins us now from Seoul, South Korea, he's a human rights officer with the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Thank you so much for being with us.
DANIEL COLLINGE, UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICER: Thank you, Rosemary. CHURCH: So the details in this U.N. report are shocking and all them
also when we consider how much U.S. President Donald Trump talks about his close relationship with the brutal dictator in North Korea. How concerned are you that Mr. Trump is ignoring these human rights abuses? And will anything be made to get President Trump to respond to this report?
[02:35:07] COLLINGE: I think that's the hope that the report will bring the leaders that are talking amongst themselves on the situation in North Korea to bring the concerns and the voices of the people into this process of dialogue and discussion. The current interaction of the situation of human rights a situation that means people will face is not part of the discussion. And these situations have to be addressed.
The human rights concerns have to be addressed as part of this process of dialogue. We're not going to have peace and security without the human rights concerns being addressed at the same time.
CHURCH: Now North Korea denies all the details in this U.N. report. Claiming it's politically motivated and based on fabricated stories from defectors. How do you respond to that accusation?
COLINGE: Well, these interviews are conducted over an extended period of time (INAUDIBLE) to this specific report, every two-year period. So it would be very difficult for each and every account to correspondent. I mean, we verify as much as we can, the internal consistence here (INAUDIBLE) given to us. And then try to patterns across the whole range of a counts that we receive. So for this report, 214 witnesses accounts.
And then from that, we can draw certain conclusions, make certain allegations and then it's for the DPRK states to clarify what situation. A big part of the problem is certainly we're not getting information from the state. We have no access to the country. The U.N. human rights has no access to the country so we can't go in and see for ourselves. So we rely on this witness testimony for the reports that we produce such as this one.
CHURCH: Right. And this U.N. report found North Korea more corrupt now than ever before. Why do you think that's the case?
COLLINGE: We don't know if it's more corrupt, we relied on this witness testimony. We do know that the public distribution system collapsed in the mid-90s. And it led to up to million people dying from famine. And from this time, this rudimentary market activity is spontaneously risen and is become more and more problem over the years. So I think the opportunities for state officials to engage in corruption went this rudimentary market activity and extort money from these people, I think the opportunity is becoming greater.
These state officials themselves are not receiving salaries, so they also rely on this process of extortion and for their own base, day to day existence as well.
CHURCH: Yes. I mean, that is shocking because you worry for those people who don't have jobs, who don't have money, who can't pay these bribes, you know, where it leaves him. So what does the international community need to do to ease the human rights abuses and the suffering obviously of most people living in North Korea?
COLLINGE: I think, all they can do is to maintain the issue on the agenda, the human rights concerns. It's on the agenda in the higher negotiations. And human rights benchmarks can be integrated into these negotiations on, for example, denuclearization, you can have human rights benchmarks. Very simple one such providing access to the U.N. human rights office, to other human rights organizations.
Providing with that to the country so they can see what the situation is. And then work with the government to address these human rights strategies which is seem so prevalent within the country.
CHURCH: Now, of course you're relying on a lot of information, all this information in fact from these defectors who you've spoken to. What do they say about what other people in North Korea are saying and thinking? Because we know it shut off from the world, they don't know a lot what is going on outside of North Korea. So, would they say that the majority of people within North Korea want to leave or that they just accept their circumstances?
COLLINGE: The situation is changing through this rudimentary market activity. Information is beginning to see things to the country. So I was surprised speaking to the North Koreans that I've interviewed just how much awareness there is about the situation outside and the problems within. The problem is for these people they have no means to expressing their opinions of challenging the government of organizing.
It's a very, very impressive state if they attempt to do this then they're in prison. So they have no opportunity to express these views to the government and to the challenge their authority. But the information that we received is that the awareness increasing through this rudimentary market activity. And there is increased -- there won't be increasing pressure on the authorities to address these situations.
CHURCH: It is a very disturbing report and we thank you of course for bringing a lot of these points to light and we'll see how the world community response to this. Daniel Collinge, thank so much. We appreciate it.
COLLINGE: Thank you.
CHURCH: Well, after a high profile divorce, one of the richest women in the world is now pledging half of her fortune to charity.
[02:40:04] That's next on CNN NEWSROOM.
CHURCH: The ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is pledging to give billions to charity just months after their divorced. MacKenzie Bezos has signed a pledge to donate at least half of her $37-billion fortune. CNN's Anna Stewart has the details.
ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: She's only been a billionaire and her own right for a few months following her high- profile divorce from ex-husband Jeff Bezos. But MacKenzie Bezos is now valued around $37 billion and is giving at least half of her fortune to charity and philanthropic ventures. This is through the giving pledge. She has written a letter and when she says she has a disproportion amount of money to share.
I'm sure a lot of people will feel that it could resonate with that given that she is number 22 on Bloomberg's billionaire index. Now the giving pledge was set up by Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010. It is now amassed 204 billionaires, all of whom have pledged to donate at least half of their fortunes to charity and philanthropic ventures either in a lifetime or on that day. Now, with the giving pledge, we don't know exactly where they're going to put their money from MacKenzie Bezos and her part, she has donated for instance to the Day One Fund with her husband, that's a home to shelter charity.
Perhaps (INAUDIBLE) her money. But really it can go anywhere and as I said at any given time. Last year, 26 people owned the same as of 3.8 billion people who made up the poorest half of the world. That was according to ox man earlier this year. So this sort of venture is a real feel-good story. And she joins the likes of Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and many others. However, the one person who's been highlighted particularly by the press today is of course her ex- husband Jeff Bezos who has not signed this pledge yet.
He does give money to ventures particularly homeless charities but has yet to sign a way half of this fortune. And perhaps now the pressure is on since his ex-wife has. Anna Stewart, CNN London.
CHURCH: Michael Thatcher joins me now from New York. He is the CEO of Charity Navigator. A watchdog group that evaluates charities so donors are aware of where their money is going. Great to have you with us.
MICHAEL THATCHER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CHARITY NAVIGATOR: Thank you, Rosemary. I'm delighted to be here.
[02:45:03] CHURCH: So, MacKenzie Bezos is giving half of her $37 billion fortune to charity, specifically, to The Giving Pledge, which is a commitment by the world's wealthiest people to dedicate at least half of their wealth to this group.
But the money can go anywhere at any given time counted. So, what will likely happen to the $18 plus billion that Mackenzie Bezos has just pledged and will she decide exactly where that money goes?
THATCHER: Well, I hope she does. And first of all, this is a -- this is a huge commitment that she's making. It's absolutely wonderful to have someone dedicate half of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
The, The Giving Pledge allows the pledges to essentially pick the organizations they want to dedicate funding to. So, they may care about the environment, they may care about education -- other issues, that is entirely up to them.
And then, when they make that investment, it's theirs to make. Now, that can be done while they're still living or it can be left as a bequest after they're gone. How she sets that up is going to be very important, and actually where there's an opportunity for impact in what she's doing.
CHURCH: Now, as we mentioned, your watchdog group, Charity Navigator evaluates charities to allow donors to make informed decisions with their money. So, what is your assessment of The Giving Pledge, set up by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates back in 2010?
THATCHER: So, what we have seen with The Giving Pledge which started almost 10 years ago is that it's grown from a group of 40 to well over 200 billionaires that have committed to make their more than half of their wealth available to nonprofit causes and philanthropy.
What this has also there's a -- there's a follow-on effect which is that it -- that it encourages others whether you have a small amount of money or a large amount of money to be more generous. And not only more generous but intentional in your generosity.
So, that's the key I think in this. It's nice to have a significant amount of wealth. But being thoughtful choosing where you -- where you place that money and finding good organizations to receive your hard-earned money is really important at this point.
CHURCH: And that is the key, isn't it? Because a lot of people are reticent to hand over money to so many organizations that are basically saying, "Give your money to us."
CHURCH: And then, we find out that a large portion of that money goes toward administrative costs. So, how can you be sure that when you hand over your money, that will specifically go to the people that you see most in need, how can you guarantee that?
THATCHER: So, what we try to do at Charity Navigator is help you see where is the money going? But then, also how is the -- how is the organization run? And is this a -- is this a well-run organization? And I think the real -- the key thing is there's an -- there's an element of where's my donation going? But then, also what has the organization done with my money and my investment on some levels?
And so, the key thing that we're seeing is when you shift from giving to investing in social change, you actually start following up on your investments. In the same way, you would do with -- let's say a portfolio investment in these -- in the stock market. And you track where these things go.
What you'll see in larger donors is that they tend to be much more careful in their tracking of these investments. And looking for change over time. You may not see it at the time of your initial donation, but one year in, two years in, three years in, you ought to be able to expect that the nonprofit will be able to report back what they've accomplished with your funding.
CHURCH: Right. And then, presumably, if you're not happy with a particular place you've put your money, you can shift that around and put it where you think it might work better for you, and for those you're trying to help.
But, of course, the pressure is now on Jeff Bezos himself, to sign this giving pledge.
CHURCH: Something he hasn't done just yet, but with his ex-wife MacKenzie, leading the charge, would you expect him to do that very soon?
THATCHER: I would hope so. It was encouraging to see his tweet saying that he was proud of MacKenzie's actions. And hopefully, he will take a similar step himself.
CHURCH: Right. And who was some of the other billionaires who you would expect to follow suit, or you think perhaps should do this?
THATCHER: You know, I think it's nice to have the billionaire's, but it's also good to have the millionaires and the people -- all of us, thinking about how we can give a little bit more back to the society and the world, and the universe in which we live.
So, I don't know that I have specific names other than I would encourage everyone to think about The Giving Pledge as a model and think how regardless of how much money you have, how can I be more impactful with the giving that I do actually do.
[02:50:15] CHURCH: Michael Thatcher, thank you so much. We've enjoyed chatting with you. And hopefully, MacKenzie Bezos's actions here which I think it's incredibly generous. And I hope that others will follow suit billionaires, millionaires, and anyone else who wants to give their money. We do appreciate you chatting with us. Appreciate it.
THATCHER: Thank you very much.
CHURCH: And, of course, you want to be smart when you're donating any of your money to any cause. And for help finding organizations that you can trust, you can go to charitynavigator.org and take a look.
Well, next here on CNN NEWSROOM. A woman who survived 17 days lost in a Hawaiian forest is sharing her story of survival and thanking the people who rescued her. We'll have that for you on the other side of the break.
CHURCH: A gorilla made famous by renowned American researcher Dian Fossey is believed to have died. This is Poppy, she has not been seen by trackers in Rwanda since August of last year. In her journal, Fossey described Poppy as a little darling, a gorilla that could do no wrong. Poppy even surprised those tracking her when she became the oldest recorded mountain gorilla to give birth at the age of 41, just a few years ago. She would have turned 43 on April 1st.
Well, the 35-year-old American woman who survived 17 days lost in a Hawaiian forest is now sharing her story of survival. Amanda Eller expressed her gratitude Tuesday to those who never gave up on her, and spent days searching for her. And Nick Watt has the latest.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 17 days missing in a Maui jungle, no phone, no GPS, no supplies.
AMANDA ELLER: RESCUED MAUI HIKER: You have a choice to make. You could sit on that rock and you can die, or you can start walking down that waterfall and choose life.
WATT: Amanda Eller's car was found at a trailhead on May 8th. Abducted, injured, vanished, was all we knew but she knew she was lost.
ELLER: You turn your head one way and it looks exactly like the other way, exactly like the other way. I'm like which way is north --
WATT: Hundreds joined the search.
ELLER: They could have just forgotten about me and said another missing person, no big deal.
WATT: She followed wild-boar tracks looking for a way out, slept in the same caves they did.
ELLER: Then, the helicopters are passing over, and I'm standing on rocks, and waving them down, and they're passing over and they're not seeing me, I'm invisible, you lose hope.
WATT: Then she got hurt.
ELLER: It was a 20-foot drop. It was a sheer cliff. The plants didn't hold me up, boom.
WATT: She survived on berries plants and river water. Then, finally, spotted from the air.
ELLER: I had a plant in my mouth that I was planning on eating for dinner.
WATT: This, the moment rescuers reached her. Sunburned, hurt, 15 pounds lighter, but alive.
ELLER: And I just like fell to the ground and just started bawling.
WATT: Eller's family threw a party for all who helped in that hunt. Her turn to cry.
ELLER: I'm just the girl that got lost in the woods, and you guys like showed up, hard, like, this is like true Aloha.
[02:55:04] CHURCH: Such an inspiring story. Just fantastic. Nick Watt, with that report.
What most people sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects or UFOs can usually be dismissed as a weather balloon or a drone, perhaps, nothing more than strange quirks of nature. But now U.S. Navy pilots are sharing stories of their own UFO encounters which are not so easy to explain away. Here's our Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the movie Independence Day, a fighter pilot gets into a dogfight with a UFO. And the UFO loses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to earth.
MOOS: But real-life fighter pilots are now going public with their UFO encounters.
LT. RYAN GRAVES, UNITED STATES NAVY PILOT: Wherever we were, they were there.
LT. DANNY AUCOIN, UNITED STATES NAVY PILOT: No distinct wings, no distinct tail, no distinct exhaust.
MOOS: There were a spate of sightings by Navy pilots back in 2014 and 2015 along the east coast of the U.S. The government even released a couple of videos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My gosh!
MOOS: Showing unidentified objects on cockpit sensors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing, dude.
MOOS: One pilot managed to lock onto one flying over the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! Got it! What the -- is that thing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow! What is that, man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at it flying!
MOOS: What's new is that now the pilots are talking to the New York Times and in a miniseries for the History Channel.
ANNOUNCER: Unidentified: Inside America's UFO Investigation.
MOOS: The pilots are identified. This is F-18 fighter pilot Lieutenant Danny Aucoin.
AUCOIN: It seemed like they were aware of our presence because they would actively move around us.
MOOS: One pilot told the New York Times of another pilot looking sharp, telling him, "I almost hit one of those things, it flew right past the cockpit, looking like a sphere encasing a cube.
Back in 2004, off the west coast near San Diego, a fighter pilot captured a white oval shaped object on his sensors. Watch it accelerate and depart scream left at high velocity. They call this one The Tic-Tac because of its shape.
Sure, maybe it's just a result of bugs in the imaging system or atmospheric effects. But if there are aliens, let's hope they don't need tic-tacs for their breath. Jeanne Moos, CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing! It's rotating.
MOOS: New York.
CHURCH: Intriguing, we'll be seeking the truth on this one. Thanks to your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. And I'll be back with another hour of news after this short break. Do stay with us.