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CNN NEWSROOM

Fires Burning at Record Rate in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest; Flight Shaming Movement is Taking Off; South Korean K-Pop Music Lures Defectors from North; "American Factory" Addresses Clash of Cultures; Trump: Danish PM's Response To Greenland Offer Nasty; 29 Arrested For Planning Mass Shootings; CNN Poll: 60 Percent Favor Stronger Gun Control Laws. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, Donald Trump cancels his state visit to Denmark because the Danish prime minister says his offer to buy Greenland is absurd, comments which the U.S. president described as nasty.

It's called Flexkom, the Swedish environmental campaign to shame air travelers over their carbon footprints and flake scan has planked some high profile high flyers ending today.

And the first offering from a mega-deal between the Obamas and Netflix has just hit the streaming service, an incredible documentary about American workers in the industrial heartland. Well, the former First Lady says it's not a political statement some critics say otherwise.

Well, Donald Trump is doubling down on his claim that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats show a total lack of knowledge and great disloyalty. On Wednesday talking about the trade war with China, he went biblical. The president looked at the heavens and declared I am the chosen one, chosen it seems to take on Beijing over unfair trade practices.

And then there were new insults and slights for Denmark's Prime Minister who described the president's unsolicited offered to buy Greenland is being absurd. CNN's Anna Stewart has more now from Copenhagen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: After abruptly canceling a trip via tweet, and possibly insulting a longtime close American ally, today President Trump went one step further and attacked Denmark's prime minister.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought that the prime minister statement that it was absurd. That was -- it was an absurd idea. It was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say no, we wouldn't be interested. STEWART: The President referring to the Danish leader calling Trump's

idea of buying Greenland which is owned by Denmark absurd and adding, "I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously." Today, all around Copenhagen, Danes reacting to Trump's cancellation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's truly disappointing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a great display of his character.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's really disrespectful to the Queen.

STEWART: The spokesperson for the Danish Queen who was scheduled to host the president told CNN it was a complete surprise. This has never happened before. From the prime minister --

METTE FREDERIKSEN, PRIME MINISTER, DENMARK: I had been looking forward to the visit. Our preparations were well underway. It was an opportunity I think to celebrate Denmark's close relationship to U.S.

STEWART: Fizzle started when the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Trump was interested in buying Greenland.

TRUMP: Essentially it's a large real estate deal. A lot of things could be done.

STEWART: But the Danish Prime Minister quickly responded telling a Danish newspaper, Greenland is not for sale. The continued fallout has left one of the United States most reliable alliances in jeopardy according to the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark.

RUFUS GIFFORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO GREENLAND: This is just not the way you treat an ally.

STEWART: Denmark has been a robust contributor to U.S.-led military missions despite its relatively small armed forces including joining the Coalition of the Willing during the 2003 Iraq invasion, and sending 750 troops to Afghanistan during the height of NATO-led military missions.

In fact, the Afghan war ended up being the deadliest military campaign in modern Danish history losing more servicemembers per capita than the U.S. did.

GIFFORD: They went and they fought alongside our troops and they died alongside our troops.

STEWART: Anna Stewart, CNN Copenhagen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Ron Brownstein is CNN Senior Political Analyst and the Senior Editor for the Atlantic and he is with us from Los Angeles. Ron this has been quite the 24 hours even by the frog in the boiling water standard we've grown accustom. It's a bit crazy it seems came with the president canceling that visit to Denmark or as the New York Times editorial board wrote, the decision was one of the more astounding plays by a president who finds new ways to amaze, alienate, and infuriate almost daily.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was struck by him describing himself as the chosen one on the same day they announced the long-awaited sequel to The Matrix. I mean, maybe he's planning on playing Neo in the -- in the movie. But look, John, I mean this really is an encapsulation of the extraordinary situation the country is in and the extraordinary situation that he is in politically.

You know, we have unemployment under four percent. And even though the economy is slowing, normally you would expect the President to be soaring in the polls at that moment. But if you look at our CNN polling today, I think it encapsulates all of the different aspects of what you described in your introduction.

There's a number that 41 percent of the people who say the economy is excellent or good still say they disapprove a President Trump's job performance. We have never seen anything like it. There has never been that level of dissatisfaction with the president among voters who are economically satisfied. And it is just a reflection of all the different things you cited and the sheer level of chaos that surrounds this presidency from day to day.

[01:05:13] VAUSE: I want you to talk about this issue though with Denmark because Denmark is a U.S. ally. It has proven his loyalty to this country blood and treasure, starting in recent memory with Afghanistan. Here's Rufus Gifford, a former US Ambassador to Denmark. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIFFORD: Now, this is a country, Denmark, that has fought and died alongside American soldiers. I had the great privilege -- I had the great responsibility of going to the Danish government and requesting troops to go to Iraq, to Syria, and they went and they fought alongside our troops and they died alongside our troops.

This is not the way you treat a loyal ally who is with centuries of diplomatic relations. It's just a sad chapter to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And at the same time, Donald Trump is cheerleading from Russia to rejoins the G7 so it becomes the G8. You know, Russia was expelled after the invasion of Crimea. You know, put those two things together, it's you know, it's beyond a typical Trump day.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, no, it's a very -- it's actually very revealing you know, counterpoint there because what it -- what they both tell you is that Trump's view of international relations is totally transactional and that he has no respect for the history or tradition or alliance. It is all how any country interacts with what how he defines the national interests or perhaps, even more, his personal interest.

So you see kind of the incredible spectacle of a president who has consistently spoken in more favorable terms about authoritarian adversaries abroad, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia who is you know something in the middle and engaged in a series of confrontations with allies including a most prominently Germany, but here Denmark, and any others.

That is the way he interacts with the world, that is kind of what have you done for me immediately, and me maybe defined even more than my country.

VAUSE: He's another possibility for why the trip to Denmark was canceled. It comes from David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter. He tweeted, former President Obama will follow him, Donald Trump September 28th. The contrast in the Danish public reception of the two men was likely to prove embarrassing.

At this point though, that explanation seems almost a relief that this is about Trump's ego as opposed to the delusion of buying Greenland which was never for sale anyway.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I actually think that maybe imputing too much. I mean, I think this is about exactly what he said. And it is striking that he used the word nasty again to describe yet another woman, and you know continuing the pattern of how he talks about -- I mean, look, he's -- he disparages anyone, any institution that he sees as resisting anything that he wants, but he is particularly tough on women and people of color.

And again all of this does add up. You know, we are asked all the time by people, well, is there any consequence to the president for all of this? And I would say to you, the fact that 40 percent of people say the economy is excellent or good say they disapprove of him nonetheless is a consequence.

And I would just one other note from our CNN poll today. We're accustomed to the president having very low approval rating among white women in the U.S. or college-educated. And, in fact, he is down to 31 percent in the CNN poll today which is very low indeed.

But he is also down to 38 percent among white women without a college education. And those women were an absolute pillar of his victory in 2016 particularly in the Midwestern states that took the election, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. He was in the high 50s among them in all of those states. Now his national approval among them is down to 38 percent. And it is in large part because of his behavior as president and the kind of strange episodes that we are talking about today.

VAUSE": It was a strange episode on Wednesday. It was you know, a press briefing which seemed to spin out of control on so many levels. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No president has ever done anywhere close to what I've done. I have been responsible for a lot of things. I'm wonderful for the USA. I am the least racist person ever to serve in office. The love for me and me maybe as a representative of the country, but for me. I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was put here by people to do a great job and that's what I'm doing. No president has done what I've done. I am the chosen one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: I kept thinking back to February 2016 Senator Ted Cruz had just won the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump had gone off the rails. Cruz made this remark about Trump's temperament.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I don't know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button. I mean, we're liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: We're out of time but it seemed almost prescient.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, it did. But look, there is an audience for this, right. I mean, this is -- this is all an extension of I alone can fix it. And part of Trump's core message to his core supporters has always been that you are being threatened by forces really on both sides, elites that are contemptuous of you and minorities that are coming to take your jobs or threaten your security and I alone can protect you from them. And this is just an extension of that from his famous remarks at his convention speech in 2016.

[01:10:20] The problem is that the sheer volatility, the erratic nature of this presidency even apart from all the division from the policy flip-flops, just the sheer level of chaos and conflict that accompany this from day to day is exhausting to many voters. I mean, pollsters talk about how in focus groups they hear. They just simply do not want to be surrounded by this much but they do not want to be thinking about politics this much.

And the idea of a return to normalcy as Warren Harding said in 1920 and that Joe Biden is implicitly offering here was -- has proven to be effective in effect at the box office at the electoral box in 2017 and 2018, candidates who are kind of relatively centrist lower key and demeanor have had appeal. And I just think there is -- he faces the risk that everything that he does to gin up his base just deepens the unease among the voters beyond it.

VAUSE: Yes. I can't believe Democrats are talking about you know, Medicare for all and public options right now when you have this president in the White House because you know, this is the same man who said there were good people on both sides of a pro-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He's now describing himself as the chosen one. And now he's appealing to American Jews to vote for him.

Stay with us, Ron, because here's some of our Trump performance reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel, to siding with the Jewish nation on territorial matters, to his stand on Iran, Trump is painting his support for the Israeli government's causes as so profound only idiots would not agree.

TRUMP: I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has even embraced a right-wing trope that says Israelis see him like he is the second coming of God, retweeting a conspiracy see theorists who like Trump has questioned President Obama's birthplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: From this slur of the disloyal Jew goes all the way back to the book of Exodus. It's been prefect over the years by anti-Semites around the world. It is something else I'd hear coming from the President of the United States.

BROWNSTEIN: It was something else to hear go back coming from the President of the United States, language that as we talked about would get you fired in any major company in the country which was striking about this. It's just kind of -- it's a set of assumptions that kind of cascade upon each other that for American Jews, for most Americans use the principal issue and how they choose between the parties here is policy toward Israel.

And even if you believe that was true, that the only way to express support for Israel is to express support to the Netanyahu government which is essentially turned itself into an arm of the Republican Party going all the way back to 2012 with Mitt Romney against Barack Obama and certainly by coming here to give a speech against the Iran nuclear deal.

I mean, just all of the assumptions that go into this, not to mention the idea that the thought that anyone outside of Jews for Jesus are really waiting for a second coming, you know, in all of these ways, the president kind of compounds I think the mistakes and that help explain why he is very unlikely to improve on that 7525 split among American Jews despite all of his closest with the Netanyahu government.

What this really does I think not only hurts him, Netanyahu has made a political blunder of historic proportions by aligning himself so unreservedly with an administration that is so unpopular among the vast a number of American Jews and creating the impression as I said that the Israeli government is now allied with the Republican Party making it harder for Democrats to maintain their traditional support for Israel. I mean this is kind of a lose-lose situation for both of them.

VAUSE: You know, perhaps the best way to describe the past 24 hours of the Trump presidency maybe you know, almost last three years, it comes from comedian John Mulaney. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

John Mulaney, COMEDIAN: This guy being the president, it's like there's a horse loose in a hospital. It's like there's a horse loose in a hospital. I think eventually everything's going to be OK, but I have no idea what's going to happen next. And neither do any of you and neither do your parents because there's a horse loose in the hospital. It's never happened before. No one knows what the horse is going to do next. Least of all, the horse, he's never been in a hospital before. He's just confused as you are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: We're out of time, Ron, but you know, that kind of -- that sort of is where we are right now I guess with the Trump Administration.

BROWNSTEIN: I would describe the last 24 hours of this presidency Wednesday because this is pretty much -- this is a more extreme version of what every day.

VAUSE: Yes. The volume would turned up to 11 I guess today.

BROWNSTEIN: The volume would turned up to 11, yes.

[01:15:01] VAUSE: Thanks, Ron. Good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Britain's Prime Minister is hanging to Paris in the coming hours, the second stop on his Brexit renegotiation tour. But Boris Johnson is unlikely to find a receptive French president. But he did leave Berlin with an offer from Germany's Chancellor on the so-called Irish backstop. Nina dos Santos has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Boris Johnson embarks up on his first overseas trip as the UK's new prime minister going to Germany to meet with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Well, this came just three days after he urged the whole of the E.U. to reopen the withdrawal agreement and take out the unpopular arrangement over the Irish border, the so-called backstop. That was in a letter that he penned to Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council that convenes the summit at which all of the countries have to agree for anything actually to be said and done.

Angela Merkel had previously said that this withdrawal agreement was not up for renegotiation but in the press conference she appeared to be a little bit more compliant saying that she was giving the U.K. 30 days from here on to come up with credible alternatives.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR, GERMANY (through translator): We always said we probably will find a solution in the coming two years but possibly you may find a solution in 30 days, why not. And then we would be a step forward and we need to make every effort that we will find something like this.

However, this requires clarity in terms of the future relationship of Britain and the E.U. And I believe now clarity is much stronger.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: A blistering timetable there of 30 days if I understood you correctly. I'm more than happy with that.

DOS SANTOS: Well, Germany has a lot to lose if the U.K. crashes out of its relationship with its biggest trading partner by October the 31st, not least because one in seven German vehicles go to the United Kingdom. That's about 770,000 vehicles every single year making the U.K. Germany's largest export market as a country.

Another country that is crucial to this relationship and will have a big say and what kind of deal Boris Johnson can negotiate if indeed he manages to do so is France. It has quite a bit less to lose. And the French president is making it clear that he values European integrity over giving the U.K. any special treatment.

Emmanuel Macron reiterated that from Frances point of view the withdrawal agreement was not up for renegotiation and the Elysee Palace went further saying that a No Deal Brexit was now France's base case scenario. Nina dos Santos, CNN in London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: After two deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, authorities in the U.S. claim to have been emboldened two dozen credible plots to carry out mass murder with high-powered weapons. Details on that in a moment.

Also, head, fires in Brazil's Amazon rainforests are burning at a record rate. The country's president is placing the blame on unlikely target. That story later this hour on CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong held a silent sitting at a subway station on Wednesday marking a month since the peaceful demonstrators were sacked there by an armed mob. Some protesters saw over two trash cans on Wednesday, build barricades, as riot police gathered outside, but all in peacefully without incidents with police waiting out the demonstrators.

It hasn't even been three weeks since 31 people were killed and back- to-back mass shootings in El Paso Texas and hours later Dayton Ohio. But since then, at least 29 people suspected of planning similar attacks have been arrested. It's more than one arrest a day.

The latest was in Southern California. Police believe the suspect was planning to kill as many co-workers and hotel guests as possible at the Marriott Hotel where he worked as a cook.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [01:20:37] ROBERT LUNA, CHIEF, LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: A search of the suspects residence in the city of Huntington Beach led to the seizure of multiple high-powered firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, as well as tactical gear including an assault rifle, and high-capacity magazines which are illegal to possess in the State of California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Matt Littman is President of the 97% Gun Reform group. He's also a Democratic Strategist. He joins us from Los Angeles. Matt, good to see you.

MATT LITTMAN, 97% GUN REFORM: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: If authorities in any other country around the world had for at least 29 credible plus to carry out mass murder by gun in just a couple weeks, they would most likely be 73 point headlines in every newspaper. It would be considered a national crisis. Here it's treated like an accounting entry. Why is that?

LITTMAN: Well, first of all, John, thank you and CNN for bringing it up because I don't really see it much anywhere else and it obviously is a huge story. I think the problem that you're pointing to is that this has become fairly commonplace in America which is extremely scary. We have so many mass shootings.

We had 40,000 gun deaths in 2017, that's a new high. While two-thirds of those are suicides, the number keeps going up and up. And so in the United States, we hear about these mass shootings for about three weeks there's outrage and then move on to the next thing, and then later on there's another mass shooting.

So part of this is that the country is hearing about a lot of these mass shootings and the reaction from the -- from America is not as strong as it should be.

VAUSE: Well, there's also this question of how do these you know, accused potential mass murderers get hold of semi-automatic weapons as well as you know, the rounds of ammunitions. Did they pass a background check? If they did, should the background checks be more stringent? Here's Wayne LaPierre, the Chief Executive of the National Rifle Association. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But we also have to remember, the gun doesn't pull the trigger, a person does. I don't want to take away people's Second Amendment rights. We're talking about background checks then all of a sudden we're talking about let's take everybody's gun away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Sorry, that was Donald Trump, President of the United States, but you know, the talking points come from the NRA.

LITTMAN: Right.

VAUSE: Politically though, the background checks -- you know, they're not just low-hanging fruit of gun reform, it's fruit which is lying on the ground going to waste. It doesn't get any easier than that.

VAUSE: Right. So when Donald Trump says that people are talking about taking everyone's gun away, people are not talking about taking everyone's gun away. What -- universal background checks is supported by 97 percent of the country. Universally gun owners support universal background checks, right.

The problem is that Congress is not going to be passing universal background checks really any time soon because the Senate majority is led by Mitch McConnell from Kentucky and he probably will not want to do that and Donald Trump probably does not want to go against the NRA.

Now, that does not mean that there won't be any legislation at all. But in terms of what's needed to really stop this problem, we're not there. The Congress isn't there in terms of the Republican leaders in the Senate and Donald Trump is not going to fight against the NRA it appears.

So you'll see incremental change but we need big change in this country and that change is just very logical like you're talking about, universal background checks. You know, there's an episode of The Simpsons, John, where Homer Simpson goes -- Homer Simpson goes to buy a gun and the guy -- and he says, can I get a gun, and the guy says there's a five-day waiting period and Homer Simpson says, but I'm angry now, right.

VAUSE: Exactly.

LITTMAN: And so we need to wait a few days before that does stop, violence. If you wait a few days, that's been proven to stop violence. That's a very basic thing that everybody in this country supports not Mitch McConnell.

VAUSE: And all the polling backs this up. So you can see a clear majority of Americans today you know, say there is a need for -- or they support tighter gun control. That's highly a surprise. But from the work that you've done with gun owners and in Republican states, what sort of gun reform is acceptable to those people, to the gun owners and to its conservative states. How big is the gap between what's acceptable in Texas compared to what's acceptable in California? What's doable?

LITTMAN: Well, I'll tell you what's interesting, John, is gun owners are generally in favor of many of the same reforms that non-gun owners are. The problem is that gun owners are not willing to really advocate for those reforms yet because they feel that there's no leadership. They don't trust the leadership, right. So they don't trust Congress and they don't trust the media, and they feel talked down to.

And one of the ways that you could really move gun reform in this country, we say gun reform and gun safety more than gun control, because even that word control gets a very negative reaction from gun owners. But one way that you could do that is by engaging with gun owners. They're the missing link in this process.

So people don't own guns are advocating for gun reform. People own guns, believe in gun reform, but they're not advocating for it in the way that we need them to. And we need to do a much better job of speaking to gun owners and not speaking down to gun owners.

[01:25:36] VAUSE: You know, we heard from the former Vice President Joe Biden. He's our Democratic presidential candidate. He tweeted, once again President Trump has followed to the NRA and broken his promise to pursue the most modest of gun safety policies. I give you my word as a Biden, I won't rest until we pass universal background checks and ban assault weapons. We will end our gun violence epidemic.

Gun reform in the past was one of those issues for Democrats, would say they borrow away from this considered a little lose. That's not the case anymore. But is there a danger that during this primary, as you're the candidates amongst this democratic field, which is very crowded try to you know, warn up each other and play to the Twitter crowd, you know, the extreme progressives, and you know, escapes those conservatives, and it provides an opening for the President.

LITTMAN: Yes. There is definitely that danger. You're exactly right. Even that statement by Joe Biden, who's a great candidate, even that statement where he says we're going to end gun violence, that's not really the case. We're not going to necessarily be able to end gun violence. That's a promise that he will not be able to keep.

There are 400 million guns in this country. No matter what we do, we're on a path of gun violence right now. And it's going to be a long time before we're able to knock that down. And yes, there will be Democrats who go -- there are Democrats who go too far where the public is not on this issue. If you go where the public is on this issue, if you just engage them a little bit further and get them to advocate for what they already believe in, they're saying we already believe in this.

We already believe in universal background checks. We agree on gun -- on red flag laws, for example. Most of the country agrees on these issues, banning assault weapons, a majority agrees on that as well. But there is definitely a danger of going too far. And the problem is that some gun owners, like I was saying before, do not trust the leadership. And some Democrats can go too far. Let's focus on what we agree on. And let's get done what we agree on.

VAUSE: Yes, there's a -- there's a centrist lane in all this, which is very doable and can get some reform done.

LITTMAN: Absolutely.

VAUSE: And they just have to stay in that lane, I guess. Matt, good to see you.

LITTMAN: Thanks, John. Good to see you too. VAUSE: OK. After the break, we head to Brazil with scientists warn fires are burning in the Amazon rainforest at a record rate, and what the actual impact these fires could have on our climate crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:30:08] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Denmark's prime minister says she would like to avoid a war of words with Donald Trump. The U.S. president his state has postponed his state visit after the prime minister called his unsolicited offer to buy Greenland as being absurd. Donald Trump says her response is nasty.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is offering the U.K. 30 days to come up with alternatives to the Irish backstop in the Brexit agreement. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to re-open negotiations. His next stop is Paris where President Emmanuel Macron has said the U.K. proposals are not workable..

In Hong Kong hundreds of pro democracy protesters gathered for a sit- in city on Wednesday to mark one month since a mob beat peaceful demonstrators with iron bars and clubs. Some protesters began overturning trash cans and barricading themselves inside as riot police gathered outside the subway station. Police backed off though when a lot of the protesters did leave quietly.

In Brazil, raging wildfires are burning through the Amazon rainforest at a record pace. And scientists are warning this could be yet another devastating setback in the fight against climate change.

Shasta Darlington reports now from Sao Paulo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brazil's largest city plunged into darkness. Black clouds filling the sky, blanketing Sao Paulo Monday afternoon, thick smoke billowing from more than 2,700 kilometers away where fires are consuming the world's largest rainforest.

The Amazon Basin is burning at a record rate according to Brazil's Research Center. More than 72,000 fires have scorched the country this year and over 80 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018.

Flames destroying one and a half football fields of rainforest every minute of every day. Smoke spreading across nearly half of Brazil, visible from space more than a week ago even spilling into neighboring Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Now the haze stretches across South America, spreading along the east Atlantic Coast. Though fires are common here in Brazil's dry season, climate scientists say this is far from the norm. Instead, environmentalists point to land razed at unprecedented levels as a new government encourages industry to develop the Amazon region.

Brazil's right wing president has brushed off environmental concerns as he vows to open the rainforest to business interests. Since he took office in January rates of deforestation have soared as Jair Bolsonaro remains indignant to international criticism.

"Take your money and reforest Germany", Bolsonaro bristled at Germany and Norway's decision to suspend funding to Brazil. Now as attention turns to wildfires surging at unprecedented rates, Bolsonaro is deflecting blame. Without evidence he points to non-governmental organizations.

JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Regarding the fires in the Amazon I am under the impression that it could have been set by the NGOs because they had asked for money. What was their intention, to bring about problems for Brazil?

DARLINGTON: Home to hundreds of indigenous tribes the Amazon rainforest is rich in wildlife and natural resources. Often called the Lungs of the Earth, the rainforest supplies 20 percent of the world's oxygen. If it burns to a point of no return, environmentalists warned it could turn into a dry savannah and begin emitting carbon instead plunging the planet ever deeper into a climate change crisis.

Shasta Darlington -- Sao Paulo, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: They call it "flygskam", I think -- the Swedish word which literally translates to "flight shaming", an environmental campaign to take some of the cool from flying the friendly skies and shaming the jet-setting elites. Not only is it working, but it's claiming some of the highest of the high-flyers.

Last week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were flight shamed, after taking a private jet to the south of France and Spain in two trips just days apart.

And then there's the Swedish teenager, climate activist Greta Thunberg, the poster child of the flight shaming movement it seems. Thunberg is crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a zero emission sailboat to speak at the U.N. climate action summit a month from now. The journey is meant to highlight the environmental impact of air travel.

Environmentalist, volcanologist and host of "The Catastrophe" podcast, Jess Phoenix is with us live from Los Angeles. Jess -- good to see you

JESS PHOENIX, ENVIRONMENTALIST: Good to see you, too -- John.

VAUSE: Ok. Let's stay with the British royals for a little bit here. Harry and Meghan back in June they had this message on Instagram. With nearly 7.7 billion people inhabiting this earth, every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference. Very true, very wise counsel.

[01:35:02] So when the royal couple decided to fly not just first class on a commercial airline but on a private jet, the tabloids called them out.

Here's one headline from "The Sun" newspaper. "Dumbo Jet: Eco warriors Meghan Markle and Prince Harry fly on a private again to France after gas-guzzling Ibiza trip."

OK. Clearly there's an element of don't do as I do, do as I say in all this but in every scheme of things with carbon emissions and global warming, I mean just how significant would these two separate flights have been?

PHOENIX: So it's not the single action that is going to tip the scale here, this is obviously a combination of many, many different trips is what adds up to significant carbon emissions.

But taken into like a holistic perspective, flights, air travel like what Harry and Meghan just did only make up about 3 percent of global carbon emissions caused by humans.

So it's a drop of water in the bucket. That doesn't mean that it's not important to talk about the choices that we make when it comes to travel, but it's certainly not going to cause the end of anything.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, the private jets were apparently courtesy of a good friend of the royal couple, that was Elton John. He tweeted, to support Prince Harry's commitment to the environment, we'll make sure their flight was carbon neutral, by making the appropriate contribution to carbon footprint."

How effective are those carbon offsets. At the end of the day, is it guilt money from wealthy liberals?

PHOENIX: I'm sure that you're always going to have people making that argument. In reality though, those carbon offsets are designed to allow for a mitigation of the impacts of travel and other activities that we partake in.

I mean I'm a scientist. I travel to conferences. And we do see a shift and urging people to maybe do teleconferencing when possible, or even do speaking engagements via satellite like what we are doing right now.

And it's becoming more and more popular but in reality, you know, we have to do every action possible and that can include purchasing carbon offsets.

VAUSE: Overall, you know, you say air travel contributes what -- 3 percent of carbon emissions but in the scheme of things, it's kind of a monstrous because a passenger train for instance, pumps out 14 grams of CO2 per kilometer, an average car 55 grams per kilometer per passenger; a bus 68 grams of CO2, you know, per kilometer per passenger.

And here you go, for a plane 285 grams of CO2 per passenger, per kilometer.

And here' the rub thought. The projections for air travel are set to dramatically increase in the coming years. So bang for your buck, air travel, you know, in terms of carbon emission is a monster.

PHOENIX: Yes there is no getting around that. And that means that the pressure is going to need to come from the public from activists like Greta Thunberg who you mentioned from environmental groups to urge the airlines and to the regulators of the airlines, the various governments around the world, to push them to innovate and to develop cleaner technology because the demand for travel isn't going to go away.

We have a growing population and more people in developing countries want to be able to travel too. So we need to find a way to do that that's going to allow us to not tip the scales more than we have to.

VAUSE: Well, flygskam -- I am sure I'm pronouncing that wrong -- seems to be having a very real impact, you know, across Europe, train travel in Sweden is significantly up this year compared to last. And then the Dutch airline, KLM, this is incredible, has launched a Fly Responsibly campaign. Here's part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you always have to meet face to face? Could you take the train instead? Could you contribute by compensating your CO2 emissions or packing light?

We, the first commercial airline in the world, today kindly invite you all travelers in the aviation industry to join forces, to join us in making the world aware of our shared responsibility.

We all have to fly every now and then. But next time, think about flying responsibly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: It is mind-blowing to think of an airline actually asking their passengers or their customers to fly less. And you know, this might work in Europe. Does it have a chance of working in the United States, especially when you consider you hit basic like the difference in the quality of train travel in Europe compared to the U.S.?

PHOENIX: Yes. Our rail system is so antiquated. Yes, I mean I took it recently and I love it but it just does not service enough of the country right now.

So we would need to see a major call for investment in our rail system. One thing that I think people are starting to do is drive cars that are more fuel efficient and make the choice to drive when previously they could have flown. And if we're doing that and say electric cars or particularly in cars that use like hydrogen technology, any of the new innovations we are seeing that meet the cleaner air standards. If you can, you know, drive or take the train -- the train is better -- do that.

But it isn't possible here yet. And I think we need to keep considering what other choices we can make with high speed rail here in the U.S. for it to take hold.

[01:39:56] VAUSE: Yes. And it's a short term -- short hop flights though as you know which are particularly worrisome for carbon emissions because of the take offs and the landings. That's when you get a lot of these emissions. So they're the ones to avoid, you know, the short hops I guess.

Jessica, as always -- good to have you with us. Thank you.

PHOENIX: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: Ok. Let's face it. Not everyone is a big fan of K-pop but it seems the South Korean pop music has Kim Jong-un and his regime very much on edge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Could K-Pop be the downfall of three generations of iron- fisted rule of North Korea, the Kim family. More and more defectors from the North say South Korean pop music is inspiring them to flee now away from the music but apparently towards it.

Brian Todd has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a surprising and, for many North Koreans, jarring sight. A band called Red Velvet, wildly popular in South Korea and around the world, invited to perform in front of an elite audience in Pyongyang in the spring of 2018.

One of their most adoring fans, North Korea's usually stoic Supreme Leader who was caught on camera leading the applause even though he's banned his own people from listening to the same songs.

Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, once a singer herself, greeted the band offstage.

But now, there's growing evidence this kind of music called K- Pop, is becoming a threat to the dictator's regime. A recent survey by South Korea's Unification Media Group says more and more defectors now cite music as a key factor in how they became disenchanted with their government.

SUK-YOUNG KIM, AUTHOR, "ILLUSIVE UTOPIA: THEATER, FILM, AND EVERYDAY PERFORMANCE IN NORTH KOREA": North Korean young generation finds many creative ways to access foreign media, especially South Korean pop culture has been phenomenally popular in North Korea for the past 20 years. And it's really starting to impact the way they conceive of the world as well as to reflect upon their own lives in North Korea.

TODD: North Korea's first couple are such fans of that style of music themselves that they have their own girl band -- Moranbong, Kim Jong- un's handpicked troop of young women in tight dresses who sing Korean pop songs and tributes to their boss.

But one defector says that's about the extent to which young North Koreans are allowed to consume pop music.

[01:45:01] KANG NA-RA, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): North Korea is such a tightly controlled society, and the style we can follow was very limited. Ri Sol-ju or Moranbong band members were our only permitted role models.

TODD: Kim's regime forbids the influx of any foreign media content unless it's heavily censored. But still, it gets in. Hyun Lee defected from North Korea five years ago. The son of a top financial official for Kim's regime, Lee had access to South Korean K-Pop which was smuggled in by friends while he lived in North Korea. He says any young North Korean hearing South Korean K-Pop for the first time is struck by the difference.

What does that music have that their music does not have?

HYUN LEE, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: So North Korean music doesn't have any emotion and feeling of love and then the freedom of society, but South Korean music emphasizes emotion, love.

TODD: Hyun Lee says the tide of K-Pop is so enormous, and the black market for the music and videos is so strong even young people still inside North Korea know about "Gangnam Style", the song by the artist Psy that was the first YouTube video to ever reach a billion views.

But it's a tide Kim Jong-un is trying to hold back. Analysts say North Korea's crackdown on the consumption of K-Pop by its citizens has intensified under Kim. Defectors say there's a feared unit of Kim's security services called Group 109, a roving group of operatives searching for banned CDs and USB drives.

LEE: They basically do search your body and search your home at any time and everywhere. Once North Koreans are caught by 109, so the severe punishment was execution.

TODD: It's not just listening to K-Pop that can get the average young North Korean in trouble. One young defector told "The Washington Post" that after seeing some K-Pop videos, she wanted to emulate their clothing style. She put on a pair of jeans, she said, and went to a local market. She said authorities there made her take off the jeans on the spot, and they burned them right in front of her.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, in life after the White House, Barack and Michelle Obama are now in the movie business. The first documentary distributed by their new production company is at Netflix. The reviews are glowing but are the Obama's making a political statement as well? Details in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle they are now officially in the movie business. Their company's first production, a documentary produced for the streaming giant Netflix debuted on the Wednesday. "American Factory" takes a look at the cultural differences between Chinese management and American workers at a manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio.

Beyond U.S.-China division, it also underscores the challenges presented by globalization as well as automation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is our desire to not be --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There must be flaws if the glass exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is our slogan?

CROWD: To stand still is to move back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope some day to get this good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're pretty slow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We keep training them over and over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American workers are not efficient.

[01:50:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been 11 complaints filed. Some workers claim unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doing the same thing over and over again, that wears on your body and your soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: For more now on "American Factory", Alissa Wilkinson, film critic for Vox.com is with us from New York. Alissa -- thanks for coming in.

ALISSA WILKINSON, FILM CRITIC: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Overall the reviews for this documentary have been glowing. There's a buzz, many saying it's the best documentary of the year, or one of the best at least. But add to all of that is the Obama effect. You know, this is the first project from their deal with Netflix. So specifically what was their involvement by, you know, in this documentary by the former president and the former first lady?

WILKINSON: Sure. So the documentary premiered in January at Sundance and the Obama's weren't involved at all at that point. Netflix purchased the movie around that time and was planning hardships that will be around that time and there was going to distribute it, and then it turned out that the Obamas were interested in adding it to their slate and making it their first release.

So the film was completely finished by that point and had been in process for years and years. But the Obamas saw it. They wanted to make sure that it was something that kind of set the tone for their upcoming slate with Netflix.

VAUSE: By some reports, Michelle Obama related to this documentary on a personal level. Her father was a blue collar worker. And while President Obama was drawn to it from sort of a macro policy point of view, which is very Barack Obama and that seems to speak to the very strength of the story telling and why this documentary is so compelling.

WILKINSON: Yes. I think that's right. And these are documentarians who really have been doing this kind of thing for a long time. They're known in the documentary world for making really stellar docs about working class people, about, you know, people who are kind of ordinary. And I think that really appealed to the Obamas for those very reasons. It's just something that they actually care about.

VAUSE: You spoke with the filmmakers at length for Vox. Here's a part of the interview you did with Julia Reichert. "What we realized," she says, "is everyone in there was facing big challenges. There could be no bad guys and good guys because everyone had their own goals. Everyone had this sense of what was success. Every one was under a huge amount of pressure in different ways. Everyone is trying their best."

This is you know, the Chinese workers and the America workers -- you know, the clashing culture (INAUDIBLE). It's a nuanced view of the world, you know, with their shades of gray and it's not black an white.

Compare that to President Donald Trump's world view. Here he is speaking on Wednesday about China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the chosen one. somebody had to do it. So I'm taking on China. I'm taking on China on trade. And you know what -- we are winning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So you know, in Donald Trump's world, there are winners and there are losers. But what we learned from this documentary is you can be both at the same time.

WILKINSON: Right. You know, a lot of what the documentary is about is how there are two really distinct sets of values that the Chinese management and the American workers are bringing to the table. And the movie really tries not to take sides on either of those so I think that people will find their world view challenged no matter what their kind of political bent is or what their view is of manufacturing or globalization or any of those things.

It really focuses on the human challenges of globalization, the way that people's lives are affected and the way their livelihoods are affected and also what that might look like in the future as the world moves towards automation.

VAUSE: And this is how the Obamas described the documentary and what they were hoping it could achieve. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, we all have a sacred story. That's right, right -- a story that gives us meaning and purpose in how we organize our lives. If you know someone, if you talk to them face to face, if you can forge a connection -- you may not agree with them on everything, but there is some common ground to be found and you can move forward together.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the many things I love about this project is that it's not an editorial. You truly let people speak for themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And that's true but you know, by letting those people speak for themselves, I mean it's not so much a rebuke of President Trump and his claim of the return of manufacturing jobs but it does show what the reality is with those jobs and that is a pretty grim reality for a lot of people. And by choosing this documentary as their first project, you know, as part of the Netflix deal. Are the Obamas making a statement and Politico for example, an opinion piece declared "The Obama's first big anti-Trump statement of 2020". How do you see it?

WILKINSON: I think that is probably a large statement. I don't know that they would see it that way. The film certainly barely addresses Trump. But of course, you can't really make a movie about something like manufacturing in the Midwest, among the working class without confronting things that Donald Trump has said and talked about.

And when you add China to the mix you've just kind of release the movie that is going to have relevance. But I think what's important and what really attracted me to the film as a critic, was that it really was interested in how individual people's lives were operating in Dayton, Ohio you know, a place that really suffered when GM closed its plant and moved out in 2008.

So the real changes that they experienced and the challenged they experienced is really what this film is about.

[01:55:03] VAUSE: You know, and it's an interesting theme because it's not the first time the sort of clash of cultures in the U.S. manufacturing industry has been addressed, you know. Before "American Factory" there was this 1986 comedy. It's become a dram, "Gung Ho". Instead of a rising China back then it was a rising Japan because it was 1986.

Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stevenson invited the Japanese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know my Dad was over here with the army I guess it was 1940.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, did you decorate this place yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To pout his town back to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to your first day with the Sun Moses (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, everything is on his shoulders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it and do it our way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: I'm a fan of 80s movies. But there are striking similarities between this movie and the documentary. You know, when we talk about, you know, how the American and the Chinese workers in "American Factory", you know, sort of clashed. Now they even (INAUDIBLE) as they can.

In the comedy the Hollywood version, everyone gets together, they learn a little, they get a little, they combine cultures for the best results. It's a Hollywood ending, everyone's happy.

Do you get a sense of this documentary though that there will be a real world Hollywood ending? Is that possible?

WILKINSON: Hollywood endings are almost never possible. They make for really good movies. I think what this movie really points out is that there will be always a tension because we -- you know, we live in different countries. We have different sets of values. We are raised with different sets of values.

And what we're looking for especially from our jobs might be different from what other peoples are looking for from their jobs. So that doesn't mean that globalization can't work, but it does mean that people have to be aware that, you know, clashing cultures have real results in people's lives and that we have to work harder to understand one another and that's not always what happens in this film.

But it's clear that some people are really trying. And that there are ways that we might make this integration more smooth in the future.

VAUSE: It was the premise of "Gung-Ho". I'm telling you. It's strikingly similar.

WILKINSON: Movies never lie.

VAUSE: Exactly. How true. Alissa -- thanks for coming. Really appreciate it.

WILKINSON: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. The news continues here on CNN after a short break.

[01:57:12] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)