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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Presidents Biden And Macron Pledge Continued Support For Ukraine; Andrew Young: Martin Luther King Jr. Never Gave Up On America; LeBron James Calls For More Attention On 1957 Photo Of Jerry Jones. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 01, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANN JOHNSON, CAMP LEJEUNE WATER CLAIMANT: My ex-husband went onto remarry and have a couple of more children, and there was nothing wrong with them. Jacquetta had to be me, because these other kids are fine, so it had to be me.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And Nick Watt joins us now.

Has the military commented on the situation?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the Navy unit that's handling the claims would not give us an interview, on camera, citing ongoing claims and litigation.

But they tell me that they are now in the first phase of handling some of these claims. They can see they have not actually adjudicated a single one. But they say that, quote, "They are committed to resolving claims in a fair, thorough and timely manner."

Now, the Marine Corps also would not speak to us, on camera. But they say that they quote, "Care deeply" about their veterans, the families, the civilian employees, who are suffering from health issues that they believe are related to their time in the service.

But here's the issue. The longer this takes, there are a lot of people who are sick, right now, and who could really do with the money to help them with their current health concerns. And the longer this takes, some of them could be dead, before they get this money, and before they really get confirmation, from the Marine Corps, that it was the water that did cause their health problems.


WATT: Anderson?

COOPER: Nick Watt, appreciate the report. Thank you.

Coming up, President Biden and the first lady hosting their French counterparts, at a White House state dinner, this evening. We'll look at where things stand between the two countries, as the West tries to maintain a united front, against Russia, in the war in Ukraine. That's next.



COOPER: President Biden is holding a state dinner, tonight, for French President Macron, at a joint press conference. Earlier, the two reaffirmed their joint commitment, along with NATO, and the G7, to Ukraine.

Earlier tonight, I spoke about the state of the war, and the support for it, here, and in Europe, with Olena Gnes, who we've been visiting with, throughout the war, from her home, in Kyiv.

Tonight, though, she spoke from this country, where she and her family have temporarily relocated.


OLENA GNES, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE NOW LIVING IN THE U.S.: I really hope that the war will be over soon, yes, because it's impossible that this genocide is still happening, while they're watching this, like online, you know?

90 years ago, Russia killed like millions of Ukrainians by starvation. That was a genocide. And it wasn't punished. The evil comes back. Now, evil is back. And we see the genocide. It's obvious. This is a genocide of Ukrainian people.

And Ukraine receives a lot of help, and I'm very grateful. But still, it is not enough of how, for Ukraine, to defeat Russia, the terrorist state of Russia. We need airplanes. We need tanks. We need real weapon just to stop the genocide.


GNES: This is what we need, you know? And all these, like engines, and "United for Ukraine, help the refugees," this is awesome. I am grateful.

But what we really need is to stop the war now, so people with children do not have to leave Ukraine. So people do not have to die to sacrifice, you know? Do not -- just the war has to be stopped by force, because otherwise, it will still go on and go on. And every day, more Ukrainian lives are taken away.


COOPER: That's Olena Gnes, just a few moments go, earlier tonight.

Joining us now, CNN's Phil Mattingly, at the White House.

So, there was a intentional message that President Biden, and the French President, Macron, were trying to send the world tonight. What was it?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, there's no question about it. It was clear, it was unequivocal, and it was unified, in terms of its support, and it's long-lasting, and the intent to continue that support, as long as the war takes and lasts.

And that's critical, because of just how important these two nations and this bilateral relationship is, to the entire response, from the West, that unified response, we've seen, throughout the course of the nine months, but one that, at this moment in time, faces very real, very acute challenges.

Obviously, the brutality, on the ground, in Ukraine, the targeting of civilians, in the lead-up to a very difficult winter, has created real problems on its own. But you extend those problems out into Europe, where European countries are struggling, economically, are struggling with energy prices, are struggling with a looming winter, themselves.

This show, between two critical countries in that Transatlantic Alliance, was very carefully calibrated, and very clearly intended, to send a message, at one of the hardest points, of this war, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you talked about them being united, in their public comments. What are officials saying about where things stand, behind-the-scenes, after that marathon three-hour meeting?

MATTINGLY: Anderson, it's interesting. In talking to both U.S. officials, and French officials, in the wake of that meeting, both feel like that where the two leaders landed actually exceeded their expectations.

They very clearly went into the meeting, looking to show unity, looking to find, as many places of agreement, and an area where they've always been aligned, in the broad sense of things. But there have been divergences in terms of whether or not to speak to President Putin, whether or not to seek negotiations, even if the Ukrainians weren't at that point yet.

When you listen to the two leaders speak, I'm told, it very much reflected what happened behind-the-scenes, in the meeting, one French official saying that President Biden and President Macron agreeing that more battlefield gains, by the Ukrainians, are critical to put them in the negotiating position, or a better negotiating position, in the future.

And President Macron making very clear, explicitly, not hedging at all that there should be no negotiations. There will be no negotiations without the Ukrainians saying it is time for that to move forward, no sustainable peace, otherwise. And also, President Biden, opening the door, to speak directly, to President Putin, making clear, not right now, it's not the right time. There are many caveats tied to that.

But that has been a difference between he, and President Macron. Macron has continued a line of communication, with President Putin, unsuccessful, up to this point. But to some degree, you saw the two leaders move closer to one another, all in as part of that intent, to try and show unity, at a very complex and very difficult time, in this war, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly, at the White House, thank you.

More now, on one aspect, of why brutality is so integral, to what Russia is doing, in Ukraine, specifically, the paramilitary force, known as the Wagner Group, and the criminals it's bringing into its ranks.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow, for us, with more.

Talk about what you've uncovered, about the Wagner Group, now.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things that we know about the Wagner Group, Anderson, is that they've been recruiting prisoners, from Russian jails.

And essentially, the deal is this. You sign up for about half a year. There's a huge chance, you're either going to get killed, or you're going to get maimed. But if you survive, then you actually get freedom.


Well, now, it seems as though Wagner is recruiting Africans, out of jail, in Russia. And one of those Africans has just died, on the front line. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Mercenaries for Russia's Wagner private military company are fighting on some of the toughest battlefields, in Ukraine.

A social media channel, affiliated with the Group, recently posted this video, allegedly showing a severely-wounded Wagner fighter, trying to shoot himself, rather than fall into Ukrainian hands.

Now, the group has acknowledged a man from the Southern African nation of Zambia has been killed, fighting on the front lines, in Ukraine.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): This is 23-year-old Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda.

Wagner's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as Putin's Chef, admits he recruited Nyirenda, from a Russian jail, and says he died a hero.

"I talked to him in the Tver region," Prigozhin wrote, in a statement, "'Why do you need this war? After all, the chance of dying is quite high.' And he answered what I expected. 'You Russians helped us, Africans, gain independence, for many years. The Wagner Group saves thousands of Africans. And if I go to war with you, this is probably a very small way, in which I can pay our debts.'"

Zambian authorities say Nyirenda was studying nuclear engineering, in Russia, but was thrown in jail, for more than nine years, for what his father told Reuters, was a drug offense.

Despite what Prigozhin said, about Nyirenda's alleged gratitude, the Zambian government is demanding answers.

JOSEPH KALIMBWE, INFORMATION AND PUBLICITY SECRETARY, UPND: How did he find himself fighting for Russia, when Zambia as a country, when Zambia as a state, does not have any interest whatsoever in what is happening in that war?


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Wagner admits it is recruiting fighters, from Russian jails, and even confirmed to CNN, they're sending inmates, with HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis, to the front line. As Russia struggles with manpower issues, videos and inmate testimony show Prigozhin visiting prisons, and offering freedom, in return for contracts, to the front line.

PRIGOZHIN (through translator): If you choose to go with us, there will be no way back. Nobody will be able to go back to prison.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But Africa has been the major theater for Wagner, for years. CNN has tracked the unit, across the continent.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Including in the Central African Republic, where Wagner mercenaries officially train the Central African army, but have also allegedly committed horrendous human rights abuses.

Wagner recently published a propaganda video, glorifying its military training, in the Central African Republic, where the Group's operatives, show recruits, how to kill effectively.

Yevgeny Prigozhin says Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda was so grateful to Wagner, he was willing to die. For the mercenary's claims, Zambia's government clearly isn't buying.


COOPER: What really can the Zambian government do? I mean, what are the next steps for them?

PLEITGEN: There's very little they can do. Right now, the first thing they're trying to do is actually get the body back.

But, I think, for them, it's also really important, to get answers, from the Russians, because one of the things that they fear, is that more people, from Zambia and, indeed, from other African countries, might be recruited, by the Russians, Anderson.

There's already some information coming out that apparently the Russians, and specifically, Wagner, are trying to recruit African exchange students, here, at some universities. And of course, then you have the whole prison population, where Wagner is also very active as well. And all of that goes down to the fact that Russia lacks a lot of

manpower, in Ukraine. And if you look at what's going on, right now, especially in areas, like Bakhmut, in Ukraine, where the Ukrainians are saying that the Russians are simply sending waves of people, at the trenches, to try and overwhelm the Ukrainians? It's essentially cannon fodder.

And of course, a lot of these African countries, and especially Zambia, in this case, after this happened, is extremely concerned that their citizens might be involved in this, and more could die, in the future, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it.

These kinds of so-called troops, and this kind of war, has turned occupied parts of Ukraine into killing fields, as Fred was just talking about, and liberated areas into crime scenes.

Photographer Finbarr O'Reilly is traveling with war crimes investigators, documenting their work, in the pages of "The New York Times." Take a look at one of his images, of a site with evidence, of an apparent atrocity against some civilians.

Finbarr, thanks so much for joining us.

The photographs, you have been taking, have just been extraordinary, from Kherson. You've been out with war crimes investigators. Can you just talk a little bit about what you've seen, particularly in this town, where there was a 15-year-old girl, who was killed along with a group of men?

FINBARR O'REILLY, PHOTOGRAPHER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUTHOR, "SHOOTING GHOSTS": Yes. "New York Times" journalists, our teams have been, in Kherson, since the city was liberated, about three weeks ago.


And so this week, we have been documenting, what it was like, over the last eight months, during the Occupation. And as part of that reporting, my Ukrainian colleague, Evelina Riabenko, and myself this week, followed the war crimes investigators, to this town of Pravdyne, which is just outside Kherson.

Evelina ended up talking with a woman, who told us this story, of this 15-year-old girl, who had become friendly with these seven security guards, from out of town, who were guarding this lot, where farming equipment and vehicles were held. And told us that these security guards had been executed, along with the girl, early in the war, in about March, and they'd been buried in a communal grave, somewhere.

So, we told this to the war crimes prosecutors, and went with them, to the site, where a neighbor told us what had happened. One day, in March, he heard a big explosion, at a house, nearby, where these security guards had been living. And he went over and he found these bodies, six bodies, in the rubble, five men, and this young girl. And he was a hunter. He said he knew a little bit about what death

looked like, and it wasn't the explosion that had killed them, he said. The men's hands had been bound. They were blindfolded, and had bullet holes, to the back of their skulls. And he said, the girl looked like she'd been strangled.

And the villagers told us what they thought the story was that this young girl had been abused by her stepfather. The stepfather was afraid that he would get in trouble, and he decided to collaborate with the Russians, and made up a story that these security guards, had been passing information, as part of a partisan network, and handing on information, of Russian movements, and troops, to Ukrainian forces. And so, it appears, from this that, they were then killed for having done this.

COOPER: You've gone out with war crimes investigators, and they exhumed the bodies of this 15-year-old girl, and some of the men, who were at the site. Are they able to figure out a cause of death on the scene?

O'REILLY: Right. So, yes, the next day we went with the forensics teams, who exhumed the site, with the six bodies. There were seven security guards, all of them believed to have killed.

The neighbor had asked the Russians, if he could bury these bodies. They refused initially. But after a month, they allowed him to bury them. And he buried them in this communal grave where that was exhumed.

And the forensic experts, who was part of this exhumation, did hold up for us. As they piled the bodies, beside this grave site, he showed us the twine that was holding, the wrists-bound, and he held up the skulls, and he could very clearly see the entry point of a bullet wound to the -- bullet hole, to the back of at least three of the skulls.

The girl herself was buried at a separate location, was exhumed the following day. So, we also attended that. But that was a more difficult one to be able to identify or need to go to a morgue for a proper evaluation.

COOPER: You've been covering this war now, for so long. How has it -- how is what you're seeing now different from what you've seen in the past? Or is it?

O'REILLY: I think just the fact, you know, today, for example, I was out all day with an artillery unit. This is a modern war. But it's been fought -- it has been fought, in a kind of previous-century warfare, with these long-range artillery battles.

Kherson has been liberated, but it is still under artillery fire. While, I've been, there for the last couple of weeks, daily incoming and outgoing artillery. People who've survived eight months of occupation, some of them are now being killed, by artillery, being fired from just across the river. So, it's free of the Russian presence, but not the Russian threat. COOPER: Some of the images we've seen?


COOPER: I mean it looks like Trench warfare of World War I in the mud, in the snow, or World War II.

O'REILLY: It's striking how, what our visions of what a 21st Century war might look like, with all the technology. But certainly, the scenes, on those trench lines? All the trench lines are the Russian positions that have not been abandoned, in Kherson. Along the Eastern Front, it really just looks like something from yes, from another century.

It does look like these blasted waistlines of splintered trees, and muddy trenches, and soldiers suffering from Trench foot, from spending so long in these soaked muddy trenches. It really does sort of reflect something from more than a 100 years ago.

COOPER: Yes. Finbarr O'Reilly, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. And I appreciate what you do. Thank you.

O'REILLY: Yes. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot more ahead tonight, including former President Obama's potential impact, on the Georgia Senate runoff. He spoke in Atlanta, tonight. And we'll talk with legendary Georgia national political figure, Andrew Young.

Later, with miles of lava slowly burning its way across the Big Island of Hawaii, we're going to give you an up-close look at it, and be joined by volcanologist, Jess Phoenix.



COOPER: With just five days to go, until the Georgia Senate runoff, incumbent Democrat, Raphael Warnock, and challenger, Herschel Walker, held dueling events, tonight.

Speaking for Senator Warnock, former President Obama, we played some of that in the last hour. Here's more.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since the last time I was here, Mr. Walker has been talking about issues that are of great importance to the people of Georgia. Like whether it's better to be a vampire or a werewolf!


OBAMA: This is a debate that I must confess I once had myself.



OBAMA: Then I grew up!


COOPER: Perspective -- I mean that's funny!

Perspective now, from a veteran, of Georgia Democratic politics, and what it takes to mobilize young and Black voters, Warnock supporter, civil rights legend, former U.N. Ambassador, former U.S. congressman, and former Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young.

Ambassador Young, thank you so much for joining us.


We see President Obama, out on the campaign trail, for Senator Warnock, tonight. The consensus seems to be, even among Republicans, the momentum in this race has been trending in the Senator's favor. Do you think that's true?

ANDREW YOUNG, WARNOCK SUPPORTER, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN - GEORGIA, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N., FORMER ATLANTA MAYOR, FORMER CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I think it's true. But people vote, in strange patterns, here in Georgia. And traditionally, we might get more Republicans on Election Day.

But the lines have been long, but they're moving fast. And everywhere I hear, throughout the state, there's been a good turnout. It's surprising to me because they shouldn't be in a competition.

COOPER: How much is this election, in your opinion, about affirming support for Senator Warnock, and how much is it about rejecting Walker and the former President?

YOUNG: Well, the election really is about the future of the United States of America. And it's the voice of reason, versus the voices of emotion. And there's so many issues that have been popping up that, frankly, have very little to do with the Senate.

COOPER: What do you think it says that the former President has no plans -- that former President Trump has no plans, to come to Georgia, to campaign, on behalf of Walker?

YOUNG: Well, I don't know. And I think that that's their problem.

Our problem is seeing to it, that we have people going to the polls, and realizing that the vote is what creates the lifestyle we live. I go back to the days, when we were trying to put a mass transit system in. It was won by only 400 votes in two counties.

So, elections are close. And people have differing opinions, and no opinion. And they vote their emotions, rather than what's good for the country, quite often, or what's good for the future of the world.

And Georgia has been a leader in that. I mean, we've been a leader, in trying to set the future. Atlanta growing from 1 million to 7 million, and our problem is managing that growth.


YOUNG: That means everything's going to get more difficult. But it means you've got to think harder. You've got to work harder. You've got to come together.

We've had a tradition of the business community, and the minority community, working in partnership, all the way back to the days of Martin Luther King. And that's the success that's made Atlanta what it is.

COOPER: You mentioned, Dr. King. Obviously, you were very close. You worked alongside him, in the Civil Rights movement. He famously said, in 1968, that the "Arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Do you think he would still feel that way today?

YOUNG: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Not just about Georgia, but about America as a whole?

YOUNG: He would definitely feel that way today. He never gave up on America. He never doubted America. He said things like "Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again." Well, that's a tradition that Warnock is in.

And we're a state of amazing grace. Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come. And we've made it. And we'll continue to make it. But we'll make it with our brains. And we'll make it with our partnerships.

And we might disagree, but we can learn to disagree without being disagreeable. And that's been what we've stood for, as a City, and as a State. And the City and the State have worked very well together through the years.

COOPER: Yes. Ambassador Young, I so appreciate your time. Thank you.

YOUNG: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Up next, tonight, tough questions, from NBA legend, LeBron James.

Did the press ignore a controversy, involving the White owner, of the Dallas Cowboys, while dwelling, on a different scandal, involving a Black basketball star? Randi Kaye, tonight, looks at that.



COOPER: Two of the most powerful names, in pro sports, are sparking new conversation, in America, about historical and systemic racism.

One of them, Jerry Jones, appears in a decades-old photo that recently captured new attention. The other, LeBron James, wants to know, why that image isn't getting more attention. The picture itself may seem clear. But the takeaway is a source of debate.

Randi Kaye, tonight, has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a good look at this photo, taken September 9, 1957.


KAYE (voice-over): Those White students are blocking six African American students, from entering a Little Rock Arkansas High School. The Black students were trying to desegregate the school. Among the White teens, a young Jerry Jones, as in, the future owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

The photo surfaced, last week. And Los Angeles Lakers star, LeBron James, wants to know why it isn't getting more attention.

This was him, last night, after the Lakers' win.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I was wondering why I haven't gotten a question from you guys about the Jerry Jones' photo. But when the Kyrie thing was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about that.

KAYE (voice-over): LeBron was disappointed. But it runs deeper than that.

JAMES: But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, photo -- and I know it was years and years ago and we all make mistakes. I get it. But it seems like it's just been buried under, like, "Oh, it happened. OK."

KAYE (voice-over): LeBron is calling attention, to what he sees as a disconnect, between the media's lack of interest, in an old photo of Jerry Jones, among a crowd of boys, blocking students, from entering a school, because of the color of their skin, and the overwhelming coverage of Brooklyn Nets guard, Kyrie Irving.

Last month, Irving was suspended, for eight games, after tweeting, a link, to a documentary, containing anti-Semitic messages. The story was all over the headlines. Irving initially refused to apologize. Later, he did so, in a lengthy Instagram post, but only after the media storm.

JAMES: When I watch Kyrie talk, and he says, "I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we're talking about my people and the things that we've been through," and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through, in America.

And I feel like, as a Black man, as a Black athlete, as someone with power, and a platform, when we do something wrong, or something that people don't agree with, it's on every single tabloid, every single news coverage, it's on the bottom ticker. It's asked about every single day.

KAYE (voice-over): For his part, Jerry Jones was 14, at the time of the photo, and told "The Washington Post," he was only there to watch, not participate.

One reporter recently asked Jones about it, inside the Dallas Cowboys locker room.

JERRY JONES, DALLAS COWBOYS OWNER: That was, gosh, 60 -- 65 years ago. And a curious kid, I didn't know, at the time, the monumental event, really, that was -- that was going on. And I'm sure glad that we're a long way from that.

Nobody there had any idea, frankly, what was going to take place. You didn't -- we didn't have all the last 70 years of reference.

KAYE (voice-over): Jerry Jones is now 80. And in 33 years, of owning the Dallas Cowboys, Jones has never hired a Black head coach.

"The Washington Post" reports, the Cowboys do have an all-Black Strength and Conditioning Unit, which apparently makes the coaching staff, more than 50 percent Black. Also, the paper reports the team has a Black Vice President of Player Personnel.


COOPER: And Randi Kaye joins us now. Has Jerry Jones said anything more about that photo, and being on the steps that day?

KAYE: Anderson, he was asked about it in the -- in that locker room interview. He was asked, if he has any regrets from that day. He didn't really answer the question. He says that he wouldn't have dug up that photo.

He also said that he was criticized, actually, for being more concerned about what his coaches, at the time, thought of him, being on those steps, because they had warned him that there was going to be trouble, on those steps, at the school, that day, and to stay away from that. So, he was more concerned about that.

But Anderson, as you know, Jerry Jones is a force in the NFL. And "The Washington Post" actually also asked him about whether or not he thought that he had the ability, alone, to change things, in the League, such as getting training for minority coaches, earlier on, putting them in higher positions. And he told "The Washington Post" that he does think that he and the NFL League could have done more.


COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye, thanks. Coming up, Chinese officials worried that a wave of nostalgia, after the death of a former leader, could fuel more protests. We have a live report, from Hong Kong, next.



COOPER: Chinese officials, now signaling a possible ease, in the country's strict COVID policy that fueled protests, across the country, and even calls for the ouster of leader, Xi Jinping.

Now, Chinese officials are worried that nostalgia, fueled by the death of one of Mr. Xi's predecessors, could become a new flashpoint, for protests.

Ivan Watson, tonight, has more.



IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the week, people across China said they're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.

The most widespread display of dissent the country has seen in a generation. Protesters are pushing back against the crushing lockdowns and restrictions of the government's zero-COVID policy.

But Chinese state media never showed any of these images. Instead, on Thursday, offering scenes, of very different crowds, somber people, lining the streets of Shanghai, honoring former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin. He died, Wednesday, at the age of 96. Jiang is being given the country's highest honors. His open casket met at the airport, in Beijing, by current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.

Jiang was President of China, from 1993 to 2003, famous for his trademark spectacles, and for periodically bursting into song.


WATSON (voice-over): His death has triggered a wave of nostalgia, on the heavily-censored Chinese internet.

"Who would have thought that movies, books and even World Cup live streams... have all been censored," one person wrote in a post that appears to have since been deleted by censors.

"I miss the old man that just passed away; I miss the old times that were open, lively, embracing and renaissance-like."

MATTIE BEKINK, CHINA DIRECTOR, ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE CORPORATE NETWORK OF SHANGHAI: And maybe this is a challenge for the leadership in Beijing, is allowing that outpouring of grief, that kind of nostalgia, that memory, without having it turned into or feed criticism, of the current leader, and the current administration.

WATSON (voice-over): In 1989, the death of another senior Communist Party official was the catalyst for the Tiananmen Square protests. They were ultimately crushed, in a deadly military crackdown.


Analysts say Chinese officials will be careful, not to let Jiang's death become a flashpoint, at another time of national tension.

DALI YANG, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: This is exactly why the authorities also timed the -- actually, it's sort of the easing of the zero-COVID measures, yesterday, partly in response to some of the protests, and partly probably the news, also actually the occasion of Mr. Jiang's death.


WATSON (voice-over): Authorities lifted some lockdowns, in some cities, on Wednesday, while also cracking down, in other areas, with police arresting and intimidating protesters.

Jiang's upcoming state funeral may present an additional challenge, for authorities. Will Xi Jinping's predecessor, Hu Jintao, attend?

Hu Jintao last shared a stage, with Xi, at October's tightly-scripted Communist Party Congress. He was ushered out of the hall, seemingly against his will. A strange, apparently, unscripted moment, for a government, that prioritizes control, above all else.


COOPER: And CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now, from Hong Kong. I mean, there's obviously still a lot of unrest across China. Are there any signs the government will backtrack from the zero-COVID policy?

WATSON: There are some signs. I mean, this is a government that talked about a people's war against COVID. And just in the past couple of days, you have senior officials, who are suddenly spinning a new narrative, saying, "Hey, the Omicron variant isn't as deadly as previous variants."

And you've got health officials calling for shorter lockdowns, for less of a burden on the population. But the changes now are really piecemeal. You've got some cities that are loosening some of their lockdowns. Meanwhile, we're counting, as of Thursday, lockdowns in at least 30 different cities, across the country.

Winter is coming. Even if it loosens up, in China, more, you've still got tens of millions of Chinese senior citizens that haven't had a third vaccine jab that are vulnerable. If they start getting very sick, in large numbers, the question is going to be, will the Chinese government risk the wrath of its own population, to go back to these lockdowns, again? And we're just going to have to watch this space.

COOPER: Yes. WATSON: Anderson?

COOPER: Ivan Watson, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, the amazing images, from Hawaii, as the, Mauna Loa volcano, erupts, for the first time, in nearly 40 years. Look at the science, behind the slow-moving lava, as it spreads, next.



COOPER: Well tonight, the fury, of the Mauna Loa volcano, shows no signs of stopping, on Hawaii's Big Island. The lava flow, however, is slowing down. Mauna Loa is erupting the same time as the Kilauea volcano, which is just over 20 miles away. And that's something that hasn't happened in decades.

And while there are some concerns about air quality, and a major road that could be impacted, in the days ahead, authorities say there's no threat to the people, and the community, which means we can all use a moment, like this, to just stop and take in the Wonder, to forget however briefly about the man-made eruptions that fill the headlines, and simply marvel, at nature.

Here's some of the most powerful sights, and sounds, so far, we've seen.




COOPER: We hear the crust of the lava, sounding like bricks, scraping against each other.

With us now is Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist, the Author of "Ms. Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life."

Jess, thanks for being with us.

So, I know you've been to Mauna Loa. Just what is it like? And what are we seeing and hearing in these pictures?

JESS PHOENIX, VOLCANOLOGIST, AUTHOR, "MS. ADVENTURE: MY WILD EXPLORATIONS IN SCIENCE, LAVA, AND LIFE": Well, Mauna Loa actually was the first volcano I ever worked on, back in 2008. And what we're seeing is the volcano going about its business.

These forces of nature operate on geologic time. So, we're talking millions of years, whereas our lifetimes are 100, if we're lucky. So, we're just seeing a normal process that the volcano goes through, as part of its lifecycle. And we all get to benefit because of how stunning these images are.

COOPER: And how many openings are there on around -- I mean, it looks like there's multiple ones, and then streams kind of between them.

PHOENIX: Right. So, there's numerous fissures that have opened up. Currently, the most active, there's fissure three and fissure four. They're trying to keep the names pretty straightforward, at this point. And what will happen is the magma supply will move.

So, this eruption originally started at the summit. It moved to the Southeast Rift Zone, which is an area, where lava has been known to be extruded, in the past. And then now, it's moved to the Northeast Rift Zone.

The Southwest Rift Zone has had major eruptions before. But, right now, Northeast is where all the activity is. And you will see, essentially, rivers of lava, as long as there's magma supply, going out, up through to the surface.

COOPER: And why is -- this is dumb. But why is it shifting?

PHOENIX: Well, it's really not something that we can explain perfectly. I wish I had an easy answer for you.

But volcanology is a fairly young science. We've been making observations, for millennia. But really using all the new technology and instrumentation? That's only been going on for about the last 40 years.

So, right now, we can tell where the magma is moving to. But we don't necessarily know why it's moving.


COOPER: And is the volcano posing a threat? I mean, we were told it's not really posing a threat to people, right now.

PHOENIX: Yes. And that's actually what makes this such a fun eruption, to talk about, for geoscientists. We love, when we can sit here, and marvel, at Earth's ability, to create, and destroy, at the same time, and not stress about "Oh my Gosh! Someone's life is in danger."


PHOENIX: So, this is kind of an ideal for us.

COOPER: There are two volcanoes, erupting, in Alaska, right now, as well. Are they related eruptions, what's happening in Hawaii?

PHOENIX: Fortunately, no. Volcanoes each have their own distinct magma chamber, and so like separate plumbing. So, what's going on in Alaska is totally normal.

And one of my favorite facts is that actually, over the last 12,000 years, of volcanic history, worldwide, the United States is home to the most number of active volcanoes that have erupted.

COOPER: Wow! PHOENIX: So, we're actually the world's leader in volcanoes, at least historically. And we're still number three, since 1950. So, we have a lot of volcanic activity. What's going on, at these volcanoes, is, like I said, they're just going about their business.

COOPER: Yes. It's just extraordinary!

Jess Phoenix, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

PHOENIX: Thanks for having me. And this is great to watch.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, incredible!

The news continues. "CNN TONIGHT" with Laura Coates is next, right after a short break.