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Representative Tlaib Rejects Israel's Offer to Visit, Trump Erupts; Signs Global Economy is Slowing; Hong Kongers Demonstrate for 11th Straight Weekend; Seized Iranian Tanker Released Despite U.S. Efforts; Experts Warn of Trump's Coziness with North Korean Leader Kim; Greenland Tells Trump It's Not for Sale; Trump Backtracks on New Gun Laws; Tears, Heartache and the Kindness of Strangers; Fifty Years Since Woodstock; Nepal Proposing New Rules for Everest Climbers. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired August 17, 2019 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president calls it a setup, Congresswoman Tlaib says she's just changing her mind. We'll have the latest on Tlaib's decision not to visit the West Bank to visit her grandmother.
And plus the scene live in Hong Kong when demonstrators are back on the streets. And the paramilitary troops are along the border, keeping up the pressure.
Also ahead, 50 years since Woodstock, they came together for sex, drugs and rock and roll and they remember peace, love and music.
We're live from CNN World Headquarters and we welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell, the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: It is 4:01 on the East Coast. The U.S. president is slamming a Democratic congresswoman after she turned down an offer from Israel to visit her relatives in the West Bank.
Earlier Israel denied entry to the Muslim women, Representatives Omar and Tlaib, at the urging of Mr. Trump. Then Israel reversed course, offered Tlaib permission to visit her elderly grandmother but Tlaib declined.
That prompted the U.S. president to fire off this tweet, "The only real winner here is Tlaib's grandmother. She doesn't have to see her now."
The president's focus on Congresswoman Tlaib comes at a time of increasing volatility in the global financial markets. That is because the U.S. bond market this week flashed a warning signal that the American economy could be heading toward recession. That is not welcome news, of course, for the Trump White House.
Our Kaitlan Collins kicks off our coverage with this report.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is rejecting Israel's offer to visit her family on the West Bank, an offer that came with conditions one day after the country denied her and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar entry at President Trump's urging.
"Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in," Tlaib explained on Twitter.
Those conditions would have included a pledge not to promote boycotts against Israel while she was there. The president has faced widespread criticism for getting involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It is disrespect for the Congress and the American political system for our ally to keep two members of Congress out of Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: But sources tell CNN, the president's advisors believe his fight with four freshman Democrats who call themselves "The Squad" could benefit him in 2020 which is why the president keeps hammering them on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It really is keep America great. Because we have these socialists who want to take it away from us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The one message sources tell CNN advisors fear won't work out for him is the economy. Shaky markets and unpredictable trade talks are stoking fears of a recession inside the White House.
At a campaign rally overnight in New Hampshire, the president struck a dire tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)'s, down the tubes, everything is going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you got to vote for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: With re-election on his mind, Trump now finds himself defending the very policies that are rattling investors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And we're imposing beautiful well-placed tariffs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Even admitting that his trade war with China may not end quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I never said China was going to be easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Something he actually did say just last year when the president noted that trade wars are easy.
Amid the long-running trade war between Washington and Beijing, the Trump administration is moving ahead tonight with an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a move guaranteed to anger the Chinese at a time when officials are trying to get trade talks back on track.
Earlier today, the president met with his national security team at his New Jersey golf resort for a briefing on the state of the U.S.- Taliban peace negotiations, talks that could end America's longest- running war. The U.S. still has roughly 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. And Trump has been adamant that he wants them out soon.
In the meanwhile, CNN has learned the president was forced to make an awkward phone call from Air Force One after he mocked the weight of a person he thought was a protester at his rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That guy has got a serious weight problem. Go home, start exercising. Now he goes home and his mom says what the hell have you just done?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: But it was Trump who was left wondering what he had done after it was revealed the man he mocked was actually one of his supporters. A White House official telling CNN, Trump did not apologize but left the man a voice mail thanking him for his support. That supporter, Frank Dawson, said there are no hard feelings over the mix-up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK DAWSON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Everything is good. I love the guy. He's the best thing that ever happened to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The president is insisting he thinks the U.S. economy is doing just fine. Our reporting behind the scenes shows the president has a little apprehension because in part he's listening to people he hasn't always listened to. He assures them there will be an economic rebound to the trade war and it will be worth it in the end.
He is also turning to people outside the White House including a phone call today with three CEOs of banks where the president asked them what they thought about the state of the economy.
They told the president there were negative --
COLLINS: -- side effects to this ongoing trade war and they want it to be resolved as soon as possible -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, traveling with the president in New Jersey.
HOWELL: And let's put it into focus now with Thomas Gift. He is a political science lecturer at University College in London.
Good to have you with us.
THOMAS GIFT, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: The U.S. president clearly playing to his base, this continual hammering of the freshmen congresswoman.
Does the us versus them argument built around the squad, does it work in his favor in the leadup to 2020, do you surmise?
GIFT: I think that is very much a question mark. For Donald Trump it is certainly not entirely unusual for presidents of the United States to get involved in Middle Eastern affairs and even Israeli politics.
The real difference here is that, one, it is usually done in private. Instead this was done in a very public tweet.
And, two, it is usually done to advance diplomatic American interests. In this case, it was really done almost exclusively to benefit his own electoral chances going into 2020.
He really, I think, wants to paint the entire Democratic Party as representing some of the views of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. And he wants to create divisiveness within supporters of Israel. So I think that is the political calculation that Donald Trump is banking on.
HOWELL: So politics of division at play here but what about the art of distraction?
So as this story about these congresswomen, about Israel and the U.S. president, of course, make headlines, what about the other big stories that are in the headlines, the concerns about a weakening economy, gun controlling control a big issue here in the United States?
GIFT: I think you couldn't be more right. This is really a distraction. And so there were negative economic signals coming out of the markets this week; in particular, we saw an inversion of the yield curve in the bond market, which is kind of a wonky way of saying that long-term interest rates dip below short-term interest rates, which is a sign of choppy economic waters ahead.
Despite the fact that employment is still strong and in general the economy is chugging along, there is a lot of predictions being made that perhaps we'll be heading into a recession and maybe even before the elections in 2020. So these are all issues that Donald Trump, I think, wants to deflect attention from.
HOWELL: And we've seen a foreign nation essentially punish members of Congress who are the president's political adversaries.
Could bipartisanship, could that damage bipartisan support in Congress when it comes to Israel?
GIFT: Well, one of the interesting things that actually came out of this last week is that the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is a lobbying group that is generally supportive of Israel, broadly supportive, decided to break with Netanyahu's decision and break with the president's urgings, because they really want to see bipartisanship on this issue of Israel.
And they are afraid that cracks may emerge to the extent that Donald Trump continues on the same line of argument that he has been going so far.
HOWELL: You touched on the economy a moment ago.
But if a recession is around the corner as the indicators suggest, what would that mean for the president come 2020?
GIFT: Well, of course, that would be very bad economic news for the president. Really, we never see presidents get reelected during times of economic downturns, protracted recessions. The irony, of course, is that Donald Trump's policies, in large part, are making this worse and creating even more apprehensions and fears among investors.
And this is particularly true with respect to the trade war in China. He had previously committed to increasing and imposing tariffs of 10 percent on about $300 billion worth of goods. That was supposed to start in September.
But he has delayed that now until December, saying that he didn't want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas, essentially. But it is interesting even when noting that, because beforehand, he had said, oh, well, we can have this trade war, we can play hard ball with China, it won't have any negative impacts.
To some extent he is acknowledging that this might actually be having negative effects on the American consumer.
HOWELL: We appreciate your time today, we'll stay in touch.
GIFT: Thank you, George. HOWELL: Moving on now to Hong Kong where pro-democracy protesters are out on the streets at 4:09 pm there in Hong Kong, 11th straight --
HOWELL: -- weekend of these protests and the city is on edge. Demonstrators have grown more chaotic. This march comes just days after clashes between police and protesters at the Hong Kong International Airport.
Let's go live to Hong Kong with Will Ripley, he is on the ground there.
And Will, you've covered this extensively and you pointed out in the last hour that what we saw in the international airport really was a major shift.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was the kind of disruption that Hong Kong has never seen before. What Hong Kong has seen for many years is protests like this, peaceful, with thousands of people who have assembled here within the last hour.
These people are streaming by our location and they just keep coming.
Pan over to the right and you can see as we march here past the government offices, a very large number of people shouting at the government offices, shouting at the handful of riot police who have assembled here, keeping their distance.
But the question is how long will they be able to keep their distance and what will happen in the coming hours and tomorrow when larger protests are expected here in Hong Kong?
We know that Mainland China has assembled the military police at the border not too far from where I'm standing right now. There are also thousands of Chinese soldiers already stationed in Hong Kong at the People's Liberation Army garrison.
They have stayed out of the fray; they have allowed Hong Kong police and government to attempt to keep it under control.
But this city and, frankly, Mainland China will not tolerate acts of disruption like what we saw earlier in the week, with Hong Kong's airport shut down for two consecutive nights.
I think the question on a lot of people's minds here, certainly those not out marching, is what are these protesters, the small minority of them that are intent on disruption, what will they do next, what will they target next?
HOWELL: And the other question here, we saw these images taken from earlier, Chinese troops staging so close to Hong Kong.
What are people saying there, given that the possibility, that the military could move in across the bridge? RIPLEY: It really depends on their point of view. I think the majority of people here in this city are ready for these protests to calm down. They don't want to see an escalation, continued disruption. The city has been doing this for 11 consecutive weeks and a lot of people are tired and ready to move on.
But for members of this movement, particularly some of the younger people, who stay after the official march like this ends and stay late into the night for an unauthorized type of protest, that has turned darker and more violence in recent weeks.
With now police routinely using tear gas and pepper spray and rubber bullets and protesters hurling bricks and petrol bombs, the city getting ready to deploy new water blasting trucks if the protests get out of hand.
That -- and we've spoken with them, they say they are fighting for the future of Hong Kong and their future, their freedom.
And they feel that they have nothing to lose. And that is a dangerous police to be fighting from when people are willing to stake anything on this battle for their livelihood and their lives.
HOWELL: Will Ripley on the streets of Hong Kong, again 4:13 pm there.
Will, as you know and as we have seen as we get later into the evening, that is when we'll see how this particular demonstration plays out. Will, thank you. We'll stay in touch.
New developments about that Iranian tanker seized off Gibraltar and the U.S. Justice Department unseals a seizure warrant.
Plus the dictator, the missiles and the U.S. president. How the White House downplays North Korea's missile tests. But experts are raising red flags.
HOWELL: The U.S. Justice Department unsealed a seizure warrant, this after a failed attempt to keep that Iranian tanker that was captured off Gibraltar from being released. The U.S. is alleging a scheme to support illicit shipments of oil by Iran to Syria.
The Grace I was impounded last month. Gibraltar's supreme court ordered the ship to be released. Ryan Browne has details now from the Pentagon.
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. government's Department of Justice unsealing a warrant where it said it sought to seize both the ship and the oil being carried by the Grace I tanker which had been detained by Gibraltar authorities after it was believed to be shipping oil to Syria in violation of sanctions.
The U.S. had attempted to seize the oil aboard prior to the ship's being released by Gibraltar officials, who say they have assurances from Iran that the oil will not make its way to Syria and that the hundreds of millions of dollars of oil aboard will not go to any sanctioned entity.
Gibraltar said it had found evidence aboard the ship that the vessel was in fact headed to Syria before it was boarded by Royal Marines. The U.S. government's warrant says Iran had been using the oil and the Grace I tanker to launder money and to violate several sanctions pertaining to terrorist financing as well as other money laundering entities.
The U.S. has sanctioned a wide range of Iranian government and military entities as well as those in Syria and Iranian backed proxy groups operating in Syria, like Hezbollah. It is possible the U.S. government believes that the oil and the vessel were headed there.
However, Gibraltar released the vessel before turning the items aboard over to the United States government. So it remains to be seen what the U.S. can do now to ensure that Iran does not transport that oil to its forces or to its allies in Syria. Back to you.
HOWELL: Staying with Iran, the United States has new classified imagery that it says --
HOWELL: -- shows Iran preparing to launch a missile as soon as next week. Iran claims that it will put a peaceful satellite into orbit. But the program uses the same technology that is needed for an intercontinental ballistic missile. That is the same type of missile that could be used to strike the United States.
The North Korean government says leader Kim Jong-un directly oversaw Friday's launch of what Pyongyang says is a new weapon. The Pentagon says the projectiles were short-range ballistic missiles. North Korea released Kim in pictures celebrating there and said the test, quote, "had perfect results." We get more now from Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After two more launches overnight sending ballistics flying at six times the speed of sound toward the Sea of Japan, North Korea's aggressive young leader appears to, once again, be trying to dictate terms to the U.S. and South Korea from the tip of his spear.
The test-firing of two short-range missiles late Thursday is Kim Jong- un's sixth such provocation in only about three weeks. Analysts say he's, again, clamoring for President Trump's attention but also signaling his rage.
EVANS REVERE, SENIOR DIRECTOR, ALBRIGHT STONEBRIDGE GROUP: The message is that, as long as you have South Korea exercises continue, North Korea is going to do -- continue to develop, deploy and test some new capabilities that can do damage to the United States, to our troops, to our bases and to South Korea.
TODD (voice-over): Those precision joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces started a few weeks ago and will be conducted at least into next week. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they're defensive, designed to sharpen American troops' readiness for any possible hostilities on the peninsula. But the drills have always made the young self-declared Supreme Commander of North Korea's military uneasy.
COL. DAVID MAXWELL (RET.), SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: His rhetoric calls these preparations for invasion and to strike against him, particularly. The purchase of the F-35 by South Korea gives it the capability to strike deep and to strike any leadership target or any missile target in North Korea, so he is afraid of this training.
TODD (voice-over): At the same time tonight, Kim is firing another diplomatic salvo at his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in. Kim's regime saying it has no desire to talk face to face with South Korean officials again. This comes as President Trump, according to sources in the administration, has soured on Moon, believing he hasn't done enough to rein in North Korea's aggression.
Some observers believe Moon's getting a bad rap. It was Moon, after all, who spurred a lot of momentum for the peace process early on, hosting Kim Jong-un's sister at the Winter Olympics and having an aide hand-deliver Kim's first request for a summit to President Trump. But analysts say the dictator in Pyongyang is conveniently forgetting all of that for his own game.
MAXWELL: Kim Jong-un, really, is trying to delegitimize Moon Jae-in and undercut his political power in South Korea and most importantly, to drive a wedge between the South Korean and U.S. alliance.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, veteran diplomats are warning the President of the dangers of investing too much in his personal one-on- one relationship with the dictator who they believe wants to keep their nuclear weapons.
REVERE: Indeed, he does not intend to denuclearize. So one of the central dangers is the danger of what I call self-delusion, that the President may convince himself that something is happening that is not really happening.
TODD: And to give an idea of how much the U.S. and South Korea have bent over backwards to tolerate Kim's provocations, analysts point out since that first summit in Singapore, the U.S. and allies have canceled at least 12 sets of military exercises and scaled back many others; while at the same time, Kim Jong-un hasn't scaled back any of North Korea's military exercises one bit -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
We have new details in the death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. New York's chief medical examiner says that the cause of death was suicide by hanging. He was found unresponsive. in his jail cell last week. The 66-year-old was awaiting trial of charges of running a trafficking ring.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol computers are back online after an outage impacted airports coast to coast and led to long lines, people waiting to be processed. Passengers took pictures of people who had to wait like these at Dulles airport. The agency says there is no indication that the disruption was malicious.
The U.S. president is well-known for his real estate deals and now reports that he is interested this buying Greenland.
HOWELL: We'll check in to see how people are reacting to that.
Also, when his wife died in El Paso after the massacre there, he was left without a family. He didn't think anyone would come to her funeral. But when we come back, we'll show you the outpouring, how people came together. Stay with us.
HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.
HOWELL: The U.S. president Donald Trump has reportedly expressed interest in buying Greenland. But the Arctic island is giving the president the cold shoulder, saying, "We're open for business but we're not for sale." CNN's Tom Foreman has more on Greenland's reaction.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Completely insane. He's gone crazy. No, thank you.
The uproar in Greenland over the whole idea that President Trump thinks maybe the United States should buy the world's largest island has been swift and strong.
I can only laugh. He's lost his marbles.
The White House is not saying if this is a serious proposal and "The Wall Street Journal" which broke the story says, well.
VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It's definitely real in a sense that he's talked about it a lot. And it's something that's definitely on his mind. As far as how real? I mean, it's not just how real. It's, can he actually do it? The answer is probably no.
FOREMAN: No, because despite Trump's boast about his business skills --
TRUMP: Anybody read "The Art of the Deal" in this room? Yes.
FOREMAN: -- Greenland is home to Denmark and home to 55,000 people, whose autonomous government has tweeted, Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest water and ice, fish stock, seafood, renewable energy and is a new frontier for adventure tourism. We're open for business, not for sale.
But why does Greenland, which is 80 percent covered with ice matter anyway? That's a clue. Greenland is gateway to the Arctic and as global warming opens the region to more exploration and traffic, a lot of countries are showing interest, including China and Russia. The U.S. already has its biggest northernmost military base there.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER SATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN : It's located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which remains a critical area of the globe in terms of our ability to forge and defend against particularly Russian threats.
FOREMAN: And history suggest this truly may not be a crazy idea. In 1867, the U.S. bought another huge cold place which was mocked as a folly. But Alaska has worked out pretty well for American interests.
And two times before, U.S. officials have raised the notion of buying Greenland. Still, the outlook for this real estate deal is not promising.
"It's not something you buy or sell. If countries want other territories, it's war."
Next month President Trump will travel to Denmark to meet with the prime minister and the premier of Greenland. Whether he'll take his checkbook, no one knows -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: Once again, President Trump has gone through a shift on possible gun legislation. Earlier this week, following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio and California, he claimed Republicans support a push to strengthen checks on gun sales. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I am convinced Mitch wants do something. I've spoken to Mitch McConnell. He is a good man. I think he wants to do it. He wants to do background checks and I do too and I think a lot of Republicans do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: That was Tuesday. But then a 180. By Thursday, he had returned to the old talking points of pro-gun groups. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We'll look at that very closely and we're looking at the whole gun situation. I do want people to remember the words mental illness.
We're looking at it right now, we're dealing with a lot of strong conservative Republicans and we're coming up with a plan if we can. Remember we have a lot of background checks already.
People have to remember however that there is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It is not the gun that pulls the trigger, it is the person holding the gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Well, it has been two weeks now since a racist gunman walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and pulled the trigger, opening, fire killing 22 people. And since that day, in El Paso, the city has been filled with tears, heartache and kindness of strangers. That was on full display Friday evening.
Take a look at the scene here. This service in El Paso, Texas. This is when a 61-year-old man with no other family said goodbye to the woman that he loved. He didn't think people would show up.
But hundreds of strangers came together around him. Earlier he spoke with our Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tony Basco loved only one person in the world and now she's gone.
(on camera): And she loved you a lot.
ANTONIO BASCO, WIFE DIED IN EL PASO MASS SHOOTING: I don't even know what she seen in me sometimes.
BASCO: We had wonderful years, the best years of my whole life.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony has no other family. His wife, Margie,
had just a few family members but none in the El Paso area. Attendance at her funeral was expected to be minimal, until the Internet took over. Tweets from journalists and media outlets sent out messages of support for Tony. Then, there was this Facebook post from the funeral home, reading, "Mr. Antonio Basco he was married 22 years to his wife, Margie Reckard. He had no other family. He welcomes anyone to attend his wife's services."
People from all over the United States have contacted the funeral home as well as Tony to say they plan to attend Margie's funeral.
(on camera): There are going to be hundreds of people here probably from all around the country. How does that make you feel?
BASCO: I love it. It's nice to see people really caring about people.
There's going to be a lot of people now. I told you it was important.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): They had been married for 22 years. Tony says his life had been very difficult prior to meeting her.
(on camera): What would you like people to know about Margie?
BASCO: She was a caring, loving, the most beautifulest person.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Every day now he goes to the memorial site next to the Walmart, taking exquisite care of Margie's memorial, making sure the flowers and the wind chimes, which she always loved so much, looked the best they can.
(on camera): Where did you meet her?
BASCO: Omaha, Nebraska, in a bar.
FOREMAN: And you were single, she was single?
BASCO: Never been --
FOREMAN: Was it love at first sight?
BASCO: Oh, man, you can't imagine.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony is still waking up each morning in disbelief that she is gone.
BASCO: I'm looking at the front door just waiting for her to walk in. I've even tried to call her on the phone.
FOREMAN (on camera): You have?
BASCO: I've tried to.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): At the memorial site, Tony tells Margie that, some day, he will meet her in Heaven.
BASCO: What have you been up to? What do you do up there? I want you to tell me something. TUCHMAN: Tony is now beginning a new life alone. But for at least one day, at Margie's funeral, he won't be.
BASCO: She made me the happiest man in the world and the luckiest. There's nobody luckier than me in this whole world.
TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, El Paso, Texas.
HOWELL: It has been 50 years since the Woodstock festival. Three days of peace, love and music in a crowded rainy mudfield. Bill Weir looks at that bygone time and the festival that defined the hopes and dreams of a generation.
BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost exactly 50 years ago, a former Army paratrooper from Seattle walked onto a plywood stage in this field and played an old song in a new way. America would never be the same.
You could see it in the Oscar-winning documentary, that by the time Jimi Hendrix ended Woodstock, it was Monday morning and only a few thousand dazed and dirty souls remained on what looked like a civil war battlefield.
WEIR: But it was just the opposite. This was a peace field and 50 years later, it is hippie hallowed ground.
WEIR (voice-over): Because right here in the middle of a cold civil war, nearly half a million people came together for three days, peace, love and music, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
It should have been a humanitarian disaster, but that weekend held enough human connection to shape generations.
Fifty years later, there is still so much protests and inspiration, so much hunger for harmony. But festivals are an entry now.
And with so many messages on so many stages, could a Woodstock ever happen again?
HOWELL: Could a Woodstock ever happen again? To answer that question, Bill Weir spoke with my colleague Anderson Cooper. Here is their exchange.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's my idea of hell, I just got to say. A field for three days with half a million people I don't know.
WEIR: No Purell.
COOPER: I mean, like Coachella seems awful to me. That -- yes, yes.
WEIR: Right, yes.
COOPER: Actually that seems better than Coachella, but --
WEIR: Yes, it does. And we have such sort of mythic reverence for it --
COOPER: Right, yes.
WEIR: -- which has evolved over the years. And I went back and tried to talk to as many people who played it and organized it and went. And it was less about the music, it was more about this human connection piece of it.
You know, Woodstock isn't Woodstock unless the fences go down. I think it's worthless. They run out of food the second day.
COOPER: Do they -- they run out of food in the second day.
WEIR: They did, yes. So you had these guys from a commune in New Mexico, the Hog Farm, Wavy Gravy. It was like a hippie theme. They were getting trucks, donated food, cooking, handing it out. And so that is so bizarre. It is still countered to what you're used to.
COOPER: It feels like the -- yes, the forerunner of the Fyre Festival, there was actually music.
WEIR: There was actually music.
COOPER: And this was actually much better organized than the Fyre Festival.
WEIR: And I said to this generation, like you're complaining about cheese sandwiches, grandma was in the mud. What the hell happened?
But I wore my Ralph Lauren tie-dye shirt today as a symbol of, you know, some people saw this very hippie as a threat to descent society, but more capitalist saw them as a new --
COOPER: Did you tie-dyed that Ralph Lauren shirt? Is that a Ralph Lauren tie-dyed shirt?
WEIR: No. It came this way and that's what happened, right? Live music is now a $30 billion business. COOPER: Right.
WEIR: And instead of selling or giving breakfast in bed to 400,000, they're selling it.
COOPER: I wonder if Ralph and Jerry Lauren were there, in that event.
WEIR: They might have been. They might have been.
COOPER: The -- it's amazing that so many things went right that it actually happened. I mean, everything could have gone wrong and a lot of it did go wrong.
WEIR: They had no venue 30 days before, a 150,000 ticket buyers are going to show up. And Max Yasgur's farm, famously, he was the sort of patron saint. He said, "Yes, you can have it here. I think your kids are going to be OK."
And they were jerry-rigging -- it was a whole exercise and improv (ph). They had to build a bridge from back of the stage, under the stage and going like, "So, what should the load be?
WEIR: How much does Jimi Hendrix's weigh?
How much does a groupie weigh?"
You know, like constructing the stage according to that, it should have gone off the rails. But two people died. It was the third largest city in New York City for a weekend. There was one overdose and one poor camper got run over by a tractor.
COOPER: Wow. Well, one of -- the co-creators, I think, the original co-creators who you spent time with, they were talking about wanting to do a new one. Is that going to happen?
WEIR: No, it's not. And we follow that because a lot of those same disasters repeated themselves 50 years later. But the times had changed and the magic was gone. They couldn't overcome the obstacles.
They paid $32 million to Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus and then company upfront and in the end begged them to give some of it to charity because they just couldn't find a venue for it anymore.
COOPER: That's interesting.
WEIR: So that was part of the answer to the question. Could it happen again? Not this way.
COOPER: Bill Weir, thanks very much.
HOWELL: And if all that brings back memories, you can watch the full special, "Woodstock at 50" this weekend, tonight at 9:00 pm in New York, only here on CNN.
Officials in Nepal say new rules could save lives at the top of the world. Still ahead, why they want to keep amateur climbers off Mt. Everest.
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.
Officials in Nepal want strict new rules to govern who gets to climb Mt. Everest. Their aim is to prevent needless deaths by keeping inexperienced climbers and tour companies off the world's highest peak. Our Bianca Nobilo has details.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Images remained of a crowded mountain path, scores of climbers jam-packed into a single route, all clamoring to reach the world's highest summit.
Eleven people died on Mount Everest in this year's spring climbing season. Not from a single climbers this event, but in part because of fatal traffic jams like these.
Now, Nepal wants to keep it from happening again by changing who is allowed to scale the tallest peak on earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All taking system and (INAUDIBLE) system.
NOBILO: Nepali officials are formally proposing a series of restrictions on would-be climbers and tour companies leading expeditions at Mount Everest. It's an effort to deter inexperienced hikers and guides which experts told CNN at base camp in May contributed to the deaths on bottlenecks this season.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're super slow, they didn't have much techniques about mountains. It looks like they have -- they have never been on the mountains except Everest.
NOBILO: Now, many veteran climbers welcome a possible change in the lack of oversight and regulations on the mountain.
ADRIAN BALLINGER, MOUNTAIN GUIDE: So you got inexperienced climbers with inexperienced leaders.
NOBILO: Adrian Ballinger summitted Mount Everest eight times and spent 12 years on the mountain. He says the number of people there has steadily increased overtime, particularly as tour companies have few requirements for climbers. BALLINGER: There used to be somewhere in the vicinity of about 10 to 12 companies guiding the mountain and most had years and years of experience.
And today, I would guess in Nepal there's 40 to 50 companies guiding on the mountain and many of them have come out of nowhere with no experienced leader, but seeing the opportunity of financial gain. There's no barriers to entry to start a company.
NOBILO: The proposed changes suggest requiring minimum qualifications to get a climbing permit including basic and high-altitude training. A fee of at least $35,000, experience climbing at least one other Nepali peak over 21,000 feet or 6,500 meters high. And tour companies would need, at least, three years' experience organizing high- altitude expeditions.
For expert, climbers like Ballinger, who himself going to tour company that takes climbers to the summit, the proposals may not go nearly far enough.
But he says they are stepping in the right direction. That is if they can be executed.
BALLINGER: I want to believe it's possible and I want to find ways to support Nepal and the ministry of tourism in implementing these rules. But I think it is going to be very, very difficult. And the companies of the ones that we're going to have, actually, make these changes and thus far we haven't seen the companies that interested in making the mountain safer.
NOBILO: Ultimately, Ballinger says the owners may still to climbers to ensure their own safety, a risky proposition on one of most dangerous ascents in the world -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN.
HOWELL: And now from the cold peaks to the hottest month on record.
HOWELL: And thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. That is a live image of Hong Kong. We'll continue to follow the demonstrations continuing into the 11th straight weekend. More news right after the break.