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U.K. Talks with Taliban; Afghanistan Malnutrition; EMA Backing COVID Booster Shots; World Expo in Dubai. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired October 06, 2021 - 02:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church. Facebook CEO he is on the defensive after a former employees damning testimony on Capitol Hill.
The Vatican's reaction after explosive revelations about decades of abuse in the French Catholic Church.
Plus, we will catch up with members of the famed Afghan robotics team who fled their homeland after the Taliban takeover.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.
CHURCH: And we'll have those stories in just a moment. But we begin with an alarming new assessment from Taiwan's defense minister. He says Mainland China could have the ability to launch a full scale military attack on the island within the next four years. The warning comes as China has been flying a record number of military aircraft over Taiwan in recent days. U.S. President Joe Biden says he's spoken with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about the situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree, we will abide by the Taiwan agreement. That's where we are. And we made it clear that I don't think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the grid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: President Biden's comments come just ahead of a high level diplomatic meeting between the U.S. and China is set to take place in Switzerland. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is live in Hong Kong. She joins us now. Good to see you, Kristie. So what more can you tell us about all of this?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, during a time of very high tension, you have these two top envoys meeting today in Zurich, Switzerland, of course, it's the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as well as China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi. And this meeting will be the first face to face meeting between these two individuals since that strategic dialogue in Alaska in March earlier this year, which, as recalled descended into scene of heated confrontation that was all caught on camera.
Now today's meeting in Zurich also comes after the Biden administration finally revealed its U.S. policy review in regards to you is trying to trade. We heard from Katherine Tais, she's U.S. Trade Representative, who said that the U.S. is seeking frank dialogue with China and will not rule out additional tariffs and the Global Times. The China-state run tabloid said that China welcomes additional dialogue but also said this and it was a revealing statement.
It said that China, it -- will not shy away from a protracted conflict. In this op-ed in the Global Times, it says "We will adhere to the consistent manner of not making concessions on principle based on doing our own thing and not being afraid of any contest including a protracted one." Now, the Zurich meeting today also comes during a time of very high tension, especially over the issue of Taiwan.
Recently, China has been carrying out an unprecedented number of incursions by its air force into Taiwan's air defense zone. On Tuesday, the U.S. President Joe Biden said that he had talked to the Chinese President Xi Jinping about the Taiwan issue and that they had agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement. A statement that has puzzled a number of China observers to stay. It is understood that he's referring to Washington's One China policy.
It's a long standing policy, which the United States recognizes officially Beijing over Taipei, but it's also not clear exactly what conversation are when he was talking to Xi Jinping. Is this a new phone conversation or was he referring to the 90-minute phone call to the two leaders had in September? Out there has been in recent months of flurry of diplomatic activity at a very high level between the U.S. and China, especially since Joe Biden came into office but very little progress made.
Some observers in China analysts who've been talking to say that as for today's meeting in Zurich, no big expectations or outcomes not expected to come out of this meeting, perhaps some discussion about how journalists from the two countries can return to each other's countries, perhaps the beginnings of a discussion on how to open the shuttered consulates in Chengdu, and in Houston. Rosemary.
CHURCH: And Kristie, Taiwan's defense minister now saying the China will be capable of mounting an invasion by 2025. Is this just an alarmist comment? I mean, is there any evidence to suggest that is something that China would do and why would that be in China's best interests? Consider -- considering how the United States would respond?
STOUT: Yes. It is a very, very strong statement.
STOUT: We haven't heard any statement from China in response to what we heard from the defense secretary of Taiwan earlier today but this day on Wednesday in Taiwan, the defense chief of the islands said that China was capable of launching a "Full scale invasion by 2025." He also said that Taiwan will militarily make preparations. He also said that cross strait relations are the worst he's ever seen in 40 years.
Now, also this week, we heard from tying -- when the president of Taiwan sounding the alarm about the tensions have been building up in the form of an op-ed in foreign affairs magazine that's due out shortly, we do have an excerpt for you, and we'll bring it up for you in its hiding when the Taiwan president says this "As countries increasingly recognize the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses, he should understand the value of working with Taiwan, they should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace, and the Democratic Alliance system would signal that a today's global contest of values authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy."
Now China claims Taiwan as its own territory that could be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country that will defend itself. The United States has reiterated that it is committed to Taiwan and it calls that commitment "rock solid." Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right. Kristie Lu stout. Many thanks for bringing us up to date on all those developments. Appreciate that.
STOUT: You bet.
CHURCH: Well, America's top diplomat is working to mend fences with France over the Biden administration's plans to help Australia build nuclear powered submarines. Antony Blinken met with the French president and Foreign Minister on Tuesday, a new defense pact with the U.S and UK prompted Australia to cancel a $66 billion submarine contract with France. A U.S. official described Blinken's in Paris is very productive.
But resentment over the deal was evident when a journalist told Blinken France expected better of him and the Biden administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE (through translator): We should have done better in terms of communication. This is what President Biden and President Macron said to each other when they spoke a few weeks ago. But above all, we sometimes tend to take for granted relationship as important and as deep as the one between France and the United States.
CHURCH: One of the world's most powerful CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg is finally breaking his silence after damning testimony by a former employee. Whistleblower Frances Haugen was on Capitol Hill Tuesday, and she took Facebook to task. She told lawmakers it's hiding research about the harm it causes users putting profits over people. The Social Network CEO is firing back saying the whistleblower's claims are untrue and misrepresent the company.
And he says he's proud of Facebook's work. CNN's Brian Stelter has more on the bombshell testimony from Haugen and Facebook's response.
FRANCES HUAGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: The only way we can move forward and heal Facebook is we first have to admit the truth.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And the truth according to Francis Hogan, is that the social media giant is hiding what it really knows about its impact on its users, including the spread of misinformation.
HAUGEN: Facebook likes to paint that these issues are really complicated. Facebook prioritize that content on the system, the reshares over the impacts to misinformation, hate speech or violence, incitement.
STELTER: Haugen testifying to the Senate about what the company did and did not do to confront the spread of misinformation leading up to the 2020 election and beyond.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): On 60 Minutes you said that Facebook implemented safeguards to reduce misinformation ahead of the 2020 election, but turned off those safeguards right after the election. And you know that the interaction occurred January 6th. Do you think that Facebook turned off the safeguards because they weren't costing the company money because it was reducing profit?
HAUGEN: Facebook changed those safety defaults in the run up to the election because they knew they were dangerous. And because they wanted that growth back they wanted the celebration of the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults. And the fact that they had to break the glass on January 6th and turn them back on, I think that's deeply problematic.
STELTER: Another big focus of the hearing how Facebook and its other social media apps, including Instagram, negatively impact kids.
HAUGEN: Kids who are bullied on Instagram, the bullying follows them home. It follows them into their bedrooms. The last thing they see before they go to bed at night is someone being cruel to them, or the first thing they see in the morning is someone being cruel to them.
STELTER: Senator Richard Blumenthal calling the revelations jaw dropping and comparing Facebook to big tobacco.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): It is documented proof that Facebook knows its products can be addictive and toxic to children.
BLUMENTHAL: And it's not just that they made money again, it's that they valued their profit more than the pain that they cause to children and their families.
STELTER: The word addiction coming up over and over again during the testimony.
HAUGENL It's just like cigarettes. Teenagers don't have good self- regulation. They say explicitly. I feel bad when I use Instagram and yet I can't stop. We need to protect the kids.
STELTER: In a tweet, Facebook responding, saying Haugen didn't actually work on these issues directly. She was a product manager tackling misinformation, and had no direct reports and never attended a decision point meeting. But Haugen brought receipts, research from inside Facebook, documenting the damage being done.
HAUGEN: There are organizational problems.
STELTER: And during all this, where was Mark Zuckerberg? Senators called out his absence, and quipped that he was sailing, referring to his recent uploads to Facebook and Instagram.
BLUMENTHAL: Rather than taking responsibility and showing leadership, Mr. Zuckerberg is going sailing.
CHURCH: And that was CNNs Brian Stelter reporting. Now back to more of Mark Zuckerberg's defense of his embattled company, he posted a lengthy statement just hours ago. The Facebook CEO said in part, the argument that we deliberately pushed content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content.
And I don't know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction. So let's bring in Mike Isaak. A technology correspondent for The New York Times. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
CHURCH: So, as we just reported, hours after the shocking testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, Mark Zuckerberg responded saying many of the claims don't make any sense. And it's not true that Facebook prioritizes profit over safety and well-being of its users. What is your reaction? His whole response and reaction to this?
MKE ISAAC, THE NEW YORK TIMES TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: I think honestly, he does believe a lot of what he's saying. You know, I talked to a number of folks inside of Facebook and they said the one way to make people at the top mad especially Mark Zuckerberg is to essentially ascribe a greed for profits over all other things. And I mean, the way Mark thinks he's got all the money in the world and Facebook is doing fine.
I don't think it's necessarily about the bottom line. I do think it is about staying dominant and staying relevant and staying the most powerful company in the world. And one thing we saw in the documents that was uncovered is a company in fear of losing that next generation of teenagers and folks are looking for a new social network after Facebook, and that still scares the company. CHURCH: And of course, as the founder and CEO of Facebook, Zuckerberg is essentially unfireable and unaccountable. And the whistleblower is calling on Congress to rein in the tech giant and regulate the social media company because she says, she doesn't want to see Facebook regulate itself. She doesn't think it is. So what needs to happen to make Facebook and Zuckerberg more accountable? What is the solution to this?
ISAAC: Sure. So I was thinking about, if you remember just a few years ago, that Cambridge Analytica revelations that came out. And it was a similar sort of, you know, media firestorm series of hearings, but not real sustainable change or any bills of consequence to come out of the -- to come out of the House or the Senate. And so, I think it's it feels like this is hitting differently, particularly because of the attention to how Instagram is affecting children. And it seems like at least Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn, want to continue the hearings, and start drafting actual bills on what algorithms can do and what is called engagement-based algorithms are and are not allowed to do and so maybe we'll start seeing some real movement there.
CHURCH: Yes. I mean, there's a real sense that Congress as many, many steps behind these tech companies, isn't it? So Haugen's testimony also renewed focus on the dangers of Facebook's global reach? With its role in fueling genocidal violence in Myanmar, and recent ethnic, religious violence in Ethiopia, and its role in other parts of the world. How dangerous is Facebook, potentially in its current form without regulations and accountability?
ISAAC: I mean, I think even you know, when Facebook had an outage just a day ago, we recognized how key it is, how it basically represents the internet in many different parts of the world. I think WhatsApp, the company that they own that most people don't know that they own is a -- is a key communications tool in a lot of different countries around the world.
ISAAC: Without any sort of strictures around that, without any sort of way to moderate it, or at least, moderate it more strenuously than they are now. You see all sorts of, you know, sort of unfettered violence. And again, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar is just one example of that. But there's -- that was -- that took a long time for journalists even on cover. So it's really unclear the depth of which some of this can be damaging to people. We're still kind of figuring that out by day.
CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. Mike Isaac, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
ISAAC: Thank you for having me.
CHURCH: Abuse victims, as well as the Vatican are reacting to a damning report exposing the decades long sexual abuse of minors in the French Catholic Church. The head of one victims group had a powerful message for church representatives.
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FRANCOIS DEVAUX, FOUNDER, LA PAROLE LIBEREE (through translator): Was it what you must understand is that you're a disgrace to humanity. You have trodden all over the natural obligation to defend the right and dignity of these people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: another victim sat down with CNN to discuss his frustration with the church.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's appalling. Victims abused and attacked. The church's silence, the failure to report abuse. The fact that victims are not believed that they're left unheard. No reparations or trials. Priests simply reassigned. This is of course unacceptable. Many things are already in place to change that. But now they must truly take into account the recommendations of the commission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The Vatican says Pope Francis expressed his sorrow over the abuse report, but is also grateful for the courage of the victims to come forward. CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen reports from Rome.
JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: In response to a dramatic report today on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France, finding more than 330,000 victims over 70 years. Pope Francis has expressed his sorrow to those victims, particularly for the wounds they suffered as a result of their experience but also applauded their courage in coming forward and denouncing the abuse that they had suffered.
The Pope also said he was praying for both justice and healing for the victims. In this case, Justice being a reference to the civil and criminal prosecution of these crimes, and the importance of the church cooperating fully in those inquiries. Now, in the past, when these national level reports on sexual abuse have been issued in the United States, in Ireland in Germany, the Vatican has not been this quick to comment trying to style it as a matter for the local bishops to handle.
Clearly what the Vatican and the pope have learned is that anything that smacks of delay or indifference is simply going to make the situation worse for victims. And that is a very ill-advised course of action. for CNN in Rome. This is John Allen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And still ahead here on CNN, the prestigious Nobel Prize is recognizing pioneering work on climate change ahead of a major summit on the issue. We will tell you what the winners are saying. That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the Nobel Prize in Physics is honoring work on climate change. Three scientists will be awarded the prize for their work warning of climate change in decoding complex physical systems. The American German and Italian researchers will split more than a million dollars in prize money. One laureate is hoping this will spur world leaders into taking action on climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLAUS HASSELMANN, 2021 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER (through translator): The climate problem is ages old, I have been researching it for 40 years. And now finally, the word is starting to spread that we have a climate problem. And I hope the politicians react now and that they do a bit against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The decision to award a Nobel Prize for pioneering work on climate change comes just weeks before the crucial COP26 summit in the U.K. One of the big goals at the conference will be to find ways to curb emissions and reduce fossil fuels.
Richard Steiner is a conservation biologist and joins me now from Anchorage, Alaska. Great to have you with us.
STEINER: Glad to be here. Thanks very much.
So President Biden is promoting his vision of Americans using electric cars in the near future and other nations like Australia offer incentives to purchase electric vehicles and solar panels. And some European countries are doing the same. But despite these efforts, ending the world's dependence on fossil fuel is proving to be very difficult, isn't it? Why is that?
RICHARD STEINER, PROFESSOR AND CONSERVATION BIOLOGIST: It's hard. There's no question about it. There's a lot of inertia or momentum and the fossil fuel economy that we've built over the last century in the world, it's easy, cheap, without accounting for future costs, it's very cheap energy. Until we're used to this. We've built this enormous transportation and power infrastructure around it.
And there's a lot of very powerful, wealthy vested interests in maintaining that status quo, prolonging it as long as possible to reap these billions of dollars worth of profits. However, the choice we have is very clear that we continue that path prolong this fossil fuel economy long into the future which we know lead leads to disastrous consequences, or we solve the problem. And we know exactly how to do that. Governments have to do it, governments can invest and regulate and fix this problem.
CHURCH: We know the reliance on these very same fossil fuels created this climate crisis. But we and of course, future generations, again, the need to deal with. So let's look specifically at what has to happen to reclaim our planet at the individual level as well, as governments, as you say, they'll have to play the main role here, but also private companies big and small.
STEINER: Well, certainly, we the people have a role, we can each produce our own individual carbon footprint. And we know how to do that to travel light, eat light, consume more, deliberately and mindfully. We know how to do these things. And then industry has a role to play as well. But this is quintessentially a role for government to tax rationally, tax carbon tax wealth, tax corporations, eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels, and take that newfound wealth and apply it to the low carbon transition.
Subsidize low carbon, low carbon alternative energy sources, subsidize energy efficiency, technologies that to diffuse out into the consumer world. And also, you know, to (INAUDIBLE) and then also to regulate, to simply regulate the amount of emissions and the designs of appliances and buildings and things like that. We know how to do this. It's just this enormous inertia by the fossil fuel industry and its electric officials to making this transition.
STEINER: It's almost a pathological insecurity they have to making this necessary transition to low carbon energy. This decade, we don't have, we can't kick the can down the road until 2050, which is what some of them are proposing. That's a recipe for disaster. We have to get with this today and get, you know, reduce carbon emissions by half by the end of this decade, or we have absolutely no chance of a real livable future, so.
CHURCH: Yes. That's very sobering. Of course, we just had a wake-up call this weekend when oil spill of California's. Crews are attempting to clean up the mess left after this environmental disaster that has impacted wildlife and human health. And yet those responsible appear not -- they appear to get away with it, don't they? Just a slap on the wrist. What needs to happen to companies like this that allow disasters like this to happen?
STEINER: Well, we certainly need to increase the financial liability for companies that recklessly endanger our environment, and human health and economies which these oil companies do as a matter of course. But the other thing we need to do is, you know, the oil, you know, there was 3000, 4000 barrels of oil spilled off of Huntington Beach, approximately. But the U.S. uses over 20 million barrels of oil every day.
And eight or nine million tons of CO2 is then emitted into the global atmosphere from that oil used daily. A lot of it ended up in the oceans. And that's the oil spill that I think we have to be very, very concerned about. The other issue with the Huntington Beach spill is as long as we continue this fossil fuel economy and offshore drilling and Arctic drilling, these hazardous risky areas we're going to spill it.
No matter how careful and how cautious governments and industry are, we're going to continue to make mistakes, equipment will fail. We'll continue to have these large oil spills.
CHURCH: Richard Steiner, thank you so much for your insights. We appreciate it.
STEINER: My pleasure. Thanks very much.
CHURCH: Well, coming up. They were symbols of progress in Afghanistan until the Taliban takeover up ended their lives. What members of the Afghan girls robotics team are saying after fleeing their country? And later, there's still no sign the Taliban plan to occupy the Afghanistan pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai. We'll have more on that after the short break. Stay with us.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.
Well, U.K. officials held their first face-to-face talks with Afghanistan's Taliban leadership on Tuesday. A British foreign officer spokesperson said that they discussed how the U.K. could help address the humanitarian crisis and keep the country from becoming an incubator for terrorism. They also emphasized the need for continued safe passage for people who want to leave the country and the rights of minorities and women.
A new report from the World Food Programme says a severe hunger problem is sweeping Afghanistan. The report says 3.2 million Afghan children under the age of five face acute malnutrition by the end of the year. At least 1 million of these kids are at risk of dying without immediate treatment. The report also says an overall 14 million people in Afghanistan face acute food insecurity. And 95 percent of households are not consuming enough food.
Well, they were the faces of Afghanistan's progress in girl's education. But as the Taliban took control, members of the Afghan Girls Robotics team were forced to flee their homes. Several have now found a safe haven in Mexico. And they spoke with CNN Matt rivers about everything they left behind and nd what they hope the future holds.
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MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Just four years ago, the half dozen girls from Afghanistan strode confidently into competition, waving their country's flag. The Global Robotics Competition held in the U.S. was a chance to show what so many in their country doubted, that girls can accomplish anything.
An accomplished they did. Winning an award for "courageous achievement" given the teams who persevere through trying circumstances. So much has changed since then.
In a matter of months this year, the Taliban swept back across Afghanistan, toppling city after city. A mortal threat to girls like those on the robotics team, educated, progressives, the exact opposite of how the Taliban believe women should be. And so, five of the original team made the decision to flee in the heroine journey. They went from Herat, Afghanistan to Kabul. There they managed to get on one of the last commercial flights before the Taliban took the city. From there, Islamabad, Pakistan was next. Eventually followed by Doha, Qatar, then Frankfurt, Germany. And then to Mexico City.
Landing in the Mexican capital where the government here has allowed them to stay while they figure out what's next, it is here in the city that we got a chance to meet in person.
RIVERS (on camera): Hi. Come on you, guys.
RIVERS (voiceover): Safe in Mexico, their first thoughts are, of course, about home and the cruelty of the Taliban regime.
FATEMAH QADERYAN, CAPTAIN, AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM: The rule of the government is just mockery and insult to Island. But Islam is the religion of kindness. We kindly request not only the United States but the entire International Community to eradicate the Taliban generation from Afghanistan.
RIVERS (voiceover): They know that the U.S. has limited options in that regards after its withdrawal and terrible situations for those opposed to the Taliban. They also know how lucky they were to get out.
SAGHAR SALEHI, AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM: It was really hard to, you know, leave our beloved ones in Afghanistan. But we are happy that today we are safe. Not only because of ourselves, but here we can be the voice of thousands of girls who want to be safe in Afghanistan and who want to continue their education and come make their dreams become true.
RIVERS (voiceover): A dwindling reality for girls in that country. In the weeks and months after the Taliban took over, their subsequent actions have reaffirmed a return to a society where women are treated as holy unequal to men. Still, the team has a message for those left behind.
KAWSAR ROSHAN, AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM: So, my message and my message to my generation is that to please, don't lose your hope, your spirit wherever in Afghanistan you are. I know it is difficult because I am an Afghan girl too and I fully understand you. But please don't lose your spirit. There is always light in the height of darkness. And just make your dream and follow your dream. And believe that one day your dream will come true because I experienced that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS (on camera): And we asked all of the girls, what do you want to do next both in the near future and in the long-term future? All four girls that we spoke to tell us they do plan on going to college somewhere hopefully in the United States. They say as for the long- term future, they all have hopes to return to Afghanistan someday.
Matt Rivers, CNN. Mexico City.
[02:35:00] CHURCH: Such inspiring young women there. And the E.U.'s drug regulator is throwing its support behind COVID booster shots for people with weak immune systems. The new guidance comes amid rising cases of the Delta variant and worries of more lockdowns in the winter months across Europe. The European Medicines Agency says the best bet is a vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna. At least 28 days after the second jab. But experts we still need more data to know how long a third shot will be effective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCO CAVALERI, EMA HEAD OF BIOLOGICAL THREATS AND VACCINES STRATEGY: We are still struggling of how long last the second dose. So, to say how long will last the booster dose is even more complicated. I think data will tell us. But of course, at least in the contests of the booster, what we are seeing at least with this vaccine is that the new responses indeed much higher than what we have seen after the second dose. Which means, that potentially, we will have quite remarkable amounts of neutralizing antibodies also for much longer than six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The son of late Philippines' dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, will run for president in next year's election. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., known as Bong Bong is the fourth politician hoping to succeed Rodrigo Duterte who cannot seek reelection. Marcos has pledged to bring unifying leadership to help the country overcome the COVID pandemic. The 64-year-old has been involved in politics since his family returned from exile in the early 1990s. He is father was overthrown in a popular uprising in 1986.
Well, dozens of countries are being represented as the World Expo in Dubai, including some struggling with poverty and war. CNN takes a look inside. We're back with that, in just a moment.
CHURCH: A massive World Expo is under way in Dubai with nearly 200 countries participating in the six-month long event, which could draw up to 25 million visitors. Each country has its own pavilion, including China, where visitors are now being greeted by this robotic panda. In the French pavilion, visitors can experience this month exhibition which focuses on the history and reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
But what's displayed in some pavilions may not give the full picture of the situation inside the country. CNN's Scott McLean has the details now from Dubai.
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SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): If Expo 2020 in Dubai is supposed to be a global village, it's a sanitize newly built luxury version with perfectly manicured walkways and a newly built home for each of the 192 national government represented. Even countries plagued by extreme poverty, civil war or a violence struggle will over control of government.
Earlier this year after a landslide election won by the incumbent party of leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's military alleged fraud, staged a coup arrested Suu Kyi and violently crackdown on protests and dissent. But walking through the Myanmar pavilion at Expo, you'd never know it.
LEVI SAP NEI THANG, MYANMAR PAVILION DEPUTY COMMISSIONER GENERAL: And attracting tourism and then promoting our culture and promoting my people.
MCLEAN (on camera): Would you still want tourists to go to Myanmar today?
THANG: I want them to come but it may not be a good time.
MCLEAN (voiceover): Levi Sap Nei Thang is a successful entrepreneur in the U.S. and the household name in Myanmar, she says she was appointed to run the pavilion by Suu Kyi's previous government five years ago. She is technically the pavilions deputy commissioner general. Deputy because the Myanmar's military junta is now in charge of the country and at least on paper, the pavilion too.
THANG: I do this for my people. Not for any political parties.
MCLEAN (voiceover): Thang says she paid to outfit the pavilion from her own pocket. If she is forced out, she doesn't know what she'll do with the boxes upon boxes of items she has brought with her.
MCLEAN (on camera): Do you think that someone from the current government would rather have this pavilion?
THANG: I think they want to send a new chief (ph).
MCLEAN (voiceover): The Burmese military government did not respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, across the road, there is no sign that the Taliban plan to occupy the Afghanistan pavilion. It is fully built inside and out with empty shelves and display cases, there is no sign that any Afghans have actually been. Here
War-torn Syria though is represented at Expo 2020. And here, there is no doubt who is in charge. A portrait of President Bashar al-Assad accused of using chemical weapons on his own people is displayed amongst 1,500 wooden paintings that aim to represent the unity of a country torn apart by a decade of civil war.
At the Yemen pavilion, a 300-year-old manuscript and some of the gulf's rarest swords are on display, but there is no mention of the Saudi-led war that's killed more than 200,000 people.
Last year, a massive explosion rocked the Beirut Port in Lebanon, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. The country already in the midst of a financial crisis that according to a recent U.N. report, has pushed almost three quarters of the population into poverty. But inside the Expo pavilion, it is another world. The Lebanon pavilion unlike most every other has no connection to the dysfunctional Lebanese government blamed for swinging the country from crisis to crisis. Instead, the organizers say its year thanks to Lebanese businesses and expats.
MCLEAN (on camera): Do you ever think that maybe you are carrying water for the government?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not carrying water to the government. We are not doing their job. We are doing it for the people. And if they are not willing to do it. Then we will do.
MCLEAN (voiceover): Scott McLean, CNN, Dubai.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I will be back in 15 minutes. World Sport is coming up next.