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Authorities Try To Confirm 4 Children Survived Crash, Weeks In Jungle; Family, Supporters Of Ridge Alkonis Press Biden For His Release; Inflation-Weary Shoppers Flock To Walmart For Groceries. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 15:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Colombian rescuers are racing to find four children who appeared to have survived 17 days in what you see here, some of the most dense forest and wettest terrain in the world, the Amazon jungle in Columbia's Caqueta region. And the kids are alive, officials believe, after surviving a plane crash that killed three adults.

Reportedly also including the kids' mother. So far though, there's been no direct contact with the young survivors that we know of. They are just 13, 9, 4 and 11 months -- 11 months old.

The president of Colombia fueled some confusion when he first hailed their rescue in a tweet and then later deleted it. A government official says she is confident that the children will be found. They were first spotted after Colombian forces followed a trail of items, including baby bottles. Listen to what a survival expert told CNN earlier this afternoon.


DAVE CANTERBURY, SURVIVAL EXPERT AND AUTHOR: The one thing I think you have to put it into context is that these are Indigenous people. They are tribal people, children of tribal people. So, they probably have some knowledge of the local flora, fauna, things like that, and what they can use off the landscape. However, surviving the plane crash alone, that's phenomenal in itself.


SANCHEZ: Let's take you now to Colombia, with CNN's Stefano Pozzebon, who is live for us in Bogota. Stephano, where do authorities think these kids are now?

STEPHANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: Yes, Boris, well where the kids are -- it's easy to point on a map, because it's in the valley of a river that is called Rio ???, which is a tributary of the Amazon River.


However, that is one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions in South America, let alone Columbia itself. It's a region where people move around either with canoes and boats on the river or with small single-engine flights, like the one these kids were on in their flight that crashed down on May 1st.

Then due to the bad weather, the authorities are saying and telling us that they haven't been able to employ as much to find them and rescue them. They say that they know where they are, but that doesn't mean that the kids are safe and back with the authorities.

Just to give you an idea of how this search and rescue operation that is employing hundreds of people, and really is taking the breath of this nation -- this entire nation is how these search-and-rescue operations is moving on. They are blasting from airplanes an audio message from the grandmother.

Some of these children in the local Indigenous language, to try to calm them down, and to try to communicate with them. We can only imagine, Boris, how these kids are feeling if they really have survived such an ordeal. And just as the experts said, it's a phenomenal, phenomenal story -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, two weeks in the Amazon Rain Forest is no joke even for survivalists let alone young children. Stephano, bring us up to speed with what's happen with president Petro. Because he tweeted out that the kids were rescued, and then he deleted that tweet.

POZZEBON: Yes, he deleted the tweet. He retracted his information and even apologized for what confusion might have aroused from his tweet from yesterday. Petro now is saying -- the Colombian authorities are saying that when they will be able to make contact with the children, they will release a statement. We all hope that it's going to be a very positive statement.

Right now, what we understand is that maybe there was some breakdown in the communication chain or the president anticipated some of the information he received. It's just that they haven't been able to make contact and be in close contact with them, help those children and hopefully finally bring them back to their relative ones.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it speaks to the difficulty of the situation that they're having to communicate through radio and heavy rain, in the middle of a rain forest. So, hopefully we get positive news soon there. Stephano Pozzebon from Bogota, thank you so much. Brianna over to you.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: With President Biden in Japan for the G7 summit, the family of a U.S. Navy officer in prison in that country is pushing for his release. We have CNN's Jake Tapper joining us with their story.

Also, Andy Warhol, Prince and the Supreme Court, how all three are linked? We have that ahead.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: President Biden in Hiroshima, Japan, for the G7 Summit. It begins tomorrow. And you see him is there meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Supporters of detained U.S. Navy Lieut. Ridge Alkonis are using this meeting to call for his release and return to the United States. Alkonis serving a three-year prison sentence in Japan for driving into and killing two people there. He has maintained the crash was not his fault, because he lost consciousness due to altitude sickness. One of the most vocal proponents of his release is the former Trump national security advisor Robert O'Brien.

Just yesterday he said, quote: I'm calling on my many friends in the government of Japan to release Ridge Alkonis is a humanitarian gesture.

CNN's Jake Tapper joins me now. And Jake, I know you're going to be speaking with his wife Britney in the next hour. What are you hearing from the family here? What case are they making here?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Their basic argument is that their husband and father, Ridge Alkonis, would not be in prison if he had been Japanese. That this was a horrible the accident. He was treated differently by the Japanese justice system because he was an American. Because he was an American. He's got ten months into a three-year term.

And their justice system over there is different. And there was, according to Britney and the family, kind of some coercion. Trying to get him to confess. And he maintains that this was not him falling asleep. This was not negligent driving, he had mountain sickness, and acute mountain sickness. And that's what caused this horrible accident.

SCIUTTO: Obviously, some sensitive history there. Because there's been other cases of military service members interacting with the Japanese community there trials resulting --

TAPPER: There is a lot of history.

SCIUTTO: So, tell me what the family is saying here about the possibility that some of the U.S. government are undermining --

TAPPER: Well, Britney says -- and we'll talk about this, in a little bit. That there are people in the Pentagon who are actually trying to undermine her efforts to get her husband, a service member, out of this Japanese prison. They're obviously bringing attention to this today because President Biden is in Japan.

And they want him to talk to the Japanese Prime Minister about that. And Britney Alkonis is saying, people at the Pentagon who are doing this whisper campaign, if you keep it up, I am going to release these e-mails and embarrass you undermining my husband's case. So, she's not doing it now, but it's a very direct warning to the Pentagon.

They said she's got the receipts in effect. Jake Tapper a fascinating story. Interview of course coming up on "THE LEAD" and we're going to you there right after our show.


TAPPER: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

KEILAR: Now to some of the headlines that we are following at this hour. The Supreme Court has ruled against the late artist Andy Warhol. The justices ruled against -- pardon me -- the justice ruled that Warhol infringed on a photographer's copyright when he created a series of print silkscreens. A lawyer for the Andy Warhol Foundation argued that the work was, quote, sufficiently transformative. But the justices disagreed.

Also, this is not a scene from an action movie. If you can believe this -- newly released dash cam video, unbelieve, it capturing an Iowa police officer hanging on to the hood of a suspect's car. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put on the brakes! Stop the (BLEEP) car! Stop the (BLEEP) car, man!


KEILAR: So, this is from a traffic stop two years ago and police say the driver took off, hit speeds of up to 50 miles per hour before the officer fell off. He has since recovered from a spine fracture. The suspect pleaded guilty and received five years in prison.

Andy bizarre seeing Turkey Furniture seen flying from a high-rise building during a storm in Ankara. According to Reuters, the sofa fell from a 35-story apartment building. It landed in a nearby garden. Thank goodness no one was hurt -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: During times of economic strain, Walmart tends to perform best. So, what does it signal that the company just posted a strong sales report? We'll take a closer look in just minutes.



SCIUTTO: The price of a home in the U.S. is falling and so are sales. A new report shows that after a brief rise in February, sales of existing homes last month dropped 3.4 percent. Overall sales were down 23 percent from a year ago. The good news for potential buyers is that existing homes saw their biggest drop in price since 2011. The average listing last month was some $380,800, that's down nearly 2 percent from 2022 prices.

The report states as well that prices eased in the West and the South but rose in the Northeast and the Midwest. Lots to follow there.

SANCHEZ: So, do you need more evidence that Americans are worried about inflation? Walmart says to check out their grocery division. The company says grocery sales increased by double digits last quarter even as sales of discretionary product like home goods, electronics and clothing were sluggish.

CNN's Matt Egan joins us now. Matt, Walmart says that even wealthier households have been buying up a lot of groceries at Walmart. What does that tell you about the overall picture of the economy?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Boris, Americans are bargain shopping. Right? I mean, after two years of high inflation people are looking for deals, and no surprise they're looking for deals at Walmart. This brand is all about every day low prices. So, this is all just fine for Walmart. They just reported pretty strong sales growth. Sales in the first quarter, up by 7.4 percent. That's pretty solid for a company the size of Walmart. It's actually twice the pace of sales growth a year ago.

And what's interesting here is where people are spending their money. Walmart reported strong growth for groceries, pets, wellness, pharmacy. And what do those things have in common? Those are all things people need to spend money on. Maybe not what they want to, but what they need to.

But Walmart says there's been softer sales growth for more discretionary items including home improvement and electronics and clothes. And as you mentioned, Walmart also said they're starting to gain market share among higher income families. Again, that's more evidence that people are price conscious right now. I think that, Boris, you know, people are still spending money, they're just spending the money differently and perhaps at different places.

SANCHEZ: And Matt, notably this report comes as Target and Home Depot are reporting that their sales are actually down.

EGAN: Yes, so target reported some disappointing numbers. Their sales were just fractionally higher in the latest quarter, but they actually said that their online sales were down. And they've reported that consumers are pulling back, again, on the more discretionary items.

Home improvement -- you know, home improvement had just been booming for the longest time as people who were stuck at home during COVID spent a lot of money to improve their homes and trying to sell their homes in a hot housing market, and some of those numbers Jim just reported on home sales slowing down, that has also hurt some of the sales numbers at Home Depot.

SANCHEZ: Yes, a lot of uncertainty in the economy especially as we're looking at a potential default on U.S. debt. Hopefully, a breakthrough comes soon on a deal. Matt Egan, thanks so much for your reporting as always -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, a killer strike. The moment a baseball pitcher threw a curve ball during warmups and hit a bird. Next on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: One, two, three strikes, birds out. This was the scene at a

warmup when Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Galan throws a curve ball and unfortunately right there you see the bird get hit by a perfect strike. This is actually the second time that we know of that a bird ran afoul of a Diamondbacks pitcher.

It's been more than 20 years since Randy Johnson obliterated a bird with his pitch. This was the scene after that collision. Yes, you see feathers scattered like snow. A grounds keeper cleaning it up there. It is quite a gnarly scene. My favorite part of the video is the catcher was clearly confused about just happening --

KEILAR: What do I catch?

SANCHEZ: -- not sure what to catch and then you see him sort of tiptoe around this.


KEILAR: So sad, such an innocent little bird. I'm just here to be sad for the bird. That's my role.

SCIUTTO: As I'm watching I'm thinking like when players get hit by pitches, right, which they do all the time and you see what it does to a bird. It's dangerous. They throw 100 miles an hour.

SANCHEZ: Wrong place, wrong time, poor little guy.

KEILAR: Oh, definitely. All right, guys.

SCIUTTO: It did happen in 1983, though, but these guys are too young to remember Dave Winfield. You've got it go back 40 years for that one.

KEILAR: All right, let's go to Jake Tapper now.