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Missionaries Kidnapped In Haiti; Cop26 Held In Scotland In Just 10 Days; Gabby Petito Case. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 02:00:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead.

CHURCH (voice-over): India hits in historic COVID-19 vaccine milestone, but the pressure remains to get more people fully vaccinated.

Dozens are dead after record breaking rain triggers flash flooding and landslides in parts of India and Nepal. We will have a live weather report.

And North Korea's missile launch leads to an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting. We'll speak to an expert on this latest escalation.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH (on camera): Good to have you with us. We begin with new details of yet another surge of COVID cases in the U.K. and Eastern Europe.

CHURCH (voice-over): While much of the world is seeing COVID infections go down or plateau, cases are rising in the U.K. and other parts of Europe amid dwindling vaccination rates.

The Czech Republic is planning new measures to stem a spike in infections, the highest since April. COVID certificates will be checked at restaurants and clubs and masks will have to be worn at all indoor venues.

Poland is also planning "drastic measures", although no new lockdown is being considered.

CHURCH (on camera): Well, in the U.K., healthcare professionals are warning of a winter crisis as COVID infections sore, but the British government isn't bringing back restrictions. Instead, they're planning to ramp up the vaccination program. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has details.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The United Kingdom will not be implementing any more strict measures to trying combat the coronavirus, then, that's despite the fact that the numbers of daily cases have been skyrocketing here in this country.

Now, the U.K. has been above 40,000 daily new infections for the past seven days running. And in fact, the country's health secretary said on Wednesday at a press conference that he believes that, that number could go up to 100,000 cases per day, as the winter really kicks in.

He also said at that same press conference that right now, the U.K. has close to 1,000 hospitalizations per day, and that the pandemic in this country is far from over.

Nevertheless, the government says, at this point in time, it will not enact any stricter measures, or what they call the plan B here.


SAJID JAVID, HEALTH SECRETARY OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: We're looking closely at the data. And we won't be implementing our plan B of contingency measures at this point.

But we'll be staying vigilant, preparing for all eventualities while strengthening our vital defenses that can help us fight back against this virus.

PLEITGEN: Instead, what the government in London wants to do is they want to try and give a boost to the vaccination campaign here in the United Kingdom. Of course, when the vaccination campaign started here, it really was one of the most successful in the world.

However, it's been stuttering a little bit as of recently, and there's really three points that the health secretary made today. He said on the one hand, they obviously want to get as many people who are not vaccinated, yet vaccinated as fast as possible. They also want to offer booster shots to people who are eligible as fast as possible, and then also offer single jabs to children as young as 12 as well.

And the reason why this is such a hot topic here in this country right now is, of course, on the one hand, because the situation is so concerning. But also because some senior members of the NHS, the National Health Service here has sounded the alarm bells.

They said that the NHS is already strained, and that if something isn't done quickly, and this country could face as they put it a winter of crisis, they said that plan B should in fact be enacted as fast as possible.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And that could involve things like for instance mask mandates, but also social distancing mandates as well.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, London.

CHURCH: Well, just months after India was ravaged by a second wave of coronavirus, the country's health ministry now says it has administered 1 billion doses of COVID vaccine. It reached that milestone by giving 8 million shots in a single day. About 30 percent of India's adult population is now fully vaccinated. But in Singapore where 84 percent of people have been fully vaccinated, a record number of COVID deaths were reported Wednesday, and new cases spiked by nearly 4,000 in just 24 hours.


CHURCH: Well, journalist Manisha Tank is following this for us in Singapore. But let's begin with Vedika Sud, who joins us live from New Delhi.

So, Verdika, after that deadly second wave, India ramped up its vaccination drive, now, with more than 1 billion doses administered so far. That is an impressive milestone.

How were they able to achieve that? And what is the plan to get more shots in arms?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Good to be with you, Rosemary. Yes, that is a milestone indeed. And that's what the Indian prime minister also said while he tweeted, saying it's a historic achievement for the country.

But like you mentioned, 30 percent of India's population is fully vaccinated, and about 74 percent is partially vaccinated, and that's a gaping really difference between the numbers that we have. And that's a huge challenge for the Indian government to ensure that those who've just got one shot, get another sooner than later.

But I think you're right. It's the second wave that struck the Indian government and the people of the country a few lessons, especially when it comes to oxygen shortages, as well as the supply of vaccines not being enough, especially in the month of March, April, and May.

Now, what you're seeing, Rosemary, if I could just cite a few figures for you is between January 16th to August, there have been 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered.

And in the next three months, which means from August to October, 500 million vaccines have been administered. So, what the country did in the first six months is what they've achieved in just three months. And that's a result of ramping up a vaccine supplies, mainly from two places.

One is the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, which is Covishield, which has been manufactured in India locally by the Serum Institute of India. They've really, really shot up as far as the supplies are concerned.

And the other is a homegrown vaccine from Bharat Biotech, which is the Covaxin. But still, there's a long way to go.

When you look at the figures and the percentages between those who have got one shot and the urban areas, which are crowded and populated, compared to those living in the rural areas, you have about 64 percent of the rural population that's got one shot compared to about 34 percent that have got one shot in cities. That's another gaping disparity that the Indian government is aware of. And they've written to state saying it's time to get those people who just got one shot to get their second. Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, an incredible effort.

Let's get to Manisha in Singapore now, where despite 84 percent of the population being fully vaccinated, a record number of deaths were reported Wednesday. What is behind this, Manisha?

MANISHA TANK, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEWS PRESENTER (on camera): That's right, Rosemary. 18 new deaths, of which have resulted from complications due to COVID-19 here in Singapore. And I want to give you the breakdown of whether or not those patients were vaccinated.

Nine of them were, eight of them were unvaccinated, and one was partially vaccinated. But I also want to point out, they all had underlying medical health conditions. And I think that is something that we have seen in other countries very common with COVID-19, isn't it?

Yes, you're right, vaccine rates running at 84 percent for those who've been double vaccinated here in Singapore. And that's one of the reasons why, you know, this is a very somber moment for people here who were hoping that they could very much get numbers under control.

I think it's worth putting these deaths though always very sad news into context of the wider number of cases, which is running in the 1000s. And a vast majority of cases here in Singapore are able to recuperate at home, and they don't have to go into hospitals.

But that said, the government has extended restrictions here, which for example, include only two people being able to dine out at a time for another month, and that is to keep the numbers under control and give the government time to ramp up and give the health authorities time to ramp up the number of ICU beds, for example.

Also, I want to point out the age of those that have been lost in the latest numbers. Aged 55 to 96. And the vast majority again, of those who lose their lives who are unvaccinated are over the age of 80 here in Singapore.

But otherwise, I want to tell you that this week, we had news that borders were reopening, vaccinated travel lanes, which have opened up with countries such as the U.K. and the United States. That has been some upbeat news, at least, because this is both important business back to Singapore and businesses have had to be supported by numerous budgets to keep things afloat over here.

Here is what one vendor had to say about it.


RAJ SAMUEL, RESTAURANT MANAGER: As you know, the pandemic has definitely hit majority of the businesses and we are not spared as well. So, that means more tourists into an area like ours. And definitely, there'll be more opportunities to increase footfall into the venues.


TANK: So, one can't deny that is sad news, these new fatalities from COVID-19. But as we look forward, there is certainly hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel as things reopen.


CHURCH: Yes. Very important. Manisha Tank in Singapore, Vedika Sud in New Delhi, many thanks to you both.

Well, Russia is scrambling to contain another COVID surge.

CHURCH (voice-over): The country is shutting down workplaces for a week amid a dramatic rise in COVID deaths and infections.

The Kremlin is also urging Russians to get vaccinated. CNN's Sam Kiley has more on the new measures the government is putting in place to combat the virus.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Vladimir Putin, the Russian president has thrown his weight behind government proposals to effectively enforce a national holiday on Russian workers from October the 30th through to November the seventh in a bid to try and avoid a nationwide lockdown in the strictest sense, but also reduce the levels of infections from COVID-19, which continue to climb on a daily basis.

KILEY (voice-over): And those climbing figures are being matched by sobering numbers of dead in the last 24 hours. The latest reporting period, 1,028 new victims dead from the virus.

Now, Vladimir Putin is regularly expressed his frustrations at the slow take up of the vaccine program here in Russia. This is what he said today.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Unfortunately, we see the dangerous consequences of the low level of vaccination in our country. I repeat once again, the vaccine really reduces the risks of illness or serious complications after an illness and the threat of death.

Therefore, of course, I support the proposals made by the government and draw the attention of the heads of the regions to the need to increase the rate of vaccination.

KILEY: Now, that frustration is, no doubt, driven by the fact that some 28 percent -- just over 28 percent of Russians have been vaccinated. They've taken the opportunity to take one of the four indigenously produced Russian vaccines. But more than two thirds of the population have not been vaccinated and that is beginning to show in the death toll and the climbing infection figures as winter approaches.


KILEY (on camera): Sam Kiley, CNN, in Moscow.

CHURCH (on camera): We are following a developing story out of northeastern China. At least three people are dead, more than 30 others injured in an apparent gas explosion.

CHURCH (voice-over): And you can see the blast captured on dash cam video right there.

Authorities say the explosion happened at a restaurant in a mixed-used residential and commercial building. Search crews and more than 100 firefighters are on the scene, looking through the debris for survivors. The exact cause of the blast is under investigation.

CHURCH (on camera): Well, more than 150 people are dead after two days of heavy rain and flooding in Nepal and northern India.

CHURCH (voice-over): Hundreds of others were evacuated from low lying areas in Nepal. Across the border, some areas in India's Uttarakhand State have seen their highest rainfall on record this week.

At least 46 people were killed there and 1000s of others were forced to flee their homes.

CHURCH (on camera): And Derek Van Dam joins us now with a weather forecast for the area, and for the rest of the day, of course. So, Derek, what is the latest on these floods and of course rescue efforts there?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR (on camera): Well, it's been such a difficult week for, as you mentioned, northern India and into portions of Nepal as well. I mean, just take a look at that picture a moment ago.

But I want you to talk about or I want you to notice the mountainous areas. We know that the Himalayans brought up to this particular region and anytime we've got our retreating monsoon this time of year, it usually ends about the end of September into early October across northern India, we get this influx of moisture that rises up and over the mountain region.

So, think of the mountains as a wall, a very sturdy object, right? Take a wet sponge for instance, you press that sponge against the wall and it's going to take out all of that water within the sponge.

Basically, what's happening here is called orographic lift. It is literally taking that air, the very wet air, and pushing it up against the mountainous side, and it's going to take out all of that moisture and produces extremely heavy rainfall.

Unfortunately, with the high altitude across this area, there are a lot of canyons and a lot of ravines where all that water collects very quickly. We see mudslides, landslides, and of course, flooding. Look at these rainfall totals, over 400 millimeters for some locations across northern India right near the border of Nepal.

The good news is that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, because the southwest monsoon is currently retreating, in fact, you can see the dry air separating the monsoonal moisture to the south and east, and it is slowly making its advance across the Indian subcontinent.

You can see the current withdrawal position here, still some rain taking place across the coastal areas and into the state of Kerala. You can see from the India Meteorological Department, we still have watches and alerts issued for portions of northern India and into the southern sections of the subcontinent.


VAN DAM: Rainfall totals here, near Kerala in and around the Kochi region, we could experience anywhere from 50 to 150 millimeters. So, we're going to look out for the potential of flooding across that region going forward through the course of this weekend as the southwest monsoon continues to retreat. Rosemary.

CHURCH: Derek Van Dam, many thanks for keeping us abreast of all of those details. Appreciate it.

Well, Brazil's president is denying accusations that he recklessly mismanaged the pandemic after a Senate panel call for criminal charges.

CHURCH (voice-over): Jair Bolsonaro, said the commission's work isn't productive, and he is not guilty of any crimes.

But the senators want to take the allegations against him all the way to the International Criminal Court.

CNN's Shasta Darlington reports from Sao Paulo.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Brazilian senators have recommended president Jair Bolsonaro be charged with 10 crimes, including crimes against humanity.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Alleging It was his reckless mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis that led to the deaths of hundreds of 1000s of Brazilians.

A senate commission investigating the president officially presented their report on Wednesday. It accuses him of an epidemic resulting in death, charlatanism, and crimes against humanity among other crimes.

More than 600,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, the second highest death toll in the world. After the report came out, Bolsonaro told a crowd of supporters that he wasn't guilty of any crimes and said the report produced nothing but hatred and resentment. He said, we know we did the right thing from the first moment. DARLINGTON (on camera): The document produced after six months of testimonies and allegations also recommends charging another 65 people of crimes, including current and former health ministers and three of Bolsonaro sons.

It's not clear that the recommendation will actually lead to any criminal charges, however. The commission senators are expected to vote on the final report next week, and if approved, the document will go to the Attorney General who's considered an ally of Bolsonaro.

Nonetheless, the inquiry has already taken a heavy toll on Bolsonaro. Live television coverage of the testimonies and accusations was watched closely by Brazilians who tuned into a daily, as if it were a soap opera.

The investigation contributed to a sharp drop in Bolsonaro's approval rating, making his bid for reelection next year look increasingly difficult.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

CHURCH (on camera): The conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region is escalating with another day of airstrikes, Wedensday.

CHURCH (voice-over): Black smoke blanketed parts of the regional capital Mekele.

The government said the strikes targeted weapon sites used by the Tigray People's Liberation Front. But the TPLF said the strike hit residential areas and injured civilians.

Reuters reports the government carried out a second strike about 80 kilometers away. A government spokesman said that one targeted a military training center and an artillery depot.

CHURCH (on camera): Well, time for a short break.

CHURCH: (voice-over): Just ahead, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations condemns North Korea's latest missile test, drawing a fiery response from Pyongyang.

Plus, we are live in Seoul to find out if there's any hope for a diplomatic solution as the U.S. is suggesting. We're back in just a moment.



CHURCH (on camera): North Korea is accusing the U.S. and the U.N. of tampering with a dangerous time bomb. That's in response to a Security Council meeting Wednesday to discuss Pyongyang's latest submarine launched missile test.

CHURCH (voice-over): Ireland, Estonia, and France are calling for strict enforcement of existing sanctions against the North. And the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says Washington has not given up on diplomacy.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, NOMINEE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: These are unlawful activities. They are in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions. And they are unacceptable. Each new advancement of the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs destabilizes the region and threatens international peace and security.


CHURCH: So, let's head now to Seoul, South Korea. And John Delury, professor at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH (on camera): So, let's start with that smaller ballistic missile that North Korea test fired on Tuesday, and that's basically triggered all of this. Some experts suggest it doesn't pose an immediate threat. Do you agree with that assessment?

DELURY: I think that's probably right. The problem is that we've seen a real change over the last couple of months where it's not any one isolated test. But North Korea does appear to have gotten back to the -- you know, older pattern.

And at this point, it's on one of those, those ramps where we're seeing more and more tests and new kinds of technologies. And so, I don't think it's a problem in the immediate sense. But the pattern is certainly unnerving to see that they really resumed that kind of robust testing regime that we saw, you know, of course back in 2017.

CHURCH: And of course, it was that missile launch, as we mentioned, that triggered Wednesday's emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, where the U.S. again offered to meet North Korea without preconditions, and made clear the U.S. has no hostile intent towards Pyongyang, saying it's time to engage in sustained and substantive dialogue toward the goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

But North Korea has previously rejected that and wasn't happy with that on Wednesday, either. And we saw a diplomatic talks, and former President Trump failed.

So, is there any hope for a diplomatic solution here?

DELURY: Well, you know, the only hope in the long run is for diplomatic solutions. I think that the Americans -- the Biden administration are trying to thread a needle right now, if we parse the language out of the U.N. Security Council. On the one hand, it's kind of the standard language about DPRK being unlawful and its activities and violating the existing resolutions. On the other hand, as you mentioned, there was a pretty deliberate emphasis on the willingness to talk that there's no hostile intent. And also, from what I saw that -- at the U.N. that the U.S. ambassador said, well, we don't need more sanction at this point, we need to implement enforce the ones we have.

That issue of enforcement kicks it over to China and Russia. And, of course, the story there is for, some time, China and Russia have been quietly lobbying for sanctions relief, and seeing that as the way to actually remove some the logjam and get talks going back with the North Korean.

So, I mean, we are seeing these things come to a head at the U.N. Security Council. Again, the only way forward is to get back into negotiations. And I think, at some point, the Biden administration will get there. But it's tough to get the door open -- the North Koreans.

For the moment, I think, are focused on testing their toys and making progress on that side.

CHURCH: Right. And you mentioned that because, Professor, you posted a tweet Wednesday that was attached to an article on both North and South Korea showcasing weapons technology despite attempts for these talks, and you said this: "Am I the only one losing track of which Korea is testing, showing off what new weapon?"


CHURCH: What are you -- what are -- what are we to make of this weapons race on the Korean Peninsula at a time when there is this push for diplomacy?

DELURY: Well, it's dizzying because, I mean, here in South Korea, for example, in a couple of hours, we're waiting for a space vehicle launch, which of course, if the North Koreans launched a space vehicle, it would be considered, you know, sending they should probably go to the U.N. Security Council in terms of dual use, and South Korea has been really making great strides in terms of defense development in what they call military modernization.

With also, submarine launched ballistic missiles and, and a whole slew of advanced technologies. And meanwhile, that's just the two Koreas, you know, we're getting reports of maybe multiple hypersonic glide vehicle tests by China, recently, which Russia has also been doing. And of course, we had the American U.K. sub deal in Australia.

So, sitting here in Seoul, it feels like there is a bit of a frenzy right now where everyone is arming up. And it's not only the North Koreans, although, they are the ones who are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But, on the one hand, people are talking about wanting to get back to negotiations.

On the other hand, if you look at the big powers, you don't see movement towards arm control -- arms control. And if you look at the two Koreas, again, South Korea is moving just as quickly as North Korea only minus the nuclear weapons piece of it.

CHURCH: Yes, John Delury, many thanks for joining us from Seoul. Appreciate it.

DELURY: Good to be with you.

CHURCH: And in less than an hour, South Korea plans to test launch its first domestically produced rocket.

CHURCH (voice-over): The Nuri or world rocket is a major step for the country's space program, and is set to put a dummy satellite weighing more than a ton into orbit.

Space launchers have been a sensitive subject on the Korean Peninsula due to the North's nuclear missile program. South Korean officials say the Nuri rocket has no use as a weapon.

CHURCH (on camera): Coming up next to you on CNN NEWSROOM.

CHURCH (voice-over): Officials are working behind the scenes to secure the release of a group of kidnap missionaries in Haiti. Why some inside the country are concerned about the ransom demand?

Well, like a giant vacuum cleaner, a brand new facility in Iceland is pulling tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. We'll explain how it works after the short break. Stay with us.



CHURCH (on camera): Negotiations to free 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti will stretch into another day. The powerful gang, 400 Mawozo is demanding $17 million to release the group.


But some are warning against paying such a large ransom. CNN's Joe Johns is following developments from Port-au-Prince.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The wait continues for information on the American missionaries who were snatched off the road near Port-au- Prince here in Haiti on Saturday. At last reports, the kidnappers were asking for $17 million, just $1 million each for every man, woman and child they took.

I spoke to Father Rick Frechette, he is a catholic priest best known for the medical care he gives to sick children here, but also has been called in repeatedly to help deal with kidnapping cases, including four cases involving the group that is alleged to have created this latest situation. He says he's very concerned that if a large ransom is paid, it could mean a price on the head of other Americans in this country. FATHER RICK FRECHETTE, FOUNDER, ST. LUKE FOUNDATION FOR HAITI: If there is a big ransom paid for these people, you can kiss all of us goodbye because there's not going to be hope for anybody. An eight- month-old child is in their hands, a three-year-old child is in their hands. It's different, and it's taken on a whole symbolic -- it's taken on a symbolic nature that the individual cases haven't had.

JOHNS: More information also slowly trickling out about the mission of these missionaries in Haiti were told that of late they had been helping people whose homes had been destroyed in the last earthquake to rebuild.

Joe Johns, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


CHURCH: The U.N.'s annual climate change summit gets underway in Scotland in just 10 days. But the Kremlin says Vladimir Putin won't be there in person. Although, he may attend virtually. The COP26 summit in Glasgow begins October 31st and ends November 12th.

Now, during the two-week summit in Glasgow, a lot of the focus will be on the need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases. And it's not enough to simply cut emissions, removing excessive carbon dioxide from the air is also critical. Well, now, the world's largest carbon capture in facilities is up and running in Iceland doing in one day what 500 trees can do in a year.

CNN's Kim Brunhuber has our report.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: In Iceland's rural hillside, enormous, futuristic looking fans are using an unusual method to fight climate change.

JAN WURZBACHER, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, CLIMEWORKS: We have just turned into operation our Orca plant, which is the largest air capture plan currently operational in the world with the capital city of 4,000 tons of CO2 that are captured from the air every year.

BRUNHUBER: A Swiss start up partnering with an Icelandic carbon storage firm developed the plant name Orca, a reference to the Icelandic word for energy. Powered by renewable energy from a nearby geothermal plant, Orca's eight large containers use high-tech filters and fans to capture or suck planet heating carbon dioxide from the air. From there --

WURZBACHER: And we are going to handing over this CO2 to our partners from Cart Fix (ph), who inject it underground, and the CO2 there is mineralized with the into the basalt rock. So, it is turned into stone literally and that is happening within a period of two years. So, that's the really most safe and most permanent method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere that is currently available on the market.

BRUNHUBER: The technology is innovative but expensive and need a lot more development before it could impact global warming. Fifteen climate capturing plants worldwide removed less than 10,000 tons of CO2 in 2020 according to the International Energy Agency. That pales in comparison to the billions of tons of carbon emissions the world releases each year.

But Orca's developers say they're planning to scale up and leading air capture firm say they're seen more investment and government interest in their technology. A hopeful start, they say, in the growing fight against world climate crisis.

Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


CHURCH: And for a deeper dive on carbon sucking fans in Iceland just head to for that story and all of the latest climate news.

What appears to be human remains have been found in a Florida wilderness area where authorities have been searching for Brian Laundrie. The fiance of Gabby Petito disappeared 37 days ago. His parents were reportedly the last to see him. The family's attorney says it's very likely the remains are Laundrie's.


MICHAEL MCPHERSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Earlier today, investigators found what appeared to be human remains along with personal items such as a backpack and a notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie.



CHURCH: Petito and Laundrie were traveling in the western U.S. when their social media posts abruptly stopped in late August. Petito's body was found in a national forest in Wyoming last month. The coroner said she was strangled. Laundrie has not been charged in her death, but he is charged with unauthorized use of her debit card.

Farmers in Columbia are hoping to cash in on the legal drug trade. Up next the country's medical marijuana industry is taking off and giving a much-needed boost to Columbia's economy. Back to that in just a moment.


CHURCH: Queen Elizabeth is resting for the next few days at Windsor Castle on her doctor's advice. She reluctantly canceled a planned trip to Northern Ireland. The palace said the 95-year-old is in good spirits. And a source told CNN this is not COVID related. The queen hosted a reception Tuesday night with business leaders including Bill Gates. She's still expected to attend a COP26 climate conference in Scotland later this month. Well, the world's top cocaine producer is trying to ramp up export of another drug when that's perfectly legal. Columbia wants to become a major player on the international market for medical marijuana. Stefano ?? reports the industry is creating an economic opportunity some Colombians have never had before.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voiceover): Like many farmers in Columbia's countryside, Beatrice Porez (ph) family grows coffee. But these 29 years old have turned her focus on another plant, marijuana. Beatrice oversees cutouts at this medical weed farm in rural we'd fines in Rural Columbia. She says her parents used to be skeptical of her job. But now, they are proud her daughter is working in the blooming industry of legal marijuana.

This farm is made of 18 hectares of open greenhouses for over 125,000 plants. Columbia legalized cultivation five years ago, but only this summer it allowed the exports of the dried flowers, which represents over 50 percent of the demand in markets like the U.S. According to the government, this puts Columbia the forefront of medical marijuana regulation. And for that reason, over $250 million of foreign investments have poured and 1,680 licenses have been issued.

With 12 hours of sunlight year-round and no seasons, Columbia enjoys the perfect climate for the production of marijuana.

ANDREWS FAJARDO, CEO, CLEVER LEAVES: If you think about it, greenhouses in other countries are trying to emulate the natural conditions we get here for free. So, that's a big advantage. And that implies, you know, you have to invest a lot less in your power costs, of course, you know, factor cost in terms of laborer is significantly cheaper here. So, there's a significant cost expenditure on ongoing costs basis.


POZZEBON (voiceover): Over 300 people work here. Like Beatrice, the majority are single mothers with few job opportunities in this region.

POZZEBON (on camera): Just standing in a place like this, in a country like Columbia, over only 10 years ago would've been completely unimaginable. And that is the idea of how profound this turnaround is, not on economics but also on social terms.

POZZEBON (voiceover): For decades, Columbia has waged a brutal struggle against drug traffickers, claiming thousands of lives and resulting in no reduction in illicit drugs production action in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will wipe out drug traffickers.

POZZEBON (voiceover): Switching from eradicated to legalizing marijuana was a sobering recognition.

POZZEBON (on camera): Some people say that you changing reproach, as you say, you had another vision.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, FORMER COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT: I was a hardliner. I have fought against drug trafficking in every way possible, and we have failed. I have failed. Columbia's failed. The world has failed. The U.S. has failed. We must accept, when you lose, you must except that you lost and you must try to find new ways to approach the problem.

POZZEBON (voiceover): This for the step in the legalization of marijuana production opens new opportunities, not only on medical exports but also in other sectors like clothing and cosmetics. About two-thirds of Columbians support the move to legalize marijuana for medical use.

So far, regulation is designed to attract foreign capital and balance recreational use. Pharmaceutical licenses here are cheaper than in other markets, but still out of reach for most Columbian farmers who continue to grow illegally. And projects to replace coca plants with medical cannabis have now taken up. The transition is not yet complete, but the door is opening for a change.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Columbia.


CHURCH: Facebook could soon have a new name. Announcing a major rebrand as early as next week. According to "The Verge," Facebook plans to put its family of social media apps under one umbrella name, which may reflect the company's plans to build a metaverse which Facebook says will combine virtual and augmented reality in a digital world, but it also comes as a tech giant faces growing criticism over its business practices.

While the fossilized remains of the largest triceratops ever discovered will go up for auction today in Paris. Nicknamed Big John, it is expected to sell for close to $2 million. The skeleton is about 60 percent complete. The skull alone is more than two and a half meters long, nearly a third of the dinosaur's total body length.


IACOPO BRIANO, PALEONTOLOGIST (through translator): We have compared the dimensions of Big John's skull to 41 other triceratops specimens, and we found out that this is the biggest one ever found in the history of paleontology.


CHURCH: Big John once roamed what's is now South Dakota some 66 million years ago. Paleontologist dug up the first piece of bone in 2014.

I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN Newsroom. World Sport is coming up next.