Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Tiger Triumphs At Masters; First Major Win Since 2008; Protesters Demand Military Hand Power To Civilian Govt; U.S. States Secretary Visits Venezuela-Columbia Border; Maduro Seeks To Expand Civilian Militia; Red Cross Appealing For Information On Three Members Abducted In Syria In 2013. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 15, 2019 - 01:00   ET




[01:00:00] TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: For them to see what it's like to have their dad win won a major championship, I hope that something we'll never forget.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: He's back and this time his kids get to see it, Tiger Woods completes a remarkable comeback years in the making winning the masters once again.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Sudan's military leaders are purging top officials as protesters still crowd the streets calling for a civilian government.

VANIER: ISIS kidnapped this nurse more than five years ago and the Red Cross thinks she may still be alive. Now the group is making a public appeal to find her.

ALLEN: These stories are all ahead here this hour. Thank you for joining us. Coming to you live from Atlanta, Georgia, I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Loving more hate and Tiger Woods is proving himself a true survivor and a true champion again by the slimmest of margins. The 43-year-old golfer pulled off a stunning victory of the Masters on Sunday.

ALLEN: Look at that. He was ready for it. This is his first major title in 11 years, and first masters win since 2005. Woods has overcome career-threatening back problems and a high-profile divorce to reach this new career milestone. There he is hugging his son and daughter. And this victory came despite a leaderboard packed with some of the biggest names in the sport.


WOODS: There are so many different scenarios that could have happened on that back nine and I've been in -- I've been in that spot before. I've been in a position where I've won and I've been a position where I've lost. But I just kept telling myself that at least I'm in that position. Let's go ahead and we have a lot of holes to play and I was able to handle the heat down the stretch and pull out my best shots.


VANIER: And guess who was there on hand in August that to see Tigers triumph? CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan, such a pleasure and such an honor to have you here.

ALLEN: Just brought back from --

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Yes, still the dirt of Augusta is on my shoes. But it's --

VANIER: You just made it back in the neck of time. Thank you so much.

BRENNAN: Yes, my pleasure. Thank you.

VANIER: How was it? Bring us to the time the moment when it happened.

BRENNAN: You know, this is one of those moments that people will remember where they were in terms of the sports and even a cultural moment because it is Tiger Woods and as you said 43 years old and he hadn't won a major in almost 11 years. And a year and a half ago he said he couldn't get off the couch to watch his kids play soccer.

So it was electric, it was exciting, but of course there were so many other contenders, all younger men, all of them inspired by Tiger as they grew up as little boys, and they're all fighting to beat him. And one by one, almost as if the golf gods came down from the heavens and said this is going to be the way it is today. One by one they fell away, mistakes especially on the par-3 12th, everyone going in Race Creek there one after another and all of a sudden last man left standing, Tiger Woods.

ALLEN: Yes. And in the crowds, the people that happened to go to the Masters this year, can you just imagine? I have a friend, this was the year that she went, and they were there for this. And he had that typical, stoic, Tiger Woods looked throughout. And I thought when he does this, is he just going to just lose it and he did. You saw that smile his arms came up victory. Well tremendous.

BRENNAN: Exactly, Natalie. And of course for those who stood followers of Tiger Woods in golf and sport, in 1997 Tiger won his first of his now five Masters and he was only 21 years old. And at that masters as we see him walk off there exactly 22 years ago, he walked off into the arms of his father, his late father who taught him the game, taught him the toughness of the game, said you were born to be a champion.

So now -- and he even brought this up of course that 22 years later he's why -- he's the father walking off the course into the arms of his son, Charlie, his daughter Sam, and his mother and then of course many friends. So the symmetry, the circle there, the full circle situation I think was extraordinary. And added to the storyline and the crowd ate it up. I mean they'd still be out there cheering if they could be.

VANIER: Because all those people know and I want to stress this for our viewers who may not that -- and you touched on this, a couple years ago, he couldn't walk. It wasn't whether he can play golf, it was like whether he can walk because he has broken his back.

ALLEN: Four, four back surgeries right.

BRENNAN: He had four back surgeries, the last was spinal fusion two years ago basically right now, and that was a last-gasp effort. You know, this was the -- he was in such trouble from the swinging, from all the other things. So it was this or basically give up the game of golf. So spinal fusion and then it was six months after that so a year and a half ago that he could not get off the couch and he thought he might be done.

Now, I will say this as a journalist, everyone would ask me, you know, is he done? And I thought you can never ever count Tiger Woods out. He's so talented, so good, and so driven. If anyone can overcome this, it's Tiger Woods, and he showed that of course today.

[01:05:25] ALLEN: And not to mention he's overcome all of his you know, issues and his divorce and all of that and then he had trouble with painkillers going through so much as well. He's been through a lot.

BRENNAN: Well, exactly.

ALLEN: He's overcome a lot other than just physical issues.

BRENNAN: Natalie, it was less than two years ago that we saw that mug shot after his arrest on a DUI which was the painkillers or presumably the painkillers when he was parked at the side of the road. That was Memorial weekend of 2017. I'll bet you anyone seeing that mug shot would have never thought this day would come.

It's the power of comebacks. It's the power of getting that second chance, never giving up is Tiger Woods said. Also you mentioned, the personal problems, very public of situation where his family life basically was not what we thought it was, and it fell apart all self- induced and that was almost ten years ago.

So -- but the story of redemption and the story of a comeback is something that I think any audience around the world certainly a U.S. sports fans but I think anywhere, European, you name it, anyone listening to us right now, you get that, the idea of come back, and the chance to cheer for someone who is a fallen from grace and now has come back.

And as I said, this is a story, the likes of which we have not seen in a long time in sports, not just golf but in sports. VANIER: Yes, yes. One of the -- one of the greatest sports comebacks

I think ever, he's got 15 major championships now to his name. The record is 18, Jack Nicklaus if I'm not mistaken. Do you think he can get there? Do you think he can surpass that?

BRENNAN: Course this was a question for years and it took him -- it was almost 11 years ago. He won his last major until today so everyone said no way. I think now it's an open question. These young guys are not going to just keel over and let Tiger win everything, and he got lucky today as well as played great, combination of both.

But these next two tournaments, the PGA is early, it's going to be next month, and it's at Bethpage Black where he won the U.S. Open, loves the course, and then the U.S. Open is at Pebble Beach, another course that he loves. So you can imagine and expect intense media coverage of these next two. I'll probably be of both of them. And I wasn't necessarily going to be at both of them, but I think that's the tiger effect here and this -- and the power of this story.

ALLEN: Well, he put two golf on the world map how many years ago, and now he's back again to reignite it. Again, we'll be watching and we'll be watching you covered it as well. Christine Brennan, it's so nice to have you in the house with us.

VANIER: Racing back to the studio.

BRENNAN: Great to be here. Thank you so much.

ALLEN: We really appreciate it. It's quite the story. It is indeed. All right, we look at other stories we're following now and that is from Sudan. The military leaders there are cleaning house this after they toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir. The intelligence chief has now been replaced and the defense minister removed. They have also sacked Sudan's ambassadors to Geneva and Washington.

VANIER: But protesters are not done mobilizing. Up to three decades under al-Bashir, they want democracy and they want it now. They're calling for the immediate handover of power to a civilian government. CNN's Farai Sevenzo is tracking events in Sudan from Nairobi, Kenya and he filed this report.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Palm Sunday, Sudan's revolution seemed to carry on. Those people, those protests that we're gathered outside Sudan's military headquarters in Khartoum continued to amass there in their great numbers. In this new age of many technologies, the 21st century ends with such a youthful crowd of protesters.

It is overwhelmingly youthful, Sudan's revolution. We can see a Facebook links, we can see all manner of social media activity with people in a festive spirit at that city. But of course, there's a real busy and honest business of politics to carry on. The military transitional council under General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has sent out a hand of friendship and extended this idea that they want dialogue with everybody. They have promised many things, the release of prisoners. They have

abolished the curfew that was put in place by Mr. al-Bashir's immediate successor General Ibn Auf. But of course what this brings to mind now, what will happen to the Sudan story.

On Sunday everything moved as gear up in terms of diplomacy. All those Arab countries that surround Sudan indeed the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, they've all been sending a great noises and encouraging our words to the military council. But of course this doesn't leave the actual people on the ground in the protests in any clear idea whether what they want, their demands from quick movement to civilian rule will actually happen. Farai Sevenzo, CNN Nairobi.


[01:10:09] ALLEN: Joining me now is Eric Reeves, author of a long day's dying critical moments in the Darfur genocide. Eric is also a Professor Emeritus at Smith College. Mr. Reeves, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Let's begin with what we are seeing in Sudan. First of all, how a peaceful protest of mainly young people have pushed a dictator out who ruled for three decades. Were you surprised at what's happened?

ERIC REEVES, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, SMITH COLLEGE: Not really. I've been tracking events since December 19th when the uprising as Sudanese call it, when the uprising began. I'm tracking social media very closely, one sees just how sophisticated Sudanese people especially under the age of 30 but really across the country and across class lines, age lines, ethnic lines.

This uprising has been growing steadily with more and more pressure being brought on the al-Bashir regime until finally it was inevitable that he be pushed out and that the regime as it was constituted. And I emphasize regime because al-Bashir was never in charge by himself. He always depended on key allies especially in the army.

When he was replaced by Awad Ibn Auf who was acting vice president and defense minister, this was a palace cope in the making. And the people of Sudan sought as that and the uprisings only became more ferocious. And within two days Ibn Auf was gone. And now we come to the really interesting part because the new head of the military council, the ruling body in Sudan is a general by the name of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

What makes him interesting is he's not a radical Islamist but he does have baggage. He has led the Sudanese forces in fighting alongside the Saudis in Yemen. He is undoubtedly participated in war crimes. And most disturbingly he's chosen as his vice president of the Military Council, a very, very dangerous man. Muhammad (INAUDIBLE) commonly known as --

ALLEN: So let's stop there and let's talk about what you've just said because this is really important. We have people in the street still saying we want a civilian -- we want civilian leadership. And what you've just outlined is it is far, far from that.

REEVES: That's exactly right. We are a long way from having the kind of conversation between the military council on the one hand which holds nominal power and on the other, the Sudanese professionals association which has been a guiding hand in leading the uprising.

They've done an extraordinary job of planning, of organizing, of keeping morale up, of looking ahead and making this uprising the most important historical moment I believe in both colonial Sudan.

ALLEN: Even though this military council has yet released prisoners, it lifted the curfew, it doesn't sound like they're going anywhere. It doesn't sound like that all of this work that these -- the people had done here is going to lead to a new Sudan for them.

REEVES: I don't believe that so. I think the pressure has to ratchet up higher yet. I do know from communicating with a great many Sudanese that a kind of fatigue has set in especially after what appeared to the -- to be the victory of the deposing of and resting of Omar al-Bashir and then the subsequent stepping down, forced stepping down of al-Bashir's vice president even out.

But despite that fatigue, I believe the people are going to find the resources to keep the pressure on the current military council. And they receive some very important support today and the so-called troika. These are three countries that have been particularly involved in Sudanese affairs, Norway, Great Britain, and the United States. And they are clearly emphasizing the importance of a transition to civilian governance.

And my feeling is that the longer civilian governance is delayed by the military council the more pressure they'll feel and the more difficult will be or there to continue to present a credible face to the international community.

[01:15:04] ALLEN: Well, all we can do is hope that this does turn around in a significant way. We will likely talk with you again. We'll have to leave it there for now. Eric Reeves, we appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much.

REEVES: Thank you.

VANIER: And the U.S. secretary of state is calling on Venezuela's embattled president to open his country's borders and to end to the power struggle there immediately.

ALLEN: And Mike Pompeo's comments came during a visit to the border town of Cucuta in neighboring Colombia. It is the last stop of his Latin American tour. Pompeo also met with Venezuelan refugees and toured a warehouse filled with relief supplies for the country.

Our David McKenzie has been following the story from Venezuela's capital. Here he is from Caracas.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, made a brief but highly significant visit to Cucuta, on the border of Colombia and Venezuela. He visited with families -- struggling Venezuelan families in migrant centers at that border, as well as viewing the aid. The considerable aid that is ready to come into this country to help people in the humanitarian crisis.

The secretary of state and other U.S. officials have repeatedly blamed the government of Nicolas Maduro for stopping aid from coming in here to help people with life-saving support.

Pompeo said, over this four-nation trip that Russia and Cuba, as well as China, are helping to prop up Maduro's government. He said that more needs to be done to get Maduro out.


MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We've made clear that all options are on the table and you watch, you watch the political and diplomatic noose tightening around Maduro's neck. We will begin to do the same thing.

The Cubans must understand too that there will be a cost associated with their continued support of Nicolas Maduro. We're going to have that same conversation with the Russians as well.

MCKENZIE: Opposition leader Juan Guaido who's recognized as the interim president of Venezuela by more than 50 countries was in the west of the country this weekend, addressing thousands in Maracaibo, a city that has been hit by blackouts and water shortages. But the opposition is saying to ask that over the weeks that felt a bit of the momentum slip as they try to push the military and others to turn it back on Maduro.

Maduro himself was addressing thousands of civilian militia over the weekend here in Caracas. He said he wants a million more people to join those civilian militia to help prop up his regime.

We visited a rally supporting the president. And people had some strong words for the secretary of state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To Pompeo take your hands out of here. Stop with the conspiracies. Stop with the conspiracies and let us deal with our things on our own. To the people of the U.S., we love you but we don't want any imperialists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): These people are respected. Venezuela is respected. We don't want anyone to get into our internal problems. We are in solidarity with all the countries in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't think that South America will give up. We will keep fighting to the end, Pompeo. Don't think we are scared.


MCKENZIE: Pompeo's visit underscores the importance of Venezuela to the Trump administration. But even U.S. officials are saying that this could be a long struggle. David McKenzie, CNN, Caracas, Venezuela.

VANIER: Up next, an urgent appeal. The Red Cross is desperately seeking information on the whereabouts of these abducted staff members. Stay with us.



ALLEN: the Red Cross is desperately searching for three staff members abducted in Syria more than five years ago, and they are now appealing for information on their whereabouts.

VANIER: They believe that Louisa Akavi, a nurse from New Zealand may still be alive. The Red Cross has never been able to confirm the fate of Syrian drivers, Alaa Rajab on the left, and Nabil Bakdounes on the right. All three were part of a convoy delivering supplies when they were captured and they were last known to be held by ISIS.

Our Andrew Stevens joins us from Hong Kong with more on this. Andrew?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, Cyril. Wait, the details are now starting to emerge about exactly what happened. Although, obviously, they're still quite sketchy because we don't know whether Louisa Akavi is -- where she is or whether indeed she is still alive at this stage.

But, the Red Cross has decided now to put this out into the public domain after spending the past 5-1/2 years keeping the whole thing under wraps. Now, Louisa Akavi, as you say, and her two Syrian national colleagues were abducted by ISIS back in October of 2013.

Four others were also abducted. That was when the -- their Red Cross convoy was stopped at a checkpoint and the hostage is taken. The four other hostages were then released but the three were held and have not been heard of since there have been some sightings of them.

The family of Ms. Akavi was told that if it became public, she would be killed. So, it's been kept under very, very tight wraps. But with the -- with the Caliphate now, effectively over, and ISIS beaten, that they have decided to come forward to try to get some information about her whereabouts. Just listen to what the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ICRC said in New Zealand at a press conference a few hours ago.


NIAMH LAWLESS, SECRETARY-GENERAL, RED CROSS, NEW ZEALAND: Our number one priority all along has been Louisa's safety. And as you say, decisions have been taken always with that in mind. And one of those decisions was to keep the information as far as, you know, out of the public eye as possible.

The ICRC has taken the lead and we've worked collectively together around when there's -- when is there is no right or wrong time. The assessment is made that was the fall of the Caliphate that the risk we really need to seek by calling for action whether we can find out any more information at this point.


[01:24:54] STEVENS: So, the International Red Cross has been taking the lead on this, Cyril. Also, the New Zealand government has been very active and has kept the family obviously in very close touch with the -- with the hunt. But so far, only fleeting reports that she is still alive and has been cited.

VANIER: And how are they conducting this hunt? How are they looking for?

STEVENS: Well, it sounds, pretty low-tech at this stage. According to reports, members of the of the ICRC are going to detention centers, a detention center in northern Korea -- in northern Syria for -- they've been going for the last few months, on a weekly basis, with pictures of Louisa Akavi, and matching them with the -- with a database of who is actually at those detention camps.

So, it is, at this stage, no trying in hope more than anything else. But, there has been, at least, as far as the authorities are concerned, three credible sightings of Louisa Akavi, the latest coming in December of last year. That came in (INAUDIBLE) which was one of the ISIS-controlled towns which is one of the last to fall as the Caliphate went into retreat -- as ISIS went into retreat.

So, she was seen there, two independent sources confirming they had seen her there. But, apart from that, we don't really know. What the family is hoping for, what the authorities are hoping for also, is that because of her skills as a nurse. She was a nurse and a midwife for the International Red Cross that she would have been of use to ISIS.

Indeed, there are reports that they had she had been seen in ISIS- controlled hospitals and clinics in the -- in the last days of last year. So, this certainly is hope being held out for her recovery. But at this stage, it is literally going into detention camps with pictures to try and further whether she has actually been being cited there.

One other thing I can tell you is that there was incredible news that she was cited about a year ago. New Zealand sent a -- what they described as a non-combat team into Syria. But it met with no success, Cyril.

VANIER: Well, we can only hope that the fall of the so-called caliphate will yield some good news. Both for Louisa Akavi and for the two drivers who were also abducted back in 2013. Along with her, Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes. Andrew Stevens, thank you so much.

ALLEN: The eagerly anticipated Mueller report is set to come out this week. But parts of it will be blacked out. Next here. How Democrats may use the Attorney General's history to try and see the full report.

VANIER: Plus, a trail of destruction after deadly storms hammer the U.S., and more devastation could still be on the way. We'll have a look at the damage and we'll have the weather forecasts ahead.


[01:31:08] VANIER: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen.

Here are our top stories this our.

Our top one is from the sports world. Tiger Woods on top of the golf world once again after clinching his 5 Masters victory and 15th major title.

This is his first win at Augusta, Georgia since 2005. The 43-year-old has overcome career threatening back problems and a high-profile divorce to reach this new career milestone.

VANIER: Sudan's military has sacked the country's ambassadors to Geneva and Washington. The intelligence chief has also been replaced and the defense minister removed. This after the military ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir on Thursday.

Protestors are demanding the immediate handover of power to civilian rule.

ALLEN: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling on Venezuela's president to open his countries borders. His comments came during a trip to the border town of Cucuta in neighboring Colombia.

Pompeo met with Venezuelan refugees and toured a warehouse filled with relief supplies for Venezuela.

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Muller's report this week.

ALLEN: Democrats demanding the full unedited version. The White House insists the investigation of Russian election meddling found no wrongdoing by the President.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it is going to be damaging to the President because the entire purpose of the investigation was whether or not there was collusion. Mueller was crystal clear IN the fact that there was no collusion.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: But he wasn't crystal clear on obstruction.

SANDERS: But any American, they couldn't find anything. They couldn't make a determination which is basically Mueller's way legally of saying we can't find anything, we are going to leave that up to the process which is the Attorney General. He has made a decision and so we consider this to be case closed.

There was no collusion, there was no obstruction, which I don't know how you can interpret that any other way than total exoneration.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Attorney General Barr before he became Attorney General wrote a long memo in which he said that a President could not obstruct justice because the President is the boss of the Justice Department and could order it around to institute an investigation, to eliminate investigation and could not be question about that.

In other words, he thinks that as a matter of law, a president can't obstruct justice, which is a very wild theory to which most people do not agree.

And the fact of the matter is, we should see and judge for ourselves and that is for Congress to judge whether the President obstructed justice or not and for the public ultimately.


VANIER: The Attorney General listed areas of the report that will be blacked out, the House Judiciary Chairman says Congress has to see all of it, because it has a constitutional duty to determine whether any wrongdoing has occurred.

ALLEN: In addition to citing their constitutional duty lawmakers have expressed skepticism about how quickly Barr wrote his four-page summary of a nearly 400-page report.

VANIER: And his announcement last week that he was looking into the FBI's action, saying the Trump campaign had been spied on, sparked Democrats' outrage. Barr has been Attorney General before and his actions then raise questions about his impartiality now.

CNN Randi Kaye reports


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Attorney General William Barr's performance isn't the first time he has aligned himself with the President he is serving.


KAYE: Go back nearly 30 years to Barr's his first stint as Attorney General under President George H.S. Bush.

[01:34:53] "New York Times" columnist William Safire, a conservative Republican, often referred to Barr then not as Attorney General but as the cover-up general, suggesting he covered up Bush's role in Iraq- gate, burying the investigation of how the Bush administration allegedly helped finance Saddam Hussein's weapons.

Barr also played a role in the Iran-contra affair convincing President Bush just before Christmas in 1992 to pardon six former members of the Reagan administration including former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger who was set to go to grail for allegedly lying to Congress.

The pardon that Barr's urging essentially shut down the independent counsel's investigation, leading some to call it a miscarriage of justice.

In 2001 Barr was asked about the pardons, his response, "The Iran Contra once I certainly did not oppose any of them."

Also telling in Barr's history is this 19-page unsolicited memo Barr wrote to the Justice Department in June last year before Trump nominated him. In it Barr criticizes the Mueller investigation calling Mueller's obstruction of Justice theory fatally misconceived.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This is what he was hired to do which was to protect the president. But it is deeply concerning.

KAYE: Back in 2017, Barr also raised eyebrows telling the "New York Times" there was more basis for investigating the sale of uranium between the U.S. and Russia while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, than the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia.

But when Barr said, the FBI had already investigated the Uranium one deal and no evidence has ever been made public showing proof of a bribery or wrongdoing. Bar later walked back his claims.

BARR: I have no knowledge of the Uranium 1, I did not think particularly think that was necessarily something that should be pursued aggressively.

KAYE: Meanwhile if you think William Barr maybe too close to the President, consider this. His son-in-law works in the White House counsel's office. The son-in=law's role is troubling, says the former director of the office of government ethics because quote, "It raises further questions about Barr's independence.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


VANIER: A massive storm system that is barreling through the southeastern U.S. has killed at least seven people.

ALLEN: Hundreds more have been injured or displaced across several states. The destructive weather has brought high winds, tornadoes and hail leaving some towns in ruins.

Troy Alabama right here for you.

VANIER: And in Mississippi an uprooted tree fell on top of a house pinning a woman against the wall of her living room. The governor of that has declared a state of emergency for the state for the affected areas.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now. He is tracking this from the CNN Weather Center -- Pedram.


We've got a few more hours of this storm, at least what is left of this storm system. Of course, it has a history of severe weather is here with many tornadoes, several fatalities. Widespread severe concern here still for the next couple of hours. The energy now shifting in towards the northeastern United States, of curse, the most densely populated corner of the U.S. as well.

And even snow continuing on the back side of the system. But the vast majority of what this storm has had to offer as far as significant severe weather has actually been widespread straight line winds and that is the concern. And in fact, into the morning hours, the areas that are reporting the current temperatures in to the 20s around portion of the northeastern U.S.

So it really speaks to the significance of the warm air already in place to produce some of the severe weather over the next couple of hours, and of course, we know on Saturday that was the severe day here when it comes to the weekend. 21 reports of tornadoes, over 200 reports of straight-line wind damage.

And if you work towards Sunday, the numbers dropped significantly as far as tornadoes are concerns but still had a significant number of wind gust reports in place.

But here comes the next line of weather here. This is at this hour. Anytime you see straight line you see a linear pattern on our radar imagery. You know that straight-line winds are concerning.

And that is the main concern for the northeastern U.S. In fact over 7,000 flights were impacted across the country on Sunday going into Monday. So far into the early morning hours very few flights getting underway and we could already see some 300 plus flights impacted. So expecting that number to rise.

But the good news out of all of this is this system is exiting the picture rather quickly and we want to show you what happens here in into the afternoon hours. Once the system exits, we go into clearing skies by early afternoon. But a lot of wind left with the system so that is why we've seen the disruption when the air fare area is going to be really widespread at the airports across the northeast, guys.

VANIER: All right.

ALLEN: All right. Pedram -- thank you.

VANIER: Riding scooters into halls, skate boarding in his room, misbehaving around the staff, Ecuador says Julian Assange was acting like a teenager in their London embassy but his lawyer says otherwise.

We will have the latest on the controversial arrest of the WikiLeaks founder.

[01:39:56] ALLEN: Also ahead here, if you are in China, a brand-new app will bring government propaganda straight to your phone. We will tell you why it is becoming so popular. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: Julian Assange's lawyers speaking out after the WikiLeaks founder's dramatic arrest, lying about Assange's behavior while living inside its embassy in London.


JEN ROBINSON, JULIAN ASSANGE'S LAWYER: Ecuador has been making some pretty outrageous allegations over the past few days to justify what was an unlawful, extraordinary act to allowing British police to come inside an embassy.

Now the politics of the case with respect to Ecuador changed with the change of government with Lenin Moreno coming to power and ever since then been inside the embassy it's become more and more difficult.


ALLEN: Well, we now have video showing in part what life was like for Assange that he spent seven years holed up in that embassy. You can see him trying to skateboard in the small room as he speaks with the legal adviser.

It was filmed between 2012 and 2017. Then leaked to Spanish newspaper "El Pais".

VANIER: Assange's father tells the "Herald Sun" in Australia that he is shocked at his son's appearance after the arrest. And he's urging the Australian government to help bring his son home.

ALLEN: Well, in China a new smartphone app seems to be the modern version of Chairman Mao's famous little red book.

VANIER: It's part of a campaign promoting the understanding of socialism and President Xi Jinping.

CNN's Steven Jiang explains the apps cult following.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: The red-hot app is called Xuexi Qiangguo, the word Xi means studying in Chinese, but of course, that's also the family name of the country's most powerful leader in decades President Xi Jinping.

With a name that can be translated as "study Xi, strengthen nation", the app is but the latest high tech tool for political indoctrination launched by the authorities earlier this year.

[01:44:56] When you open the app you are bombarded with slickly- produced multimedia content about Xi, his political philosophy, daily activities and personal quotes.

Critics say it's another step in building a personality cult around Xi, something not seen since the days of the late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

For the nearly 90 billion members of China's ruling communist party, the app is increasingly a must-have in their smartphones and a must- use in their daily lives. Users can text, call or video chat from inside the app prompting worries that the authorities could use it for even more digital surveillance in the tightly-controlled Chinese cyberspace.

The app encourages users to take interactive tests to earn points that can be redeemed for gifts. But many users are said to be under pressure from their party bosses to score dozens of points every day.

The app is not the propaganda authorities' only modern-day tool but it seems to be their most blatant brainwashing efforts so far in the age of smart phones.

Analysts say that's something increasingly important for President Xi as he demands political loyalty and social stability amid a slowing economy at home and rising tensions with the western governments abroad.

But the app's effectiveness remains an open question. Already savvy users are able to find ways to cheat the system. One popular tip found online play a half hour video of a state TV newscast wall taking a shower. Credits earned, 13 points.

Steven Jiang, CNN -- Beijing.


ALLEN: A new documentary series on Netflix shows beautiful pictures of our earth but it has a stark message about our planet. We will talk with the chief scientists on the film series right after this.


VANIER: "Our Planet" may look like your typical nature documentary but the Netflix series has a serious message. As you can see it features stunning shots of nature -- mountains, deserts, wild animals -- and all of it.

ALLEN: But it also shows how the world is changing dangerously. According to scientists at the World Wildlife Fund which co-produced the series, we are losing nature at an extraordinary rate -- forests, oceans, and freshwater. And the creatures who live in them -- so many at risk now.

Mark Wright is with the World Wildlife Fund U.K. and is the chief science adviser for "Our Planet". He joins me from (INAUDIBLE), England us now. We appreciate your time so much -- Mark. Thanks for coming on.

You know, this series follows another series, "Planet Earth" in 2006 with some stunning video. I remember everyone gave it to my son for Christmas that year.

But this time, it's different because we are losing a lot of nature. So talk with us about this approach to the series this time around.


I think you're actually right. I think this will be a bit of a watershed in terms of natural history filmmaking. So whilst we have concentrated very heavily on the natural beauty of the world and what is out there, because I think it's absolutely right that we continue to respect, love, regard and hold nature n awe.

At the same time, we are not holding back on saying look, there are some problems out there. There are issues as you mentioned in your introduction.

Forests are being lost, oceans are being overfished, we are losing a lot of nature around the world at an increasingly fast rate. So what we want viewers to take away is yes we have a beautiful planet, but we risk losing a lot.

But again there is hope in there. There's optimism in there. If we act now there is a chance to turn this around.

ALLEN: Well, this took I believe four years' shooting, in 50 countries, with more than 600 crew members. And as we can see here, again, stunning, stunning shots of nature. Give us an example of something that may surprise people watching this series about what is happening to animals -- an animal in particular.

WRIGHT: Yes. Ok. I think there are -- I think all of us will have favorite sequences. I think probably mine in terms of scale is the glacier carving (ph) in Greenland. There were some helicopters right next the base of the glacier, and just awesome filmmaking. It's -- what a day job.

75 million tons of ice fell off in a single go. This is an enormous body of ice, crashing water --


WRIGHT: -- setting off this whole tidal wave. Absolutely stunning. I think there's another sequence which I particularly like is form Chernobyl where we had the nuclear disaster several decades ago. And there, we can see nature coming back, there's walls, there's forest coming through the streets of Chernobyl.

And to me perhaps the big message here is that if we give nature space, if we give nature time it will recover. So that's where the hope comes from. It's just incumbent on us to give nature that space.

ALLEN: You know, we talk here on CNN a lot about the world's animals being threatened, and how many animals could go extinct. And we talk about it over and over again. Do you get a sense that people really appreciate say that giraffes in Africa could go extinct. Like animals that they're used to seeing are very much threatened.

WRIGHT: Yes. I think you're right. And I think maybe it's harder because -- there's been such a long history of people putting out numbers. And WWF does it as well.

So if you look at our latest "Living Planet" report it shows that on average, vertebrates, mammals (ph), birds, reptiles, amphibians -- their populations have declined 60 percent over the last 50 years. If you say that number to people, it doesn't really -- it doesn't really land with them. If we try to match that in human terms, if we would say look, let's imagine the human population shrunk by 60 percent, what that equates to is emptying completely North America and South America, and Africa, and Europe, and China and Australia.

And we've done that emptying within my lifetime. So that's when it really starts to (INAUDIBLE) down on you.

[01:55:00] Let's put it another way, if you look at all the birds in the world. And I'm sure there in the U.S. you're bird lovers the same as we are.

You look at the population of birds around the world. 70 percent of birds now around the world aren't wild. They're chickens and the poultry. We have utterly flipped the balance of nature.

So, as I say that happened in my lifetime so when I look at my children, my children are in their late 20s now, they have never known a world where they haven't seen a constant diminishment of nature.

And I think it's time that we flip that and turn it around. Let's say enough is enough. Let's draw a line (INAUDIBLE) and say we don't just need nature we want nature, we demand to have nature back. We demand that of our decision makers, that politicians so that we can see that slow recovery of nature, because that's just the world we all want.

ALLEN: Right. One of the saddest stories I've ever covered, the official declaration of the extinction of a bird was the dusky seaside sparrow in 1990 down in Florida because we sprayed around the launchpad of the shuttle.

All right.


ALLEN: We have to wake up and we have to watch this series. It's on Netflix.

Mark Wright -- thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate what you do, too. Thank you.

WRIGHT: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

VANIER: A really interesting interview. And the pictures are just stunning. It's called "Our Planet" on Netflix.

All right. Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen.

Another hour is next with Rosemary Church. See you soon. VANIER: Happy birthday.