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U.S. Blames Iran for Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities; Polls Show Israel's Election Too Close to Call; Hong Kong Demonstrators Rally for 15th Straight Weekend; New York AG Alleges Owners of Purdue Pharma Trying to Shield Wealth ahead of Settlement; Prince Harry Turns 35. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired September 15, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A drone strike in Saudi Arabia, it's knocked out half of Saudi's oil capacity. The United States is blaming Iran; Houthis rebels have claimed responsibility. CNN is live in Tehran with this story.

Plus Israel's upcoming elections: it's already appearing to be a tight race but the prime minister there has close to no support from a significant portion of the population. More on that story ahead for you.

Also ahead this hour, the opioid crisis: thousands of people have lost their loved ones. A family that may hold -- that many hold responsible, stashing their millions.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: The global economy runs on oil and right now oil could be running short. Attacks on two Saudi oil facilities shocked the kingdom's energy sector on Saturday. It's not clear yet who is responsible. The United States, though, accuses Iran.

A U.S. source with knowledge of the incident says the attack may have been launched from inside Iraq. Here is more of what we know.

Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, they have claimed responsibility. They say they used 10 drones to carry out the strikes. The U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo rejects that and says there is no evidence the strikes came from Yemen.

On Twitter he said that Iran is responsible but offered no evidence. Iran's foreign ministry is dismissing the allegations altogether, regardless of who is responsible.

The attacks have crippled Saudi oil production; the kingdom's capacity has been cut roughly by half. With a look at what we can expect with the markets, let's go to our emerging markets editor, John Defterios, live in Abu Dhabi.

First, of all, to get a sense -- and also we have Nick Paton Walsh, live in Tehran.

Nick, let's start with you, the United States blaming Iran despite the Houthi rebels claiming responsibility.

What reaction are you hearing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the last hours or so, we've heard a stark reaction from Iran's foreign ministry, their spokesperson wholeheartedly rejecting secretary of state Mike Pompeo's claim that Iran was behind this.

He says, quote, "Such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless."

He went on to say that even hostility needs credibility and reasonable frameworks and U.S. officials have violated these basic principles. He adds also in reference to the ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, remember, the heart of the claim here is that Houthi rebels, against which Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a years' long violence and conflict in Yemen, fired or initiated these drone attacks from, it must seem to have been Yemeni soil.

He goes on to say that -- he goes on to say that Yemen is not only capable but also has good reason to attack Saudi targets. By that he means the Yemeni-Houthi rebels, who have accepted firing these particular drones.

He says in the last five years the Saudi coalition has repeatedly attacked Yemen and committed all kinds of war crimes and have kept the flames alive in the area. Yemenis have also shown resistance to war and aggression.

Here we are in this war of words, where frankly there is a massive lack of evidence to back up the suggestion so far that somehow Iran was involved in this. In fact, we have heard U.S. senators critical of U.S. policy in Yemen.

Remember, they're backing Saudi Arabia in that war there, referring Chris Murphy of Connecticut saying that the simple fact that Iran has been a bad actor, in his opinion, in this particular region doesn't suddenly equate to everything that the Houthis doing being something that Iran is itself involved in.

Remember the Houthis are backed by Iran. A enormously complex situation we find in but where there are two undisputable facts.

One, we have these essential parts of Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure aflame here and a substantial part of damage to their ability to feed the world energy markets.

But also a question as to how exactly this attack occurred. Many are pointing to the fact that the Yemeni Houthis have said they are behind this. But the drone technology they have has a substantial limit to some. It may be able to head that far but the idea of 10 drones getting that particular distance, some are questioning, leading to the other issue where could this have originated from.

So many questions to answer but certainly a war of words that's begun by U.S. officials, Secretary Pompeo in particular.

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WALSH: Where now I think the world will be looking to see what evidence can be provided to back that up.

HOWELL: Nick Paton Walsh, again, underscoring the fact that evidence will be the story that leads in the coming hours, the evidence something that will be critical as the world will want to see it.

Let's bring in John Defterios.

How have the markets responded to all of this so far?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: The only thing that's trading today are the regional stock markets and not surprisingly Saudi Arabia down 1 percent but cutting its losses in half.

The other stock markets in Dubai and Qatar losing a 0.5 percent. The energy markets will be open on Monday. They will respond quarterly. On a scale of something that's ever happened in the past, this is in a different league. So the shock value by the Houthis is powerful.

The initial response we got from Saudi Aramco is about 5.7 million barrels a day will be knocked out, this has gone up to 5.7 million barrels a day. This is about 60 percent of their current production. It is the number one exporter in the world.

I covered the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and Gulf War of 1991. Everybody was shocked by the black clouds and damage to the wells. This is double the size of that. Of course, the energy market has been very well supplied; in fact, Saudi Arabia is taking oil off the market to balance the price around $60 a barrel.

But this is something the Houthis really strategically homed in on that large processing plant, the largest in the world, and their second largest field, which is gigantic in nature, 100 kilometers long going north to south.

HOWELL: Nick Paton Walsh, we know that Iran backs many different groups throughout that region. The question here, Israel has made it a point that they will continue to hold Iran accountable for any of these proxies.

Is Iran seeing any additional pressure given that?

WALSH: Well, the whole point of U.S. strategy here -- and that's often echoed by Israel -- is to expert maximum pressure upon Iran. Many here in Tehran have been feeling that from the impact of sanctions over the years since the U.S. pulled out of the JCPOA.

Maximum pressure many felt might begin to change tack with the departure of John Bolton just a matter of days ago. In fact, Donald Trump said he would be potentially willing to speak to the Iranian president, his officials saying maybe without preconditions.

Iran's president has been clear he won't talk until sanctions have been addressed, sanctions relief begins to kick in. There have been discussions potentially about that but no decision being made.

A matter of days ago secretary of state Pompeo said there could possibly be some kind of diplomatic opening or meeting here. I think many Iranian officials are watching the U.S. policy begin to fall apart or self-combust but have woken up to a degree of alarm to see maximum pressure appears to be back on with ranking U.S. diplomats saying they're behind an attack on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure.

A lot of questions will be asked about what the next step can be diplomatically for Iran and whether the U.S. can provide evidence to back up its stark claim this morning.

HOWELL: Nick Paton Walsh in Tehran and John Defterios in Abu Dhabi, thank you both for the reporting. We will keep in touch with you.

The attacks appear to be the latest in a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Let's get context this hour with our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson live.

This is a global issue. The Saudi energy minister says the attacks on the Aramco facility led to the interruption of 5.7 million barrels, 50 percent of the crude oil supply. It is significant.

Do you expect it is reasonable that we will see a spike in prices given this attack?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It would seem that that would be the anticipation. That would be one of the possible outcomes, particularly if Saudi Arabia is unable to get its capacity back up. It certainly does have some spare stock, spare capacity.

But this is a massive and significant blow but it's a blow in many ways. If it does drive up the oil prices, certainly Iran would be a beneficiary of that. It is struggling to sell its oil at the moment on the global market, part of that has to do with U.S. maximum pressure sanctions and its economy is hurting.

If there is an increase in the price of oil, Iran certainly stands to benefit and that's not going to look good in its favor at the moment, as suspicion does point to there, at least from the United States. So that would be -- that would be one way to look at it. But I think also that this strike alone will not pass alone.

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ROBERTSON: I think we would all be foolish to believe that this will go off unanswered. We're not clear how Saudi Arabia will answer it, undoubtedly they're trying to gather all the pieces of evidence and trying to fit together a puzzle that has Kuwaiti officials, according to media in Kuwait, looking at the possibility of some low flying drone-type aircraft that were flying from the north of Saudi Arabia, from Iraq past Kuwait, down towards the Saudi oil facility.

As the Saudis try to piece that together, of course, the response that they put in place for this -- because, you know, this is their main export and it would be almost unconscionable for any country in the world to be attacked and not seek to deter a future attack of this nature.

So I think it's not just this incident that we're looking at. I think the incident -- I think the repercussions that flow from this that are going to be damaging in the longer term and certainly have the potential to drive prices up.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the broader implications throughout the region. The finger pointing certainly has ensued; Houthi rebels in Yemen, they claim responsibility; the U.S. pointing the finger at Iran, Iran pointing back to the Houthis.

I want to show our viewers this map that really gives an indication of Iran's reach throughout that region, supporting various Shia militias, various groups throughout the Middle East.

What do you make of this U.S. claim that Iran is behind it?

Again, Tehran's point, there's no evidence here to support it.

ROBERTSON: You know, as we're looking at this particular situation right now, the evidence is still being gathered. But the evidence over the past few years of Houthis firing long-range Scud missiles into Saudi Arabia that have targeted airports, that had been shot down by Saudi air missile defense systems, the U.N. has analyzed the components of those missiles at the very least.

And they are of Iranian design, come from Iran. So the Houthis have certainly got a track record of targeting deep into Saudi Arabia; they've done it along the border more extensively with drones. They would be on the limits of drone technology as analyzed by U.N. experts, fairly recently, to send drones all the way from Yemen, about 1,300 kilometers, to the oil facility in Saudi Arabia.

So that stretches credulity but the Houthis in Yemen did claim responsibility for this attack. So, therefore, you have to say that, if they didn't do it and they claim responsibility, they would appear to be in cahoots with whoever did.

And if the missiles come from Iraq, then that would raise the suspicion that they've been sent potentially by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups in Iraq. So that's what the picture begins to look like.

And perhaps that was secretary of state Mike Pompeo jumping to that sort of a conclusion. Of course, one would imagine the U.S., with its all intelligence assets in the Gulf at the moment, in the Persian Gulf, would have the ability to back-check and see where these devices flew from.

The U.S., we could imagine, should have that level of knowledge at this stage.

HOWELL: Nic Robertson giving us context. Thank you.

The U.S. president Donald Trump says that America stands with Saudi Arabia and is ready to protect its security. Mr. Trump speaking with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday and condemned the attacks. He also stressed the negative impact it had on the U.S. and world economies.

But it could also put a possible meeting between the U.S. and Iran in jeopardy. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on that.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This all does put a big question mark over the potential diplomacy, the diplomatic engagement between U.S. president Donald Trump and the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, which was slated for potentially taking place next week at the U.N. General Assembly.

Now there was no firm word on whether that diplomatic engagement was going to take place but certainly this latest development putting a damper on that possibility. The U.S. president meanwhile on Saturday did speak with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, condemning these attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

"The United States strongly condemns today's attack on critical energy infrastructure. Violent actions against civilian areas and infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and mistrust. The United States government is monitoring the situation and remains committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied."

That is a reference to the United States very concerned about the potential ramifications on the global oil markets. That is something very much on the president's mind.

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DIAMOND: Particularly as he heads towards his 2020 reelection with an eye on gas prices in the United States.

The Department of Energy meanwhile making clear that it is prepared to tap into the United States's strategic reserves of petroleum and that could potentially be used to stabilize global oil markets, should it be necessary -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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HOWELL: With the departure of John Bolton earlier this week, it leaves yet another hole in Mr. Trump's cabinet. Bolton, you will remember, was the third national security adviser to leave the White House since Donald Trump took office.

In addition, there is no official Director of National Intelligence and the president doesn't have a permanent chief of staff, either. The Defense Secretary position was filled in July after being vacant for months.

Let's talk about all of this now with Inderjeet Parmar, an international politics professor at City University, live in our London bureau.

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Good to be here. Thank you.

HOWELL: With the tensions that are boiling clearly in the Middle East and so many vacancies in the Trump White House, is the president at a disadvantage here to get top level insight on how to deal with these potential and real actual hot spots?

PARMAR: Well, clearly a national security adviser's role is to try to bring to bear on the president the definition of a situation and ways forward of the entire kind of security establishment.

So when one is operating as president without one, it is very, very difficult. But I think with President Trump, he has always taken a bit of a semi-detached view of anybody who advises him. And his confidence in himself has only grown even more as his administration has worn on.

So he was already contradicting the main advice and the guidance and line of advice coming from John Bolton, his national security adviser. And that really opened up what is a deep schism between the transactionalism of President Trump, who believes he can make deals on an adult basis right around the world with North Korea or the Taliban or in Iran and so on, as opposed to the broader strategy which has lasted much longer, which Bolton represented, which is one of continued global interventionism and possibly strategies towards regime change.

So President Trump has been very important in keeping his own counsel and I think probably with various other advisers like Mike Pompeo, the voice of Bolton has not fully gone away; it has probably exerted even more pressure now, given this attack by the Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabian oil fields.

HOWELL: There has been some slow but steady movement, a possible meeting between the U.S. and Iran. But with the U.S. blaming Iran for these attacks, how severely does that recent ratcheting up of tensions put that possible meeting in jeopardy?

PARMAR: Well, I would say there are three things. One is it would be interesting to hear directly from President Trump regarding this particular attack and whether or not Iran is going to be blamed directly by him.

The second thing is Iran denies it. The third thing is there is very little appetite in Congress or in the

American public for another war. I think you could add to that that President Trump ran on a ticket of no more Middle Eastern wars.

So I think what we have is a situation where there's a setback towards the idea of talks and the reduction of sanctions in that regard. But we also have the U.N. General Assembly meetings coming up later this month.

And I have a feeling that while this issue will continue to simmer, this deep schism within the foreign policy side will carry on but I think President Trump will continue to try to press for some kind of feelers towards Iran with a view to try to ease the tensions somewhat, because he has an election to fight in 13 or 14 months' time.

HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar live in London. Thank you.

PARMAR: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: We are just days away now from Israel's historic general election and the prime minister there is making last minute moves to sway the vote in his direction.

Will it work?

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HOWELL: Israel's prime minister is hoping that a mutual defense agreement with the United States will give him an advantage at the polls on Tuesday. On Saturday he discussed the possibility of such an agreement with the U.S. president Donald Trump.

In a tweet he thanked Mr. Trump for the discussion writing, quote, "The Jewish state has never had a greater friend in the White House." He adds he looks forward to discussing the pact at the United Nations. Previous attempts at a defense pact were rejected by both countries.

The last opinion polls before Tuesday's race show the two leading parties, the Likud and Blue and White Party, at a dead heat. That means a group most often in the margins of Israeli society could get more influence than ever before. Our senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is here with more on that -- Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, the group we are talking about, of course, is the ethnic Arabs that are Israeli citizens. They live in villages throughout Israeli territory, very much part of the national infrastructure, but often somewhat ignored in terms of their own contribution potentially to politics in this country and, indeed, have been reluctant to participate themselves.

That, though, George, might be changing.

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KILEY (voice-over): An election poster calling on citizens of this Arab-Israeli town to vote for the man on the right. It's safe to say they probably won't. Support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party is close to nil around here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have to vote for the Arab Joint list, even if we feel it won't affect the Knesset. At least we can fight for our rights, rights that no one else will ask for."

KILEY (voice-over): About a fifth of Israel's population is Arab. Among them, voter turnout has been falling but that may change.

(on camera): With the two main parties pretty much neck and neck in these elections, there's a really strong feeling in the Arab community that, this time around, their votes really count, perhaps galvanized by recent remarks by Benjamin Netanyahu.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): He's raised tensions by saying that, if he is elected, he will annex the Jordan Valley into Israel.

Facebook has said that it suspended the automated messaging system on the prime minister's official page for 24 hours because it violated its rules on hate speech.

This, after the chatbot shared a pop-up message that encouraged people to vote Likud because a "secular left-wing weak government" would rely on Arabs "who want to destroy us all, women, children and men" and "will enable a nuclear Iran that will eliminate us."

Netanyahu said the message was a mistake, that he hadn't written it or seen it beforehand and that he ordered it removed immediately. Opinion polls show that the mainly Arab Joint List is expected to come third with some 12 Knesset seats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We will all vote for the Arab List this time more than ever because of the racism against us.

KILEY (voice-over): An alliance with the right-wing Likud has been ruled out.

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KILEY (voice-over): But Likud's main rival, Blue and White, has so far brushed off the offer of a pact with the Joint List because of its anti-Zionism.

The latest polls show, that if it wants power, though, that may have to change.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KILEY: Now George, opinion polls in this country, as they are in many countries, notoriously inaccurate in terms of what appears before and after an election. But one thing we can be absolutely certain of is that there is unlikely to be a clear winner and there could be many weeks of coalition negotiations ahead for Israelis.

HOWELL: Sam Kiley, thank you.

The U.S. president Donald Trump has announced the death of one of Osama bin Laden's sons. He says that Hamza bin Laden was killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region but he did not say when it happened.

Hamza bin Laden was considered an emerging leader of the Al Qaeda terror group. Reports of his death came to light weeks ago but this is the first time that they have been confirmed.

Two weeks after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas that nation has a second brush with disaster. Another storm, Tropical Storm Humberto passing right by. We will have the latest for you live -- next.

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Here in the United States and all around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

Prodemocracy protesters are on the streets of Hong Kong at this hour, 5:29 pm there. You see crowds there on the streets.

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HOWELL: The 15th straight weekend we've seen this, right now an unauthorized march is in the city's financial center. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds near the headquarters of the PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY.

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HOWELL: Still ahead, an in-depth look at the opioid crisis in the United States and how one of the biggest makers of prescription opioids may be trying to hide its wealth from legal liability.

Plus, we speak with an emergency room physician, who sees firsthand how opioids are ravaging American communities.

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HOWELL: A live look right now at protests underway in Hong Kong. We understand that Hong Kong police fired tear gas in the area of Hong Kong's legislative council. This during a peaceful but unauthorized march that's drawn thousands of people or many people there as you see in the crowds.

You see the crowds under the umbrellas there. Police fired the tear gas to disperse those crowds, this happening near the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army. We will continue to monitor this.

Again, we see the police have also used a water cannon to disperse the crowds on that roadway. This an unauthorized march, we will keep an eye on it for you.

If you are not familiar with the name Sackler, it is practically synonymous with the opioid crisis here in the U.S. The Sackler family owns a pharmaceutical company called Purdue Pharma and it makes some of the prescription painkillers that have become such a scourge in modern society.

The company is being sued by more than 2,000 entities for allegedly helping to create the opioid crisis by promoting their drugs in the 1990s as safe and nonaddictive.

Last week news reports came to life that a monetary settlement worth billions of dollars could be in the works and now there's this, new allegations that the Sackler family is racing to shield their assets ahead of any settlement. Let's get the latest now from CNN's Polo Sandoval.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Allegations were made just days after Purdue Pharma had announced they had a proposed settlement, part of this ongoing litigation, accusing the OxyContin manufacturer of being one of the main driving factors behind the United States' opioid epidemic.

In this case, though, the New York state attorney general Letitia James alleging that the Sackler family allegedly moved up to $1 billion in wire transfers in an effort to protect their wealth, one such allegation was made against Mortimer Sackler. He's a former board member of that pharmaceutical company.

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SANDOVAL: The Friday filing specifically describes, as the AG writes here, "Because defendant Mortimer D.A. Sackler has placed these New York real estate holdings in the name of shell companies their ownership would have been impossible to detect from publicly available records and without access to financial records."

There is another example that's laid out in these court filings that alleges that Sackler allegedly had money routed through foreign bank accounts, specifically Swiss bank accounts.

In a statement that was released to CNN, Sackler said that there is nothing newsworthy about these financial transfers, these decade-old transfers, as he describes them, and that they were perfectly legal and appropriate in every respect.

The statement reading, "This is a cynical attempt by a hostile AG's office to generate defamatory headlines to try to torpedo a mutually beneficial statement that is supported by so many other states and will result in billions of dollars going to communities and individuals across the country that need help."

The Sacklers and Purdue have previously fought to limit some of the discovery and subpoena action by the attorney general's office. What we're seeing here is an effort by the AG to essentially put some pressure on Purdue to comply with any potential future subpoenas here.

However, the AG right now, their main concern is trying to determine how much wealth the Sacklers have and where it is -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

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HOWELL: Polo, thanks

It is not hype to call this an epidemic, more than 130 people die from an overdose every day in the U.S. Out of every 100 patients who are prescribed these drugs, at least one-fifth will misuse them. And the price tag to society is staggering. More than $78 billion a year lost in productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice costs.

Let's talk more about this now with Dr. Ryan Stanton. Dr. Stanton a board certified emergency room physician, joining this hour via Skype from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Good to have you with us.

DR. RYAN STANTON, ER PHYSICIAN: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: Ryan, when I think of epidemics, the heroin crisis comes to mind. It is hard to recall a problem affecting so many people at such a large scale. Given the work that you do in emergency rooms, what have you seen with regard to opioids?

STANTON: Oh, the number of people that have come in with addiction, the people I've pulled out of vehicles because they're unconscious and not breathing, the loss of family members, you know, pronouncing a 24- year old with potentially an entire future in front of their parents, to let them know that they've died, overdosed, it really is heartbreaking.

And the area of the country where I live and work has been impacted with an epidemic that is 15 to 20 times worse than anything we have ever seen in addiction in U.S. history. So it really is a staggering number we've been dealing with for the last 15 to 20 years now.

HOWELL: Given this settlement for drug companies, how seismic is this, would you say, in making an impact on this problem?

STANTON: Well, unfortunately, no matter how many dollars we throw at it, it's not going to pull one person out of the grave. We've had over a half-million Americans that have died since the beginning of 2000.

And during that time, you know, this may bring something to them but, unfortunately, what it tells me is what -- how much value do we put on a life?

So this settlement with Purdue Pharmaceuticals means that the average human life that died from this is worth about $24,000 to $25,000 . So to me it's really just a drop in the bucket compared to the years and quality -- quality of lives lost to something that overall has been -- would have been and should have been preventable.

HOWELL: Let's talk about reform here, specifically with regard to over-the-counter prescription of opioids.

Will this make any difference here?

STANTON: I think it will because I think now we are holding them responsible. Unfortunately we let these companies run roughshod for 10, 15, 20 years, allowing them to drive the narrative by saying what research was important, by saying they weren't addictive, by pushing into areas where they weren't trained to appropriately use these and prescribe these medications.

I think people are finally starting to wake up and now they're being held responsible. Unfortunately, they're being held financially responsible but not to those that have actually deceived the public and the regulators in terms of the safety and risks of these medications.

So in one way, yes, it is a step forward in terms of actually changing stuff but also, you know, for the parents and families of those that have died, I don't think this is much of anything.

HOWELL: Keeping in mind the CDC estimates 130 people die daily from fatal opioid overdoses, you know, for people who hear about this settlement and understand how deadly this situation can be, will this make a difference for people?

STANTON: I think it may. You know, even if this money which won't make it back to these families, it really isn't going to make that much difference, it's basically two or three times of cost of burying these young folks that died from these overdoses.

[05:45:00]

STANTON: But hopefully what it does is it can be invested in actually recovering the millions of other addicts that we have out there and future efforts to prevent further addiction and further understand it and to make inroads in not just opioids -- because as soon as this opioid epidemic has subsided, we are already seeing it in parts of the country, it's going to shift to other substances as well. So how can we actually make those inroads to help people who have this

rewiring of that reward pathway of the brain, that makes addiction most susceptible and to, you know, end this one but also help prevent those in the future?

HOWELL: Dr. Stanton, to your point, it is important to note this is significant but you know, a dollar at any level does not equal a life by any means.

It is, you know, strange to talk about numbers, when you consider how many people have been affected by this. But this is interesting to point out, that this deal does appear to be another example where corporations can essentially write off lawsuits on their taxes.

STANTON: Yes, it's kind of actually shocking, that the way that the tax system is written that looking at these numbers that other settlements that are out there for the opioids right now, it's about 50 to 60 percent of the potential numbers or dollars that can actually be written off.

So we aren't going to pay these taxes, these are considered the losses so we are not going to contribute to the tax system because it's part of the settlement. So honestly it's almost, you know, another insult to injury to say, you know, we've done this; we've been caught. We're being charged in terms of a lawsuit and a settlement.

But now we're going to drop off 50 percent to 60 percent of that because the tax system says it's OK. So we will be paying on both ends, Americans that have lost friends and family members but then also in terms of lost revenue, in terms of the tax system that theoretically now could have actually gone to help with recovery and resources available out there to the rest of America.

HOWELL: The situation as complex as certainly it is tragic. Dr. Ryan Stanton, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

STANTON: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: And we will be right back after this.

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HOWELL: We're keeping a close eye on what's happening in Hong Kong at this hour, 5:50 in the evening there. You see the crowds are there on the streets, pro-democracy protesters, on their 15th street weekend of protests.

Right now it is an unauthorized march. Police fired tear gas in that area, this happening near Hong Kong's legislative council as a peaceful event but then unauthorized as a march as it continued on.

That's when groups of protesters started vandalizing the area, we understand, around the MRT station and occupying roads via the government complex.

What you're seeing right now on one side of the road, police lined up, believing that they are using a water cannon to push back against these crowds. The crowds there at the bottom of your view with their umbrellas there to shield themselves.

Also that blue ink in the water cannon to identify people who are part of, again, what is an unauthorized protest. We continue to watch these live images as they play out on the streets of Hong Kong.

Breakaway groups of protesters were seen earlier on local live feeds, barricading themselves outside the Admiral MRT exit, smashing glass and security cameras. Police said protesters set fire to multiple locations in central and admiralty and blocking exits of MRT stations.

They warn people to avoid those districts and dispersal operations continue there. We will continue to watch this. Stay with CNN as this continues to play out. Again, the 15th straight weekend there in Hong Kong.

Prince Harry celebrates his 35th birthday today and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is paying tribute to her husband.

On their Instagram account she says, "Your service to the causes you care so deeply for inspires me every day."

She goes on to say, "You are the best husband and most amazing dad to our son. We love you. Happiest birthday."

This is Prince Harry's first birthday as a new father. He and the duchess became parents for the first time to baby Archie back in May.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, joining us in the London bureau.

Good to have you with us.

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, ROYALTY COMMENTATOR: And also fascinating to appreciate the depth of affection between Harry and Meghan. The fact that he's found his soul mate and is such a proud father is so wonderful as we wish him a happy birthday.

HOWELL: Indeed. Richard, 35. I remember that, seven years ago; 35 a lot different than 25. Let's talk about that difference for Prince Harry.

From then to now, what do you make of his evolution to husband and now father?

FITZWILLIAMS: There's absolutely no doubt that the world's heart went out to him when he walked behind his mother's coffin on that memorable and tragic day when he was 12. Subsequently, of course, he was the royal wild child. There was a great deal of concern.

And then, of course, the army made him and two tours of duty in Afghanistan were most successful. But we understand this is one of the things that we've seen in the last decade, how traumatized he was after his mother's tragic death.

And what we've seen in the last 10 years is somebody who has metamorphosed into a campaigner with the most intense and absolutely extraordinary commitment, following in his mother's footsteps, as he sees it, but also, of course, deeply unhappy in some ways.

And now with Meghan, he's found happiness. He's found his soulmate. He's also found someone who wants to campaign and do good.

And it is this that I think absolutely makes him tick.

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And, of course, a very, very proud father about to take Archie to southern Africa.

HOWELL: And to that point, let's look ahead at this new chapter for him. Not only as a royal but also as a humanitarian.

What are you expecting?

FITZWILLIAMS: Well, this is going to be an absolutely fascinating to see, for example, how Harry and Meghan, whose public relations it has to be said in recent months, have been, I think, very erratic. How they handle something that they are really extraordinarily good at.

We know and look at Harry's success in the anti-HIV/AIDS charity in Lesotho, which began in 2006. Then Invictus, which has been so phenomenally successful. It's been going for five years to help wounded service men and women and mental health.

And then we have Meghan committed to diversity and gender equality and feminism. They want to exercise their global reach. And for this, they will be using celebrities. Very important, this often not understood in Britain.

And also we're seeing them in southern Africa soon. We will, I'm sure, see them in the United States and the reach will be in the commonwealth, where they're particularly targeting Millennials, because so many of the commonwealth are young but also on a global basis, all these issues, including the environment, are so important.

HOWELL: Richard Fitzwilliams, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: And thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George

Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For our viewers around the world, we continue to monitor what's happening in Hong Kong.

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