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UK Lawmakers Approve Early General Election; Iraq Protests; Political Vacuum Left in Lebanon; Death of al-Baghdadi; President Trump Impeachment Inquiry; Extreme Warning Issued for California Wildfires; Climate Change; Great White Sharks Vanishing From Cape Town. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 30, 2019 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is "CNN Newsroom."

Coming up, British lawmakers agree to a December 12th vote. What the snap election means for Brexit?

A political vacuum in Lebanon after the country's longtime prime minister resigns, giving into weeks of protests.

And later, we will look at why the once abundant great white shark has vanished from the coast of Cape Town.

Good to have you with us. So campaigning is already underway in the United Kingdom after members of Parliament agreed to hold a general election on December 12th. Now, it's not official until the House of Lords approves the measure, but it's almost certain that will be done in just days. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is banking on winning the vote and being able to move forward from the Brexit impasse.

But as Nic Robertson reports, an election is a risk.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the prime minister got what wanted, an election on December 12th. He is leading in the polls across the country. The bookmakers seemed to have his government perhaps being returned with a majority, but that is very much in the balance.

It was an MP who stood up not long after the vote in Parliament and said quite clearly, I am aware that some MPs on the backbenches of both parties -- some of the more junior MPs is what she is referring to -- are a little bit uncomfortable about going for an election right now, certainly Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party, too late to decide that he was going to support this December election. He is seen as doing not so well in the polls at the moment, certainly not compared to Boris Johnson, a degree of reticence on his party to engage in the election that he is in, but it is both the liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party who perhaps are going into this quite confidently.

The Scottish National Party really believe that they can cleanup and win a good handful more seats in Scotland. They have 35 right now. They would be anticipating to win more than 50. The liberal Democrats, 19 seats right now, they believe that they can make some gains. They expect to make gains against Boris Johnson's conservative party.

And, of course, for the prime minister, one of the risks is that the Brexit Party, the hardline Brexit Party may take votes from him. That would be very damaging for him and would really lay the way open for potentially another hung Parliament, where isn't a majority for any single party, and that Brexit could be almost, if you will, back to square one.

The results will come in on December the 13th. It is a Friday. Undoubtedly for some, there will be some bad news that day.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


CHURCH: In Iraq, tens of thousands of protesters defied curfew, chanting and waving flags as they stormed into Baghdad's Tahrir Square on Tuesday. They are furious over the reported killing of 14 demonstrators in the holy city of Karbala a day earlier.

Amnesty International says there is evidence security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters staging a sit in and even tried to run them over with vehicles. But Karbala's governor and police deny anyone was killed.

Iraqis have protested for weeks now, angry over alleged government corruption, a lack of jobs and basic services.

Well, uncertainty is growing in Lebanon after Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced he is stepping down amid widespread anti-government protests. With no clear successor in place, Hariri will now likely lead a caretaker government, which will be weekend in its ability to deal with the country's economic crisis.


CHURCH: Despite the instability, protesters angry over government corruption took to the streets to celebrate Hariri's resignation.

CNN's Becky Anderson explains how this crisis in Lebanon has continued to grow.


SAAD HARIRI, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON (through translator): Today, I will not hide from you.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Saad Hariri tells Lebanese citizens, I have reached a dead end.

After nearly two weeks of paralyzing protests, demanding his resignation, brought on by economic collapse and a growing revolt across the country against the ruling elite, the prime minister succumbs to the will of the people.

Lebanon has not seen a display of unity like this since the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. The elder Hariri's death triggered a mass uprising against Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Many blame Damascus for the killing.

It briefly unified Lebanon's fractured ethnic and political interests and set the course for Saad Hariri to forge his own political identity. Four years later, he was named prime minister. He formed a unity government, Shia, Sunni, and Christian, fraught with factional tension.

In 2011, the government collapsed in a move led by Hezbollah. But Hariri returned to office in 2016, and then unexpectedly resigned during a visit to Saudi Arabia the following year for reasons still not clear.

Hariri would resume (ph) his resignation, but not before it had created more political turmoil in Lebanon. Hariri ended his third term as prime minister last year, his government still battling evermore fractured interests.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's economy was in free fall. While Lebanese citizen struggled, government announced a new tax on WhatsApp calls, another clumsy attempt to contain a growing financial crisis. Although the controversial tax was cancelled, the damage had been done.

Years of frustration detonated as citizens took their outrage to the streets, angry with the government often at odds with itself and unable to tackle a dire economic crisis. As Saad Hariri departs perhaps for the last time, protesters celebrate in hopes of a brighter future, but that future remains unclear.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Beirut.


CHURCH: Well, President Donald Trump says U.S. troops have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's likely replacement. A senior State Department official confirms that Abu Hassan al-Muhajir was killed in Syria. But now, it is unclear who will succeed Baghdadi, who was killed in a U.S. raid over the weekend.

According to the State Department, it could be a long-time Baghdadi companion who goes by the name of Hajji Abdallah (ph). The U.S. recently offered a reward of up to $5 million for Hajji's capture.

But even with the ISIS leader gone, the E.U. is warning the terror group remains a major threat. Plus, there are an estimated 10,000 ISIS prisoners being held in Kurdish prisons. So, what will be their fate? CNN's Sam Kiley has our report.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mostly captured on the battlefield, allegedly fighting for the so- called Islamic state, they are malnourished and weakened. But these men still pose a potent threat. The guards are from the Kurdish- dominated Syrian Democratic Forces and they are all to stand between these men and freedom to rebuild the terrorist army.

MYLES CAGGINS, SPOKESMAN, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: The Syrian Democratic Forces are responsible for detaining nearly 10,000 ISIS fighters. This is their responsibility and a burden that they have shouldered. The coalition provide some advice to them, and we understand that it is a threat that some of the detainees might want to break out and be free.

KILEY (voice-over): Some say they just want to go home, like this man who says he is British. Since Turkey's incursion into Syria to drive the Kurd-dominated SDF away from its border after decades of conflict with Kurdish separatists, the Kurds say about 800 alleged ISIS fighters have escape from prisons like this one near Hasakah.

Many foreign fighters and their families are held in prisons and camps, their home countries refusing to take them back to face trial, even as the guards dwindle in number and join the fight against Turkey.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them.


TRUMP: And if Europe doesn't take them, I will have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places.

KILEY (voice-over): The U.S. president has celebrated the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

TRUMP: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.

KILEY (voice-over): An estimated 70,000 women and children from ISIS areas are housed in this camp alone. Some of the so-called caliphs followers remain defiant here even after his death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Hello, did you hear about al-Baghdadi death?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, he is not dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, he is not dead. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): You did not hear about the news?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, he is not dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, I don't want to hear the news. He is not dead, al-Baghdadi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The U.S. president announced his death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, al-Baghdadi is not dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He is lying, with God will, he is lying. What do you benefit of recording me? It's better for you to stop and go before I do something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You are not sad because al Khalifa is dead?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, we are not sad. One hundred people will come to replace him. What do you think his death means? You think it's over. No, it's not.

KILEY (voice-over): Such threats are being passed down a generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): God willing, one day you will go through this. A day you will be imprisoned like this. God willing, one day, you will be through what we are going through. God willing, we will imprison you one day. Don't think that the state is over.

KILEY (voice-over): Sam Kiley, CNN.


CHURCH: A decorated U.S. war veteran wounded in Iraq is now being attacked by President Trump and his allies. What we are learning from Alexander Vindman's Ukraine testimony.

Plus, California is bracing for hurricane-force winds set to turn its wildfire crisis into an extreme emergency. We'll be back with that in just a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The first current White House official testified in the U.S. impeachment inquiry says he sounded the alarm twice about the Trump administration pressuring Ukraine for political favors. But unlike previous witnesses, this one was actually on the call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's president.

Now, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is a top Ukraine expert and an active army officer. He arrived on Capitol Hill in full uniform. In his opening statement, Vindman said this. "I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine."

Vindman is a decorated U.S. soldier who was wounded in Iraq. But President Trump and his allies are now trying to discredit him and smear his reputation. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more now from Washington.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the top White House expert on Ukraine testified today, President Trump was lashing out at the Purple Heart recipient without naming him, accusing Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman of being a political opponent, asking, was he on the same call that I was, and how many more never Trumpers will be allowed to testify?

The president attacks coming as the White House is privately deciding how to respond to the latest moves by Democrats, who are now slated to take their first vote on the impeachment inquiry, forcing lawmakers to go on the record supporting the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will have to make a decision based on their conscience.

COLLINS (voice-over): The vote could work in the White House's favor or against it. Trump's aides are waiting to see what Democrats do before making any moves. Republicans have demanded for weeks that Democrats must vote before the inquiry can be seen as legitimate. Today, they claimed it is too little too late.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I applaud the speaker for finally admitting it is an entire sham, but you can put the genie back in the bottle.

COLLINS (voice-over): One Republican congressman admitting he has not attended any of the closed door depositions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why are you not there?

REP. TED YOHO (R-FL): Because I have other responsibilities in the House and I see this as a sideshow.

COLLINS (voice-over): Ted Yoho is a Republican who sits on one of the three committees allowed in the room. But he says he hasn't even read the transcripts.

YOHO: We've read the summary of Volker's and there was one other one we did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The summary or you've gone actually to read the full transcript?

YOHO: Just the summary.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president's attacks on the impeachment inquiry come as his own top aides have struggled to explain the damning testimony that is emerging.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you referring to William Taylor's testimony?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am, the testimony, as far as we know.

PENCE: We can't really count on that because all we have from the committee are leaks.

COLLINS (voice-over): Despite saying this weeks ago --

PENCE: We are discussing that with White House counsel as we speak.

COLLINS (voice-over): Vice President Mike Pence's office has still not released his transcripts. While sources say they contain no bombshells, an administration official said they are still being reviewed by the attorneys.

(On camera): And now Democrats are saying they're likely going to start holding some of these depositions, some of these testimonies from these current and former officials in public. But right now, they are still lining up several to do in private, including one potential person who was actually on that July 25th phone, Rob Blair. He is a national security adviser for the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

And right now, CNN is reporting they have been in discussions with him potentially as lawyer about having Rob Blair appear on Capitol Hill, though it is still unclear if he will.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: In Southern California, an unprecedented warning of extreme fire danger as hurricane-force winds threaten to make it already dangerous wildfire situation much worse. Our Stephanie Elam has more now from Los Angeles.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A blaze for days. California is battling wildfires across the state. And officials couldn't be more clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Oh, my God.

ELAM (voice-over): The worst conditions are yet to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in this critical, really, 24-hour window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fuels are critically dry.

ELAM (voice-over): High winds up to 80 miles per hour are expected in parts of Southern California over the next 48 hours, adding more fuel to the flames.

RALPH TERRAZAS, CHIEF, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: It only takes one ember to blow down wind, to start another fire.

ELAM (voice-over): It is so dangerous that for the first time ever, an extreme red flag warning has been issued in Los Angeles. Preparing for what's to come, more than 1,100 firefighters in the L.A. region alone.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is a challenging time. Forty-three counties in the state of California were experiencing red flag, warnings were experiencing at or near historic wind events.

ELAM (voice-over): Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti assess the situation with teams on the ground. This as authorities in Northern California warned residents not to take any chances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I made a stop on a gentleman who had thrown a cigarette butt on the freeway. This is no time to add to the problem.

ELAM (voice-over): Since the 1970s, the portion of California burned by wildfires each year has increased by 500 percent. A new study attributed the finding to climate change including drier weather and less rain.

NEWSOM: The fact is the fires this year have been relatively modest compared to previous years.

ELAM (voice-over): Just last year, 85 people lost their lives in California after a wildfire caused by electrical lines burned the town of Paradise to the ground.

NEWSOM: We are not even close to where we need to be in the state. This is not the new normal and it doesn't take a decade to fix this damn thing.

ELAM (voice-over): Now, utility companies are once again planning to shut off power for hundreds of thousands of Californians through at least Wednesday to avoid contributing to the danger.


ELAM (On camera): And California Governor Gavin Newsom saying that the electric companies have now agreed to credit Californians, millions of them, who have been living without power during these two wind events.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHURCH: Just ahead, in the waters of Cape Town, a maritime mystery. Where are all the white sharks?


CHRIS FALLOWS, PHOTOGRAPHER, CONSERVATIONIST, ADVENTURER: To me, the loss of the great white shark is losing part of my soul. You know, this is an animal that shaped my life. (END VIDEO CLIP)


CHURCH: Alarming new research warns that around the world, some coastal areas home to 150 million people could be submerged by rising sea levels in the next 30 years. That is a major increase from previous estimates.

Here is one example. This map highlights what is projected for Hanoi, Vietnam by 2050. The map on the left shows an old projection of submerged land covered in red. The map on the right shows the updated protection and a lot more red.

Now, the findings are from Climate Central, an organization of scientists and journalists in the United States. I asked one of their chief scientist why the study's findings are so dramatically different from previous ones.


BENJAMIN STRAUSS, CEO AND CHIEF SCIENTIST, CLIMATE CENTRAL: Earlier studies, unfortunately, have relied on older elevation data, taken based on measurements from satellites, which couldn't distinguish between buildings and the ground. So, my colleague and I did an analysis and discovered that those data said the ground was on average two meters higher than it really is.

And we realized that was a huge problem for understanding coastal vulnerability to floods and the sea level rise. So we used artificial intelligence to develop a new data set that essentially wipes out that effect from the buildings and trees, and delivers a truer estimate of ground elevation.

We validated it in lots of ways and unfortunately, the results indicate that yes, a great deal more people are on vulnerable land than we thought.

CHURCH (on camera): Why do you think the researchers have not worked that out?

STRAUSS: Well, I think other researchers understood very well that the data they were using had problems, but none of them imagined they could address them. It was simply the best data available, and we worked with it. New research lab imagined that it could send a satellite into orbit and collect new data.

Our insight was we didn't need to do that. We could use the data that was already there, plus many other data sets together with machine learning.


CHURCH: And thank you to co-author, Benjamin Strauss, for his insight on that research.

The waters just off South Africa's Cape Town are the most popular destination on the planet for viewing the great white shark. But this year, many are asking, where have all the great whites gone? CNN's David McKenzie has our report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can throw the cage off the back of the boat.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've come to dive with an apex predator.

(On camera): Seal Island is probably the world's most famous location for seeing great white sharks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): There he is. There he is.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And we see plenty of sharks.

(On camera): They're incredible. Great white atras. Check this out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, right there, right there, right there.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): But no great whites. These sharks are scavengers, not the iconic hunter that made this by famous. After millions of years, in 2019, the great whites of Cape Town have vanished.

FALLOWS: For me, the loss of the great white sharks is losing part of my soul. You know, this is an animal that shaped my life. It's given me some of the greatest highs of my life.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Chris Fallows, the photographer who put these sharks on the map, is forcing himself to speak in the past tense.

(On camera): The first time you saw this, what was it like?

FALLOWS: It was unbelievable. I mean, everybody is fascinated by great white sharks, but flying great white sharks? To see this incredible super predator taking to the air showing off its athletic prowess, it was fantastic.

SOLOMON SOLOMON, FISHERMAN: This past season, they haven't seen a single shark.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): On the cliff above, shark spotters used to take these sightings for granted. This year, they recorded zero great whites, not a single one.

(On camera): What if they don't come back?

SOLOMON: Yes, we're just going to have to wait. MCKENZIE (voice-over): Fisherman like Solomon Solomon say there are more seals now, too, competing for their catch. It seems the ecosystem is already feeling the effects.

SARA ANDREOTTI, MARINE BIOLOGIST: The impact of losing an apex predator for the marine environment is going to be huge.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Biologist Sara Andreotti says the zero sighting is alarming but not surprising. She predicted the collapse years ago. In 2012, by studying genetics, she found that the population was smaller and more vulnerable than anyone imagined.

(On camera): What was your reaction to the population of great whites in South Africa?

ANDREOTTI: Concern, mostly, but also shock. We were expecting to find 1,000 or more individuals (ph) around here.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Overfishing, shark poaching and the weak gene pool have all contributed.

ANDREOTTI: People don't like to listen to sad story and it is difficult to realize that humans could have had such an impact on such pre-historical iconic predators.

FALLOWS: Unless we really step up our efforts to conserve what we have left, South Africa's once bountiful shores are becoming more and more empty by the day.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): If there is any hope for the great whites to return, he says the focus should now be on what needs to be done, not about what once was.

David McKenzie, CNN, South Africa.


CHURCH: And thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back in just a moment with the headlines. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.