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Rainforest On Fire, Wildfire Crisis In The Amazon; Brexit Bargaining; World's Longest Route, Qantas' 19 Hour Flight; Johnson's European Union Tour; South Korea Ends Intelligence-Sharing Deal With Japan; President Trump Reverses Course On Payroll Tax Cut; Famous Wreckage Titanic, Decaying. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 03:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The crisis in the Amazon continues to grow, the French president calls the wildfires an international crisis, but the president of Brazil disagrees with that.

Brexit bargaining Boris Johnson asked France for flexibility, but Emmanuel Macron pushes back and the fate of Brexit still in the ballots.

Plus, a 19-hour flight. That may sound like torture for many people, but he Qantas wants to see how the human body handles it. We don't think it would be that, it would be a long flight.

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

We start with the raging fires in the Amazon that could cause yet another big setback in the greater fight to minimize the impact of climate change. The president of France is among world leaders sounding the alarm, tweeting this, Emmanuel Macron saying quote, our house is burning, literally, the Amazon rainforest, the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet's oxygen is on fire, it is an international crisis, members of the G7, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days.

Well the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro had a different take on it, he scoffed at the suggestion, saying that it is quote, an internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries, even though he also said that Brazil doesn't have the resources to fight the fire. Still these fires are the world's problem. We spoke earlier with Daniel Lavelle, the U.S. Program Director for Survival International, who'll explain exactly why, listen.


DANIEL LAVELLE, U.S. PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL: The Amazon is very critical for the climate of the planet as you mentioned before, it is 20 percent of the earth's oxygen. Though there's a giant carbon zinc, it really is a vital resource and with accelerating climate change, dramatically if deforestation continued. Evidence is really quite clear where you have indigenous territories. You have five times less deforestation, excuse me, nine times less wildfires and these are really critical spaces.


HOWELL: And people like our Derek Van Dam, our meteorologists are able to look at satellite imagery to see exactly what is happening. And Derek, there is some indicators as you have pointed out that, well, don't seem very natural, can you explain.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. That is right George, you know, we are analyzing the satellite images that we've seen from NASA and other various sources and what we're noticing is planned, plotted, almost coordinated large-scale deforestation on the Brazilian, Amazon. You're looking at some satellite imagery here, look at the perfect, squares those are the areas that have been deforested, there are some of the fires and we know that these large businesses that are contracted to deforest the Amazon are taking advantage of the dry season as we speak.

They know that they can scorch the land faster than they can to take heavy machinery and then try and do it themselves. They also know that it is more economical to do that. And if you need more proof, just look at this, you can see the fires and the winds moving over the fires pushing the smoke this is not a natural burn pattern. We do not typically see, the right angles that you are noticing on this satellite imagery. I mean, the importance of the Amazon is so incredible to us, it is a carbon zinc, and it also provides us 20 percent of the world's oxygen, we know that already.

HOWELL: Well, Derek, you know, one question, will weather be a factor to help any of this?

VAN DAM: Well, you know, unfortunately we don't see much rain in the future this is the dry season, so the potential for the fires to get worse before they get better definitely exists, but it's not all doom and gloom, George, we have the potential to help with the reforestation process across the Brazilin Amazon. Head to impact your world, there's a lot of information on reforestation for about a cost of the cup of coffee, you can actually help reforest the Brazilian Amazon and save one hectare a year, just for the cup of coffee, incredible, right.

HOWELL: Important as well, Derek Van Dam live. Derek, thank you.

The host of this weekend's G7, the French president Emmanuel Macron as we mentioned he wants to place the Amazon fire's front and center on the agenda for the two day summit. As for the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this will be his first time at the G7 in that role, he's been traveling across the continent for the last few days looking to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement. European leaders have been polite and at times stern.


want the deal. And I think we can get a deal, let's get Brexit done, let's get it done sensibly and pragmatically and in the interest of both sides and let's, well, let's not wait until October the 31st. Let's get on now.

PRES. EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Now, I am going to be very clear in the coming months, we will not find a withdrawal agreement that will be far from what we have now. If in the framework of what has been negotiated by Mitchell Vanier (ph) some things can be adapted and fit with our two objectives that I've just mentioned which is stability in Ireland and integrity of the single market. We have to find them in the coming months.


HOWELL: The British Prime Minister seems to be enjoying his time hob knobbing with European leaders, but even if he eventually comes home empty-handed, at least he can tell parliament that he tried. Our Nina Dos Santos has this report.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.K. Prime Minister's first European tour was a relaxed affair. Even if it wasn't ultimately rewarding. In Berlin, he and Angela Merkel may have sat side by side, he even spoke German.

JOHNSON: We seek a deal. And I believe that we can get one. We can do it. The (inaudible), I think is the phrase.

DOS SANTOS: And on Brexit it will pull us apart and singing from different hymn sheets.

JOHNSON: Withdrawal agreement.

DOS SANTOS: Over the working dinner, his glass was half full, hers half empty as the chancellor refused to scrap the Irish backstop. Instead, offered Johnson 30 days to come up with a credible alternative.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: We always said that we probably will find a solution in the coming two years, but possibly you may find a solution in 30 days, why not?

DOS SANTOS: In France, the welcome was warm, but came with a warning.

MACRON (through translator): You know I've always been depicted as toughest of the group, but it's because I've always said very clearly a choice must be made in its pointless to try not implement it saying that since it will last for a while, we will not apply the will of the British people in the end and go around it. I think our democracy suffer on the lack of efficiency and clarity.

DOS SANTOS: Johnson tried to put its best foot forward, suggesting the U.K. would never impose a hard border in Ireland, but if the handshake was anything to go by, President Macron wasn't letting off easy. Boris Johnson's visit to Europe was never really about getting explicit agreements, rather it was about building a rapport with the two most influential figures in the E.U. and moreover showing the British people that he at least tried to negotiate in person, less the U.K. crash out in 70 days' time without a deal.

Johnson may have more luck making headway on trade deals this weekend when seven of the world's biggest economies gather in Beirut. Among them, Japan, Canada, and the United States, who the U.K. is keen to (inaudible). However considering that summit has scraps the tradition of issuing a draft communicate this time, it is unlikely that firm commitment will be forthcoming there either. Nina Dos Santos, CNN, London.


HOWELL: It started out as a trade dispute between Japan and South Korea, but now South Korea has retaliated by pulling out an intelligence sharing agreement between the two nations and that may have global repercussions, not just in trade or things like smartphones or other electronics, but in military cooperation, just as North Korea ramps up its missile watches. Our David Culver is following the story. David, live in Seoul South Korea. And David, again that old outage, united we stand divided we fall, if it carries any bearing here, this must be really interesting news in North Korea.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt North Korea is watching this quite closely, this is something that they actually made a reference to George, just a week ago. It was Liberation Day here across the entire Korean peninsula, a day where they celebrate the end of Japanese occupation. And during the remarks that President Moon made it was criticized by the North Koreans that he didn't go hard enough against the Japanese and that was something that North Korean officials brought up multiple times and quite frankly they slammed the south for how they handled it.

So perhaps this is in some way a response to the Japanese that is appealing to North Korea, more over this could be advantageous to North Korea and their military if the Japanese aren't communicating from what they're seen in surveillance wise from their satellites directly to South Korea, it could delay or even keep information that is pertinent to South Korean security from getting to that military.

[03:10:18] And so this complicates things even further there is no, question. I spoke recently to -- just a short time ago really, to a former commander, the former commander, the man who oversaw a combined 650,000 U.S. South Korean forces here up until November. This is a guy, Army General Vincent Brooks, who relied heavily on the shared information between Japan and South Korea. He calls this detrimental if it goes through and he warns there are still 90 days here, there could be some agreement and the channel could be kept open for Intel to be shared back and forth, but one of his concerns primarily focused on how the U.S. would respond to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I do worry quite a bit about how the U.S. will

react and were I, in government right now. Certainly my military advice would be to stop, take a breath, talk to the Koreans in private and understand where it is that they're going and why they did what they did.


CULVER: He wants the U.S. to reach out to South Korea directly George, because he wants to gauge what the motivation was, he says in his mind, there are one of three options, one is they did this to shock the U.S. and to mediate in between Japan and South Korea. Two, perhaps it was South Korea's way to gain some economical leverage in the trade dispute with Japan or three, and this is the interesting one, perhaps the general thinks that South Korea was trying to show North Korea that they are willing at times to turn their back on the U.S. and Japan, it is interesting.

HOWELL: All this happening, David, at a time where North Korea is lashing out of the United States over maintaining sanctions against that nation. North Korea is saying it will remain the biggest threat to the U.S. if indeed that continues.

CULVER: They were stressing that and they are showing that, they are flexing their military might, over the past several months, we've been reporting even just a week ago, I was here reporting on the latest missile tests launch. They've done eight in recent months and according to defense military experts that we have spoken with, they have shown enhanced military capabilities within some of these launches.

They are near perfecting the ability according to some defense experts to evade missile detection systems that are operated by the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. So all of this size together, no doubt North Korea is focused heavily on how this could play into their favor, especially when it comes to what they hope will be a bilateral talk directly with and only with the United States when it comes to denuclearization.

HOWELL: David Culver, live on this story in Seoul, South Korea. David, thank you.

The U.S. President insists that the U.S. economy is strong despite new signs quite to the contrary, where he stands today on a payroll tax cut for American workers.

Plus, talk about Middle East syndrome, Qantas is pondering 19 hour flight -- 19th hour nonstop flight. But first it wants to know if humans can actually withstand it.


HOWELL: News signs are pointing to potential trouble for the U.S. President, economically and politically. For the first time in nearly a decade Americas manufacturing sector shrank, and the labor market reports from last April to this March there were half a million fewer jobs created than previously reported. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports all of that adds up to confusion in the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The job numbers have been really, the economy has been really fantastic, if you look at the world economy not so good, thank you very much every one.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As economic warning signs are flashing, tonight President Trump is sending mixed messages on his game plan.

TRUMP: We are not looking at a tax cut now we don't need it, we have a strong economy.

COLLINS: Part of the confusion whether or not the president is considering a payroll tax cut to ward off an economic downturn.

TRUMP: President Obama did that in order to artificially jack up the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

COLLINS: That is a reversal of what he said only days ago.

TRUMP: Payroll taxes, I've been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time.

COLLINS: The president's flip-flop coming as congressional budget forecasters say more red ink is to come. The congressional budget office now says the federal deficit will balloon to $960 billion this fiscal year, an average 1.2 trillion for the next decade.

The president's most consistent economic message has been a contradictory one. Today he insisted the economy is doing really well, but he spent the week calling for a big federal aid cut, a move typically made when an economic dip is on the horizon.

TRUMP: If he doesn't, you'll see a rocket ship, you'll see -- well, if he doesn't, we have a very strong economy.

COLLINS: The whiplash in the West Wing is widespread.

TRUMP: Well, I have an appetite for background checks. We are going to be doing background checks.

COLLINS: Trump now says he'll push for background checks and claims he never told the NRA he wouldn't even though he had spent the week repeating the gun group's talking points after a long phone call with the NRA chief.

TRUMP: That's a Trump talking points.

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN, White House aides are working on gun control proposals for when Congress returns to Capitol Hill, but what the president will support and whether or not that support will waiver remains to be seen. As Trump bobs and weaves between controversies, two of his top advisers are noticeably missing in action.

Following a weekend vacation in Wyoming, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have remain under the radar this week, staying publicly silent as the president digs in on his accusation that Jewish voters who supported Democrats are being disloyal to Israel.

TRUMP: If you vote for a Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people.

COLLINS: From skiing in Aspen as the administration attempt to repeal Obamacare collapse, to vacationing in (inaudible), during the Christmas government shutdown, their absence in times of trouble has become a pattern of the Trump presidency.

Despite the president saying this week, he was considering a payroll tax cut, his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, just told reporters that the president is not looking to do any kind of tax cuts in the near future, though they did say they're looking a tax cuts 2.0 as he called it, which he said could be another set of tax cuts in addition to the ones in 2017, that the administration could unveiled during the 2020 election, of course they are going to be questions about that because it was a 2017 tax cuts that the congressional budget office said added to the fact that we saw the deficit will loom more than expected.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Kaitlan, thank you. So here's the question, how long is a flight that is too long for you, well is it eight hours? Is it 10 hours? Try 19 hours, the Australian airline Qantas may soon fly nonstop between Sydney and New York as well as Sydney and London, but for the first time, it wants to see if the human body can actually take that. Our own Richard Quest has this.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN EDITOR AT LARGE: Imagine sitting here for 19 straight hours. Well, Qantas wants to see exactly how people handle some of the world's longest routes. It's running test flights, do you mind? Long flights, commercial services, it's called Project Sunrise.

[03:20:00] Now the test will be in two stages, there will be two flights from New York, nonstop to Sydney and one flight from London to Sydney. And it will be done over a period of three months, there will only be 40 people on board and most of them will be Qantas employees. The planes they are going to use for these flights will be 787-900, which will then go into commercial service with Qantas International.

Longer term, the plane intended for this are the A350 airbus and the Boeing 777-X. Now Qantas interested in the effects on health. It's going to be monitoring brain wave patterns, alertness movements and basically what the airline is saying is, if they can run this commercially, economically, they will introduce it. A decision expected by the end of this year. However the CEO of

Qantas, Alan Joyce, has made it clear that while it sounds lovely to run Project Sunrise, if he can't make any money at it, well the sun would have set before the plane even takes off. Richard Quest, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Richard, thank you. It was once lost to the ocean, but soon it will be lose to time. We will tell you why the famous Titanic wreckage is in danger of disappearing.


HOWELL: New images of the Titanic reveal its shocking decay. The first man dive to the 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 ships condition and its future. Listen.


VICTOR VESCOVO, OCEAN EXPLORER: It was just extraordinary to see it all and the most amazing moments 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, it came right back. It was like the ship was winking at me, it was really amazing.


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


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

TAYLOR: What makes this submarine different is that repeatability. Most of the expeditions have gone to the depths 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 and augmented and even virtual reality.

TAYLOR: Yes, actually we are working heavily with that type of technology. It's called photogrammetry and also laser scanning. So, LiDAR, they call it underwater, which underwater, it's a lot more difficult because of the diffuse environment. [03:25:03] Light get 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 of the work here and then bring that 3d modeling and use it archaeologically for a long time. So, a couple of day's onsite and you've got months and months of 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 these images. Cool, in a way, right, 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 have found five today and there's people on, there are tombs, there are -- that is important, so they are decaying and yes the nature is taken them back, but that has to be -- probably the biggest consideration when that many steps of things.

HOWELL: The historic nature of what happened here, the technology, the images from your vantage point, what is your biggest take away?

TAYLOR: You know, 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 is phenomenal. It's just not pictures, it's 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 this new technology.

HOWELL: Tim, we appreciate your time today and certainly these images, incredible. I'm sure many people will be watching.

TAYLOR: Amazing, yes.

HOWELL: Thank you. Finally sometimes there really is a diamond in a rough. A woman in Texas was visiting, creator of diamonds state park in the U.S. state of Arkansas with their family, that's when she found a nearly four karat yellow diamond sticking out among the other rocks, look at that. The gem is the largest registered at the park since March of 2017. That is when a teenager found a seven karat browned diamond. What a lucky find there.

Thank you for being with us for Newsroom. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. African Voices is next, but first your world headlines after the break.