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Panic At Atlanta Airport After Accidental Weapon Discharge; Peng Shuai Purportedly Seen In New Videos; Kuhn: Chinese Government Will Protect Leader Accused Of Sexual Assault; COVID-19 Lockdowns In Europe; Chile Presidential Elections; One Killed, Four Wounded In Jerusalem Shooting; Migrants Stuck In Limbo At Poland-Belarus Border; Lahore Ranked World's Most Polluted City; NASA To Test Anti-Asteroid Defense System. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired November 21, 2021 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warm welcome to our viewers here in the United States and right around the world. I'm Paula Newton. Ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM:
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NEWTON (voice-over): Chaos and panic after a gunshot rings out in America's busiest airport. The suspect, still on the run.
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NEWTON (voice-over): A new video emerges of Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who went missing after accusing a former vice premier of sexual assault. We are live in Hong Kong.
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NEWTON (voice-over): And protests over COVID-19 lockdowns spread in Europe. We get the latest from Rome.
NEWTON: And we begin with the chaos at Atlanta's airport this weekend. Things are now getting back to normal.
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NEWTON (voice-over): But this was the scene on Saturday after gunfire erupted inside the airport. Now travelers, as you can see there, started hitting the floor in the security screening area.
Clearly, you can see people are terrified there. That was the scene inside. Outside, crowds of people began rushing away from the terminal.
According to investigators, a passenger was trying to get through airport security with a gun in his bag.
But when TSA agents stopped him, he lunged and grabbed the gun and ended up firing it. That set off the panic we just saw and sent other travelers running for cover. Here's how one woman described the scene.
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JUDITH FOUTS, TRAVELER: People just came flying through. And just were like, run, run, run. And then people were just running. And we all just ran outside this door right here and made our way across to the side of the airport and just -- it was organized chaos.
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NEWTON: So thankfully, officials say no one was shot but at least three people were hurt in that rush you just saw to get out. And amid that chaos, they say the passenger managed to escape with the weapon.
On Saturday, Atlanta police identified him as Kenny Wells, a convicted felon. They say officers are now actively searching for Wells and several warrants have been issued for his arrest.
Now the situation also unfolded, of course, during one of the busiest weekends of the year, as Americans travel ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. CNN's Nadia Romero reports from Atlanta's airport.
NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting back to a sense of normalcy here in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after the security incident that happened at about 1:30 on Saturday.
So we know that there was a passenger, who had a gun that was in his bags. And at some point during the security checkpoint with TSA, it was an accidental discharge. We're still trying to figure out the details as it remains under investigation. But we do know that that passenger, during the confusion, the chaos that ensued thereafter, fled the airport. Investigators are trying to track him down to investigate and speak with him.
Now that created a domino effect of confusion and, at some points, chaos in the airport, as people learned that there was an active shooter. And later they found out it was an accidental discharge but that rumor spread very quickly throughout the airport and on social media. And it stopped everything in its tracks.
There was a temporary ground stop here at the airport. And now that caused some flights to be delayed and it impacted travel, which is why Delta Airlines is offering a waiver to passengers whose flight plans were interrupted.
This is already going to be, was supposed to be a busy travel weekend ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Now you add in this accidental discharge that really disrupted what was supposed to be happening throughout this weekend.
Now the TSA has already reported that they're seeing an alarming rate of guns trying to go through different checkpoints. In the first 10 months of this year, some 4,650 firearms were spotted at checkpoints by TSA.
And in the first 10 months of the year, we've already surpassed the record number of more than 4,400 back in 2019.
ROMERO: That's a concern not here just in Atlanta but all across the country. But again, things seem to be getting back to normal, as the investigation continues as to how this happened on Saturday afternoon -- Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.
NEWTON: As Nadia was just telling us, a record number of guns have been confiscated at security checkpoints across the United States this year. Juliette Kayyem on how that can happen.
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JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So 450 firearms have been confiscated in the last year at the Atlanta airport alone.
People bring or try to bring or forget they have in their bag a gun. You are not allowed to have a gun unless you're law enforcement on an airplane. It has to be checked. It has to be in a special box. It has to be disclosed to the airline that there are guns. So none of this is lawful behavior.
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NEWTON: Now as mentioned earlier the chaos at Atlanta's airport came amid that busy Thanksgiving travel period. According to the TSA, Friday broke pandemic air travel records in the United States. More than 2.2 million people went through security screenings.
In all, the TSA expects more than 20 million people to pass through U.S. airports during this holiday rush. And there could be more trouble on the way for those travelers, with a significant storm system threatening to disrupt flights in the coming days.
NEWTON: Still to come on CNN, new video apparently of a top tennis player not seen for weeks since accusing a Chinese official of sexual assault.
Plus, new rules to keep unvaccinated people out of public places leads to a second night of unrest in the Netherlands. That story ahead right here on NEWSROOM. (MUSIC PLAYING)
NEWTON: Now we're following dramatic new developments in the case of missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. On Sunday, several members of Chinese state media published short videos on social media, apparently trying to show that Peng is alive, safe and well.
Remember, Peng hasn't been seen since she accused one of China's most powerful former leaders of sexual assault nearly three weeks ago. You're going to see one video just published to social media.
Apparently, it shows Peng greeting young tennis fans and signing autographs on oversized tennis balls. You see her there at the junior tennis challenger finals in Beijing on Sunday.
And this video is said to show Peng having casual dinner with her coach and friends at a Beijing restaurant on Sunday. CNN has not been able to independently verify when any of those videos were taken. For more, here's Kristie Lu Stout.
Here's the thing, by putting out this video perhaps whoever thought that this would put the controversy to rest, it hasn't done that.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's not. It's just raising more questions. In fact, here's some more context about this fresh video that has come out over the weekend.
Several individuals with links to Chinese state-run media have been sending out fresh footage of the tennis star, Peng Shuai, on Twitter, which, of course, is not available inside Mainland China.
So this is aimed squarely at an international audience. In a series of clips that were released earlier today you see Peng at what appears to be some sort of youth tennis tournament in Beijing.
And in some footage released last night, we see Peng Shuai at a Sichuan government restaurant, a popular one, in Beijing. She's seen sitting next to a Chinese tennis tourist director and two women.
In one clip she isn't saying anything but the people sitting next to her at the table go out of their way to emphasize a date, November 21st, which is, of course, today.
STOUT: CNN has not been able to independently verify the footage. It was November 2nd, over two weeks ago, when Peng accused a very powerful man, a former vice premier of China, of forcing her to have sex with him. She made this accusation in her verified social media post on Sina Weibo, a popular social media platform in China. And within half an hour it was taken down. She has not been able to
speak directly publicly since. And there is no coverage of her allegations on Chinese social media, let alone state-run media.
The Women's Tennis Association has expressed concern about Peng. They've been trying to reach out to Peng Shuai. They also have said they're willing to put their business, a very lucrative business in China, on the line unless her allegations are properly investigated.
Just want to quickly show you, this is a statement from the WTA, in which they say, in regards to the new video, "While it's positive to see her, it remains unclear if she's free and able to make decisions or actions on her own without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient," unquote. Back to you.
NEWTON: So we have some video and she certainly wasn't speaking for herself in that video at all.
In terms of the censorship here, it is fascinating; she has been completely scrubbed from the Chinese internet. And yet this shows up on social media.
STOUT: Yes, she's been completely scrubbed on the internet. In China, there's no reporting again of these allegations of sexual assault on state media or social media in China.
And the censorship has gotten to a point where, even just tenuously linked comments about the case of Peng Shuai have been censored as well.
Last week, you had Naomi Osaka go to Twitter, with the #WhereIsPengShuai. She did not post that on her Sina Weibo post inside China. A number of commentators in China went to Naomi Osaka's Weibo and told her thank you. All those thank yous were censored. Even that was taken down. And that just shows a lot about the sensitivity in China right now.
NEWTON: Absolutely. A story we'll continue to cover, obviously. Kristie, thanks for staying on top of it, with us from Hong Kong.
Meantime as international concern intensifies around the fate of Peng and the Beijing Olympics are now 75 days away, the International Olympic Committee says it will not comment on the matter.
In a quote to Reuters, the IOC said, "Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature. This explains why the IOC will not comment any further at this stage."
NEWTON: Joining me now is Robert Kuhn. He is a longtime adviser to Chinese leaders and multinational corporations and the author of the book, "How China's Leaders Think."
And, good to see you again on what is a disturbing story, for so many people, as much and as many people have applauded the Women's Tennis Association and obviously, for good reason, this is the point, that I think, perhaps, people miss. The key thing is how China interprets what the WTA is saying.
ROBERT KUHN, AUTHOR AND CHINA ADVISER: This is certainly unprecedented. It is a moving story. We don't know all the facts. I assume the facts will, eventually, come out.
But certainly, this is unprecedented in China, for an ordinary citizen to level this kind of accusation against a senior leader, albeit retired but nonetheless, a senior leader, much revered in China.
That said, the whole approach of China will be to protect the system because China believes that its system is responsible for all the success. China is the second largest economy, bringing 800-plus million people out of poverty, now moving toward what they call common prosperity.
All of those things, they say, are completely dependent upon the leadership of the party, which has been strengthened recently but at the sixth plenum, in their political meeting, where the party is in charge, Xi Jinping is the core of the party, Xi Jinping thought will lead the party's ideology.
So all of that -- and we're heading toward the Winter Olympics, which is very important in China, and, suddenly, this comes on the scene. So China will do everything possible to lower the heat on this story but will not compromise its core point about the absolute leadership of the party, which means that it will not be subject to pressure or make compromises with the so-called independents, what they say, is Western values.
I think that is the one thing we can be sure of.
NEWTON: The other thing I want to get your take on, whether it is the NBA, other professional sports, tennis, businesses, you are saying the Chinese stand firm.
But also how do the Chinese people usually interpret what is happening?
KUHN: In past situations, such as with the NBA tweet about Hong Kong or about concerns around Xinjiang and the Uyghurs and all other kinds of issues, the great majority of the Chinese people, a very large percentage, support the government and support the actions of the government in Hong Kong, in Tibet, regarding Taiwan, in Xinjiang, all of that, because it is based on nationalism.
Nationalism is a powerful human emotion. We see it all over. In China, it has a special potency, because of their sense of a century of humiliation and after China was the greatest nation and the most advanced in science and technology and the greatest economy, for a millennium or more. They went into this abject poverty and humiliation. So nationalism has this power. So in past situations, nationalism has trumped -- pardon that pun -- all other issues, in terms of the West.
This, potentially, is different because this is not a nationalistic kind of view. It involves the Olympics, in some way, and it may transform into a nationalism. But right now, it is not a nationalistic point of view. It is, maybe, a prurient (ph) point of view, it is a kind of a soap opera, I hate to say that in that way.
So it is different from the Chinese people's point of view, than the past situations, which, we think, is the same.
NEWTON: Robert, always good to see you, appreciate it.
KUHN: All the best.
NEWTON: So like so many of us, the Austrian people have been through lockdowns before. Many of them are now furious they will have to stay home again and get vaccinated, whether they like it or not.
Plus Election Day in Chile: why the two leading candidates show how deeply divided the country is.
NEWTON: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula Newton and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.
Riot police in the Netherlands faced another night of unrest, as protests erupted over new coronavirus restrictions.
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NEWTON (voice-over): This time in The Hague, protesters setoff fireworks and built bonfires. The night before a similar protest turned violent in the port city of Rotterdam. European officials say stricter measures are now needed as new cases surge among the unvaccinated.
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NEWTON: In the French territory of Guadeloupe, rules requiring mandatory vaccinations for health workers and other restrictions led to a night of arson and looting. France reportedly is sending about 50 special forces to help restore order.
Now the strictest measures in Europe right now are in Austria, where a nationwide lockdown begins Monday. Tens of thousands of protesters filled central Vienna on Saturday. Many are upset by the government's new vaccine mandate, the first of its kind in western Europe.
Now compounding the surge is the declining effectiveness of vaccines after several months, something many of us are worried about. Even in a country like Portugal, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, you can see it there, there are troubling upticks in new cases.
Cases have been going up, of course, in the United States as well. And with the Northern Hemisphere heading into winter and people gathering indoors for the holidays, booster shots are becoming ever more important. CNN's Barbie Nadeau joins us now from Rome with the latest.
No one in Europe is deluding themselves that they're going to be able to have boosters get them out of this situation. I think it's the rage that's being expressed on the streets now about some of these restrictions about whether or not they will even work in terms of getting people to actually adhere to those strict lockdowns.
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. When you look at Austria, you've bought a twofold problem there, because the people who don't want to get vaccinated; on February 1st they'll have to by law.
And the people who are vaccinated just want their boosters and to get on with their lives. And they're subject to lockdown as well. We've seen incredible violence on the streets there. Let's watch.
NADEAU (voice-over): It's the last weekend before a nationwide lockdown, in Austria. Tens of thousands of people, in Vienna, protested the new COVID-19 restrictions.
One protester, says, "I want my freedom back. One would think we live in a democracy but now, this is a coronavirus dictatorship."
NADEAU (voice-over): Austria is introducing some of the strictest measures in the region, to try to contain the virus. As of Monday, all residents, whether vaccinated or not, are back under a stay-at-home order. No one is allowed to leave home, except to work, shop for essentials or exercise. And, in February, COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory.
The decisions have infuriated some in the country. Even though Austria, like many countries in Europe, is experiencing staggering numbers of new infections. The demonstration in Vienna was organized by the country's far right Freedom Party, which says it will combat the new measures, though, the party head couldn't attend, after testing positive for COVID-19.
In the Netherlands, city workers in Rotterdam, are cleaning up, after a night of violent protests over a proposed corona pass, which would limit access to indoor public venues to people who are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.
Rioters burned cars and threw rocks at police, who responded with warning shots and water cannons. Some residents say they are appalled by how out of control the rally became.
One man says, "I am very angry about it. They renovated the center of the town and a bunch of idiots destroyed it."
Crowds, are also, filling the streets of the capital of Croatia, opposing a COVID passport, for government, in public buildings, which goes into effect on Monday.
Loud, agitated, pockets of discontent around Europe as governments, increasingly, lose patience with vaccine resistance and take more drastic measures, to try to stop the spread of the virus. As people gather indoors, because of the colder weather.
The World Health Organization, saying that another 500,000 people, in Europe, could die by March, unless urgent action is taken. The rallies for personal freedom and against the restrictions taking place in cities across Europe, as strained ICUs across the region, struggle, to keep up with the number of COVID-19 patients, some of them just fighting to stay alive.
NADEAU: You see it's a difficult situation and especially in Austria right now. And starting on Monday, we're going to have to see what happens, how many people adhere to this or not, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, and we'd be wise to keep an eye on what's going on in Europe and so are European officials. The economy is already fragile. It just started to recover.
NADEAU: That's right. No one wants to go into the sort of lockdown we had last year over the holiday season. They need this holiday season. They need people to go out and buy gifts and celebrate and go to restaurants. Another winter like last winter is going to be devastating if they have to lock down more countries.
NEWTON: I'm glad you pointed out, it wasn't just in Austria the unvaccinated were angry. The vaccinated are like, look, we did our parts.
Why do we have to stay in our homes?
Appreciate the update.
Chile has also seen street protests but they're focused on economic issues. After more than two years of unrest, Chileans head to the polls to choose a new president. Rafael Romo looks at the front- runners and whether they can unite a divided country.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): October 2019, Santiago, Chile; a democratic country long known as one of the most stable democracies in Latin America erupts into chaos.
SEBASTIAN PINERA, CHILEAN PRESIDENT: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMO (voice-over): The government of Sebastian Pinera declares a state of emergency in a desperate attempt to contain violent clashes between security forces and protesters as well as widespread acts of vandalism.
PINERA: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMO (voice-over): It was not until President Pinera asked for forgiveness for his country's inequality and promised to hold a convention to write a new constitution that protests calm down. But by then, there had been tens of deaths.
The byproduct of these protests was a profound polarization and a sense of turmoil that set the current stage as Chileans go to the polls Sunday.
ROBERT FUNK, UNIVERSITY OF CHILE: What is at stake is how all these things will sort themselves out in the context of a new government, a new president and, of course, the main candidates tend to be people who really are quite different from what we have been used to in Chile, in politics up to now.
ROMO (voice-over): Out of seven presidential hopefuls, two polar opposites stand out; unless one wins more than 50 percent of the vote on Sunday, the two will advance to the second round to be held on December 19th.
Gabriel Boric is a candidate of the hard left, who describes himself as a democrat. He supports abortion rights, champions a welfare state model and leads a coalition that includes Chile's Communist Party.
FUNK: The Communist Party has been part of a governmental coalition before. It was in a governmental coalition between 2014 and 2018. But it was much more of a junior partner.
FUNK: And, in this coalition, it plays a much more important role.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMO (voice-over): In a campaign video, he says his platform is based on issues like decentralization, feminism, the climate crisis and dignified jobs for everyone.
Jose Antonio Kast is a candidate of the hard right, who has proposed to build a ditch or moat on Chile's border to stop the flow of migrants from other countries.
JOSE ANTONIO KAST, CHILEAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (Speaking Spanish).
ROMO (voice-over): He promises to be tough on immigration. Those who are in the country illegally, he says, "will be invited to return to where they came from or we will provide transportation to do so."
FUNK: He comes from the UDI party, which is the party that basically are the intellectual or -- and political heirs of the Pinochet dictatorship. And he left that party several years ago, about 3-4 years ago, he left that party and founded his own party, the Republican Party.
ROMO: And even though there may be a surprise, Funk says that out of those two extremes, the voters are trying to find an answer to the original demands of the 2019 protests.
Then as now, they are seeking political change, better social services, a stronger government that will deliver better pensions, education and health care in addition to a fill the bumps out attitude, a desire to get rid of the traditional parties the same way it has happened in other countries in recent years -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
NEWTON: We are following breaking news out of Jerusalem, where a shooting attack in the Old City has left a 35-year-old man dead and four other people injured. One victim, a man in his 30s, is said to be in serious condition. Three others were said to have moderate to light injuries.
Now authorities, say the alleged assailant was killed. They say the shooter used an improvised automatic weapon, commonly known as a Carlo. It comes just days after a Palestinian teenager was killed in a stabbing attack against Israeli police in the Old City.
Now the future is uncertain, to say the least, for thousands of migrants stranded near the Polish-Belarus border. Next, we'll speak to an official from the International Rescue Committee, working on aid programs for them.
Plus a new list is out, ranking the world's most polluted cities. When we come back, who tops the list and how the government plans to fix it.
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NEWTON (voice-over): Those migrants are making it clear, right, they know where they want to go from Belarus. Some 7,000 people are still stuck in limbo near the Polish border. The E.U. says Belarus is using them as pawns partly to turn up the pressure on Brussels over its sanctions on Minsk. Last week Polish police used water cannons to stop a flood of migrants from crossing. Since then, Belarus has cleared makeshift camps on the border and moved migrants into a nearby warehouse. But it's still an open question where they will go next.
NEWTON: For more on this, we are joined by Stefan Lehmeier, a deputy regional director at the International Rescue Committee, the IRC. And he is near the border between Poland and Belarus.
I hope you can hear me and I'm glad to have you here, on what has been an important story. At this point in time, given what you know on the ground, what you have been able to see -- and I appreciate you having been on the ground for very long -- but how is everyone doing?
Are their needs being met, their immediate needs?
STEFAN LEHMEIER, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: This, is probably, our biggest problem on the Polish side. The immediate needs of people are not being met, at least not adequately.
There is an exclusion zone, around 3 or 5 kilometers wide, along the border with Belarus. Aid workers and journalists cannot go in there. We know there are people in there, who were able to cross the border, maybe a week or two ago, maybe longer.
There are also maybe people able to cross at this time. When they are in this exclusion zone, they have to hide. They, know if they are detected by the Polish border guards, they will be pushed into Belarus where they will be at risk of violence as well.
So they're in hiding and not able to access services or supplies and food. That puts them at risk and there's even people dying, as you know.
NEWTON: That was my next question, was the issue of access.
Can you clarify for us, who is holding up the access at this point?
LEHMEIER: Right now in this exclusion zone, we have Polish border guards, military and police. Of, course they are operating in that area and beyond. But any assistance that asylum seekers would be able to access, when they're in this zone and exiting it, will only come from local residents.
The only people allowed to enter the zone, who, just out of their good hearts, will try to save lives. And then, at the perimeter of the exclusion zone, our partners are present, waiting for emergency calls that asylum seekers would place and then they will try to geolocate those seekers and provide them lifesaving assistance.
Sometimes we come too late.
NEWTON: It's an incredibly difficult situation, especially as we can see in some of the video there, there are families and young children. So what do you want Europe and Belarus, to do?
As you know, they have been unable to, really, come to any kind of solution on this.
What do you think they need to do in the coming days?
LEHMEIER: The most immediate thing that needs to change, right now, is that aid workers need access to the exclusion zone. We need to be able to reach asylum seekers, whose lives are at risk.
If we got access, and nothing else will change, it would be hard to provide assistance, because people are in hiding. We need to be able to save people and not be tracked or followed, by border guards who would then immediately detaining these asylum seekers and pushing them back.
If that is the case, and some aid organizations have been collaborating with border guards, people won't even place their emergency calls. So there is a combination of access and people's individual right to asylum, which is an international right that every human being has.
It doesn't mean every person is entitled to asylum but it means that every person's case needs to be heard in a fair procedure. And these are things that are not happening, consistently, right now.
NEWTON: I have to say, the cat and mouse game you are describing, it's disturbing. These are families, people. And people who want a better future, in which they all have a right to have.
The IRC has been active in saying, look, these policies have to change in general, writ large, with Europe.
And it seems to stem from what you had said, due process for all of these people.
NEWTON: To get due process, even if that happens quickly, do you think that anything like that could be put in place right now?
If both sides -- and I would say E.U. (ph) and Belarus, could cooperate on getting these people processed?
LEHMEIER: Absolutely. I have no doubt this is possible. If you look at the numbers, we do not know exactly how many asylum seekers are in Belarus now. We do not even know exactly how many are in different parts of Poland.
But let us assume, we are looking at anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 people, who, in this area who are interested in claiming asylum, this number could be handled easily.
Especially looking at the European Union as a whole, because they've been struggling for years and years, coming to an agreement on how to collaborate and provide asylum to the people who need it. And they have not gone very far.
The one thing that seems to be working in the European Union, in terms of agreement, is sealing the border and pushing people back. This is happening all along the E.U. external border.
But solidarity and collaboration within the European Union, when it comes providing asylum, providing protection, that is the part that isn't working at all. But particularly here, on the Poland-Belarus border, with the numbers that we're seeing, this is feasible, no doubt.
NEWTON: That's a very good point, in relation to everything going on, the few thousand that are, there who are in desperate need, right now, at this hour, as temperatures get colder and their plight more desperate, they can process those people. Stefan, thank you so much for your insights, especially as you're on the ground. We will continue to follow it.
LEHMEIER: Thank you.
NEWTON: Now another desperation for migrants going through Mexico. Authorities there report finding 600 migrants hidden in two trailer trucks on Friday. Among those crammed inside were pregnant women and children.
Authorities say they located the trucks traveling through the southern state of Vera Cruz headed north toward the U.S. border. The migrants come from a dozen countries, mainly from Central and South America.
And more than 75 migrants have drowned trying to reach Europe from Libya. And that's according to this tweet from the U.N. Migration Agency, which attributed the information to survivors.
The tragedy happened after they departed from Libya Wednesday. This is so tragic, though. The migration agency says more than 1,300 people have died in a similar situation this year alone.
Now more than 20 people are dead as heavy rains wreak havoc in southeastern India. The air force conducted this dramatic rescue, lifting people stranded in a swollen river after a flash flood. Heavy rains have swamped the Pradesh state since Thursday.
And New Delhi is still dealing with air pollution that's been so bad, officials are considering restricting the use of private vehicles on alternate days.
Schools in the Indian capital have been closed this week. And just over the border in Lahore, Pakistan, that just topped the list of the most polluted city in the world. Thick, acrid air is taking a toll on living conditions. Kim Brunhuber has that for us.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Smog so dense you can only see a silhouette of this building that's just a few yards away. On the streets, people are waving through the thick smog. One resident says it's so bad people are covering their eyes and walking right into traffic.
This is Lahore, Pakistan, which regularly ranks among the most polluted cities in the world.
NORMAN SAHIR, LAHORE RESIDENT (through translator): Now this city, which we call the City of Flowers, the City of Gardens, is gripped by smog. It is engulfed in smog.
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): On Saturday Lahore topped IQAir's daily ranking of the world's most polluted cities again, a rank often challenged by New Delhi. Residents cough; everything smells of smoke. According to a paramedic at a local hospital, patients are coming in with sore throats because of the smog, not COVID.
As the haze grips the city in a chokehold, residents are getting desperate.
TAHA KHALIK, LAHORE RESIDENT (through translator): When we leave the house in the morning, the pollution causes irritation to the eyes. It's hard to breathe. The government should find a solution to the smog.
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): A local report says anti-smog squads have been deployed across Lahore. they are identifying and sealing factories that aren't meeting the city's standards.
In neighboring New Delhi, smog towers in some areas are sucking pollutants from the air. Residents are now asking the government to install more, as the smog continues to affect people's health and livelihoods, like this rickshaw driver's.
BHAJAN LAL, AUTO-RICKSHAW DRIVER (through translator): The whole day I drive around without any passengers. There are passengers; they prefer cabs. Ask them, "Where are you going?"
They say "No, there's too much pollution, we will take a cab."
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Despite some measures to fight smog, the increasing pollution makes the sight of a clear sky still a distant dream -- Kim Brunhuber, CNN.
NEWTON: OK, still to come here for us, saving the Earth from Armageddon. I'm not kidding. NASA is trying out some new technology to try and protect the Earth from potentially devastating asteroid impacts. You'll want to see this.
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NEWTON: So NASA plans to launch a spacecraft this week with an unusual goal, crashing it directly into a near Earth asteroid. Michael Holmes explains.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a space story seen several times in the movies, like in the 1998 sci-fi film, "Armageddon."
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HOLMES (voice-over): An asteroid threatens Earth; the military, astronauts, even oil rig drillers try to save mankind. Some cities don't make it but, in the end, the planet survives.
A Hollywood ending, which NASA is hoping to make a reality with its first planetary defense test mission.
HOLMES (voice-over): Scientists say they have identified the kilometer-wide asteroids, like those shown in the blockbusters, and there are no dangers of them hitting Earth in the coming centuries.
But NASA says it wants to study what could be done if an Earth- threatening asteroid is discovered.
On Wednesday, it will launch a mission called DART, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. It will send an unmanned spacecraft into space and, if successful, it won't return home. DART is set to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will travel through space for the next nine months. Its destination, a near Earth asteroid named Didymus and its moonlet.
NANCY CHABOT, DART COORDINATION LEAD, APL: These asteroids are not a threat to the Earth. There are not a danger to the Earth, they are not on a path to hit the Earth in the foreseeable future. That makes them an appropriate target for a first test.
HOLMES (voice-over): Traveling at a speed of 6.6 kilometers per second, DART will then deliberately crash into the moonlet to try to jolt it from its regular orbit. Scientists back on Earth will monitor the collision using satellite imagery and ground-based telescopes, to see how much the moonlet changes the course.
ANDY CHENG, DART INVESTIGATION TEAM LEAD, APL: If one day an asteroid is discovered on a collision course with Earth, we have an idea of how big that asteroid is and how fast it's coming and when it will hit, that kind of information.
Then we will have an idea how much momentum we need to make that asteroid miss the Earth. HOLMES (voice-over): The targeted moonlet is a little larger than one
of the pyramids in Egypt. NASA says there are 10,000 known asteroids that are just as big or bigger that could, potentially, caused major regional damage if they ever hit the Earth although none of them are tracking this way.
DART's kamikaze mission could provide lifesaving data, if anything ever does get too close -- Michael Holmes, CNN.
NEWTON: And that does it for me. I'm Paula Newton. I want to thank you for your company. Kim Brunhuber is here with more CNN NEWSROOM.