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U.S. Scientists Reach Long-Awaited Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough; Iran Carries Out Second Execution Amid Anti-Government Protests; Video Captures Embattled L.A. Councilman in Fight with Protesters. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 12, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, what is being described as a major breakthrough in the quest for clean energy, U.S. government scientists reached a milestone in the research nuclear fusion, achieving a net energy game from an experimental fusion reaction. The Financial Times was first to report this story.

Our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir, though, is here to explain it all. So, the quest for unlimited cheap, clean power.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like the stuff of snake oil, right?

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

WEIR: It sounds too good to be true, this idea that it would be incredibly cheap and safe, you could blow it out like a match and the hydrogen atoms that's in a glass of water would power your house for hundreds of years. This is this alluring, enticing idea that they've been chasing for so long and it sounds like they've made the first breakthrough, which is getting more energy out of an experiment that they're putting. That's what they've chasing now.

And just the basics are the nuclear power we think about now is fission, which is splitting atoms apart, usually uranium or plutonium. Fusion is mashing hydrogen atoms together with the heat of the sun.


And in order to create this, there are machines that look like giant donuts that have magnets that can lift up aircraft carriers, holding this plasma and trying get it super hot.

This experiment at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in California use lasers, the biggest laser in the country, aimed at this hydrogen plasma and it created more energy but just for a few seconds. Europe set a record in February, they doubled the amount of fusion and it was for five seconds.

BOLDUAN: I'll take it.

WEIR: We're a long way from your city grid.

BOLDUAN: I'm here for hope. I'm here for optimism on this. This is a great big step. They call it the Holy Grail for all of the reasons that you described. What are the obvious challenges ahead?

WEIR: Well, there are so many things. Every time you solve a problem in this space, new ones open up. So, again, practical application is probably for our grandkids. But there are so much other breakthroughs going on in clean energy right now that is going to launch us into a renewable age that is just beginning.

BOLDUAN: I'll take it. I'm here for it. They've been working on if since the '50s. We've got more time to even figure out even further.

WEIR: We'll take nerdy wins.

BOLDUAN: We'll take nerdy wins any day of the week. It's good to see you, Bill. Thank you.

All right, so public health officials in New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle, they're urging people to start wearing masks once again indoors amid the surge of COVID, flu and RSV cases that we're seeing all over the country. And, of course, this is happening just as everyone is preparing to gather with family and friends for the holidays.

Elizabeth Cohen joining me now with more on this. Elizabeth, so, what is the new guidance now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The new guidance for those locations, as well as Oregon, as well as the Seattle area, is, hey, when you're inside, at a public place, wear a mask. This is guidance, as you said, Kate. This is not a mandate. This is guidance.

And let's take a look at one graph that kind of explains why they're doing this. It is about hospital capacity. Hospitals are overrun with this tripledemic of flu and COVID and RSV. All the way to the right is the capacity currently. And so for 80 percent of beds in use, that is actually higher than at other points during the pandemic. I was sort of surprised by that and things were so horrible during the pandemic. Well, now, it is actually even worse.

Let's take a look at some other graphs that really -- sort of maps, rather, that explain why they're making these suggestions. When you look at this map of the U.S., you see it is almost all red and purple. That means almost the entire country has a high or very high level of flu activity. There is a lot of flu or flu-like illness around and that is putting people in the hospital.

As a matter of fact, when you take a look at community transmission, you can see COVID, also there is some pockets, not entirely, but there are some pockets of high level of COVID community transmission. So, for all of these reasons, those locations are saying we suggest you wear a mask. I think they're probably aware that many people will not listen. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It is good to see you, Elizabeth. Thank you so much.

So, Iran carrying out a second execution of an anti-government protester and it is signaling more is to come. Details in a live report, next.



BOLDUAN: Iran says it executed a prisoner detained in a massive anti- government protest that we've seen across the country. This is a second person reported to be put to death by the regime. These executions show the speed at which Iran is carrying out death sentences for those challenging its leaders.

Salma Abdelaziz is live in London for us on this. Salma, what did the authorities say that this man did who was executed?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today, Kate, demonstrators are repeating this name, the name of Majidreza Rahnavard, a man who was hanged in the early hours of this morning in the city of Mashhad. I emphasize that this was a public execution, meaning residents could have potentially walked past his body on the streets this morning. Absolutely terrifying and gruesome.

Iran's authorities say he was convicted of waging war against god. The allegation is that he stabbed and killed two members of the security forces and wounded several others.

But there is a crucial detail here, Kate, that will explain why he's already become a rallying cry. Authorities say this killing of these two security force members, that it took place on November 17th. That means in less than a month, this man went from accused to facing the death penalty.

And that is why Amnesty International, in particular, which has been tracking these executions, say they're carried out by sham trials, that these are kangaroo courts, that there is very little in the way of due process. And that the actual intention behind them, Kate, is to intimidate protesters, to keep them from coming out to the streets and that simply these executions just another tool of repression.

BOLDUAN: Salma, thank you for covering that. We'll stay on top of it. I really appreciate it.

So, Ukraine's President is addressing G7 leaders in a virtual meeting today about what he says he needs now in the nearly ten-month long war with Russia. Zelenskyy also called several allies ahead of today's address.

Will Ripley is live in Kyiv at this hour for us. Will, you just spoke with Ukraine's defense minister, a key, key person in all of this.


What does he say his top priority is now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oleskiy Reznikov obviously has a very long wish list when it comes to his war against the Russians, a war that Russia started but Ukraine is ready to finish. They are planning counteroffensives in the coming weeks despite the plunging temperatures. They actually say that the ground freezing will be to their advantage because they will be able to move heavy equipment and weaponry much more easily on the hard ground and so we could see an escalation and the fighting in the coming months and not the slowdown that the United States have been hoping for as they try to contain this.

But they are providing Ukraine with tens of billions dollars in defensive weapons. The last aid package, the latest one just announced on Friday, Kate, and President Zelenskyy had a phone call with President Biden thanking him for the $275 million in artillery rounds and counter air defense capabilities, ambulances, medical equipment, generators, but they say they need more. And the biggest thing they need are patriot defense missiles to fight against this onslaught of Russian missiles, as well as other air defense systems to fight against the kamikaze drones that are just devastating the power grid here in Ukraine, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Will, thank you so much.

An L.A. city councilman gets into a fight with a protester. The shoving match on video and what is behind this hostile confrontation, details on that next.



BOLDUAN: There are new calls today for a Los Angeles city councilman to resign. Kevin de Leon is seen on video being confronted by a protester who charges the embattled councilman with his body and then a fight ensues.

That's the city councilman there who had the Santa hat on and then, yes, there he is right there. This all happened at a holiday event. The activists and others are demanding de Leon's resignation, and you'll remember likely why. This is for the racist comments that he and other council members made were caught on tape, hearing made earlier this year about a fellow councilmember's black child.

Joining me now, L.Z. Granderson, he's an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times. L.Z., I mean, this is one of those things that -- I mean, we've talked about this in the past and then you've got -- this is another turn in all of this. In an interview on Saturday, de Leon says that he has absolutely no plans to resign, and here's how he put it. My commitment is solid to my community and to my constituents. I'm not going to let a group of extremely hostile individuals from outside the district bully me or my staff or my constituents.

What do you make of this latest episode and what you have said before and called a really heartbreaking turn of events?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: It is. And I think each day that Kevin decides not to resign from city council is a day in which he shows who he really is, which is really unfortunate because he built his entire political career really showing his heart and soul to the people of Los Angeles and the state of California. But now, it's getting boiled down to him holding the city hostage. And, really, there's nothing that the residents can do other than organize and spend millions of dollars on a recall. So, it's either force him to spend money on a recall or he has several years left in his term. There's nothing in place to force him out. He has them hostage right now.

BOLDUAN: Because I do wonder and I do not think it is unreasonable for people in L.A. to be asking how well is the city council functioning with this kind of ugliness and hostility and tension with the community hanging over it?

GRANDERSON: Well, look, girl, I've got to be honest with you. The city council is in trouble before the tape, okay? It was already riddled with a lot of scandal. And so this just exasperates the situation, especially on the cusp of having new city council members joining on board. It's not going to function. And this is going to be really harmful in terms of the new mayor, Karen Bass, and her plans for homelessness in the city.

BOLDUAN: And I wanted to ask about that, because talk about like a juxtaposition or whatever you want to call, because also happening today is you got the first real full day of the new mayor of L.A., Karen Bass sworn in yesterday. And she said that her first movement is declaring a state of emergency on the homeless issue plaguing the city. Part of her plan is trying to move -- she wants to move people off the streets, indoors with the goal of finding housing for 17,000 people in her first year term of office. How big is that challenge before her?

GRANDERSON: It's a huge challenge. And what is going on with the city council isn't helping at all. You can't have bad Santa interrupting these city council procedures, which is what he's been doing. Listen, she's called for a state of emergency, which is going to help her jump over a lot of red tape to get housing built. That's fantastic. But she still needs a functional government to help her with her plan. And it's not going to be able function and unless Kevin de Leon has the city under hostage.

BOLDUAN: And, L.Z., L.A. has got a lot coming up for them in the coming years. I mean, L.A. is going to be on display?

GRANDERSON: Yes, that makes the situation even more pertinent. I would not be surprised if she sort of did what Mitt Romney did when Salt Lake City played host to the Winter Olympics and reached out to the federal government for assistance, because you do not want Los Angeles to be a showcase of homelessness when you have both the World Cup as well as the Olympics being in the city within six years.

[11:55:00] BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, one thing we know is that Karen Bass is a seasoned politician, she's well-respected, she's making history now as the first female mayor of city of Los Angeles. But in a city of 4 million people, the nation's second largest city, with the challenges facing the city, she's got a huge, huge, huge job ahead of her.

It's good to have you here, L.Z. As always, I really appreciate it, man.

GRANDERSON: Hey, thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Talk to you soon.

Thank you all so much for joining us At This Hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. Happy Monday, folks.

Inside Politics with John King starts after this break.