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Kidnapped in Haiti; U.S.-Venezuela Standoff; British MP Murder; Coronavirus Pandemic; Economic Woes; Rohingya Refugees. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 01:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, you're watching CNN. Just ahead, already struggling with a spike in kidnappings. Haiti is now faced with another disturbing abduction. 17 missionaries from the U.S. and Canada taken by gang members.

And the British Parliament is set to honor David Amess in the coming hours and discuss how to protect MPs from violent attacks in the future.

Plus the latest on China's economic struggles we'll break down the disappointing GDP numbers on top of supply chain and energy problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: A senior U.S. official says the U.S. does not know the whereabouts of 17 missionaries kidnapped over the weekend by gang members in Haiti. 16 Americans and one Canadian were abducted on Saturday after visiting an orphanage east of Puerto Prince.

The U.S. organization called Christian aid ministries says five children were also among this group, a Haitian security sources the gang that authorities believe was involved as called 400 Mawazo and has taken part in previous kidnappings.

Well, Stefano Pozzebon is tracking developments. He joins us now live. Stefano, hi. Talk us through who this gang is and what we know about them.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Robyn. The 400 Mawazo is one of the most feared and dangerous gangs in Haiti in the capital of Haiti Port au Prince. And as it happens in so many our cities in this part of the world in Latin America, in the Caribbean, these mega gangs that are involved in everything from drug trafficking, racketeering, and kidnappings from ransom exercise a territorial control into the slums in the neighborhoods of the city, in this case, Port-au-Prince.

And these gangs which is one of the highest rising over the last few years in Haiti exercise of control over the neighborhood where is located an orphanage, that these group of missionaries were visiting earlier on Saturday morning, and that's why authorities believe that the gang was able to bring home such a high targets, 17 Westerners. It's not unusual for Haitian gangs to kidnap large numbers of victims.

And for example, these gang gets held the 400 Mawazo is responsible for the kidnapping of a groups of Republican Dominican Republic truck drivers earlier this summer. You can see, Robyn, the situation in Haiti is escalating rapidly over the last few years corruption, mismanagement, and just this summer the assassination of President Jovenel Moise have created a power vacuum that these gangs have been way too eager to occupy and now U.S. security sources are telling CNN that the FBI is working around the clock to try to bring those 17 North American missionaries back home. Robyn.

CURNOW: You referenced the deteriorating security situation there in Haiti, for Haitians there on the ground, becoming also increasingly frustrated about what they see is any political leadership.

POZZEBON: Correct, Robyn. In fact, just in a few hours early on Monday morning, a local union of drivers and workers in transports have declared a general strike and indefinite strike to protest against this security situation. Of course, drivers and workers in transportations are among those most targeted by these kidnappings. And which has been a hallmark phenomenal over the last few years in Haiti with a succession of governments involved in scandals of corruption and unable to put to stem off the rise in violence.

And that's why the people of Haiti have had enough and have decided to call on an indefinite strike starting in a few hours this Monday, and that's just to say how these latest accidents that involves 17 missionaries from North America has only brought to the forefront, a situation that was deteriorating over the last few years for Haitian, for any foreigner who has been living in Haiti. Robyn.


CURNOW: Thanks so much for that updates, Stefano Pozzebon.

So officials in Haiti are in touch with Canadian authorities as well as the U.S. State Department and the urgent search to locate these missionaries. Kylie Atwood has the latest from Washington. Kylie.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: A Christian aid organization based in Ohio confirming that there were 16 Americans and one Canadian 17 in total missionaries in Haiti who are abducted by a gang over the weekend. Now they were there working at an orphanage. They were kidnapped when they were doing the work leaving that orphanage headed to a place just north of Port-au-Prince.

Now, I'm told the U.S. government according to a senior U.S. government official doesn't know the current location of those Americans who have been kidnapped. They're working around the clock, State Department officials, FBI officials to try and figure out where they are. And of course, how to secure their release. Now officially, the State Department spokesperson saying that they are aware of the reports not going much further with regard to details. We're waiting to see if the White House comments on this. But the State Department travel advisory for Haiti says do not travel that is for all Americans.

They suggest that they don't travel to Haiti, particularly because of these kidnappings that travel advisory sites, kidnappings. And we should note that kidnappings in Haiti have been on the rise in the last few months since July. They have risen 300 percent. And of course, that doesn't include this latest development over the weekend. With these 16 Americans kidnapped. Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.


CURNOW: Amy Wilentz is a contributing editor with The Nation and a literary journalism professor at UC Irvine. She's also written two books on Haiti. She joins me now from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for joining us. You have traveled backwards and forth between Haiti reporting there for 30 years. The security situation at the moment, what is your assessment of it?

AMY WILENTZ, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NATION: Well, it's very bad. It's much worse than it's been. But it is a continuing decline through the years of the presidency of the now assassinated President Jovenel Moise to this point we're at now.

CURNOW: And since that assassination, it is certainly amplified, hasn't it? The security situation, the degrading of the of the security situation?

WILENTZ: Yes, I think they feel there's a vacuum of power, a total lack of power. And there's also rivalries among the gangs for political power and power of violence. And it's very bad right now.

CURNOW: Let's talk about these gangs, because they are directly involved in the kidnapping of these missionaries. And I want to get to their specific case in just a moment, but in terms of the gangs, give us a sense of the power play between these interlocking gangs and where and how they play within the political landscape.

WILENTZ: Well, it's, of course, they're territorial like in a gang. So and there are many of them. There are big gangs and little gangs, this happens to be the one involved in this incident, a very, very big gang that has branches throughout Haiti. It's one of the biggest employers in Haiti right now other than the government, and the all the gangs put together probably the second biggest employer right now in Haiti. And that's the kind of situation the economy is in.

But beyond that, these gangs have, you know, undercover relationships with political figures, political parties, and this is not new in Haiti, but it's way worse than it's ever been. And these are real, real gangs with heavy weapons and real vehicles that they can take in anywhere. They have tons of SUVs. And it's a very scary situation when I've been there. And that is not that recently. I was very, very worried and thought about armored cars. Now everyone I know who's visiting is in an armored car with a bulletproof vest. So it's not good and it didn't used to be like that.

CURNOW: And clearly, missionaries on the ground, that's not how they're operating. And there are, I mean, these early numbers that we're looking at now. I think 17 of them a number of children as well. Should missionaries be even operating in this kind of environment?

WILENTZ: Well, I know that those missionaries right now even now would probably tell you yes, they should be and it's not only because they feel they have a religious mission, but it's because a lot of missionaries feel that they have a pretty good understanding of Haiti and what's happened is the rules of the game have changed. These people probably all speak Creole. A lot of them have probably been there for a long time or back and forth. And, you know, I'm sure they're very, very surprised at this situation that this is a bigger kidnapping. It has. It has meaning for things beyond the kidnapping itself, and everyone is aware of that.

CURNOW: What is -- what are the broader meanings and also then the bit of the barrier?


The bigger question is, you know, what kind of ransom, if any, will be paid? No doubt that is all part of this. And how safe are there at the moment?

WILENTZ: OK, so I think that the biggest they're almost like hostages, I think --


WILENTZ: -- to American policy in Haiti. And, you know, we've never seen anything like this before. I think it's 16 American citizens in one Canadian.


WILENTZ: You don't see that. You don't see Americans being kidnapped like that. Mostly it's Haitian-Americans being kidnapped because these gangs know very well that those people have some money, but nobody's going to pay attention. But, of course, the gang knows that people are going to pay attention to this kidnapping. And I think that it is a tool. I think I can't say for sure. It is a tool in a wider, ongoing situation with American backing for the current government and the previous two governments.

CURNOW: So what are they want then?

WILENTZ: You know, it's complicated, do they -- I don't know what side they're on. Are they on the side of the current president? I think the President, the Prime Minister, the de facto Prime Minister, I think he would like the Americans to come in with boots on the ground to deal with this situation. And that, I think is a possibility. I mean, it's like -- it's almost like a demand for American intervention. Yet, I know that the gangs don't want to be taken in and they don't want to be arrested and they don't want to be killed. So it's complicated. It's very complicated.

CURNOW: Meanwhile, the future of the 17 people on the ground is pretty uncertain at the moment and a lot of information on how they're doing. Really good to get your expertise and your analysis. Amy Wilentz, really appreciate it. Thank you.

WILENTZ: Thank you.

CURNOW: Now the extradition of a Colombian businessman is fueling the latest standoff between the U.S. and Venezuela. Alex Saab is due in a Florida court in the coming hours as he faces charges of money laundering. He's a close eight Venezuelan strongman, Nicolas Maduro and crackers is retaliating. Rafael Romo has more on what Venezuela is doing to the so called Citgo 6.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The group of five U.S. citizens and one permanent us resident were imprisoned only hours after a businessman close to that as well and President Nicolas Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the United States leading many to think that it was a retaliation move by Venezuela's socialist regime.

The group is known as the CITGO 6 because they are all former executives of the Citgo Petroleum Corporation. They were arrested in 2017 in Caracas on embezzlement charges, which stayed the night and had been under house arrest since May.

Two attorneys who have been working to get all six released told CNN Sunday that they are now being held at El Helicoide prison in Caracas, the capital. This is the same prison were former defense minister in general, Raul Isaias Baduel considered by many a political prisoner died Tuesday of COVID-19.

According to the Coalition for Human Rights, an NGO, 20 inmates have tested positive for the virus at the prison with the CITGO 6 are now being held. The family of Jose Angel Pereira, one of the six posted a video where he says he was afraid that if taken to prison again, it would be under the worst conditions possible. Pereira also said he wanted to record his testimony because he was very worried.

Many of the Venezuelan opposition say this is nothing more than a retaliation move for Alex Saab's expedition Saturday from Cape Verde to the United States. Saab is a Colombian businessman close to Maduro, who is expected to appear in court Monday in Florida after being indicted in the US.

He also faces money laundering and fraud charges in his native Colombia. Why is the Venezuelan government protesting his extradition? Because it means that one of President Maduro's closest confidants maybe available for interrogation by U.S. authorities, someone who knows the ins and outs of a totalitarian regime. Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: Thanks Rafael for that. So now to the UK where members of parliament will pay tribute to Sir David Amess the House of Commons -- in the House of Commons in the coming hours. They're also expected to discuss what can be done to prevent a tragedy like his murder from happening again. Nada Bashir has more from London.


NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER (on camera): While the investigation into the fatal stabbing of British lawmakers to David Amess on Friday is still ongoing. Police have confirmed that the incident is being treated as a terrorist incident. A 25 year old male, a British National believes to be of Somali heritage and identified by a Whitehall source as Ali Harbi Ali has been arrested on suspicion of murder. Police say they aren't seeking any further suspects at this stage.


They believe he acted alone but have said that early evidence from the investigation suggests the motivation for the attack may be linked to extremist Islamist ideology. So this is particularly concerning and shocking, not only for Sir David's family, but for the entire country and all those he represented in his constituency.

We do know that members of the community have been going to the police cordon line just outside the scene where he was killed, leaving flowers, balloons, messages of condolence. And we have heard from Sir David's family, now they said, strong and courageous is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace.

So we asked people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward, set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.

Now what is important to note here is that Sir David was attacked and killed in a church while holding his constituency surgery on Friday, that surgery is a sort of open office hours an opportunity for his constituents to meet with him express their grievances, concerns or to ask for help.

These are very regular occurrence for members of parliament in the UK to meet with the people that they represent. Sir David being a long- term parliamentarian with more than 30 years of experience, so he was very much engaged with his local community.

But these sorts of open forum settings have raised some concerns, particularly now, after the murder of Sir David, many raising the question of whether enough is being done to protect British lawmakers. And this comes just five years after the murder of Joe Cox, a Labour member of Parliament who was shot and stabbed to death by far right extremists just as she was preparing to meet with the people that she represents in her constituency. So there are some serious questions now for the government as to what is to be done going forward to protect lawmakers Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that she is working urgently with the government to see what measures need to be put in place to protect lawmakers.

But Sir David actually wrote about this quite recently it reflecting on the murder of Joe Cox and he wrote that the increasing attacks have spoiled the Great British tradition of people being able to meet with local representatives. So there are concerns now over whether or not there will be a balance struck between allowing people to meet with their local elected representatives and ensuring the safety of parliamentarians.

But what is clear now is that there are some serious questions being left in the wake of the murder of Sir David Amess, his constituents, his local residents still shocked by his murder and the brutal manner in which he was killed. Many have described him as a cornerstone of the community and have been deeply saddened by his loss and of course, its colleagues in Parliament. The Prime Minister describing him as one of the nicest, kindest and most gentle people in politics. Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


CURNOW: Still ahead, China's economy grew at its slowest pace in a year is the swift rebound beginning to lose steam we ask that. Plus, the U.S. is making progress against the Coronavirus but experts say what happens next will depend on getting more shops into arms.



CURNOW: Russia is facing a record surge in COVID infections. On Sunday the government reported more than 34,000 new cases setting a new record for the fourth day in a row. It comes a day after Russia reported more than 1,000 daily COVID deaths for the first time ever.

And yet the Kremlin is still ruling out a nationwide lockdown. Instead, they say more Russians need to get vaccinated. But Russia's vaccination drive has slumped with many hesitant to take Russian made vaccines. Right now just over 32 percent of Russians are fully vaccinated.

And the U.S. is gaining ground and its fight against COVID. The rate of new cases is improving fewer COVID patients are in hospital and deaths down to almost -- it also down compared to a month ago now. Now, the CDC says 57 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. But winter is of course on the way which means more people will be gathering indoors and Dr. Anthony Fauci says we could see another surge of more people don't get vaccinated.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're going in the right direction. The problem is, as we all know, we still have approximately 66 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated. The degree to which we continue to come down in that slope will depend on how well we do about getting more people vaccinated.


CURNOW: Meanwhile, CDC advisors will meet later on this week to discuss whether to recommend boosters for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson recipients and FDA panel has already voted in favor of both. Experts also say it's especially important for people who got one dose of the J and J to get another dose as soon as possible to be fully protected. He is the director of the National Institutes of Health.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: You know, if the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna had not been so utterly amazingly effective 95 percent then Johnson and Johnson would look like a hero with their one dose. But I guess our standards are being set awfully high here by the other vaccines.

There was data that suggested if you are going to get a booster for J and J maybe getting a Madonna or a Pfizer booster would actually have some advantages in terms of giving you an even stronger immune response. So don't run out anybody who got J and J. I would wait another week right now and see what CDC's Advisory Committee does with this next week. And by maybe a week from today, I'll tell my grandkids what I think they ought to do.


CURNOW: China's economy grew only 4.9 percent in the third quarter its weakest expansion in a year. The country has been able to rebound from pandemic difficulties but seems to be losing streak steam, and that a multitude of problems including supply chain issues, COVID outbreaks, and an energy shortage. Kristie Lu Stout joins me now from Hong Kong with the latest. Hi, Kristie, good to see you. Tell me about these numbers and also the reaction across the region.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction has been this is what we were expecting and it's been largely priced into the markets already as expected. China through these latest GDP reports and these numbers is showing that its economy is slowing down earlier today. China reported that its economy the third quarter grew only 4.9 percent compared to the same period a year ago. And that is a sharp slowdown from the 7.9 percent growth that posted in the previous quarter.

China is facing an array of economic challenges like weak consumer spending due in part to constant flare ups of the Delta varying across the country. And also you have that ongoing energy crisis which is worsening. This is due to a shortage of coal, which is still China's main source of energy. And that has caused power outages across China, is also forced the Chinese government to ration electricity in 20 provinces, it's also forced factories to suspend production, and that has caused a fall in industrial output. And that on top of that you have the Evergrande debt crisis. Evergrande of course, is the Hong Kong listed property company that was heavily indebted developer in China with over $300 billion worth of liabilities, concern about the fate of that company, and a spillover effect has been weighing heavily on the markets.

Even before today's numbers came out. Economists across the region were already revising downwards their economic forecasts for China, including Aidan Yao of AXA Investment Managers. I want you to listen to what he had to say.



AIDAN YAO, ECONOMIST, AXA INVESTMENT MANAGERS: I think that data suggests that the multiple headwinds facing the Chinese economy at the moment, some of which are temporary. Some of them are could be more long lasting. I think the key long term challenge is the housing market crackdown.


LU STOUT: Now, today, we also heard from the spokesman of China's National Statistics Bureau, he said that he is confident that China's properties sector will continue to maintain growth. Last week, we heard from Likud Chang, the premier of China who said yes, there are these economic challenges, but that China has the tools to be able to cope with them, and that China is on track to meet its development goals for the year. Back to you, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, let's just talk more about Evergrande and the property market --


CURNOW: -- and the impact it's having on China's economy and the way it's slowing down. This is a real focus as your expert, your analyst has talked about that. What next in that --

LU STOUT: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. We should definitely carve out some time to talk about Evergrande. This is the latest about what's happening there. On Friday, we finally heard for the first time Chinese officials address the Evergrande crisis.

The People's Bank of China or PBOC acknowledged that this was a crisis. They said that the company had mismanaged its business. But they also added that the risks that Evergrande poses to the financial system are quote controllable.

Now we know that PBOC officials, they also urge the company to continue to dispose of their assets in order to just claw back some desperately needed liquidity or cash and to continue resuming their construction projects. But time is running out. We already know that Evergrande has missed the deadline on a number of bond payments that were due. And there are more deadlines to come. Robyn. CURNOW: Thanks so much for that. Kristie Lu Stout, as always live in Hong Kong. Thank you.

So coming up on CNN, the plight of thousands of Rohingya refugees and details of the UN agreement with the Bangladeshi government on their relocation.

Plus, days of rain have led to deadly flooding and landslides in southern India we'll have a live update from CNN Weather Center on when the rain might lead.



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you along this hour. It's 29 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world.

I'm Robyn Curnow.

Well, the United Nations has reached an agreement with Bangladesh to work on an island where thousands of Rohingya refugees have now been moved. But a copy of the agreement, leaked to Reuters, does not guarantee that refugees will be allowed to move freely to the mainland.

CNN has not seen the agreement and cannot can confirm its contents. The Rohingya are a mostly Muslim minority who fled persecution in Myanmar.

The refugees and rights groups say some relocations were involuntary and the flood-prone island is like a jail.

Well, Ishmail Wolff is the regional director of Fortify Rights, a human rights group. He joins me now Phuket, Thailand.

Ishmail, thank you very much for joining us. First of all, can you state what is in the U.N. agreement with Bangladesh when it comes to this island based on your knowledge of it?

ISHMAIL WOLFF, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, FORTIFY RIGHTS: Thanks so much Robyn. Thanks for having me.

And so Fortify Rights, myself, we have seen the document and we have assessed it. The document, itself, is basically an agreement between the U.N. Refugee Agency and the government of Bangladesh to allow the UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency and other humanitarian access to the island to try and provide support to those Rohingya refugees on the island.

There are 20,000 refugees on the island at the moment. And it does say that the government of Bangladesh will provide unhindered access to the U.N. humanitarian partners to provide those very, very needed services to the Rohingya refugees on the island. However, the key concern that we have is it almost essentially codifies restrictions on the freedom of movement, particularly those who are on the island and their ability to return to mainland camps.

We've documented human rights violations over the past one year on the island of those refugees on the island. And one of the key concerns that they put to us is that they feel like it's a prison.

They can't get off, they're not allowed to return to the mainland. And that is the key concern that we have looking at the document as it stands.

CURNOW: So what is Fortify Rights, your organization asking the U.N. to do about these no free travel clause?

WOLFF: Essentially, both the U.N. Refugee Agency and the government of Bangladesh, they need to make a commitment that the rights of Rohingya refugees will be fully respected. And that means that if there are Rohingya refugees that are on the island that do not wish to be there, they should be permitted to return to the mainland.

At the moment, it does not give that guarantee. And that is the main concern and the main call.

The other call is that this document, as you say, CNN has not seen it. It is being kept restricted, private. It should be made public.

And essentially, you know, one of the key issues that the Rohingya population has faced, particularly, you know, over one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who have fled atrocity, crimes, genocide in Myanmar, is they're often left out of these decisions that affect their daily lives and their rights.

So this should be made public. And those that have a stake in this, especially Rohingya refugees themselves, should be able to look at that and be able to have input in this, and have some control or some impact or input on the decisions that are affecting their lives.

CURNOW: How many more refugees are set to be moved there or travel there? And what is -- what are the conditions like there on the ground? Can you give us more details?

WOLFF: Yes, as I said from the very inception this has been sort of a human rights misadventure. About 20,000 are on the island. A moment ago Bangladesh has said that they want to move around 100,000.

As I said we've been documenting, speaking to Rohingya refugees on the island over the past year, who've been moved back and forth. And they've stressed that the conditions that they are living under are not the conditions that the government of Bangladesh told them that they would be experiencing there.

So there are restrictions on freedom of movement on the island. People are basically restricted to their specific areas, not free to move around. We have documented beatings and arrests of refugees who have tried to move around freely on the island. And I don't know if you've seen pictures of it but it's basically -- they look very much like military or prison barracks surrounded by barbed wire, CCTV, heavy security presence on the island including the Bangladesh navy.

About 200 or so -- at least 200 people have been arrested over the last month or two trying to escape the island and dozens have died trying to take the sort of very perilous journeys on boats paying traffickers to try and get across.

Also the other concerns that Rohingya refugees tell us about is the lack of access to livelihoods, education, health care. And these are all things that the U.N. Refugee Agency's presence on the island could really help with, you know.

And there could be a lot of support that is necessary on the island. But as I said the issue here is that it needs to be free and voluntary, stay on the island.

And at the moment as I said, the chief concern here is that all of those, pretty much all those we have spoken who said they don't want to be there.

So there's another 80,000 or so that the Bangladesh government says they want to move to the island. All of those transfers need to be voluntary and they need to be informed, fully informed of what the situation is on the island before they're moved.


WOLFF: And they should've taken place at the beginning. It's what the U.N. asked for. It's what we've asked for and other human rights organizations. No one should have been moved to the island until those protection needs, the humanitarian needs and also the safety and security of the individuals on the island given its status in the Bay of Benghal and cyclones.

Those things need to be agreed upon beforehand and ensure before anyone or anyone else should be moved to the island.

CURNOW: Ishmail Wolff, thank you very much for bringing us your firsthand experience of what you've seen in this document. Appreciate it. Thank you.

So risky operations are underway in India after daily flooding in the state of Karalla. At least 22 people have been killed after landslides were triggered by days of rain.

The Indian military is flying in emergency supplies and personnel to the hardest hit areas.

Now after a six-year hiatus, Adele is back with new music, sure to break a few hearts and some stunning visuals as you can see there too. Just ahead what the award winning singer has in store for fans who already have made her new single a record-breaking hit.


CURNOW: Well, she's certainly not taking it easy on us. British singer Adele is back with her first newest music in single years. The first single from her new album 30 is called "Easy on Me" and it's already breaking records racking up 24 million streams on Spotify in just 24 hours and in just 3 days the video for the song has more than 69 million views on YouTube.

Adel says her new music is inspired by her divorce from her ex- husband. And fans are relive every moment of (INAUDIBLE) with her.

Well, let's go to Bob Lefsetz, music writer for "The Lefsetz Letter" thank you very much for joining us. The music industry, Bob, is certainly banking on Adele.

BOB LEFSETZ, MUSIC WRITER, "THE LEFSETZ LETTER": Well you know it's very complicated because everything breaks on the Internet now as opposed to radio, and there's been a lot of pent-up demand for Adele.

It's been six years since the last record. And the pent-up demand has generated the numbers you speak of. But the track itself doesn't sound like a hit, it sounds like a setup for the album. And I would not expect these numbers to continue.

In the modern marketplace something can come out, very successful her a few days and drop off. And I don't believe this is solid as "Hello" or some of her other earlier songs like "Rolling in the Deep".

But that does not mean the album itself, she worked with a lot of hit makers, Max Martin has hits with everybody. You know, The Weekend. He just has one with Cold Play and BTS. That's on the album.

So maybe the -- I don't they put out the album unless they had hits on the record but I don't hear this particular track I think as being a hit. Just pent-up demand that is driving those numbers.


CURNOW: The industry though has certainly changed since the release of her last album six years ago, and the one before that "21" which, of course was extraordinary.

LEPSETZ: Yes dramatic. When she came out with "21" people were still buying CDs. She sold three times as many as anybody. These are numbers like Michael Jackson numbers when he did "Thriller" and sold 30 million copies.

However "25" was not as successful. She went on the road, she could've gone, sit on the road for years there was such demand. But in the interim it has become completely about streaming, and in streaming it's not only -- CDs you buy it, you may or may not play it. Now it's about playing it and all of these streaming services skew young.

So will that affect her ultimate number? Justin Bieber has 850 -- almost 900 million streams of his song "Peaches", which is not a good song. And Adele is better than that, but he is appealing to a very young demo. Adele appeals to an older demo, however the metric today is not really streams. It's whether you can sell tickets.


CURNOW: But it's also about Tiktok isn't it? I mean if a song like "Date Night at Appleby's can become such a big hit here in the U.S., you know, anyone can make it in many ways. Adele though doesn't she transcend all of this?

LEPSETZ: Well the issue is she does transcend it. But, the framework has changed since she's last had music. Because there used to be download business. There used to be a physical business, although there's a little bit of a vinyl business now. Now it's about streams.

Older demo songs do not stream as much, younger people might play it a hundred times straight. Older people will not. As far as Tiktok, Tiktok appeals to a very young demo. It is best when the songs were unknown.

If she has a hit on this record, believe me it will be recognized. And since she worked with these hit makers I have to believe there are hits on the record. It's coming out in November 19th.

This track seems to be a setup of the tone of the record -- about her divorce, her emotionality. So you can do that today.

The other thing today unlike -- if you (INAUDIBLE). If you come out with another track that is successful that is fine, and that can break. The other thing, she is selling a complete album, and with most people it's really about a track, some acts, (INAUDIBLE) put out an album until he had multiple hit.

So will there be an embracing of her new music. Absolutely. But will it be the phenomenon that it was with "21"? Almost no one can repeat that phenomenon. Michael Jackson died trying. Alanis Morrisette had "Jagged Little Pill" although she is still on the road. The Eagles had "Hotel California" then did "The Long Run" and broke up.

So you have to tamp down your expectations, but in these days where music is mostly collaborative, there is so much invested the opportunity cost is so high. The labels usually don't put out the album unless there is a guaranteed hit on the album. This is not it, but I would anticipate the next one would be.

CURNOW: Lots of anticipation I think, and what is so interesting about Adele is that she certainly moved at her own pace. And that I take my hat off to her for that.

Bob Lefsetz, always great to get your insider news on the music industry. Thanks so much. I do look forward to the rest of the album. Let's see how it plays out.

LEFSETZ: So do I. Good talking to you.

CURNOW: You too.

I'm Robyn Curnow. Thank so much for watching.