Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Anchor Shut Down for Asking about Standoff; Hong Kong E- Sports Gamer Banned after Voicing Support for Protesters; North American Bird Population Facing Possible Extinction; Turkish Operation In Syria Threatens Civilians; Giuliani Associates Who Sought Dirt On Biden Arrested; Trump Rails Against Bidens At Campaign Rally; U.K. And Irish Leaders See Pathway To Possible Deal. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired October 11, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Studio Seven at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.
Ahead this hour, thousands of civilians in northern Syria on the move fleeing artillery fire and air strikes as Turkey's military targets Syrian Kurds.
You'll have to ask Rudy. The U.S. President tries to distance himself from two men who work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani after they're arrested by federal prosecutors.
And a stark new warning about the impact of climate change on North America is already declining bird population and how that could be a sign of humanity's future as well.
Just two days into Turkey's military operation in Syria, and there's little doubt a humanitarian crisis is in the making. One aid group, The International Rescue Committee says more than 60,000 people have been forced to flee their homes because of artillery fire, as well as airstrikes. And if the offensive continues, that number could rise to 300,000 people displaced.
Turkey claims it's killed more than 200 terrorists, almost 300, in fact, but they are mostly Syrian Kurds who are once America's loyal frontline allies in the fight against ISIS. The six major European powers have condemned Turkey's military effective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JURGEN SCHULZ, GERMAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We are deeply concerned by the Turkish military operation in Northeast Syria. We call upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action as we do not believe in will address charges underlying security concerns.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT, TURKEY (through translator): Hey, European Union, pull yourself together. I say it again, if you try to label this operation as an invasion, it's very simple. We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, and he filed this report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a day in which the pace of the Turkish offensive has unfolded behind this quite fast. It began with Turkish army personnel carriers moving from inside Syria, evidence that their ground invasion as they said, yes, they had, in fact, began coming to the border crossing back in here.
Some taking a position on a hill, in fact, and then during the afternoon artillery strikes continuing to hit around here on the road heading into this town behind me. You can't see it in the darkness, but that is the Syrian town of Tell Abiad from which American forces withdrew a number of days ago after that phone call from President Donald Trump and President Erdogan of Turkey.
It appears now as night has fallen that there are a number of red lights flashing across Tell Abiad perhaps suggesting the Turkish military have in fact been able to move across most of that area. My colleagues across the border suggesting in fact that it was close to deserted.
But we're hearing from one us official with a good grasp of the situation here that their assessment is in fact, the Turkish operation initially will take from here to two-hours drive or so down the border towards Ras al-Ain, maybe five miles deep in initially and then possibly even more.
This is big in scope and Turkey is not deterred by the almost unified broad international criticism of this particular operation, countries that would normally be their friends saying this was a bad idea. That's the phrase even Donald Trump has been ambivalent about the Kurds, but also about Turkey too.
President Erdogan saying that if Europe didn't stop calling this an invasion, then they might send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey north towards Europe, reminiscent of the scenes of mass migration in 2015. Turkey's plan has been to clear a large amount of Syria's -- those Syrian refugees who are beginning to sense fatigue in the Turkish hospitality here, send them back into Syria.
The question though, of course, is what is the Syrian Kurdish response? They have been clear about the potential and the existence of civilian casualties. And we've actually seen some rockets fight back from what must be Syrian Kurdish territory. One going over our heads earlier, and two mortars landing in actually here, possibly responsible for six or seven inches. Although the government officials are saying there may have been three deaths in perhaps this and other incidents along the border so far today. This is moving fast. It's large in scope. Turkey is not deterred by the fact that few of its allies think this is a good idea. It has its own goal to pursue and it's pursuing them quickly with great confidence. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN in Akcakale, Southern Turkey.
VAUSE: Well, so with this possible humanitarian crisis in northern Syria, and Steve Gumaer joins us from Los Angeles. He's the Founder and CEO of Partners Relief and Development.
Steve, thanks for being with us. If we look at the offensive, it's in the early stages. There's artillery shelling from a distance, there's airstrikes from above, ground troops have not been deployed in any significant number. And that's when there are the real concerns for the civilian population.
But even at this point, from the images we've seen from the region, reports from aid groups, do you believe the Turkish forces heading those calls to exercise restraint, that they doing all they can to avoid civilian casualties and damage to civilian areas?
STEVE GUMAER, FOUNDER AND CEO, PARTNERS RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT: Thanks for having me, John. Our team member who's based in Qamishli says that there is no restraint being exercised by the Turkish forces. He told us early this morning that within 24 hours, 100 -- more than 100,000 people had already been internally displaced.
He also said that it's not only the air force strike, but it's also artillery and he said ground forces including tanks. Again, he's based in Qamishli but he's well informed, and I believe him.
VAUSE: And this will, I guess, only get worse. From what we understand is that the ground operations and not began in earnest. You can tell us about at least one of the victims here, a little girl who is seriously hurt by Turkish artillery fire.
GUMAER: Yes. She was one of the early victims of an airstrike or artillery. And the picture that we got was a picture of her after she had been injured. Most of her leg was gone and she was taken to the hospital, and her limb was amputated, and that is what saved her life.
VAUSE: She's alive -- she's 12 years old, I believe. Is that right?
VAUSE: And just one of many of the victims so far and this is day two. But we also hear from the International Refugee Committee. This is contrary to your numbers. It's lower. They say the last 24 hours, more than 64,000 people have fled their homes in northeast Syria. If the offensive continues, it could rise to 300,000 people displaced. And they'll be going to overstretch camps and towns still recovering from the fight against ISIS.
Do you believe that 300,000 number, is that that low by your estimate? Do you think it'd be much higher? What's your opinion? GUMAER: No. Based on the scale of the attack, again, our team leader reports that the attack is happening over the entire 700-kilometer border between Turkey and Syria. As they're attacking cities like Qamishli and Kabani, and the cities and villages in between, the civilians who are running from that violence are headed south towards Raqqa. And again, our team leader says that it's at least 100,000 people.
VAUSE: You know, right now, do you know of any plans being made by the international community, by the U.N. to try and house and feed and clothe hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people? Because many of these -- they're moms and dads and their kids and you know they're going to have somewhere to go.
GUMAER: Yes. Obviously, there's a political conundrum there, because we're talking about northeastern Syria. And I don't -- I don't know of any plans afoot to increase or even develop large scale relief. There's none that I know of that are being talked about.
As far as I know, the NGO workers who were there at the beginning of when this was taking off or were rapidly taken to the border and cross back into Iraq.
VAUSE: You know, while the fighting continues, the United Nations Secretary Generals made it perfectly clear that there really is no choice, at least for the U.N., but essentially stand on the sidelines. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: The problem of peacekeeping forces is as the name indicates, you need to have peace to keep. You cannot have a peacekeeping force where there is no peace to keep. A peacekeeping force is always the result of the political agreements.
And of course, if there is a political agreements, and there is peace to keep, a peacekeeping force has an important role to play. We are not yet there, I believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: We're not there yet and we're not going to be there for a while. Military analysts think that this incursion, this operation by the Turks could last six weeks, maybe two months, maybe longer. Regardless, it's a long time for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people to have no shelter, no running water, no sanitation, little or no food.
You know, this is why so many people pointing this -- pointing to this is a humanitarian crisis, which is very quickly in the making.
GUMAER: The scale of this crisis is massive. And the infrastructure that's being destroyed now, even water supply to Al Hasakah that has been deliberately destroyed. The destruction of these cities results in again tens of thousands, if not already 100,000 people internally displaced.
The report that we're getting today is that those internally displaced people are ending up staying at the homes of their extended family members, or they're staying in schools or buildings of relative stability, or they're just taking shelter where they find a place to sleep and relative security. These people are internally displaced without the arm of international assistance.
VAUSE: And Syria is such a mess, to begin with. Eight years of civil war, now this. The question is when is this all going to end and no one really knows? Steve, thank you. We wish you all the best.
GUMAER: Thank you.
VAUSE: Well, in the United States, House Democrats pursuing the impeachment of Donald Trump will have some new questions for the President's personal attorney. Two associates of Rudy Giuliani tied to Ukraine are now under arrest on campaign finance charges.
Video posted on social media shows the two suspects with Giuliani. It's not clear though when or where this meeting actually happened. The details now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Two associates of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in court this afternoon, indicted on charges they made political donations to U.S. Congressman while pushing him to help get rid of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on behalf of at least one Ukrainian official who wanted her gone.
That's the same Ambassador Trump removed from Ukraine this year, partially at the behest of Rudy Giuliani. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman from and are charged with conspiracy, false statements, and funneling foreign money into U.S. elections.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SDNY: Parnas and Fruman were arrested around 6:00 p.m. last night at Dulles Airport as they were about to board an international flight with one-way tickets.
SCHNEIDER: The two men along with two others also indicted allegedly gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Trump align super PAC. The indictment laying out that the contributions were made to advance their personal financial interests and the political interest of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working.
The men also allegedly made contributions to state candidates in Nevada to further a recreational marijuana business venture that never happened. That foreign money coming in part from an unnamed Russian citizen whose involvement they hid because of his Russian roots and current political paranoia about it.
WILLIAM SWEENEY, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-IN-CHARGE, FBI NEW YORK OFFICE: This investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.
SCHNEIDER: According to prosecutors, the men pushed a former U.S. Congressman who sources say Texas Republican Pete Sessions to help get former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired.
The indictment alleges Parnas and Furman attempted to gain influence by committing to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. congressman, and that Parnas sought that congressman's assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall that then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.
Yovanovitch was recalled by President Trump in May, in part because Rudy Giuliani accused her of hampering efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard very, very, very bad things about her for a long period of time. Not good.
SCHNEIDER: One key question is how these two men fit into the broader scope of the Ukraine impeachment inquiry. House Democrats today subpoena demand for documents. Today's indictment adding intrigue to what is already known.
Parnas and Fruman worked with Giuliani to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the same dirt Trump brought up in his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president. The same phone call where Trump mentioned the ousted ambassador to Ukraine who the indictment alleges Parnas and Fruman we're trying to get Trump to fire because Ukrainian official asked them to.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): But it will be interesting what they have to share and what Giuliani's involvement in all of this was.
SCHNEIDER: The President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow saying in a statement to CNN, "Neither the candidate nor the campaign have anything to do with this scheme these guys were involved in." These two men will ultimately face charges in New York. But for now, they're being held in Virginia on a $1 million bond. And they're also facing new subpoenas from Congress.
Investigators want to know more about their role in Ukraine, and also their relationship with Rudy Giuliani. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.
VAUSE: As President Trump left the White House for a campaign rally in Minnesota, he was asked if he knew these two Giuliani associates turned suspects.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do. But -- I don't know. Maybe there were clients of Rudy. You'd have to ask Rudy. I just don't know. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Jessica Levinson is a professor of law at Loyola Law School. She is with us from Los Angeles this hour. Jessica, so Donald Trump, who by his own admission, pushed the Ukrainian President to get dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden, has no idea who these two guys are, the ones helping his personal lawyer gather dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. You got to ask Rudy, you know, somehow this seems so familiar. Remember that moment back on Air Force One when reporters asked the President, what do you know about the hush money payments to the adult film star, Stormy Daniels? In case you don't, here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No. What else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make this if there was no truth to her allegations?
TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You got to ask Rudy, you got to ask Michael Cohen. What's the difference? I mean, let's -- you know, let's take a great leap of faith here, assuming the President is being entirely truthful. What are the implications if in fact, he doesn't know who these two guys are?
JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR OF LAW, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, implications, it's fascinating. I actually -- this morning in class, I just taught -- I said, let's talk about campaign finance through three different events. The first is payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. Second is this issue of Russian interference with the 2016 election, and what Mueller said about a thing of value. Third is the Ukraine. And now, here we are kind of already expanding on what I taught my students just a few hours ago.
And so, what are the implications? If President Trump knew about activities that were violating campaign finance laws, which are federal election laws, if he facilitated or directed those payments to be made, which is again a big if, than it we're in the same situation that we were in when Michael Cohen said in open court, you know, individual number one who we know is President Trump directed me to make these payments. So again, we're in a situation where the President the United States would be facing significant legal exposure if his name was Mr. Trump as opposed to President Trump.
VAUSE: So, the unindicted coconspirator title would come back into life. LEVINSON: Would live -- rise yet again. Yes, exactly.
VAUSE: Yes, all individual one to his friends. You know, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he seemed to have a message on Thursday for someone. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: We will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process. And I want to add that this investigation is continuing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Why add that last part about the investigation continuing? Who is he trying to rattle?
LEVINSON: So I think that he's trying to rattle either President Trump or frankly, probably more likely any members of the administration, who would try to say to these individuals don't cooperate, don't provide any information. There may be a part in at the end of the day for you. Again, we're speculating, we don't know. But we know that President Trump has certainly pardoned people who have engaged in very questionable behavior. So, I think what he's trying to telegraph is don't tamper with the people who are just indicted. Don't tamper with any evidence. We're not done here. This continues.
And it's unfortunate that we have to say that, but if you look as, you know, matter of analogy to what's happening for the impeachment inquiry, we have the President and the administration telling people don't show up, don't comply. And what the U.S. Attorney here is saying is, well, we're going to come after you. This is not over.
VAUSE: Yes, that, but for a legal guidance with the Office of Legal Counsel. OK. The Ukrainian President, he held a marathon 14-hour long news conference on Thursday in front of more than 300 reporters, telling them he not been blackmailed by Donald Trump. He didn't even know that military aid was on hold when he was having that phone conversation with Donald Trump. Here's a little more from Zelensky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: The USA gave me nothing, gave me nothing, any details of Burisma and any detail -- I didn't get any details about involved to your elections, the previous elections. So, I didn't get --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Which Donald Trump tweeted was the ultimate proof of his innocence. Just in terms of the law, though, if someone is the victim of extortion, and the person responsible for the extortion is still in a position to threaten the victim, how reliable is that testimony? LEVINSON: Yes. Oh, well, I think you know the answer to that. So, I mean, to the extent that he is still subject to extortion in the sense that they're still, of course, aid on the line, you know, he doesn't sound particularly credible. I would also say, look, with respect to the idea that he's now saying, look, I would never be held hostage. He's trying to convey that he's a strong president, that we aren't at, you know, the mercy of the United States. He's trying not to look like somebody who was frankly, you know, potentially duped by the President.
But what we know from the text messages, what we know from the parts of the whistleblower complaint that have already come out, is that everybody was aware that there was military aid for the Ukraine on the table. People were aware that the Ukraine -- that members of the Ukrainian government wanted a meeting in the White House, and then it looked like those were -- and again, looked like, not proven -- that those were contingent upon President Trump getting what the text messages said was a deliverable. Meaning, opposition research, a thing of value that was helpful for him in his reelection.
So, look, when President Zelensky says, No, there was nothing wrong. I mean, that in no way exonerates President Trump. This is not somebody who we can look to for credible exoneration when it comes to, again, what are we talking about? Bribery, extortion, campaign finance, corrupt practices (INAUDIBLE)
VAUSE: That was kind of my hunch. 17 Watergate special prosecutors has signed an op-ed in the Washington Post. The headline reads, "We investigated the Watergate scandal. We believe Trump should be impeached." They lay out their case with the evidence and why, but at a campaign rally in Minnesota, the President kept hammering the same blatant lie that is all about the Democrats trying to overturn the 2016 election. This is when Trump lashed out at the whistleblower the Ukraine call. He went after the son of Joe Biden, Hunter. And then came a very low personal attack on the former vice president. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good Vice President, because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's (BLEEP).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The President of the United States, ladies and gentlemen. If Donald Trump can go this way this quickly, where will he be, what, 389 days away when we come to election day?
LEVINSON: Well, I mean, I think that we see that there's this kind of exponential ramp up in the tweeting, in the rhetoric, and the campaign rallies, which frankly, not many of us thought the rhetoric could be ramped up or turned up that much, even from this president of the United States. But I think it's really interesting what he said in that. I mean, he referenced that letter a little bit. I read the letter, I read the footnotes of the letter, I read the cases citing and the footnotes. And I will say again, and what letter we talking about is President Trump's lawyer, the White House Counsel, sending a letter to Congress saying, we're not going to comply with your impeachment investigation.
And what we have is apparently the President United States thinking an impeachment inquiry is like a dinner invitation, where you can just take it or leave it. And what we have is a letter that is filled frankly, with legal nonsense and the kind of nonsense that you heard from the rally where he's saying you're just trying to overturn the election, where there's a fundamental misunderstanding with why impeachment is part of the Constitution. And why the constitution specifically says, Congress that this is incumbent upon you. This is the way that we punish a duly elected president who's behaving badly. It's not trying to overturn the election. It's trying to hold our government together.
VAUSE: Yes. And also, the whole concept of coequal branches of government seems to be something which the President does not quite grasp in its fullest. Jessica, it's great to see you. Thank you.
LEVINSON: Thank you.
VAUSE: Well, up next, the smallest glimpse of what could be a tiny glimmer of hope in Brexit talks. The British and Irish Prime Ministers say they may actually have reached a breakthrough. Really? Back in a moment.
VAUSE: They may be the kings of wishful thinking, but the British and Irish Prime Ministers say they may have a pathway to a Brexit deal. The talks still focused on whether Northern Ireland will stay in the E.U. Customs Union, and if it will agree to the plan. But he's an optimistic-sounding Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEO VARADKAR, PRIME MINISTER, IRELAND: I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement to have a treaty agreed to allow the Earth to the UK to leave you an orderly fashion, and to have that done by the end of October, but there's many steps between (INAUDIBLE) and lots of things that are not in my control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Meanwhile, the U.K. security minister is warning E.U. citizens who plan to stay in the U.K. post-Brexit, they need to apply for permission to stay, and if they don't, they could be deported after December 2020. Assuming, of course, that Brexit has happened by then, which is not a safe assumption. Well, power may be restored soon to more than a quarter million
customers in Northern California. The state's biggest power company has given the all clear to begin inspections of power lines before electricity can be turned back on. It was shut down as precaution when heavy winds swept through the area. Officials had feared down or damaged lines could spark wildfires. The utility company faced the wrath of residents who were far from happy with the move. According to the firm's CEO, employees was shot at and punched. 800,000 customers and all were affected but I guess I need a handful got out (INAUDIBLE).
The NBA is doing everything it can to keep from alienating China and losing what analysts say is 10 percent of its entire revenue. Why the relationship is on the rocks, that's ahead.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
Now live pictures coming to us from the Syrian-Turkish border -- this is just across the border. The Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, you can see smoke there in the distance. This is an area of Syria, northern Syria, which has been targeted by the Turkish military mostly artillery fire, as well as airstrikes as Turkey's military tries to clear a buffer zone, a safety zone, removing Syrian Kurds from about 20 miles deep into Syrian territory.
This is resulting in the 60,000 civilians already fleeing their homes -- that's according to one aid group with warnings that a humanitarian crisis is in the making.
Moving on now -- U.S. prosecutors have charged two associates of Rudy Giuliani with allegedly funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of foreign money into U.S. elections. Authorities say the men played a key role in Giuliani's effort to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden.
U.S. and China are hoping to come up with a trade war truce at the latest round of talks as President Trump meets with China's vice premier in the day ahead. Sources say they could agree to a mini deal with China buying more American farm products if the U.S. holds off on new tariffs.
First, the NBA came to China apologizing for a manager's tweets supporting democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. Then it stood up for free speech. We're back to caving.
This is what happened when CNN anchor Christina Macfarlane asked a question about the controversy at a news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR: The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its fairness, coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week and the fallout we've seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, we are taking basketball questions only.
MACFARLANE: It's a legitimate question,.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not.
MACFARLANE: This is an event that happened this week during the NBA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's already been answered.
MACFARLANE: This particular question has not been answered.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any other questions?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And now we're back to an apology, this one from the NBA saying, "a team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN's Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We've apologized to Ms. Macfarlane is this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events."
All this comes as the NBA is trying to save its relationship with China and trying to keep access to billions of dollars in potential revenue. Now, despite the controversy, the L.A. Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets played their first preseason games in Shanghai on Thursday and the crowds went nuts.
Well, fallout from the Hong Kong protests is spilling into another sport which is enormously popular in both the United States as well as China. The world of e-sports -- is it really a sport -- where tournament winners can rack up millions of dollars in prizes. One gamer sacrificed all of that with a message of support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters.
Will Ripley has the story.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was supposed to be a victory speech, streaming live from a Taiwan tournament for Hearthstone, a popular online card game.
Instead, Ng Wai Chung, known in the gaming world as "Blitzchung" donned goggles and a gas mask, and called for the liberation of Hong Kong..
NG WAI CHUNG, CHAMPION GAMER: Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.
RIPLEY: The rallying call of the city's protest movement. The 20- second clip went viral. The Hong Kong gamer stripped of thousands of dollars in prize money, banned from playing Hearthstone for a year.
U.S.-based video game developer Blizzard Entertainment, partially owned by a major Chinese tech company has strict rules banning any action that damages Blizzard's image.
RIPLEY: The company said, "While we stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players must abide by the official competition rules."
The swift punishment drew swift praise on Chinese social media. One user wrote, "Hearthstone is stronger than the NBA."
America's National Basketball Association refused to apologize for a pro Hong Kong tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets. Now, NBA preseason broadcasts are suspended in China.
Blizzard's suspension of the Hong Kong gamer will likely prevent similar punishment for the company inside China, but outside social media users are shaming Blizzard, posting screenshots of them canceling their subscription.
Every single computer at this Hong Kong gaming cafe is loaded with Blizzard games. They're some of the most popular on the market, but now tens of thousands of players are turning them off in a growing Blizzard boycott.
The #boycottBlizzard is going viral on Twitter. E-sports journalist Tom Matthiesen calls the gamer's punishment unprecedented.
TOM MATTHIESEN, E-SPORTS JOURNALIST: To issue a punishment this severe -- that has never happened before.
RIPLEY: And how important is the Chinese market to gaming companies?
MATTHIESEN: It is a big market, there's obviously more than a billion people there.
RIPLEY: In text messages with CNN, the gamer at the center of the storm said "Blizzard's decision now is what I expect. I decided to say the slogan because I think I had the duty and right to say it and to tell the protesters who watched my speech that I am on their side."
Around the world, many are now on his side. A rival gaming company offered to reimburse Blitzchung's prize money, even offering him a spot in their own lucrative tournament.
Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM -- it is a bird emergency in North America with an already declining population. Climate change could have a devastating impact in the years ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even gulls, crows -- I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable.
Why, if that happened, we wouldn't have a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: That is the trailer to the 1963 horror film "The Birds" where residents of a small California town are suddenly and mysteriously attacked by an overwhelming number of birds. And in true Alfred Hitchcock style, as the film goes on, the attacks become more frequent and more vicious.
In one scene, we heard part of it, there is a discussion about killing all the birds on the planet. That is when we hear from Mrs. Bundy again, she's the town's know-it-all ornithologist who says that would be impossible.
VAUSE: And here is a line straight from the screenplay. Mrs. Bundy, says, "Because there are 8,650 species of birds in the world today, Mr. Carter" -- he's the guy who wants to kill them all -- she goes on, "it is estimated that 5,750,000,000 birds live in the United States alone."
Well, that may have been then but that is not the case now. Just weeks ago, a study found the bird population in North America was in rapid decline, falling by almost three billion in the year since Alfred Hitchcock made the film.
There's another grim warning now though and it's about climate change. If climate change continues virtually unchecked and the planet warms by three degrees Celsius, nearly two thirds of what is left of North America's bird population will be facing extinction.
David Ringer is with the National Audubon Society, the nonprofit environmental group behind this most recent study. And he is joining us now from New York. So David -- thank you for coming in.
It always seems this sort of moving theme going. If the findings about the rapid population decline last month was a horror movie, your findings are essentially the terrifying sequel but set in a future where we have done almost nothing about global warming. DAVID RINGER, NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY: That's right. this is an
urgent warning about a potential future if we don't take action to stop climate change. It is about diversity crisis for birds, but we know that birds are messengers about the well-being of humanity as well.
And so this is a wake up call not only with regard to wildlife but also with regard to human communities and well-being.
VAUSE: Because the birds, you know, like frogs I guess, they are environmental indicator species, so expand on that.
RINGER: That is exactly right. Birds need the same things that people do. They need clean air, they need clean water, they need healthy, natural spaces. And because they are small and because they live their lives quickly, they are often much faster to show signs of environmental decline than people are.
But we know that when that birds are in trouble, trouble is coming for us too in pretty short order.
VAUSE: So in broad terms, talk about the study because I think it took a number of years and was fairly intensive. And how did you come up with this finding, this two-thirds number?
RINGER: That's right. Well, the study over several years examines millions of records of where birds have been over the last few years. And what that led our scientists to do is understand the kinds of climate conditions that helped birds thrive.
And so when we understand what they need today, we can wind the clock forward into the future and understand what the potential consequences are of continually increasing temperatures, decreasing precipitation as well as some punctuated disasters like wildfire, strong storms and sea level rise.
VAUSE: There's also a variable in here and it is the birds themselves as a species, how well they can adapt to a warmer environment. They could be more successful than others and more successful than expected.
RINGER: That's right. We know that when wildlife is given a chance, it can be very adaptable.
Here in the United States, for example, we saw our big water birds, like egrets and herons, recover from the brink of near extinction due to overhunting at the turn of the last century. We have also seen our national bird, the bald eagle rebound from near extinction in the lower 48 states due to DDT poisoning.
So we know that when we take action to help make a difference in the environment, wildlife can respond, and so that is the hope for the future. The science in this study shows that if we are able to limit the worst effects of climate change, birds will respond and the consequences don't have to be as dire as these headlines indicate that they might be without action. VAUSE: In fact, if we keep with the movie theme -- to just wrap this
up -- there could be a happy ending because I think, what was the number, if we keep the planets warming through 1.5 degrees Celsius or less, then most of the at-risk species could actually survive all of this.
RINGER: That's right. Most birds will fare much better if we are able to hold warming to one and a half degrees. That means though we have to take urgent action to limit carbon emissions. We have to break even by about 2050, the scientists tell us. And that also means we have to protect the places that birds need today and in the future like forests or wetlands and grasslands. And so preventing that biodiversity loss as well as reducing carbon emissions are both essential to having a happier ending, as you put it.
VAUSE: David -- we are out of time, but clearly, you know, we could look at the state of the planet right now, there is so much work which needs to be done and needs to be done quickly.
But thanks for the study. It's important work you're doing. Thank you.
RINGER: You're welcome.
VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.
WORLD SPORT is next.