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Trump Downplays Role of Global Warming in Western Fires; Climate Change Skeptic Appointed to Top Position at NOAA; U.K. Bans Social Gatherings of More than Six; Trump and Supporters: We Don't Need Masks; Bahrain, UAE to Sign Normalization Pacts with Israel Tuesday; Growing Number of Hong Kong Residents Fleeing; Oracle to Be TikTok's Business Partner in U.S. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, climate crisis in real time: unprecedented wildfires in the U.S., among the hurricane season in the Atlantic, a massive ice melt from Greenland and the U.S. president doubting the science, leaving all of it to global warming.

A blistering report calls out a total lack of cooperation and preparation among world leaders for the coronavirus pandemic.

And the desperate escape by sea for many in Hong Kong as Beijing tightens an already iron grip.


VAUSE: Right, now every country, every one facing two global emergencies. The most immediate threat from the coronavirus pandemic, with the worldwide death toll approaching 1 million.

And a climate crisis which is getting worse by the day. The so-called leader of the free world has publicly doubted the science and the experts on both.

In California on Monday, Donald Trump downplayed the impact from climate change on the record-breaking wildfires that have killed at least 35 people on the U.S. West Coast, instead, blaming poor forest management a long debunked argument and for the record just 3 percent of state-owned land is held by the California government.

More than 50 percent is under federal control.

Then, there was this awkward exchange with the head of California's natural resources agency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WADE CROWFOOT, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES: We are seeing this warming trend make our summers warmer but also our winter storms as well.

If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together at protecting Californians.


CROWFOOT: I wish --

TRUMP: You just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.


VAUSE: It does.

The man challenging President Trump for the White House is blasting Donald Trump for his rejection of science. Joe Biden all but called the U.S. president a climate arsonist.


JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?

If we give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?

We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here.


VAUSE: And the experts say climate change is contributing to an intense hurricane season. Right now, Hurricane Sally Is approaching the U.S. Gulf Coast as a powerful category 2 less than three weeks after Hurricane Laura made landfall as a category 4.

We will have the latest on the storm in a moment but we begin with the wildfires and Martin Savidge reporting in from Oregon.





MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's being called a once in a generation event. More than a dozen large fires burning in the State of Oregon. About an hour and a half south of Portland, the Beachie Creek fire is devastating the area. Signs melted. Structures bent to the will of the flames.

This week alone, the governor says over a million acres have burned in Oregon. That's double the amount that burns in a typical year.




SAVIDGE: Seventy-year-old Kathie Tapia and her two cats have been in this Portland Redland shelter since Thursday when they were forced to evacuate their home.

TAPIA: The police came knocking at the door within two hours and said we needed to go now. This is the worse experience. It's scary.

SAVIDGE: Have a million Oregonians living in what are now evacuation zones. Tens of thousands of them have already been forced to flee. And there are growing concerns that the death toll can rise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the truck that would've been down there.

SAVIDGE: Parts of Oregon's rural areas remain too dangerous to search for the nearly two dozen missing like George Ataya (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His home is completely lost. And his shop.

SAVIDGE: Scott Foucarthy (ph), his friend of more than 20 years says Ataya (ph) would've fought until the end.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anybody could do it, he could.

SAVIDGE: Do you think he is still alive?


SAVIDGE: Across the western part of the U.S., more than 80 major fires are burning. Smoldering structures lit by this wildfire in Washington State. At least 35 people have now died in the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington this season.

Twenty-four in California alone where resources are stretched.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They really are a beast in their identity. They move at their own whim. They are terrifying and move extremely quickly. SAVIDGE: Three of the largest fires in California's history are still burning. President Trump visiting today to get a fire briefing on the ground against a backdrop of thick smoke. He emphasized the need to strengthen forest management.

TRUMP: This is one of the biggest burns we've ever seen. And we have to do a lot about forest management.

SAVIDGE: An astonishing 3.3 million acres have charred in the state since the start of the year. California Governor Gavin Newsom says climate change played a key role.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It is self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Lyons, Oregon.


VAUSE: As the West Coast burns, Americans on the Gulf Coast are bracing for Hurricane Sally in what is turning out to be a very busy hurricane season.


VAUSE: Despite traveling to California for a firsthand look at the state's unprecedented fire season, Donald Trump still doubts the science leading to increased frequency and intensity of these fires to climate change.


CROWFOOT: I wish --

TRUMP: You just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.


VAUSE: The vast majority do not agree with President Trump. Among those who do is David Legates, a well-known climate change skeptic. Here he is in 2011, arguing the sun's natural cycles are to blame for global warming.



DAVID LEGATES, CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTIC: The sun is the key ingredient to climate. I mean, 99.9 percent of the energy on the Earth that goes into the climate system comes from the sun.

Humans do affect our environment and one of the ways they do that is change the constituents in the atmosphere. In fact, the biggest driver is going to be other natural fluctuations and carbon dioxide plays a small role in that.


VAUSE: Three years after that, Legates made the same bogus claim before Congress and all this matters now because the Trump administration has appointed Legates to a senior position with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, the agency that produces much of the climate research funded by the U.S. government.

Joining us now is Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and author of "The Price of Civilization."

Thanks for being with us. And the reason we mentioned Legates in the beginning, it seems symbolic of the past four years of the Trump White House, an open hostility toward science and everything done by the president to deal with climate change.

Is it possible to say that the rollbacks we've seen over the last four years is making the situation in 2020 even worse than it should be?


DR. JEFFREY SACHS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Of course. Everything that Trump is doing is based on lies to feed the trough, the cronies, whether it's in the oil industry or in other sectors. I don't think we should take seriously what Trump says as a matter of how ignorant he is.

What we know is that he is a liar, so when he says that it's going to get cooler, he doesn't know what science is, this is his game. It is sickening.

VAUSE: Along with the situation in California, which is devastating right now, we are also seeing a situation with the ice shelf in Greenland.

The scientists believe Greenland's ice melt is beyond the point of no return and also 44 square miles chunk of ice about twice the size of Manhattan has broken off the Arctic's largest remaining ice shelf in the northeast, now leaving scientists fearful of its rapid disintegration.

And then there's a very active hurricane season in the Atlantic.

Is it fair to say that we're seeing the outer bands of this looming climate catastrophe that's heading our way?

SACHS: We are seeing what happens as the scientists have been warning us now for decades, in fact.

Certainly with this loud and clear message in recent years that we are seeing massive impacts and feedback effects that are accelerating the warming now and accelerating the consequences with the possibility of many meters of sea level rise, even within this century, as both Antarctica and Greenland contribute to massive sea level increases and massive storm events, droughts, heat waves that are unprecedented, invasions of ecosystems causing more and more emergent diseases like COVID-19.

Every catastrophe, this president just blinks and says, oh, the virus will go away. Oh, it's going to get cooler, oh, that's nothing.

VAUSE: Is it possible for a Biden White House to implement the change needed to reverse the impact of the last four years?

SACHS: Of course it is. What Vice President Biden is saying is that he will take the science seriously, whether it's stopping the pandemic, which is completely stoppable if Trump would have listened to any of his scientists, we would not have so many deaths.

And Biden is talking about a massive transformation of our economy, which is going to create more jobs, more prosperity and a safer environment, because Vice President Biden has it right.

And he is not in the hands of Big Oil that is driving so much of this through the corruption of our politics. Biden is telling it straight and will listen to what the scientists say.

VAUSE: Jeffrey Sachs, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

SACHS: Pleasure to be with you.


VAUSE: Donald Trump also publicly ignoring the expert advice on how to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For the second day, he held an indoor campaign rally. Thousands gathered Monday in Phoenix, Arizona, few wearing face masks and no evidence seen of social distancing, except for the president, who was seated more than 6 feet away from all the others, safely on the stage.

The company that hosted Sunday's rally in Henderson, Nevada, is facing a $3,000 fine for violating the state's coronavirus guidelines.

All this with the U.S. fast approaching 195,000 dead from COVID-19 with more than 6.5 million people infected. Now CNN has obtained another exclusive recording of President Trump and author Bob Woodward. This is from one month ago.


BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Listen, I mean, you, you and I --

TRUMP: But nothing more could've been done. Nothing more could've been done.


TRUMP: I acted early.


TRUMP: I acted early.

WOODWARD: This will be the history that we start the first draft of. And it will continue and --


TRUMP: So, you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?

WOODWARD: Sure. But they are related, as you know.


VAUSE: In the coming days, the world will reach 30 million confirmed coronavirus cases. A new report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation finds that the pandemic has set the world back 25 years in 25 weeks, that's in terms of achieving the U.N.'s sustainable development goals.

In the U.K., the new rule is now in place, which reduces the number of people legally allowed to gather. It is now six; it was 30.


VAUSE: The British prime minister is promising stricter police enforcement.

And a surge in cases has led Israel to approve a second nationwide lockdown set to start on Friday. Schools, dine-in restaurants, entertainment venues will all close for at least 3 weeks.

Brazil is reporting 500 COVID deaths, bringing its nationwide death toll past 130,000. That's the second highest worldwide.

Turkey, recording its most fatalities since early May with more than 60 within just 24 hours. That comes after restrictions were eased around the same time.

The world's largest vaccine maker warns it may not be until the end of 2024 before everyone across the planet is inoculated for the virus. The Serum Institute of India says that assessment is based on everyone needing two injections for a total of 15 billion worldwide. Right now, all the leading vaccine contenders require two separate shots.


DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: All of the studies are showing that, to get an adequate immune response is going to require two doses, probably spaced a month apart.

But what we need to keep in mind is that it may not require, first and foremost, everyone in the world getting vaccinated, to slow down or even stop the spread. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: There are 35 vaccines in human trials around the world right now and no guarantees any of the will work.

To Los Angeles, Dr. Anne Rimoin is professor of epidemiology at UCLA.

Thank you for being with us. The reality is not everyone will need a vaccination, which means maybe that timeline for global inoculation is not four years on but maybe closer to this prediction from Dr. Anthony Fauci in the U.S. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I believe that we will have a vaccine that will be available by the end of this year, at the beginning of next year.

But by the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccinations and you get the majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that is likely not going to happen till the mid-or end of 2021.


VAUSE: It seems like in other words, they are both saying pretty much the same thing. Whenever a vaccine is approved, whether tomorrow or next year, what?

We will be a lot closer to the beginning of the process than the end?

ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UCLA FIELDING SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Absolutely. John, this is the crux of the issue. Just having a vaccine that is safe and effective is step one in the process of being able to get the world vaccinated.

If you think about just the logistics of getting these vaccines to the places where they will be distributed, it is going to be massive. These vaccines actually require a very, very cold temperature and storage not readily available everywhere.

We will have to rethink what we think of as a cold chain, keeping that vaccine at the right temperature from the time that it is made to the time that it is delivered.

This is a very serious issue. So we are going to have to be making sure that these vaccines are kept cold and distributed and then, as Dr. Fauci said, these vaccines, the ones that are candidates right now, they require two doses, one month apart.

When you think about the logistics of being able to vaccinate so many people, this is going to require a lot of time. So I think we should be optimistic. We should be thoughtful about what is going to happen next, once we have that vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective. Then we also have to think about vaccine hesitancy. This issue that we

are fighting, people are very nervous about the vaccine. We've lost a lot of trust in the FDA and the CDC and all of these federal bodies that we normally look to for advice. If we do not have good vaccine acceptance, we are going to be in big trouble here.

VAUSE: Worldwide, there is a surge in daily case counts. We have this new report coming out from the World Health Organization and the West Bank, a blistering assessment of a failure of international cooperation and preparation describing a collective failure to make pandemic prevention preparedness and respond seriously to prioritize accordingly.

Many countries' leaders struggled to take early decisive actions based on science, evidence and best practices. And if there is one leader around the world who seems to sort of symbolize this more than any other, it is Donald Trump.

What he says really has an impact on what his supporters believe. Listen to this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care for it. It's really that simple.

TRUMP: I don't see it for myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am young. And a lot of people who are here are not.

TRUMP: Young people are very strong against this horrible disease.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not wearing a mask, because I had my temperature taken already and I'm not sick.

TRUMP: It's not necessary here. Well, everybody's been tested and I have been tested.


VAUSE: It is unbelievable that this is a man in charge of the country in charge of the pandemic response.


RIMOIN: Well, I think that we have got a big problem when we do not have our leaders being the absolute example for good public health behavior.

The fact that masks have become politicized is just utterly ridiculous. These are just blunt public health measures that are going to save lives. We are in big trouble when we have our leaders not taking this seriously and not doing everything that they can in their power to actually preserve life and to be able to do the right thing.

So, yes, I agree with you completely, John.

VAUSE: We are out of time and but it seems one scenario that the health experts did not plan for was an American president deliberately lying to the public. Maybe we can talk about that next time.


VAUSE: Dr. Anne Rimoin, from Los Angeles, thank you so much.

RIMOIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Still to come, a made for TV moment at the White House just hours from now when the UAE and Bahrain officially normalize relations with Israel.

What exactly has been achieved and what's being left out?

That's coming up.

Also, the U.S. ambassador to China is stepping down. How his resignation might just help Donald Trump win the election.




VAUSE: The White House has not seen too many days like the one expected on Tuesday. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two Gulf Arab nations, will sign separate agreements with Israel to normalize relations.

This should improve the economies of all 3 countries and fortify regular security, presenting a united front against Iran. A senior White House official says this may not be the last signing ceremony. The administration is hoping to broker a similar deal for Israel Oman, Sudan and Morocco.

By any measure, Tuesday will be a historic day for Israel. Only two other Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan, have made peace with the Jewish state. But then there are the Palestinians, who are further away, it seems, than ever before from their own peace deal, their own official state. Here is CNN's Oren Liebermann reporting on unfinished business.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The gesture was simple but the consequences shook the region.

In 1979, a handshake between Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat marked the first peace agreement between Israel and then Arab nation. The picture with U.S. President Jimmy Carter standing front and center was historic. Two neighboring nations who had known mostly war coming together for peace; 15 years later, it was President Bill Clinton who stood in the center as Israel and Jordan made peace with then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here in this region, which is the home of not only both your fates but mine, I say blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall inherit the earth.

LIEBERMANN: Another historic moment in a region known more for starting wars and for ending them. But major progress on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict proved much more elusive, a series of interim agreements and steps.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Like Madrid in 1991 never materialized into a final status solution.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Real peace, lasting peace must be based upon security for all states and peoples, including Israel.

LIEBERMANN: The major breakthrough was the Oslo accords in 1993.

CLINTON: Let us all go from this place to celebrate the dawn of a new era not only for the Middle East but for the entire world.

LIEBERMANN: But even that the far short of ending the conflict. When president Donald Trump took office, he immediately set to work on his vision of a conflict, one that was heavily in favor of Israel, built in part on his personal relationship with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and took other pro- Israel steps, the Palestinians cut off contact with the White House. Instead Trump and senior advisor Jared Kushner shifted their efforts to the rest of the region.

The first Israeli commercial flight to land in Abu Dhabi celebrated the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO U.S. PRESIDENT TRUMP: While this peace was forged by its leaders, it is overwhelmingly desired by the people.

LIEBERMANN: Less than a month later, Bahrain announced it, too, would normalize relations with Israel. This time it will be president Donald Trump where he loves to be, front and center at the White House. If he couldn't make peace in the Middle East with the Palestinians, he would do it without them -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: The U.S. ambassador to China will be leaving his post in the coming week. Sources tell CNN Terry Branstad will return to the United States to help Donald Trump's reelection campaign.

The former Iowa governor is popular in the Midwest, could help the president win back voters in a number of key battleground states. Steven Jiang is live for us this hour in Beijing.

Terry Branson was appointed because he had this apparently great relationship with Xi Jinping from the time when Xi was a much lower ranked Chinese official.

How effective has he been and is this unexpected?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: John, it isn't entirely shocking, according to multiple sources we've spoken to, Mr. Branstad had always intended to serve only one term with his age being the main factor. He is 73 years old.

But the timing of this announcement and the timing of this earlier than expected departure from China before the election, has caught the attention of a lot of people, because he is indeed leaving his post at a time when this relationship is in a freefall, really, according to many, reaching its lowest point since the 2 governments established formal ties in 1979.

But now, of course, as you mentioned, we have learned he is going back to Iowa to campaign for Mr. Trump's reelection. The cause of this name recognition because of his popularity, presumably he would be an ideal candidate to talk about how getting tough on China would be a good thing for the American people, because he has been a vocal supporter of the so-called phase one trade deal.

This has ironically become one of the most stable aspects of this relationship, despite all these other contentious issues.

The Americans have been saying and Chinese have confirmed that the Chinese government is continuing to buy a large amount of agricultural products from the U.S., including soybeans from his home state of Iowa.

But you touched with a very interesting point. He was picked to serve his ambassador because of his relationship with Xi dating back to the 1980s. This is actually one of his favorite books. It's called "Old Friends: The Xi Jinping-Iowa Story."

This is a copy he gave to me with a photo of the 2 of them when they were much younger, taken in 1985. He is very proud of this relationship, always telling visitors and guests of this backstory in his residence.

But it seems he just has been unable to leverage this relationship to benefit this overall relationship but probably, not surprising, given he has been a participant in this process but not really a decision maker. That power really lies in Washington with Pompeo, the secretary of state, and Lighthizer, the trade representative among others.

So in a way he has been serving in a very symbolic role, important but symbolic. So now he is leaving to go back to the U.S. to be a footsoldier for Mr. Trump, who he has remained very loyal to. So it may be surprising in terms of timing but not entirely shocking.

VAUSE: OK, Steven Jiang, live for us in Beijing.

When we come back, the fear of losing freedom in Hong Kong has a growing number of people fleeing the port city the only way they know how to get out.

Also, and the friends you keep. Vladimir Putin propping up the man they call Europe's last dictator. Details still to come.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. Wherever you are around the world, thanks for being with us. I'm John Vause.


During a video summit on Monday, the E.U. directly warned China's President Xi Jinping to step back from a crackdown on Hong Kong, citing incidents like police tackling a 12-year-old girl to the ground recently, which raised grave concerns in Europe about Hong Kong's controversial national security law.

Live now to CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, and you know, Ivan, the Europeans may be voicing concern, but many in Hong Kong are downright terrified of the impact these new security laws will have, and they're getting out.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, we're seeing a big shift here. Hong Kong had, for generations, been a safe harbor from communist China, from the very opaque, judicial and law enforcement system there. People used to flee here, even swimming across the sea.

And now we're seeing some people so desperate to escape the crackdown on political dissent here and to escape China's puncturing of the bubble of Hong Kong's autonomy, the autonomy of this former British colony, that some people are even using the sea to try to flee.


WATSON (voice-over): Hong Kong has always been defined by the sea that surrounds it. But for Ha Tsiu-Yen (ph), the ocean is much more than just a pretty backdrop. This was how he escaped to freedom.

One night in 1975, he tells me, he and a friend fled communist China in a homemade rubber dinghy and started paddling towards the lights of Hong Kong. Ha made it to Hong Kong, then a British colony, and built a life here. But these days, he no longer equates the city with freedom.

"They promised us 50 years with no changes," he says, referring to the agreement China made before the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997. But now, they're taking away more of my freedom every day.

A growing number of people are fleeing the port city that once served as a sanctuary.

(on camera): This is one of the last islands before Hong Kong gives way to international waters, and this is, locals say, a well-known smuggling route. The new phenomenon here is that people are starting to try to escape the territory by sea.

(voice-over): Last month, the Chinese coast guard intercepted and arrested a boatload of 12 Hong Kongers who illegally crossed into Chinese waters, officials say. The detainees were almost all fleeing criminal charges, linked to last year's increasingly violent anti- government protests.

Their families gave an emotional press conference Saturday, calling for China to treat them fairly and return the 12 to Hong Kong.

MRS. WONG, WIFE OF DETAINEE WONG WAI-YIN (through translator): I want to tell my husband, Don't worry, I'll wait for your return, whether it will take 10 years, 20 years or a lifetime. We will not give up on you.

WATSON: Earlier this summer, the Chinese government imposed a national security law that strips away part of Hong Kong's autonomy. Security forces began rounding up opposition leaders, as well as anyone who tries to peacefully protest.

The boatload of fugitives was captured by Chinese authorities while trying to make the more than 700-kilometer, or 440-mile, journey to Taiwan. A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing prosecution, says at least two other activist boats have successfully made a similar escape.

Taiwan says the number of Hong Kongers requesting to settle here more than doubled this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, everyone somehow is trapped in Hong Kong. They can't find other way to escape.

WATSON: Among the new arrivals, some activists who don't want to be identified, because they fled criminal charges in Hong Kong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is much safer here.

WATSON: People like this 19-year-old now face a lifetime in exile, perhaps never seeing their families again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the most, I really, really want to go home.

WATSON: Back in Hong Kong, 73-year-old Ha Tsiu-Yen (ph) says he sympathizes with the younger generation now fleeing the city.

"I support them," he says, adding, "I know what it means to fight for freedom."


WATSON: John, the 12 Hong Kongers who were captured by mainland Chinese coastal authorities, their families say that they have not been given access to lawyers in detention. The U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has ratcheted up pressure on Beijing, expressing concern about lack of due process here, as he alleges, which has prompted Chinese authorities to fire back and accuse the U.S. of meddling in China's internal affairs and trying to mess with an investigation that's still underway.

However, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has tweeted, calling those 12 suspects, quote unquote, "separatists," which arguably kind of muddles the waters of the investigations. As almost anything else involving human rights in China, this is increasingly becoming an issue between Washington and Beijing, and their ongoing tensions -- John.

VAUSE: Ivan, thank you. Next time we see you, I hope the rain has stopped, and if it hasn't, I hope you will be inside where it's dry. Ivan Watson live in Hong Kong.

Russia is throwing a financial lifeline to the embattled president of Belarus. Vladimir Putin met with Alexander Lutsenko in Sochi on Monday, confirming a $1.5 billion loan. The allies will also hold joint military drills.

Belarus has been gripped by protests since last month's presidential election, which opposition groups say was rigged.

Mr. Putin also says Belarus, lucky Belarus, will be the first country to receive Russia's coronavirus vaccine.

Putin critic and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is now off of a ventilator. He's being treated in a German military hospital after being poisoned last month before boarding a flight from Siberia to Moscow.

Doctors say Navalny is able to leave his bed for short periods of time.

And the French president, Emmanuel Macron, pressed his Russian counterpart on a phone call on Monday for answers. Vladimir Putin insists it's unfounded and inappropriate to accuse Russia of the poisoning.

Well, still to come, TikTok users in the U.S. are celebrating, but there are still a lot of questions about the platform's announced partnership with Oracle.



VAUSE: There is relief and joy from TikTok users, who are now calling Oracle a savior. Under a new agreement, the corporate technology company will act as business partner in the United States for TikTok.

A source says the partnership is meant to ease the Trump administration's security concerns over TikTok and its Chinese owners. CNN's Selina Wang has more now from Hong Kong. And that is the big

question: How does this arrangement actually put Donald Trump and his, you know, officials at ease over security concerns?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you'll remember, Trump had said that he wants this app to be sold off or shut down in the U.S. Now we're getting what appears to be a watered-down version in which Oracle will serve as, a quote, "trusted technology partner" of ByteDance.

Now, a source has told me that this would not entail an outright sale. It could involve Oracle being the cloud services provider for ByteDance, as well as storing U.S. TikTok user data on Oracle servers.

But it's unclear, John, if this is going to satisfy the U.S. regulators. Treasury -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has confirmed that CFIUS is currently reviewing this deal and that he added, it includes a commitment to create a U.S. headquarters for the company, as well as 20,000 new jobs.

Now, someone involved in the negotiations had told us that this decision was a business one, not a political one, but this certainly does bring a lot of questions about the relationship between Trump and Oracle.

Oracle is one of the few Silicon Valley companies to have publicly voiced support for Trump. Larry Ellison had held a fundraiser for Trump. Its CEO, Safra Catz, had sat on Trump's transition team.

And many experts had seen Microsoft as a much more logical partner, one with more expertise when it comes to consumer technology. But that deal with Microsoft probably would have led to more changes in the underlying technology of ByteDance, whereas this deal with Oracle appears to leave that algorithm, artificial intelligence technology intact, in ByteDance's hands, and which experts say that could be more palatable to Beijing, which recently updated its export rules to ban the transfer of technology to a foreign source for certain types of technology that ByteDance uses.

VAUSE: Selina, it all sounds very complicated. We'll see what happens. Thank you. Selina Wang in Hong Kong. Appreciate it.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next. And then, after just 15 short minutes, more news from around the world with me. You're watching CNN.