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Israel Barred Two U.S. House Democrats; Gibraltar Court Gave Green Light to an Iranian Ship; Hong Kong Police Contest Their Move Against Protesters; Zimbabwe Experience More Power Outages; Scientists Unveiled an Alarming Discovery; Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:00] MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Punishing political opponents. The U.S. president pressures Israel in banning two members of Congress from visiting the country.

Cutting off dialogue. North Korea vows to stop talking to South Korea on the same day Pyongyang test fires two more missiles.

And later, the growing plastic pollution problem scientist warn it's literally raining down on us.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Max Foster. This is CNN Newsroom.

Well, Donald Trump's grudge match against two Democratic lawmakers just get more heated. The U.S. president took the highly controversial step of encouraging Israel to ban Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan from entering the company. And Israel did exactly that.

Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of the president and also Israel. Protesting its treatment of Palestinians. That's not how Mr. Trump sees it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They are very anti-Jewish and they are very anti-Israel. I think it's disgraceful the things they've said. You have a list of, this isn't just a one-line mistake. What they've said about Israel and Jewish people is a horrible thing, and they become the face of the Democratic Party.


FOSTER: Well, the Israel's prime minister defending his government's decision saying the congresswomen wanted to damage Israel.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): As an open and vibrant democracy we welcome all visitors and all criticism, and we do this by welcoming all the Republicans and Democrats over the years, including last week with open arms.

But there's one thing we are not willing to do under the law, we are not willing to accept into Israel people who call for the boycott of Israel and actually work to delegitimize the Jewish state.


FOSTER: CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from Jerusalem. And presumably all politicians don't agree with this move.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already been attacked for his decision not to allowing two duly elected sitting U.S. Congress members because of exactly who and what they are.

They are elected members of the U.S. Congress and as Netanyahu said, Israel is, or at least supposed to respect the U.S. Congress and allow any members of Congress to visit. But when President Donald Trump tweeted that Israel will be showing great weakness by letting them in it left Netanyahu very little wiggle room. Even it was Trump appearing to tell Israel how to conduct its foreign policy. Netanyahu has never probably disagreed with Trump and he wasn't about to start now.

An unprecedented step to punish President Donald Trump's political enemies. Israel barring two Democratic congresswomen, an outspoken Trump critic from visiting. Just minutes after the president tweeted "Israel will be showing great weakness by allowing Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to enter the country." Later adding, "they hate Israel."

After the announcement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying, "no country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the state of Israel." Adding, "Israel's law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ayes are 398. The nays are 17.


LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu referencing a bill Tlaib and Omar supported which overwhelmingly failed to pass the House weeks ago, which supported the right to boycott, though the resolution itself didn't specifically mention Israel.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): I can't stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the State of Israel.


LIEBERMANN: Even so, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, one of those closest to Netanyahu said last month the two would be allowed entry because of Israel's respect for the American Congress. Not anymore.

For her part, Omar, who, along with Tlaib, are the first two Muslim women in Congress responded saying, "Trump's Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected members of Congress."


TLAIB: Because we are going to go in there we are going to impeach (muted)


LIEBERMANN: The Democratic freshman are also two of the most outspoken critics of Trump, calling for his impeachment leading Trump repeatedly to accuse them of being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.


TRUMP: I forgot, she doesn't like Israel, I forgot.


LIEBERMANN: And launching racist attacks against the two, including telling them to go back to where they came from, even though both are American citizens.


TRUMP: This, Tlaib, Tlaib, she's vicious. She's like a crazed lunatic. She's screaming.

[03:05:02] I'm looking at this Omar from Minnesota and if one half of the things are saying about her are true, she shouldn't even be in office.


LIEBERMANN: And the story isn't over yet. We just learned from Israel's interior ministry that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has requested on humanitarian grounds to visit her grandmother in a central West bank village where the family is from.

A short letter, a three-line letter written to the interior minister says, "I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fauqa. This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect my restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit."

The interior minister who has the final say here is expected to make a decision in the coming hours. Now Israel had previously said yesterday a government official saying that if Tlaib requested to visit her relatives on a humanitarian grounds, that would be considered favorably.

That being said, Israel has already reversed its position once on this, we'll see if it does so again, Max.

FOSTER: OK. Oren, thank you.

Now more missiles from North Korea. The Pentagon says the North fired off two short-range ballistic missiles early on Friday. South Korea's joint chiefs of staff tell CNN they were launched off the North's eastern coast and landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

CNN's David Culver joins us now from Seoul. What do you know about the --more about these operations, David?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, I can tell you we're just hearing now from South Korean military officials who confirm along with the U.S. military officials that these were short-range ballistic missiles. They launched about 8 o'clock local time. We should point out this is the sixth such launch in about three weeks' time.

North Korea says they are doing this as a response and a protest, if you will, to the recent joint U.S. South Korean military exercises. These are exercises that are still underway, these are those computer simulated exercises that are seen as war games. And the North considers them to be aggressive.

And for that reason, they say they're launching several test rockets. However, I've spoken over the past week or so with several military defense analysts and they say this goes far beyond just retaliation for the joint military exercises, they say this is a way for North Korea to enhance their military capabilities and they say they are doing that. In fact, they call it creative and ingeniously.

They look at the trajectory and the altitude of some of these recent rockets. And they say these are rockets that are designed to evade the U.S. and the South Korean missile defense systems.

They called them incredibly effective, and Max, they point that this could be a real threat, not only to South Korea, not only to Japan, both, mind you, U.S. allies, but also the tens of thousands of U.S. troops and their families stationed here on the peninsula.

FOSTER: Meanwhile, this also comes with a talk of stopping discussions between the North and the South, that's all what's happening there and what does the U.S. role have to play here?

CULVER: That's right. Yesterday, President Moon here in South Korea delivered a speech on Liberation Day, a national holiday here, and in that, he called for a peace economy. A unified peninsula, while at the same time, he pushed for maintaining the strength, militarily and defense against North Korea.

North Korea looked at this and they say, OK, you can call for peace and a peace economy and this harmony. However, at the same time you're doing these joint military exercises which we perceive to be a threat to our sovereignty.

So, they have now asked South Korea to stay out of it essentially. They want to only deal with the U.S. here as these talks move forward.

FOSTER: OK. David, thank you. Gibraltar Supreme Court has ruled that a seized Iranian oil tanker is free to leave. The court approve the ship's released after receiving an assurance that its cargo would not be delivered to Syria.

But as CNN's Nick Paton Walsh report the U.S. has objected.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now it was supposed to be a day of de-escalation, until suddenly just when people thought it was a matter of hours until the Gibraltar court released the Grace 1 because the detention order had expired.

The American Department of Justice lodge further papers at the court to try it seems to have that detention extended, or a new period of detention begun. That does it appear still to be being assessed.

Now what we did hear today, clearly was that in terms of the E.U. sanctions violations for which the Grace One was originally detained, they have been cleared up and the tanker on the score is free to go according to Gibraltar judges. What is not resolved are these new U.S. allegations.

Now there is basically a clock ticking as to whether or not the Gibraltar courts believe there is enough in this Department of Justice submission to perhaps potentially detained the tanker again.

[03:10:04] It is as far as we understand, free to leave at this point. Whether or not it has a crew to sail it is unclear. The crew, which was originally on board, were released today as part of these judicial proceedings. And the E.U. sanctions issue being resolved.

But this is being frankly, a messy day, because as far as we understand, the Gibraltar government have been given assurances by the Iranian government that the tanker would no longer be headed towards the Baniyas Syrian oil refinery, where many believe it was originally bound. Tens of millions of dollars of oil potentially headed to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad which is currently under E.S. sanctions.

But this last-minute intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice as yet, still it seems unresolved. That may well be part of the broad wave of pressure from Washington often against its own allies to be tougher on Iran to make and place maximum pressure from sanctions, a military buildup in the gulf, anything it can, really, including pulling out of the nuclear deal to put Tehran under greater pressure.

Exactly where this comes in the next day or two aren't clear. It is obvious that the U.K. court system has embarked on a path that will likely lead to de-escalation, it may even mean the reciprocal detention of the Stena Impero British owned tanker by Iran is in fact resolved as well. But we don't quite know how Washington intervention here is going to yet be resolved.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London. FOSTER: Hong Kong police officers are speaking out. They say they are

confident they have control of the protests that are bringing the city to its knees. But the protesters don't agree. More that next.

Plus, stress fractures are appearing in the global economy as the trade war between Washington and Beijing grinds on. A live report from Hong Kong just ahead on that.


FOSTER: In Hong Kong, no end to the protests. And the French urban climber Alain Robert known as "Spiderman" scale the skyscraper to unveil a banner and shows the flags of China and Hong Kong by their handshake a symbolic gesture calling for reconciliation.

Hong Kong police are defending the way that they handled the mass demonstrations there, rocking the city. That includes the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. One senior officer says that if the protesters don't use violence, we won't use force but that's not how pro- democracy demonstrators see things.

Kristie Lu Stout joins us from Hong Kong with more. And crucially, the police claim to be in control, when it doesn't always look like that as the case.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, in a very rare briefing. I'm standing outside Hong Kong police headquarters and for the first time since the Hong Kong protests erupted more than 10 weeks ago, senior police officers with the Hong Kong police force have given a media briefing with their side of the story.

And in a sentence, they tell CNN if they don't use violence, we won't use force.

[03:15:01] Now In this media briefing the Hong Kong police force said the following. Number one, they defended their actions. Number two, they reject the idea of an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality. And number three, they dispute the way Carrie Lam, the beleaguered chief executive of Hong Kong characterized the events here in Hong Kong.

As you may recall, she said that the situation here is spinning out of control. The Hong Kong police they say they may be demoralized; they may be physically and emotionally drained but they have the situation under control, thanks to the 30,000 uniformed police officers and they have yet to mobilize more assets.

Now there have been some very serious allegations of abuse and misconduct leveled against the police. Just last Sunday, tear gas was deployed in an enclosed location, in a subway station in Hong Kong. Rubber bullets used as well.

In fact, one female protester in aggressive clearance operation suffered a serious injury with a ruptured eye. And this is something that has attracted criticism internationally from human rights group as well as protesters here in Hong Kong. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOPHIA SUEN, SPEAKER, CITIZEN'S PRESS CONFERENCE: Political oppression now a manifest as the police says excessively brutal clearance operations and selective law enforcement.

This poisons what used to be Hong Kong's immaculate public security records as fierce spreads within the community with citizens and visitors alike battled at the reality that mobsters are allowed to roam free and that the police may deploy violence without regard to the context and without limitations.


LU STOUT: Hong Kong police continue to defend their actions, saying that they offer adequate warning, that they often had to defend themselves. They accuse hard-core protesters of aggressive tactics like the throwing of projectiles including bricks.

In fact, one senior police officer told CNN if they come free equipped with bricks, they will be considered rioters. We know dozens of Hong Kong protesters have been charged with rioting which carries a very serious sentence. If convicted, 10 years in prison. As for the number of arrests, Hong Kong police tell CNN, over 700 have been arrested in this long hot summer of protests. One third of those arrested are students, the youngest was only 13 years old.

Max, back to you.

FOSTER: Kristie, thank you.

Economic analysts have warned for months that the prolonged trade war between the U.S. and China could derail the global economy. But one person who says he is not worried, well, that's Donald Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you worried that a prolonged trade war with China will pitch the economy into a recession?

TRUMP: No. I think the longer the trade war goes on, the weaker China gets and the stronger we get. We are taking in massive amounts of money. Billions and billions of dollars, Steve, as you know. And I think the longer it goes, the stronger we get. I have a feeling it's going to go fairly short.


FOSTER: Let's bring in Andrew Stevens from Hong Kong. So, what's the truth, Andrew?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talk to most economists, Max, and they will say that the tariffs are having an impact on the U.S. consumers. It's called a stealth tax. That the actual tariffs are not being paid so much by the Chinese manufacturers, but that those prices are being passed down the line and coming into the shop store. So, there is that sort of in effect the tax, so when Donald Trump says

it's not hurting most economists would disagree with that.

The other thing about the trade war too, is it's a confidence suck out, really. So if you are not sure about where this trade war is going to go, and how vicious and how bad it's going to get and how much your goods in the store are going to end up costing, you tend to get fairly cautious about buying, and that's what -- that's what the fear is about the U.S. economy.

It's dragging along or sort of limping along, I guess, so it's just around about 2 percent at the moment, so most analysts are saying it's going to weaken in the third quarter.

But the thing that is holding it up at the moment is consumer spending, and consumer spending takes in something like two thirds of the U.S. economy, so that's the big driver. If confidence starts to weaken and consumers start spending less, then you start getting into a spiral.

Less spending means less goods being bought, less manufacturing and less industrial production and so on. So that is the fear at the moment. And if you look at the forecast, the economic forecast for the U.S. economy, they're pointing down rather than up as this trade war continues, Max.

FOSTER: Andrew Stevens in Hong Kong, thank you very much, indeed.

Now tiny bits of plastic are causing big environmental problems. Now scientists say they've found microplastics in one of the most remote areas of the world. More on that for you next.


FOSTER: Protests have erupted in London over the autonomy of Indian- controlled Kashmir. Thousands of people surrounded the Indian high commission on Thursday, protesting New Delhi's move to reclassify Kashmir as a union territory.

They carried banners that called for a free Kashmir and condemned the total communications blackout in the region. The demonstrators were held ahead of a U.N. Security Council discussion over India's controversial move.

Zimbabwe police are preparing for anti-government demonstrations in the coming hours. The opposition has called for a day of strikes and marches as the country copes with an economic crisis that is spiraling out of control, as Robyn Curnow now reports.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Signs of the time in Zimbabwe rolling blackouts in the capital of Harare are forcing lifestyle changes for businesses and ordinary Zimbabweans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a very tough time indeed because we are having to operate during the night where I believe little of power.


CURNOW: Employees at Moses Chihuri's plastic center now work at night to cope with the frequent power outages in the capital. A state-owned power company is struggling to stay afloat as severe drought has reduced output at its largest hydro plant and its aging coal fire generators are no longer reliable.

The result, rolling blackouts lasting up to 18 hours a day, crippling businesses and making life difficult for residents. Companies like this one now begin work at about 10 p.m. when power is restored.

Cynthia Chabwino is making similar adjustments.


CYNTHIA CHABWINO, HARARE RESIDENT (through translator): I'm supposed to be sleeping and resting, but I have to wake up and do household chores like fetching water and ironing. It's unbearable.


CURNOW: People like Cynthia also have to contend with the shortage of water, due to severe restrictions from the authorities, limiting access to clean tap water to once a week.

Zimbabwe is reeling from a worsening economic crisis. In July, inflation doubled to 175 percent, the highest since the country's devastating economic collapse a decade ago.

When he took over in an apparent military coup in 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to fix the economy. His government has imposed austerity measures, but that's done little to help. Prices of food and fuel have soared and long lines at petrol stations are common.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things are getting tougher every day. The fuel is going up. And prices are going up because the fuel is going up.


CURNOW: The country is crippled by a massive debt incurred during the rule of Robert Mugabe, and needs a multimillion-dollar bailout. But despite some efforts to tackle the problem, President Mnangagwa's government has yet to win the confidence of the international community that could provide that bailout.

Robyn Curnow, CNN.

FOSTER: Now check out the scene of fire and smoke on Thursday afternoon. A private jet bursting into flames after skidding off the runway and landing in Tennessee. On board where U.S. race car driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his wife they manage to escape and survive along with the two pilots and another passenger.

Earnhardt come from a legendary racing family but not without tragedy. His father died in a bad car crash at the Daytona at 518 -- 18 years ago. Dale Junior had planned to work as a TV announcer at a NASCAR race this weekend to spend time with his family, but instead (Inaudible) understandably.

[03:25:02] Now, two Russian passenger jet pilots are being hailed for their skill after they made an emergency landing in a cornfield outside Moscow. Twenty-three people including five children were hospitalized after the Ural Airlines jet made the rough landing on Thursday.

The plane was carrying 233 people from Moscow to the Crimean Peninsula when it hit a flock of birds. A video during the flight captured the landing and some yelling.

Imagine. Now the passengers fled the plane into the cornfield. The airline praised the pilot and co-pilot for their professionalism in handling the frightening landing.

Now for a long time, plastic has posed a major threat to the environment, choking the world's ocean and killing marine animals. That's no surprise. But now scientists say deadly microplastics have made their way to their furthest ends of the earth.

As Michael Holmes reports.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Scientists are calling it a punch in the gut. New research shows that the threat plastic pollution poses to marine life has reached some of the most remote waters on the planet.


BRICE LOOSE, CHIEF SCIENTIST, NORTHWEST PASSAGE PROJECT: When we went to sample it, we thought we were going to need quite a bit, so we started off basically taking that entire core and concentrating it down to a concentrated solution in order to be able to see how much plastic was in there.

It turned out there was so much plastic that you could look at it with your naked eye and just see all of the beads and the fibers and the filaments sitting there on the bottom of the container.


HOLMES: The 18-day U.S.-led expedition used a helicopter to land on ice loads and drill for samples. Scientists have found plastic in parts of the Arctic before, but they were hoping that this area of the Northwest Passage was so isolated that it had been spared from pollution. Unfortunately, that was not the case.


ALESSANDRA D'ANGELO, RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND: We have been able to sample ice coarse from multilayer (Ph) ice and from first layer (Ph) ice here in the Canadian archipelago, and I think this is the first time that we can show people the presence of microplastics in this area.


HOLMES: The United Nations estimates 100 million tons of plastic have been dumped in the oceans to date. The team plans further research to understand the specific damage plastic is doing to animals that can ingest it like fish, sea birds and large ocean mammals like whales.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.

FOSTER: Thanks for joining us. I'm Max Foster. African Voices up next for you, but first I'll be back with the check of the headlines. You're watching CNN.