Return to Transcripts main page


Brazil's President: Ranchers Could Have Set Amazon Fires; South Korea Ends Intelligence Sharing Deal with Japan; Documents: El Chapo Associate Orders Hit from Prison; More Than Two Dozen Arrested In Shooting Plots; New Footage Of Titanic Reveals Ship-Is Deteriorating; The Amazon Still Burning at a Record Rate; New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's First G7 Summit; South Korea Ending Intelligence Sharing Agreement with Japan; Ocean Viking Migrant Ship Still Awaiting Port Access; Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh Refuses to Return to Myanmar; Google Disabled YouTube Accounts Posting Hong Kong Protest; Hong Kong Man Arrested at West Kowloon Train Station Springs Controversy. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 02:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The Amazon ablaze, the world's largest rainforest burning faster than ever. Scientists say Brazil's policies are to blame.

The rift between South Korea and Japan deepening, Seoul saying it will no longer share military intelligence with Japan. CNN is live following the story in Seoul with the regional impact of the diplomatic dispute.

Plus, the titanic shipwreck, divers get a close-up look for the first time in 14 years. We speak to an ocean explorer about what they're finding.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all around the world, I'm George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Around the world, it's good to be with you this day. We start with the wildfires that are raging in Brazil. The Amazon rainforest, it is burning on a record rate.

And while environmentalists blame the government, its policies and new right-wing president for what's happening, President Jair Bolsanaro now suggests that ranchers might be responsible. Keep in mind that seems to be a slight change from what he said before that non- government -- governmental organizations, NGOs, could be igniting the flames, listen.


JAIR BOLSANARO, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): The NGOs lost money, the money that came from Norway and Germany to here. They're unemployed. What do they need to do, try to overthrow me? (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Mr. Bolsonaro says that Brazil doesn't have the resources to fight the fires and he scoffed at the idea of other countries intervening, this after the French president, Emmanuel Macron, called for the issue to be discussed in the G7 summit this coming weekend.

Brazil's fires are also the world's problem, and here is why. The Amazon is often called the planet's lungs. It produces over 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen and absorbs and stores carbon dioxide. The Amazon also helps to regulate the world's climate.

The fires are already affecting Sao Paulo, Brazil, nearly 3000 kilometers away. Shasta Darlington picks up the story from there with the latest.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fires are ravaging the Amazon at an alarming pace. Satellite images show plumes of smoke spreading across Brazil. And according to a National Institute for Space Research, there have been more than 72,000 fires in Brazil so far this year, many of them in the Amazon, many of them started by loggers and ranchers. And this is more than an 80 percent increase from last year.

In fact, the destruction has really been felt all the way here in Sao Paulo, some 2,700 kilometers away from the Amazon when earlier this week the city was plunged into darkness at 3:00 p.m. and it looked and felt like nighttime.

And researchers said that it was a combination of the low lying clouds of a cold front mixing with that smoke coming in from the Amazon. It sparked a whole campaign on social media called #prayforAmazonas and the war of worlds with environmentalist blaming the government, President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly said that the Amazon needs to develop -- to be developed and has also defunded many of the agency's task with cracking down on illegal activity there.

Ironically, when he was asked about the sparking fires, he blamed the NGOs themselves without citing any evidence, saying maybe they were starting the fires to make him look bad. What's clear is not -- is that enough is being done to stop them.

Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo.


HOWELL: We spoke earlier with a leading Brazilian environmentalist who's dedicated his life in preserving the Amazon. Tasso Azevedo says that fires are common this time of year, but not like this, listen.


TASSO ACEVEDO, FORMER DIRECTOR GENERAL, BRAZIL NATIONAL FOREST SERVICES: What we're having now, it's a completely loss of control, and almost an incentive from the part of the government to -- for those activities. So, what we are seeing now is an increase of the deforestation that we haven't seen a last 20 years. It's pretty sad.

Normally, we have a lot of fire this time of year. The problem now that we are seeing is that, first, you don't have any of the prevention measures that we normally have at the beginning of the year to help us to tackle the fires when it comes to dry season.

[02:05:05] There is lack of funding. We have -- the government is refusing the funding that come in from the Amazon fund, which is absolutely crucial for them.

So, basically, there is no funding and there is explicit direction to not take the proper action, especially if it involves the law enforcement of, you know, people doing deforestation in the Amazon. So, that's the reality that we are living right now.

There are things that can be done and we are asking every single day urging the government to take the actions, which is basically to be very clear that is unacceptable, any kind of deforestation and openings on public land, on protected areas and indigenous lands, and occupy all the loggers and the gold miners that are operating in indigenous lands and protected areas and have different -- have very direct target to any illegal deforestation of private lands with the consequences penalties, which is not happening right now.

And also, it is important actually to promote the agenda of sustainable use. Because if you look at the whole scenario of Brazil, the number of properties that have been clear cut right now is about 0.5 percent of the land owners. All the 99 percent -- the other 99 percent is actually not involved in this. But we are all suffering from the problems caused by those who want to keep (inaudible).


HOWELL: Let's bring in now our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, who is following this. And Derek, it seems the government doesn't seem so concerned about what is happening in its own backyard, people on the ground, firefighters doing the best they can, will weather help this at all?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, unfortunately, it is the dry season. It is technically the fire season in the Amazon as we speak. But there's something more nefarious taking place here. Behind the scenes, there are bigger businesses to talk about.

It is interesting because we are talking about the rain forest. It is a very human environment even though it is drier this time of the year than it is in other parts of the -- times of the year. The chance of fire spreading across this area is very limited. We do have cattle ranch and we have logging. We have soybean production. But those fires are limited.

Now, there must be something else taking place here. It's a concentration that we're noticing across the Amazon at the moment that is really raising our red flags. And we've got plenty of satellite data that we're starting to notice very planned, plotted, almost coordinated deforestation attacks on the Brazilian Amazon rain forest.

You're noticing -- we are noticing that the potential there for a big businesses. We've got the president taking over at the beginning of the year. He focused his campaign on deforestation and expansion and now business -- big business taking over.

And what's really taking place here is they're using this dry season to their advantage. They know that they can scorch the earth a lot faster than they can, bringing in heavy machinery. Some of those plotted lands on the satellite imagery I showed you just a second ago were at right angles. That doesn't happen in the natural world. Burning does not take place at right angle. So, something else is, obviously, happening there and that is large scale deforestation.

And we know that the Amazon rain forest is so critical to the planet's climate. Not only is it a carbon sink, it actually absorbs carbon. It produces 20 percent of the roads oxygen, and get this, 127 cubic tons of carbon is stored underneath the Amazon. If we were to deforest the entire forest as we speak, we will release 140 years equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions.

That is not the business we want to be in. You can see the dry season, unfortunately, George. It appears that these fires could get worse before they get better. Back to you.

HOWELL: That is not good news, but that is the reality of things.

VAN DAM: Right.

HOWELL: Derek Van Dam, live for us. Derek, thank you. And if you would like to help, if you would like to find ways to fight deforestation, any efforts there, you can check out We have posted some useful tools there for you. It can help to get started there.

G7 leaders head to Southern France this weekend for their annual summit. And for Boris Johnson, the new British prime minister, it will be his first as that -- in that role. He's been warming up by visiting one-on-one with various G7 leaders, hoping to find a way to reopen Brexit negotiations.

We got the latest now from CNN's Melissa Bell on this story.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: The point of the British Prime Minister's tour of European capitals was to see at this late stage what room for negotiation there might be on that question of the backstop that he himself described as being undemocratic at the beginning of the week.

[02:10:06] In Berlin, he was told by Angela Merkel that he had 30 days to try and come up with some kind of workable alternative. And by the time he got to Paris, that message was repeated. But what Emmanuel Macron added, again, playing that role of the more hard-line European with regard to Brexit negotiation, saying that any agreement that was found really couldn't vary terribly much from the agreement that was struck between Boris Johnson's predecessor and European allies.

Essentially, what Boris Johnson was told is that the ball is now in London's court. It is up to him and his government to come up with working solutions and fast.

The other message from Emmanuel Macron to the British Prime Minister is all these heads of state head into the G7 over the weekend in Biarritz is that he should be careful if he is considering that in a case of no deal Brexit the U.K. will be turning to the United States for support and for a strong alliance, reminding him that what the United Kingdom risked in that state, in those conditions, was becoming a vessel state.

And perhaps, in the greatest indication so far that the shifting dynamics of the G7 means that it is simply impossible to work out what's like it can come out of this G7 and what is likely to happen. The French have entirely ditched the tradition of coming up with the pre-signed communicate that is agreed before that meet -- the leaders even get together, that this time is simply not happening.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


HOWELL: Melissa, thank you. Washington his on edge now that South Korea has ended a key intelligence sharing agreement with Japan. This started as a diplomatic and trade dispute between the two countries. Japan restricted exports of materials used to make computer chips and South Korea promised to retaliate.

Well, that retaliation has now come in the form of restricting military cooperation. Here is the reason Seoul gave for that move that has Washington worried.


KIM YOU-GEUN, SOUTH KOREA NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DEPUTY DIRECTOR (through translator): Japan created a grave change in the environment for bilateral security cooperation.

Under this situation, we have determined it would not serve our national interest to maintain an agreement we signed with the aim of exchanging military information, which is sensitive to security.


HOWELL: And Japan calls Seoul's latest move extremely regrettable and summon the South Korean ambassador to formally complain about it. The United States had pushed for that intelligence sharing deal to be in place, making it easier to share data on North Korea and to monitor China.

Now, the United States Secretary of State is urging Japan and South Korea to try to find a solution. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We're disappointed to see the decision of the South Korea has made about that information sharing agreement. We were urging each of the two countries to continue to engage, to continue to have dialogue. There is no doubt that the shared interest of Japan and South Korea are important and they're important to the United States of America. And we hope each of those two countries can begin to put that relationship back in exactly the right place.


HOWELL: All right. But the timing couldn't be worse. North Korea's missile activity is picking up and some fear the end of this deal might benefit Washington's rivals in the region.

CNN correspondent, David Culver, following the story live in Seoul, South Korea. And David, if that old adage, united we stand, divided we fall, carries any bearing in what's happening between these two allies against North Korea, well, this must be music to the use of leadership in Pyongyang.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's possible, George. North Korea could be looking at this with a great deal of pleasure, especially if you go back just last week. It was liberation day here on the Korean Peninsula, a day that marked the anniversary of the liberation from Japanese occupation. And during that time, North Korea slammed the South Korea, saying that the president in his remarks to the people didn't come across strongly enough against Japan.

Well, fast forward to this week and this decision to end this intel sharing pack, it seems that the south is going forward exactly with what North Korea was hoping for in pushing against Japan.

Now, the reality is this could also have some benefits for North Korea and their military. It could be advantageous. For example, the Japanese and their military, along with the U.S., they help South Korea when it comes to monitoring the northern parts of the peninsula and knowing certain movements of some of the forces. So, with that information is delayed or if it doesn't make its way to South Korea, whatsoever, that could be damaging to military operations.

I spoke with the former U.S. Commander, the guy who oversaw 650,000 combined U.S.-South Korean forces up until November of last year. He says there's possibly three motivations, George, behind South Korea's move. One, he says, maybe this is their way of shocking the U.S. into mediation between South Korea and Japan. He says perhaps this is a way that South Korea is trying to gain economic leverage against Japan.

[02:15:06] Or the third option, and this one is quite interesting, and when he says we have to watch closely, perhaps South Korea is trying to prove to North Korea that they are willing to turn against the U.S. and Japan. Take a listen to what the general had to say as to why it is important to the U.S. to respond in a certain way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VINCENT BROOKS, FORMER COMMANDER US-ROK COMBINED FORCES: So, I do worry quite a bit about how the U.S. will react and where in government right now. My -- certainly, my military advise should be, first, to stop, take a breath, talk to the Koreans in private, understand where it is they're going and why they did what they did.


CULVER: All of this, George, of course coming as tensions here are rising. We just had the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea in the region, trying to negotiate between Japan and South Korea, all to discuss denuclearization on the peninsula. Now, at this, things are getting complicated, no question.

HOWELL: David Culver on the story. David, we will see barring any tweets that might come out from anyone if they do take discretion in figuring out why this happened. David, thank you.

Hundreds of migrants are stuck on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean. How they're plight helped to bring down the Italian government and various others across Europe. Plus the arrest of a Hong Kong man is shining the spotlight on a controversial train station as some see the terminal as an example of China's growing reach.

Newsroom will be right back right after this.


HOWELL: In Syria, activists say that government forces have entered one of the last opposition strongholds in that country. Soldiers carrying the Syrian flag advanced into Khan Sheikhoun -- I should say -- in the Idlib region. State media reports that the army will offer protection to any civilians who want to leave that area.

Khan Sheikhoun has been under rebel control since 2014. A chemical attack on the town two years ago killed 89 people. The U.S. President, Donald Trump, responded by launching cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase.

A humanitarian group says that things are getting desperate on board a rescue ship, Ocean Viking. More than 300 migrants are stranded in the Mediterranean with only five days of food left for them and no one will give the ship permission to dock.

[02:20:05] Simon Cullen has more.


SIMON CULLEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For nearly two weeks, these migrants have been languishing on board the Ocean Viking.

JAY BERGER, PROJECT COORDINATOR, MSF: Each day, the conditions are deteriorating. The anxiety is growing amongst the people we have on board.

CULLEN: The 356 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean by two French charities off the coast of Libya, plucked for safety from their rubber dinghies.

Almost a third are children, many of them traveling without a parent or guardian, but there's nowhere for them to go. The two closest countries, Italy and Malta, are both refusing for the rescue ship to dock.

BERGER: We implore the finest (ph) humanity and (inaudible) disgrace and find us a place of safety as soon as possible.

CULLEN: Another rescue ship, the Open Arms, was allowed to disembark at the Island of Lampedusa earlier this we but only after the Italian courts intervene to overrule the government.

The cycle of migrant rescues followed by a political standoff is becoming all too familiar in Europe as the continent continues to struggle to come up with a unified position on how to deal with those arriving by boats. And the reality is there is little the E.U. can do right now, beyond urging member states to cooperate on migrant rescues.

NATASHA BERTAUD, SPOKESWOMAN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The commission would welcome the same spirit of solidarity, which has been shown by member states in Open Arms case for the migrants on board the Ocean Viking vessel.

CULLEN: The French president acknowledges something needs to change.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): We need to find a European solution to deal with this in the past (ph). Solidarity is lacking in Europe. Unacceptable decisions are again being taken by some and the handling of the recent cases remains deeply unsatisfying.

CULLEN: Unsatisfying too for those caught in the middle, waiting and hoping to begin a new live in Europe.

Simon Cullen, CNN, London.


HOWELL: And this late update, Portugal is offering to take an out to 35 people from the Ocean Viking. France, Germany, Romania and Luxembourg also say that they will help.

More than 44,000 migrants and refugees have made the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean to Europe this year alone. That's according to the International Organization for Migration. It says that at least 843 people have lost their lives making that journey. Most of the people died on the Central Mediterranean route to Italy and Malta.

In Bangladesh, efforts have stalled to repatriate Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar. The Myanmar government cleared more than 3,000 refugees living in camps to return to Rakhine state, but hundreds of families refused to go back. Some say they would return but specific conditions must be met. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Myanmar government wants to repatriate us, they must give our citizenship with Rohingya identity, number one. Number two is our original homeland. Number three, our safety and security. Number four, those remaining in IDP must resettlement before we repatriate. If the Myanmar government don't do like that, we don't want to repatriate to our original homeland.


HOWELL: After a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. The U.N. says the country isn't yet ready for the refugees to return.

Protesters and Hong Kong are calling for new democracy rallies, but this time with a difference. In the coming hours, demonstrators are coming together to form a human chain across the territory. They're calling it the Hong Kong way. That's a reference to the Baltic way.

Protesters 30 years ago, activists in the Baltic States joined hands demanding independence. It is one of several demonstrations to take place in Hong Kong on Friday.

In the meantime, Google has followed Twitter and Facebook's example by disabling hundreds of YouTube accounts that were posting videos about the Hong Kong protests. Twitter and Facebook shutdown accounts that had contents aimed at undermining the pro-democracy protesters. Some of them posted as news organizations but then had links to Chinese government. Google disabled 210 YouTube channels there were uploading video about the ongoing protests.

And we have new developments on the controversial arrest of a Hong Kong man who works at the British Consulate. His friends and family say that he was arrested for supporting the protests, but a Chinese newspaper report Simon Cheng was detained on the mainland by police for, quote, "solicitation of prostitution."

Earlier, my colleague, John Vause, spoke with one of Cheng's friends.


[02:25:02] TAMMY CHEUNG, SIMON CHENG'S FRIEND: The accusation is not the truth. From the message I have received from his family and also his girlfriend, that is totally not the truth. I think this accusation s just trying to destroy his credibility and also his character because we all know that he doesn't have any kinds of (inaudible) and also he is a hardworking person. He loves his job very much. So, we don't think it is the truth. And also we can see that they had just announced that accusation after two weeks. So, actually the evidence and also the accusation is very weak.


HOWELL: And Cheng's girlfriend believes that he was detained at an immigration checkpoint in a controversial Hong Kong train station. As our Kristie Lu Stout reports, that station's checkpoints have been viewed as an example of China's growing influence there.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been hailed at the vision of the future. The West Kowloon Station is a gigantic $10 billion glass and concrete structure that houses a high speed railing between Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Hong Kong government considers this an economic game-changer. It helps the city's economy by bringing in more visitors while linking Hong Kong to Macau and cities across Southern China. But this glittering development is deeply controversial. That's because the station has an area where all passengers going to the mainland are prescreened by a Chinese immigration.

Yes, it is a set up similar to those seen in U.K. and Canada where officials from France and the United States prescreen passengers for the sake of efficiency, but those officials only have the power to approve or deny entry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Departing passengers will need to comply with mainland laws.

LU STOUT: It's more complicated here. In part of the West Kowloon Station, mainland Chinese laws apply. That means Chinese authorities can make arrest inside the terminal or even transfer people to the mainland. Critics fear that this foothold could allow Chinese police to go after government critics in this city.

LAM CHEUK-TING, HONG KONG LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER: It will evolve the highly autonomy of Hong Kong and against the one country two systems principle.

LU STOUT: Defenders say that joint checkpoint makes for a smoother immigration process to facilitate that journey from Hong Kong to over 40 destinations in China. And that's why mainland Chinese police are stationed here in the commercial heart of Hong Kong.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOWELL: Kristie, thank you. The president of France gears up to host this year's G7 summit at a seaside resort but has already acknowledged the high-profile meeting probably won't mount to as much as hoped. Details ahead on for you on that.

Plus, the economy in the united states red flags. What red flags? The White House puts its spin on some troubling numbers. Standby, we will be back.



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers all over the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has hinted that ranchers could be responsible for the fires raging across the Amazon rainforest. But he also continues to cast the blame on international nongovernment organizations. He says are determined to overthrow his government. Environmentalists have said that some of the fires were set by loggers and ranchers emboldened by their pro-business president.

Japan's prime minister is speaking out, this after South Korea ended a key intelligence sharing agreement with his country. Shinzo Abe says the move damages trust between the two nations. South Korea admits that it is retaliation, after Japan limited exports of materials used to make computer chips.

The new British prime minister has been spending time with European leaders, he's hoping to find a way to reopen Brexit negotiations, but the message that Boris Johnson has been given, well, it's not encouraging. The French president says that minor adjustments can be made to the agreement if they benefit the U.K. and the E.U., but wholesale change is not possible.

Leaders of the G7 summit will meet in Southern France on Saturday, the G7 leaders began arriving at that seaside resort, but expectations with the agreement there, well, not very promising, we understand. Our Jim Bittermann explains.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: This is what France is supposed to look like this time of year, the laidback seaside community on France's southwest Atlantic coast is a favorite for summering tourists.

But this is what it will look like this weekend, more than 13,000 police and (INAUDIBLE) will encircle the city with layers of security that extend all the way to the Spanish border, 20 miles away.

When the summit begins on Saturday, the sunbathers will be chased off the beaches, hotels and restaurants emptied, and in some cases, closed, all to protect the top world leaders who will gather here at the Hotel du Palais, a luxurious resort built by Napoleon III, for his young wife, Eugenie.

Security to protect the G7's principles, as well as dozens or so other international delegations from anti-G7 protesters who set up camp sights not far away. France's infamous Yellow Vest movement, as well as anti-globalists of every stripe, regard the G7 as a club of the rich which ignores the social and environmental concerns of the poor, even though France put some of those issues on the G7 agenda.

AURELIE TROUVE, ALTERNATIVES G7: They decide policy just in the interest of the very rich people, and of the capital, the finance, big finance, and we did (INAUDIBLE) and we want -- we want to show that there exists a big social movement against these policies and also that we have alternatives to this system.

BITTERMANN: Because the G7 leaders require so much protection and the anti-G7 protest could turn violent, local merchants wonder if it's all worth it, virtually closing down a region that depends on tourism for 20 percent of its economic activity.

AURORE PRALIN, REGIONAL MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION (through translator): It's during high season, our high season, is the best months of the year, and we're not consulted. No one asked our opinion.

BITTERMANN: What makes it all the more aggravating for some is the likelihood that this G7 will accomplish little more than the last one in Canada, when the U.S. refused to sign a final communique.

Host President Emmanuel Macron told reporters this week, that since there's so little agreement among the leaders, he'll avoid a similar disastrous outcome by not even drafting a final communique, something really heard of in diplomatic exchanges like the one here, this weekend, leading some to question, whether it's even worth the trouble having a G7 meeting at all.

FRANCOIS HEISBOURG, SENIOR ADVISER, FOUNDATION FOR STRATEGIC RESEARCH: To quote Winston Churchill, jaw-jaw is better than war-war, that -- but, you know, one should never forget that. The G7 meeting in Canada, last year, was dreadful, but it was not useless.

It actually forced the non-American players to come to terms with the extraordinary different nature of the new American administration at the time.

BITTERMANN: That American administration has not changed and absorbers here say that in the lead up to this summit, expectations are even lower than they were at Canada, last year, given the fact that there is political discourse in this array among the G7 members, as well as about everywhere you look around the globe, even small agreements here will certainly be regarded as victories, Jim Bittermann, CNN, Biarritz, France.


[02:35:06] HOWELL: All right, Jim, thank you. The eyes of the economic world will be trained on Wyoming, a meeting that is set to take place there Friday, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Jerome Powell, is set to speak at the 2019 economics symposium to say that he is walking a tightrope between an understatement, which may be an understatement, especially on interest rates.

Every word that he says will be carefully monitored, what he says could easily move world markets and then, there's an audience of one in the Oval Office who will no doubt weigh in on this.

The White House is doing its best to put a positive face on some negative economic indicators, news that has investors worried. The term, inverted yield curve, has reared its ugly head yet again. Our Boris Sanchez has this report from the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump trying to be ease concerns about mounting red flags in the American economy by, once again, taking aim at the Federal Reserve, tweeting "The economy is doing really well. The Federal Reserve can easily make a record setting. Later adding our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do. They put us at a disadvantage against our competition. Fight or go home."

In recent days, Trump and allies have insisted the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, I don't see a recession at all.



SANCHEZ: But a major indicator of an oncoming recession, the yield curve inverted again, for the third time, since last Wednesday. And new numbers indicate the Bureau of Labor statistics over estimated the number of jobs created by more than half a million.

New data also reveals the manufacturing sector, an area of emphasis for Trump, has shrunk for the first time, since 2009. And a report from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office shows the federal deficit will come close to $1 trillion in 2019, ballooning in large part because of Trump's 2017 tax cut.


SANCHEZ: Economists also blaming the current trade war with China, which Trump denied was his fault.

TRUMP: Somebody said it is Trump's trade war, this isn't my trade war.

SANCHEZ: But Trump did start the trade war last year, when he began leveling tariffs on China. That statement by the president, according to CNN fact checkers, 1 of 11 false claims Trump made, during his more than 30-minute Q&A with reporters on Wednesday.

One more thing for President Trump to be concerned about, the growing number of House Democrats, expressing support for a formal impeachment inquiry. On Wednesday, that number grew substantially, and now, at least 130 House Democrat support the idea that's more than half of their caucus. Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Boris, thank you. The White House has scrapped its plan to bypass Congress and cut up -- cut up to $4 billion in foreign aid funding. A source tells CNN that it was the president who decided to reverse course. The plan had met bipartisan backlash. The White House has tried to make foreign aid, conditional, not based on need, but based on support for U.S. policies.

The powerful Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, is currently serving a life sentence in the United States for his drug trafficking conviction, but a new document reveals that his large and often violent empire could still be very active. Our Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is locked behind bars at America's most secure prison, convicted on multiple counts of drug trafficking, but CNN has learned the world's most dangerous drug lord may still be lording over his empire.

Court documents say a trusted lieutenant of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, offered $25,000 to take out a hit on another former lieutenant, while they were both in jail, the target, a former associate of El Chapo's Sinaloa Cartel. The documents say the order was to "split his head."

MALCOLM BEITH, AUTHOR, THE LAST NARCO: I think it speaks volumes about how they can still use people in their network, whoever that might be, to send messages to rivals, I think it's not since the mafia -- the real mob here is, that we've heard of, this kind of stuff going on.

TODD: Court documents don't say the name of the target, but Damaso Lopez Serrano recently testified in court that he'd learned that gang members had been offered $25,000 to beat him, while he was held at a heavy security facility in Chicago. The hit was never carried out.

And Lopez Serrano, according to law enforcement sources, was quickly moved to another facility for his safety. Lopez Serrano has been a key witness against members of the Sinaloa Cartel, even though he was once among their top lieutenants. And analysts say, a godson of El Chapo's.

BEITH: I think Lopez Serrano is a very big threat to the cartel, knowing as much as he does about the sons of Chapo Guzman, knowing as much as he does about Chapo himself. Now, remember, Chapo has been sentenced, but that doesn't mean that Lopez Serrano doesn't know tons about Chapo's circle.

[02:40:18] TODD: Lawyers for the 62-year-old El Chapo say he is jailed at America's only super max prison in Florence, Colorado. Experts say, likely, in a 7 by 12-foot cell, at least 23 hours a day, former DEA agents tell us, it's important that El Chapo be kept there so he can't continue to run the cartel's operations.

MICHAEL BRAUN, FORMER DEA CHIEF OF OPERATIONS: Let's understand something, the hallmarks of organized crime are corruption first, if they can't do that, they'll turn to intimidation, if intimidation doesn't work, then they'll inflict brute violence, right?

And we've taken all of those things away from him, OK? He, you know -- right now, he can't manage the Sinaloa Cartel. And guess what, that's the position that he needs to stay in. TODD: At his trial, a former associate of El Chapo has testified that his former beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel, played a key role in one of the kingpin's legendary prison escapes, although she was never charged. Could El Chapo and his associates get help in running the cartel and ordering hits from Coronel?

BEITH: She has never shown any willingness to get involved in the ordering, the facilitating of violence. That is an old-fashioned cartel rule. The women do not generally get involved in that.

TODD: As for the target of the alleged prison hit attempt, Damaso Lopez Serrano, analysts say it's very likely he'll be called to testify at the trials of other alleged drug traffickers. So, prison officials could be under more pressure than ever, to keep him safe while he's incarcerated. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Brian, thanks. A California man allegedly had plans to shoot up a hotel where he worked. How authorities kept that from happening and why they are worried about others with similar ideas.


HOWELL: U.S. President Donald Trump says that he's working with Democrats and Republicans to come up with plans to prevent mass shootings. Mr. Trump tweeted late Thursday that he hopes Congress can pass meaningful legislation that will save lives.

The president has changed his position again on expanding background checks for gun buyers. He now says that he supports stricter measures and that he's not just repeating talking points from the National Rifle Association.

[02:45:08] There are some new details of an alleged plot to carry out a mass shooting at a Long Beach, California hotel. This is the latest of more than two dozen similar suspected plots that were averted just this month.

Our Nick Watt has this story.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: High powered rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, 38 illegal high-capacity magazines, and tactical gear. All found at Rodolfo Montoya's home.

CHIEF ROBERT LUNA, POLICE CHIEF, LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Suspect Montoya had clear plans, intent, and the means to carry out an act of violence that may have resulted in a mass casualty incident.

WATT: The 37-year-old was a cook at this Marriott hotel near the airport in Long Beach, California.

LUNA: He was upset about some recent workplace activity, having to do with H.R.

WATT: And allegedly confided in a colleague his plan.

LUNA: He was going to shoot up fellow employees and people coming into the hotel. So, he had a plan of shooting everybody that he saw in the hotel.

WATT: That colleague reported Montoya's alleged threat to hotel management Monday night. Police were called and he was arrested at his home in nearby Huntington Beach within 24 hours.

LUNA: Because this was reported, I firmly believe many lives were saved. More than two dozen people have been arrested across the country for allegedly plotting or threatening mass casualty attacks since that spate of shootings in early August that killed 34 at a Garlic Festival in California, in Dayton Ohio, and in El Paso, Texas.

Security sources tell CNN that FBI Director Chris Wray has ordered field offices to conduct new threat assessments to stifle future attacks. This alleged Long Beach plotter currently held on a half- million-dollar bond had no previous criminal history that would have raised a flag on a background check.

ROBERT GARCIA, MAYOR OF LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA: We are certainly living in dangerous times, I think, in our country and our community. And incidents where folks that should not have access to weapons, and to certainly, illegal weapons are facing our departments and our police departments across the country.

WATT: Montoya appeared in court, Thursday afternoon facing four felony charges. Two counts of making criminal threats, one of dissuading a witness by force and one of possessing an assault weapon. He pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOWELL: Now, to an inspiring story of a resilient Iraqi teenager. She went blind while living under ISIS rule, but never lost sight of her dreams. Our Cyril Vanier has this report.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Iraqi teen radio presenter Noor Al Tae'e, suffers from a disease that affects eye pressure. She gradually lost her eyesight due to lack of medical care when her home in Mosul fell under ISIS control.

Living under a strict Islamic regime with failing eyesight, she says boredom was a problem.

NOOR AL TAE'E, RADIO PRESENTER (through translator): There was no entertainment. Only, access to the Internet. And I could not really watch television because of my eyesight. So, I started listening to the radio. VANIER: In 2016, Noor lost her sight completely. But that didn't stop her fulfilling her ambition of working in radio.

GHADEER AHMED, DIRECTOR OF A RADIO STATION (through translator): As someone with a disability, Noor has a dream. She wants to be a presenter. And when she applied at our station, she came to represent that symbol of hope.

Noor was lucky that her father fully supports her decision to follow her dream.

HAMADI IBRAHIM, FATHER OF NOOR AL TAE'E (through translator): Her ambition is to be a successful presenter. He loves that. I have supported her. I didn't want her to remain between four walls, and for her life to end because she lost her sight.

VANIER: Having established herself as a voice on local radio, Noor now has a new dream.

AL TAE'E: My ambition was to become a presenter, and I made it. I aspire to become a presenter covering a wider scope. Now it is Mosul, but one day, Iraq, the Arab world, and maybe even worldwide.

VANIER: And I bet she will make that happen. Cyril Vanier, Atlanta.


HOWELL: The world needs more presenters -- journalists. And it is good to see her alongside us.

It is one of the most famous shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean and it could soon disappear. What is exactly causing the Titanic to decay? We discussed that with an ocean Explorer as CNN NEWSROOM pushes ahead. Stay with us.


[02:51:30] HOWELL: New images of the Titanic reveal its shocking decay. The first man dived to the storied wreckage in nearly 15 years found the ship being devoured by metal-eating bacteria and battered by corrosion and deep-sea currents.

The deep ocean exploration team made five dives to the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic this month to capture footage and computer imagery to assess the ship's condition and its future. Listen.


VICTOR VESCOVO, OCEAN EXPLORER: It was just extraordinary just to see it all. And the most amazing moment came when I was going along the side of the Titanic, and the bright lights of the submersible, the first time when they reflected off of a portal and came right back, it was like the ship was winking at me. It was -- it was really amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: And now, someone who knows quite well about underwater exploration, Tim Taylor. Tim is the CEO of Tiburon Subsea, joining this hour from New York. Tim, good to have you with us.


HOWELL: Look, you'd know the diving team that shot this footage. You also know how complex it could be to make deep dives like this. The system that they use is said to be easily repeated, enabling more dives like this. What makes it different?

TAYLOR: What makes this submarine different is, is that repeatability. Most of the expeditions that have gone to the depth of the oceans have not repeated those expeditions.

HOWELL: I see. And, you know, talk to us a bit more about what they found down there. Because these high-quality images that they brought back, it allows for 3D models that can be seen in augmented and even virtual reality.

TAYLOR: Yes, actually. We're working heavily with that type of technology. It's called photogrammetry, and also laser scanning. So, light are -- they'd call it underwater. Which underwater, it's a lot more difficult because of the diffuse environment. Light gets sucked up really fast. And the scanning ability to know where your robots are or your submersibles are is an issue.

But, that being said, they can do a couple of days' worth of work here, and then bring that 3D modeling back and use it archaeologically for a long time. So, a couple of days on-site and you've got months and months, if not, years of research to do.

HOWELL: Tim, look, you know, things like this maybe it's old hat to you. But, you know, for many people looking at this, it is amazing to see, you know, these images cool in a way right.


HOWELL: But also very solemn when you consider exactly what happened with this ship looking at it. What are your thoughts?

TAYLOR: Well, these are graves. I personally look for these types of wrecks myself with the robotics and focus on World War II submarines. I've found five to date, and they're -- there -- there's people, and there are tombs there that's important.

So, they're decaying and yes, nature is taking them back. But that has to be the probably -- the biggest consideration when diving these types of things.

HOWELL: But I have also showed how metal is being devoured by the ocean floor. And that -- the metal-eating bacteria, tell us more about that.

TAYLOR: Well, nature takes things back, and the metal-eating bacteria is actually eating the iron. And the right, this is decaying over time. Archaeological expeditions that bring back items from wrecks like this are destructive as well.

So, I guess it's a -- it's a real choice, and we got to let it just waste away and be taken by nature, or do we want to -- sites like this recover artifacts and keep them for posterity and history and for other people to see these things. Because this is going away as most of these things well underwater over time.

[02:55:27] HOWELL: The historic nature of what happened here that the technology, the images, from your vantage point, what's your biggest takeaway?

TAYLOR: Yes, well, the technology now is exactly what we talked about earlier. The imagery, the scanning, the measurements, and everything that can be collected versus what was done 20 or 30 years ago when this wreck was discovered as phenomenal.

It's just not just pictures, it's a three-dimensional mapping of these items underwater. And they can preserve that. That point in time where these ships are at this particular time can be preserved forever with these -- with this new technology.

HOWELL: Tim, we appreciate your time today and certainly these images, incredible.


HOWELL: I'm sure many people will be watching.

TAYLOR: Amazing, yes.

HOWELL: Thank you.

And finally, the year 1969 on a Soviet fishing vessel, a sailor tossed a champagne bottle to sea with a note inside. And 50 years later, a family in Alaska found it.


TYLER IVANOFF, DISCOVERED MESSAGE IN BOTTLE: I brought to my kids and decided -- I'm wondering what -- who wrote the message and I was pretty excited to find out who wrote it. And I open it up and my kids are wondering, "Is that from a pirate?"


HOWELL: The note written in Russian. So, the family turned to social media to get a translation. They try to discover also who wrote it. The answers eventually came. And to everyone's surprise, the author was still alive.

Right there. 86-year-old man, living by the Black Sea. Reuters news agency tracked him down.


ANATOLIY BOTSANENKO, FORMER SAILOR, SOVIET UNION (through translator): We wish good health and success in life to the one who finds the bottle. That's all. With most probable, it would be washed to our shores. Maybe Japan, maybe the Kuril Islands, maybe even China that way to the south, or Vietnam.

But the fact that it headed to the north, passed through the Bering Strait and got to Alaska, it's just unbelievable.


HOWELL: What a wonderful find. Thank you so much for being with us here for NEWSROOM. More news right after the break.