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Russia: U.S. & NATO Responses Don't Address Concerns; Xiomara Castro Sworn in As Honduras' First Female President; Border Closures in Asia Fail to Keep Virus at Bay; Scientists Work to Develop a Universal Vaccine; Aid Funding Being Blocked; Afghan Women Erased from Public Life; North Korea Boasts of Recent Missile Tests; U.S. Racing to Recover F-35 before China Does; Dangers of Natural Gas Stoves. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 28, 2022 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. I appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, a distinct possibility despite calls for de-escalation, Russia is actually ramping up its offensive.

An update on the devastation in Afghanistan, what stands between millions of Afghans and much needed aid. And the stunning new study on household fixture, why gas stoves and ovens are dangerous for you and the planet, even when they're turned off?

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Now, the White House pushing back on the account of a senior Ukrainian official who says a phone call between the U.S. and Ukrainian president did not go well. That source telling CNN President Biden insisted that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was virtually certain, but Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky disagreed and urged Mr. Biden to "calm down the messaging." Now, the White House characterize that account as, "anonymous sources leaking falsehoods."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon reports the build-up of Russian forces near Ukraine's borders has increased in the past 24 hours. Ukraine's Foreign Minister says he's still that doesn't think an invasion is imminent.


DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We believe that plan A for Russia now is to use the threat of force to destabilize Ukraine internally to sow panic and to force us into concessions. Military operation is plainly.


HOLMES: Vladimir Putin hasn't commented yet on written responses from the U.S. and NATO to Russia's security concerns about Ukraine but reaction from two of his top deputies has not been encouraging. CNN's Nic Robertson reports for us from Moscow.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR He's got it. It has read it, that's what Dmitry Peskov, President Putin spokesman said about the written response from the United States, the Russian president taking a little time to consider it. Peskov saying it was going to take a little time for them to work out their position, but the foreign minister, making quite clear that it was falling short of what they wanted. Certainly, the Russian side were expecting negative answers to their key question, which is that Ukraine should not be allowed to join NATO. But Peskov even so sounding disappointed on the key issues, nothing there. That was going to make them satisfied.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): There is no positive reaction on the main issue in this document. The main issue is our clear position on the admissibility of further expansion of NATO to the east and the deployment of strike weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation.

ROBERTSON (on camera): But there is a tiny bit here, Lavrov went on to say there is an indication that there can be a start of what he called serious conversations about secondary issues. So, it did appear that is hinting that the diplomatic track can continue, potentially, but not on the core issue. This would be the issues of arms control of troop deployments of missile site locations, all these sorts of things that have been on Russia's plate of concerns as well, concerns shared by the United States and NATO, so Lavrov indicating perhaps a track there, but that key issue is the real big stumbling block for President Putin. He's speaking with President Macron of France on Friday, undoubtedly, the written response from NATO and the United States is going to come up in the conversation.

Undoubtedly, from what we've seen in the past, Putin will be looking for a way to try to get something different from Europe, from European leaders than his getting from the United States. But at this moment from the U.S. position, the ball right in the Russians caught right here in Moscow, Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: Joining me now Matthew Schmidt, Associate Professor of National Security in Political Science at the University of New Haven. It's great to have you on this, Professor. the West's written response to Russian demands are apparently not giving Russia what it wants, the Kremlin saying there are a few reasons for optimism. What are the risks of Putin not wanting to be seen to back down at this point, for him to look like what's been done all of the troop movements and so on achieves nothing?

[01:05:15] MATTHEW SCHMIDT, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NATIONAL SECURITY & POLITICAL SCIENCE: I think that is the risk. And I think if you look at Lavrov statement, it's the second half, which hasn't been getting a lot of attention. That's most frightening to me. He says in the second half that that Russia believes that the West isn't even taking Russia's concerns into account that they're not treating them as valid questions to have. And the reason that disturbs me is essentially that's Russia saying, why should we continue to negotiate? My negotiating partner doesn't believe I have a reason to be at the table. And that puts Putin in more of a box to say the only way out of this is with armed force.

HOLMES: He knows well, that a full-blown invasion would be fraught as it was in Afghanistan, for Russia and the attendant body bags as well that, that in the Donbass in Ukraine, separatists, they're claiming now that they're about to be attacked, and so on. How possible is it that Putin's plan could be the so-called limited invasion, the Crimea model claimed that Russian speakers and passport holders are being threatened, attacked and have asked for Russia's protection.

SCHMIDT: I think that is the dominant model. I think there's a second one, which is that plus taking some area to the north, Kharkiv or going to the south and doing the Crimean Land Bridge.

I do think there's a possible third scenario, this is the doomsday scenario. But it's that Putin decides to bring troops in from the north, whether from Belarus or close by and threatened Kyiv, to hold it sort of hostage to probe and test the Ukrainian government and see what they're willing to do, how far they're willing to go to push this right if they're willing to go into a full-blown insurgency, to push the Russians out.

HOLMES: If there are carrots and sticks in the West negotiations, we know most of the sticks. But what are the carrots which might appeal to the Russians and offer an off-ramp detention for Putin? Or do you think he's just playing for time and stalling to finish military preparations and get favorable weather?

SCHMIDT: I think that the carrot is Germany, and the pipeline. And what happens in the NATO alliance is that the alliance says this is our policy, but each member doesn't have to stick to a completely, right? And so, Germany can in the end, decide we're going to certify the pipeline and open it up. And the rest of the NATO members can complain about it, but let it go, right? Sort of a wink and a nod kind of thing.

But the truth is, I'm not sure that Putin is being deterred by these kinds of hard power questions. He talks all the time, on the one hand about worrying about missiles in Ukraine, tanks in Ukraine. But we could already do that from the Baltics, and it would be just as close to Moscow.

Other thing he talks about, though, and he's been doing this for years, is to talk about this idea of Eurasia. This idea that there is this space that Moscow wants to occupy, that Putin wants to be the great Zbarazh, protect this space of values that doesn't share European values as anti-gay, for instance. And if he's doing things because of that motivation, then classic deterrence may not work. And again, that's what frightens me, because I'm not sure we get that.

HOLMES: Yeah, a very good point, of course, you know, the domestic front, you know, he doesn't want to feel like he's losing on the domestic front no matter what happens, which way it goes. But, you know, what, are you hearing that Russians are hearing from state- controlled media? What narrative are they hearing about going on, about what's going on? And what are your -- what's your sense of how they feel about it?

SCHMIDT: So, what you're hearing from state media is the line that says the West is threatening, and this is the line that has buttress Putin's presidency since 2000. What they're hearing less and less of, though, is this idea that Ukrainians are some kind of dehumanized enemy. Because you can't do that. Because there's 2, 3 million Ukrainians in Russia, right? Everybody in Russia has a friend or relative who's staring down, you know, the barrel of a Russian gun right now. So, the war is not particularly popular in Russia, and we have to keep that in mind. Putin is taking real risks in engaging in a war where there'll be a lot of body backs coming back.

HOLMES: Yeah, exactly. A fascinating analysis, Professor Matthew Schmidt, thank you so much.

SCHMIDT: You're welcome.

HOLMES: Now, another day and still no sign of the report into Downing Street parties held during lockdown, its findings could determine Prime Minister Boris Johnson's political future, many Britons frustrated at the apparent delay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a joke. That's for sure. I think it should be -- yeah, I think the sooner it's dealt with, the better basically. Yeah, we all need an answer, don't we?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Needs to come out sooner or later. He needs to be able to accountable for his actions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're waiting. No, it's nothing to wait for now. It should come out.


HOLMES: Mr. Johnson insists the report will be published in full that can't say when. Bianca Nobilo now reports on what could be holding up the inquiry.



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But why there's delay? Sources in Westminster that I've spoken to speculate that it could be caution over making sure that the Sue Gray report doesn't prejudice the ongoing mass investigation into whether or not some Downing Street parties broke COVID laws, or it could be the fact that no publication date was ever set. So really, this isn't a delay.

Additional question marks over the veracity of some of Boris Johnson statements have been raised over emails from the foreign office that surfaced a contradicting Johnson's denial that he did not authorize the evacuation of animals from Kabul, when the city felt the Taliban. Johnson dismissed these reports.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This whole thing is total rhubarb. I was very proud of what armed services did without pitting, and it was an amazing thing to move 15,000 people out of Kabul in the way that we did.

I thought it was also additionally, very good that we were able to help those vets, who came out as well. But I can tell you, the military --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn't intervene, you didn't?

JOHNSON: Absolutely night. Always, always -- the military always prioritized human beings and that was quite right. I think we should be incredibly proud of about putting in, what did achieve.

NOBILO: Regardless of whether or not Brits or MPs think that party gate is painfully hypocritical, or a disproportionate distraction. There is no question that the wait for the report is monopolizing politics. The next few days will be critical for the Prime Minister trying to shore up support. He's fighting for his political life. Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


HOLMES: For the first time in its 200-year history, Honduras has a female president. Xiomara Castro was sworn in on Thursday in a soccer stadium in the nation's capital after winning a landslide victory with the promise of fixing the nation's systemic problems behind poverty and corruption. U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris returned to D.C. after attending the inauguration. She met with President Castro where they discussed a number of issues including the flow of migrants to the U.S. border. CNN's Rafael Romo with the latest.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not only is Xiomara Castro, the first female president in Honduran history, but she's also the first leader of the Central American country in 12 years, who does not belong to the center right National Party.

She was sworn in shortly after noon local time Wednesday at Tegucigalpa's National Stadium. The ceremony was attended by foreign leaders like U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who traveled Thursday morning to Tegucigalpa with a delegation of American officials, including USAID Administrator Samantha Power. During a phone call in December, Harris and Castro talked about how Honduras and the U.S. can work together to advance economic growth, combat corruption, and address the root causes of migration. According to a White House statement, Spain's King Felipe VI was also among the foreign dignitaries who witnessed the ceremony for the 62-year-old self-described democratic socialist. The third time was the charm. She has successfully ran for the presidency in 2013 and 2017, was going to be her first challenge. In her first message to her country after being sworn in, Castro said the government's coffers are empty.

XIOMARA CASTRO, HONDURAS PRESIDENT (through translation): The government of Honduras has been taken sunk for the last 12 years, and I receive it in bankruptcy. The country already knows what they have done with the money.

ROMO: Endemic corruption, abject poverty and crime pushing 1000s to migrate to the United States are going to be some of the main challenges for the new president. Add to that, a recent shake up within Castro's own party and you get a very volatile mix that make many people wonder if she will be able to govern effectively. The governance question was highlighted last Friday by a fight that happened during a session in the Honduran Congress. There was a disagreement over who should be the next Speaker of the Congress and members of the LIBRE party Castro's political coalition sided with the opposing National Party to name a speaker.

Then on Sunday, two speakers were chosen by two different congressional factions, one supporting President Castro and the other one opposing her. And let's not forget the new president is the wife of Manuel Zelaya who lost his presidency in 2009 during a coup whose ripples are still being felt today. What Castro has in her favor is a strong mandate. She won the election in November with 51% of the vote. More than 14 points ahead of our nearest opponent. Castro ran for president promising to fight corruption after taking office she mentioned she will seek support from the United Nations to create an independent commission with that goal, Rafael Romo, CNN Atlanta.



HOLMES: Coming up here on the program, we're now just days away from the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. But COVID-19 concerns are growing as more cases are linked to the games. Plus, fast scientists trying to create a universal COVID vaccine, the challenges they face, that's ahead.


HOLMES: All right, let's get you updated on the latest COVID-19 developments from around the world and we begin in Canada, where the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is currently in isolation after being exposed to COVID. He says his rapid test was negative, but he plans to follow public health rules and isolate for the next five days.

Pfizer's COVID-19 anti-viral pill Paxlovid has been approved for use in the European Union for those at risk of severe disease. It's the first oral anti-viral pill to be recommended in the block for treating the virus.

And South Korea reporting more than 16,000 new cases on Thursday, a daily record for the fourth day in a row. The country's health agency says that Omicron has become the dominant variant making up more than 50% of all infections.

Now, China's still sticking to its zero COVID strategy despite outbreaks in Beijing and elsewhere. Among other things, it involves sealing the borders the measure also used by other countries in the region. But as CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports for us from Hong Kong border closures have a bad track record of keeping COVID at bay.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Omicron first emerged last year, governments across the region turn to a trusted strategy, tough border restrictions but that has not stopped the variant. Late last year, Japan sealed its borders to foreigners including international students. It's now gripped by a record wave of infection. And China remains closed off with its zero COVID policy, but Omicron has managed to sneak in it's been detected in at least 11 cities across the country. And with its fate tied to China Hong Kong continues to pursue zero COVID with tough measures and now the city is grappling with prolonged isolation and a growing Omicron outbreak. Singapore another Asian financial hub is taking a living with COVID approach and East its border controls of cases are on the rise there. And with strict health measures in place the Singapore Air shows Asia's biggest aviation event will take place during the pandemic again but on a smaller scale, out tourism dependent Indonesia has reopened to islands to Singaporean tourists as it manages the virus and Thailand will relax quarantine rules next week for international arrivals as they see slowing COVID-19 infections.


But Australia is seeing a surge of COVID 19 deaths as Omicron burns through the country just over a month after it reopened its borders to some fully vaccinated non-citizens.

Infections also hit a record high this month in the Philippines. And this comes just weeks after temporarily barred travelers from some countries where Omicron had been detected.

Now, South Korea is also setting new records, in fact, this week, posting the highest number of daily new cases since the pandemic began. Now, most international travelers to South Korea are subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Many borders across Asia remain heavily restricted taking a toll on business and our tourism and the WHO has made an appeal to, "lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by states parties."

In this third year of COVID-19, much of the region remains cut off from the world. The cost of isolation is rising, and Omicron continues to spread. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES: Now, more COVID-19 cases being linked to the Beijing Olympics just a week before the games are set to begin. And we have learned that the president of the International Paralympic Committee has just tested positive for the virus. CNN's Will Ripley joins me now live from Taipei, a week out and the bubble being burst or at least threatened to bring us up to date, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, it really depends on how you look at it, when you consider that there are 1000s of people who have already arrived. And you're talking about a total of, you know, it's over 100 COVID-19 cases tied to the games, dozens of those cases detected after people went inside the clothes bubble. The bubble system, of course, keeps people who are participating in the Olympics, the athletes, the journalists, the team members, completely separated from the general public in China, which of course is dealing with its own Omicron outbreak in 11 Chinese cities and counting albeit very small numbers considering China's large population of one and a half billion people, if you believe the numbers as reported, but the virus is inside the bubble, that is reality. And people who are entering the bubble, they have to download an app on their phone that is accused of kind of breaching people's personal security could potentially put their health information and personal information at risk, which is why the United States and other countries are recommending that people bring in burner phones, when they use this app, which tracks their movements and their location and their daily health status.

People are tested for COVID every single day inside the bubble. And if they test positive, they are yanked away by officials and hazmat suits and put into isolation were described as very small rooms with limited access even, you know, no access to the outside, limited access even to fresh air. So, there's certainly a steep price that are -- that's being paid at the moment for the relatively small numbers inside the Olympic bubble and yet still highly contagious. Omicron is in the bubble. The numbers staying small, at least for now, though, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah. And of course, you know, looking broader afield with the Olympics. You've got that diplomatic boycott of the games by some countries, and we just heard some 240 NGO groups have called for action on China's human rights record.

RIPLEY: Right, you have -- this is led by human rights watch, you have 240 human rights groups and NGOs that have signed this petition urging countries around the world, not to, in their words, normalize the Chinese government for what they call a long list of human rights abuses everything from the persecution of ethnic minorities, whether it be in Tibet, or the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, whether it be cracking down on journalists and activists or frankly, anybody who dares to criticize the ruling Communist Party.

Of course, we saw what happened in Hong Kong, we see the intimidation that is happening to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, the China claims as its own territory, and of course, the use of technological surveillance systems to find people, anybody who dares to have a dissenting view against the government. But from the Beijing point of view, they blast this U.S. diplomatic boycott. They say it is politicizing sports. They say that this is based on ideological bias, lies and rumors on the International Olympic Committee, of course, at the center of all this accused of being complicit in the silencing of tennis star Peng Shuai after her allegations of sexual assault were scrubbed from the Chinese internet where the IOC says it remains neutral on all of this. Michael.

HOLMES: Will, thank you. Will Ripley there in Taipei for us, I appreciate it.

Angry Canadians voices their frustrations over vaccine mandates crowds lining the streets near Toronto cheering on truckers heading to the nation's capitol to protest the government's vaccine mandate for cross border truck drivers.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to get this country back, you know, it's not -- it's not just for the truckers, but we support them but it's for the entire country. It's actually for the entire world. Like just, you know, if you want to make some decisions and do things on your own, then that's fine. But if people don't want to then we should have the choice to choose and, yes, freedom.


HOLMES: Now, the truck drivers are due to arrive at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday. organizers insist all demonstrations will be peaceful.

Meanwhile, scientists are working to develop a pan Coronavirus vaccine, meaning that a vaccine will protect against the current virus and any future mutations. But it's easier said than done, of course, CNN Sanjay Gupta explains for us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be variants for a long time.

GUPTA: The virus against the vaccines and the boosters, and possibly more boosters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The company is forging ahead with the Omicron specific vaccine.

GUPTA: But scientists have been working on what could be a better solution.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The urgent need of a universal Coronavirus vaccine. GUPTA: It's just what it sounds like, a vaccine that covers the circulating virus. Yes, but also future variants we haven't even seen yet. And potentially other types of coronaviruses as well.

KEVIN SAUNDERS, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, DUKE HUMAN VACCINE INSTITUTE: That means not only targeting SARS, like viruses, but then targeting MERS like viruses, are then also targeting cold viruses opponents.

GUPTA: Kevin Saunders is the Director of Research here at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. One of the many groups racing to create a universal vaccine.

SAUNDERS: What we try to do is really target a specific part of the virus, for instance, that we know is its Achilles heel.

GUPTA: Now remember, viruses mutate all the time. So, the trick is to find a stable part of the virus, a part that doesn't really change from one variant to the next, a common denominator. Saunders calls it a conserved site. Creating antibodies to that is one path to a universal vaccine.

SAUNDERS: So typically, that's a place where the virus is binding to specific proteins on the host cell that it's targeting. And if it changes that site, then it's no longer able to infect.

GUPTA: A big clue came from someone who was infected with SARS, all the way back in 2003.

What is DH1047?

GUPTA: The antibody DH1047 is an antibody that we found from a SARS- CoV-1 infected individual.

GUPTA: 17 years later, in 2020 in the midst of the current outbreak, they found DH1047 was also protective against COVID, protective against a virus that didn't even exist when these antibodies were first made.

SAUNDERS And so we took that antibody as a template to say there must be some site that's common between SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 and let's figure that out, then we would know that needs to be in the vaccine.

GUPTA: There are a number of Pan-coronavirus vaccine strategies in the works. But unlike the mRNA vaccines we've come to know, at Duke they're working on something called a nanoparticle vaccine.

SAUNDERS: There's multiple sites that can be recognized by antibodies.

GUPTA: Think of it like a soccer ball with tiny proteins stuck to the surface, each resembling a key conserved site of the viruses spike protein. So far in primates, the vaccine appears to work. And now a similar vaccine developed by military scientists has already made it into early human trials. But as exciting as the science is, it's going to take time and patience.

FAUCI: I don't want anyone to think that Pan-coronavirus vaccines are literally around the corner in a month or two. It's going to take years to develop.

GUPTA: Much of the work being done today on COVID is built on the back of similar research on other viruses, influenza, HIV.

DR. BARTON HAYNES, DIRECTOR, DUKE HUMAN VACCINE INSTITUTE: We've been working on an HIV vaccine now for almost 30 years here at Duke and HIV is one of the most rapidly evolving life forms on Earth.

GUPTA: That's because HIV mutates much faster. And that's one reason why Dr. Barton Haynes thinks developing a universal vaccine for coronaviruses maybe easier.

HAYNES: Developing that platform for HIV over the last five years allowed this to happen when the need arose very quickly.

SAUNDERS: The most challenging part is that the virus is always changing. How do you predict what's coming in the future so that your vaccine can be effective against it?

GUPTA: And he's not just talking about coronaviruses that are infecting humans right now. But also, novel ones that could still spillover from animals, ones we don't even know about yet.

SAUNDERS: That's the type of vaccines we're going to need in order to prevent the next pandemic.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a new report says economic sanctions against the Taliban are blocking the flow of critically-needed aid. How lack of aid money is contributing to the nation's growing humanitarian crisis.

And erased from public life, how Afghan women's rights are being curtailed under Taliban rules.

We'll have that and more, when we come back.


HOLMES: A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Afghanistan and a new report finds that economic sanctions placed on the Taliban are making matters worse.

The Norwegian Refugee Council says it resulted in funding not being able to meet even basic needs. Money is said to be a key driver in the overall and worsening crisis. Aid workers say it is critical for international bank transfers to be unblocked, so they can get the money to do their job. Now, the report says 23 million Afghans now face acute hunger and near total collapse of public services. The U.N. Secretary General says urgent action is needed.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We need to suspend the rules and conditions that constrict not only Afghanistan's economy, but all lifesaving operations. At these moment of these maximum need, these rules must be seriously reviewed.

Six months after the takeover by the Taliban, Afghanistan is hanging by a thread. For Afghans, daily life has become a frozen hell.


HOLMES: Afghan women have also seen hard-fought progress and rights and education and things like that stripped away by the Taliban -- going backwards. Activist Mahbouba Seraj spoke out at the U.N., about what women are facing.


MAHBOUBA SERAJ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AFGHAN WOMEN SKILLS DEVELOPMENT CENTER: Over the last 20 years, the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, have fought for equality, human rights, inclusive governance, and peace in our country.

Yet, the hasty exit of the international community form Afghanistan last August has undermined our achievement and dashed our hopes for a democratic nation.



HOLMES: Let's talk more about all of this with Pashtana Durrani. She is the founder and executive director of LEARN, a nonprofit organization, working to solve society's biggest challenges, doing a lot of great work for Afghan girls and students.

Now it was a powerful address by Mahbouba Seraj. She told the U.N. a lot of things. I just want to quote one thing. She said women are literally being erased from public life, down to the blacking out of women's faces on advertisements, and the beheading of female mannequins in shop windows.

When you hear that, do you agree -- have all gains for women and girls, over the past 20 years been erased?

PASHTANA DURRANI, FOUNDER/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LEARN: I mean like yes. For now, I don't want to go into the history and the details in the past 20 years. Whatever has been gained, yes, that is true. It has been erased.

I mean like yes, we didn't have school in the rural areas but there were schools in the urban areas. There were women who were going to teach in those schools. There were girls who are going into those schools. There were places that women would find workplace, right. And all of those has changed. That is nonexistent today.

And yes, that's one thing that I agree with Mahbouba Seraj. Yes.

HOLMES: She also said that the hasty exit of the international community from Afghanistan, in her words, dashed our hopes for a democratic nation. What then, is the future for women and girls in your country. At the moment it's not good. How do you see the future?

DURRANI: I think for starters, we have to understand that international community has to stop dictating our rights to us. It has to let us lead the fight, when it comes to the rights of women in Afghanistan.

In the past 20 years, women's rights have been weaponized, and used against women in many ways. Just to overcome their own flaws, their own gaps, that they couldn't be there for Afghanistan in the mid 90s. And that's what ha been done in the past few decades.

But right now, even now, the whole world is leading -- the women's topics except that. I think it is time that Afghan women do the talking.

HOLMES: Absolutely. I mean there was just one example that stood out to me from Ms. Seraj speech at the -- at the U.N. And you know, she said that the Taliban, now, as it did when it was in power before, requires women to travel anywhere with a male guardian. And, you know, she points out that Afghanistan is a country where millions of Afghan women are widows, and, therefore, the sole breadwinners for their children.

What is the impact of even that one restriction on life for those women?

DURRANI: First of all, I have to speak out loud on international channel that I'm blessed (INAUDIBLE) from a nation where Mahbouba Seraj is leading the cause when it comes to women's rights.

Second of all, I have always said it out loud, that Afghanistan is a country of widows and orphans which are in every house, you will always see a widow and orphans, including my own family.

So she's very, very when she says that and it comes to breadwinners, that have myself (INAUDIBLE) women who were used to selling fruits and vegetables, and even burgers on the streets and wear told that they (INAUDIBLE) home now and they cannot come out and they cannot do their daily work.

And this not only impacts people, who are in the city that (INAUDIBLE) and affects people in the larger scale because what every woman has, if you push them to work on the safety of home. Or then drive (ph) you to work on.

They think, this not only puts a country of women where 15 percent but also the 80 percent, the children -- the people who are with different abilities, and disability, who cannot find work in Afghanistan.

HOLMES: You know, I was saying to you before we started this interview, the last time you and I spoke, the Taliban had literally just arrived in Kabul, you are speaking out forcefully for the girls that you helped educate at a great risk to your own personal safety.

I'm glad that you are safe, and out now. But what is the status of those that you were trying to help and have done so much work to improve the lives in terms of their education? What has happened to those girls you dealt with?

DURRANI: One thing that I have to do is that (INAUDIBLE). There were women who have taught, and continue to teach in the 80s. I'm just one of them.

And we are (INAUDIBLE) right now. The only problem is that back in the day, in the past few decades, they were standing with Afghanistan. The world was giving Afghanistan the resources. And right now, the world is talking up (INAUDIBLE) it's not even letting it breathe, and letting Afghans breathe.

The whole country is being held hostage just by a bunch of people and the whole world is watching him, and not doing anything about it.

Or in my own capacity I'm doing anything and everything to make sure that I serve my people every day and every week, yes.

[01:39:49] HOLMES: You do a remarkable work, as you always have. And there is a lot more to be done as we hear from you and also Mahbouba as well,

So thank you so much Pashtana Durrani. We really appreciate it.

DURRANI: Thank you.

HOLMES: North Korea appears eager to show off its newest arsenal of missiles ahead of two major national holidays. What the regime is now saying about its the most recent missile tests. That is after the break.


HOLMES: A dramatic end to a police chase in Houston, Texas on Thursday. A shoot out left three police officers wounded. Have a look at it.

Incredible. The shoot out continued. Police say the three officers hit are in stable condition. However, the suspect then carjacked another vehicle and later barricaded himself inside a house. Police say he surrendered after several hours.

He's now hospitalized because he was wounded when officers there at that scene returned fire.

Absolutely incredible. North Korea has conducted at least six missile tests this month and now boasting about the apparent success of the program. It released undated photographs, said to be Leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a weapons factory.

According to state media, he urged workers to create, quote, "powerful, cutting edge arms". North Korea also put out images that said were Thursday's test of two tactical guided missiles and of Tuesday's testing of long range cruise missiles.

We get the latest now from Paula Hancocks, in Seoul.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This time last year, Kim Jong-un revealed his weapons wish list with a five year deadline for his experts to achieve it.

This month alone has seen what have been produced six separate missile tests. The busiest January on record.

JEFFREY LEWIS, PROFESSOR, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: North Koreans are pretty methodically working through the list of missiles that they announced in January 2021.

So everything we've seen they warned us was coming and in some cases even showed us prototypes.

HANCOCKS: North Korea says it's testing hypersonic missiles. Fast, and maneuverable in-flight, making them almost impossible to shoot down, a nightmare for missile defense systems.

But weapons experts do question how far along Pyongyang really is. At last week's politburo meeting led by Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang said it is considering, quote, restarting, all temporarily suspended activities.

That seems to mean nuclear test on hold since September 2017. An intercontinental ballistic missile test, ICBM's, which could theoretically, hit mainland United States. North Korea has not tested on ICBM since November 2017.


LEWIS: I think we are headed towards tests of very long range missiles, including ICBMs. I think Kim, now, has said that the moratoria are off a couple of times. And so this is one of those things where when they repeat something over and over and again, they're waiting for us to get the message.

HANCOCKS: Two important dates are coming up. The 80th anniversary of the birth of his father, Kim Jong-il next month. Then the 110th birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung in April. Always national holidays but anniversaries ending in a (INAUDIBLE) generally marked in a more significant way.

LEWIS: They've got to do something. You know, at a minimum, it has to do a parade. It has to be something that the Kim ruling regime can show to the people. Here is how great our country is. Here is what you should have pride in.

HANCOCKS: The Biden administration has said it's ready to talk but Kim does not seem ready to listen. South Korean president Moon Jae-in, a fierce supporter of engagements is running out of time. Presidential elections are March 9th and he leaves office in May.

DUYEON KIM, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SOCIETY: I think North Korea might be interested in dialogue if the terms are met under North Korea's conditions. But for the time being, I think North Korea is squarely inward focused.

HANCOCKS: The country's testing has surprised some, who assumed a quieter run up to the Beijing Winter Olympics. President Xi Jinping, Kim's biggest ally and benefactor is unlikely to want instability in the region.

But with the bulk of Biden's foreign policy attention, currently elsewhere, North Korea may feel it has a window to tested its short- range technology, and if it really does want Washington's attention, ICBMs and nuclear tests, are guaranteed to get it.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


HOLMES: Now, south of the Korean Peninsula, near the Philippines, the U.S. Military is scrambling to recover an F-35 stealth fighter that crashed into the ocean on Monday. It is the most sophisticated warplane that the U.S. has and the U.S. fears China might try to reach the wreckage first.

CNN's Ivan Watson, with the details.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The F-35 stealth fighter jet -- the world's most expensive weapons system. On Monday, the relatively new U.S. Navy version of one of these jets, crashed into the flight deck of a U.S. Aircraft carrier, injuring the pilot and six sailors. The cause of the track still under investigation.

The Navy now has a difficult task of recovering the wreckage of the F- 35 from the bottom of the ocean. To make sure, defense experts say, that it's classified technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

PETER LAYTON, MILITARY AVIATION EXPERT, GRIFFITHS UNIVERSITY: The Chinese have a long history of being able to borrow something from overseas and reverse engineer it.

So, this would certainly be a (INAUDIBLE).

WATSON: The crash occurred here in the South China Sea, a heavily trafficked body of water that Beijing claims almost all for itself. And this is where two American aircraft carriers are currently operating, accompanied by more than 100 warplanes and at least 10 other warships, an unmistakable demonstration of U.S. naval power, to both allies and rivals in Asia.

ALESSIO PATALANO, PROFESSOR WAR AND STRATEGY IN EAST ASIA, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: That is a powerful reminder that the Indo-Pacific is of central importance to the Biden ministration. It's about signaling to other competitors in the region, most notably China, that the United States' credibility should not be taken lightly.

WATSON: The Chinese foreign ministry says it's not interested in the crashed plane. A spokesman urged the U.S. to contribute more to regional peace, rather than flexing force at every turn.

But Chinese state media did some gloating, saying, "The crash exposed U.S. exhaustion at containing China".

It's not the first time the U.S. Navy has had an accident, while asserting what Washington says is its right to conduct freedom of navigation operations in these contested waters.

Last October, a U.S. Navy attack submarine crashed into an undersea mountain in the South China Sea, prompting the firing of its commanding officers.

Meanwhile, the versatile F-35 warplane developed years behind schedule and way over budget has had its own setbacks of late. A British F-35 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea in November. In 2019, a Japanese F- 35 crashed into the Pacific Ocean killing the pilot, the jet impacted at such high speeds that salvage teams never recovered most of the aircraft.

LAYTON: Flying from aircraft carriers is a high risk business and occasionally problems will happen. While it's unfortunate, it is to be expected when you start flying hundreds of sorties.


WATSON: Experts predict, it will take several weeks for the U.S. Navy to recover this expensive wreck from the bottom of the sea.

Ivan Watson, CNN -- Hong Kong.


HOLMES: Natural gas stoves could be more dangerous than we think. After the break details on a new study and the impact these stoves have on our climate and quite possibly your health.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

A new study shows natural gas stoves have greater climate and health impacts than previously thought. Scientists at Stanford University say, the stoves released methane, a potent greenhouse gas and other pollutants through leaks. Researchers estimate these leaks have the same climate impact as about 500,000 gasoline powered cars. They also warn it could expose people to respiratory disease, triggering pollutants.

Climate scientist and Stanford Professor, Rob Jackson, is the co- author of that study. He joins me now from Stanford in California.

Great to have you on for this, Professor. Methane leaks from oil and gas installations have attracted increasing attention in recent years. But I'm sure most people had no idea their stoves, their ovens could account for roughly the same emissions as half a million cars.

How serious a problem is this?

ROBERT JACKSON, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, it is a serious problem. And people are familiar with leakage from oil and gas wells and pipelines. You know, walking down a city street and having that smell of sulfur gases in natural gas. But the home and building sector is the part of the supply chain that has been studied the least. So, we've been looking systematically at appliances in homes, water heaters, furnaces, and in this study, stoves.

HOLMES: I think most people will be surprised how much of the leaking is when stoves are off as well. And that comes out in this study. How does one fix something like that? If the leaks are from connections. There are lots of connections, right.

JACKSON: There are. And this was the biggest surprise to us in this study that most of the methane leaking into the air was happening while the stove is off. That suggested that there are, you know, fittings, coupling, valves, the connectors in the stove and the pipelines that are right around the stove that are -- they're emitting a little bit of gas all the time.

It's not a huge amount, but when you multiply a reasonable amount times 40 million stoves in the United States, all of a sudden the numbers get pretty big.

HOLMES: What about -- I mean if we're talking about gas stoves and ovens, are we talking about gas water heaters, gas powered clothes dryers, the furnace. That sort of thing as well?

JACKSON: We are. We published a study last year looking at water heaters, both tankless water heaters and the more common tank kind. We found very similar results. But for the large tanks that the most of us have, the largest source of admission came from the little pilot light and kind of the quiescent state. Not when the water heaters were actually heating the water.

HOLMES: And methane, if not burned (INAUDIBLE) it can warm the earth, I think I read more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Describe the impact of methane leaks on the environment, on climate change and so on. JACKSON: More than half the methane in the air of the earth comes from

human activities now. From agriculture and from fossil fuel use. And as you mentioned, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

So, we really boosted a lot of warming by adding methane to the air. And the fossil fuel sector, and national gas appliances are one way to hep us reduce those emissions.


HOLMES: And what about direct health impacts for humans over time? I know you also looked at measurements of indoor air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide. What did you find?

JACKSON: We don't think that the methane concentrations we're seeing in homes are a health hazard. They're fairly low concentrations once they're diluted in the kitchen air. But we do see risks associated with nitrogen oxide gases that we measured. There's one gas in particular, NO2, nitrogen dioxide. It's an irritant. It could trigger asthma, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. We found that NO2 concentrations within a few minutes of stove use in some kitchens rose above safe threshold set by the EPA or by the World Health Organization. That was a surprise, too.

HOLMES: Yes. And concerning. I guess the answer is go electric. But the problem in terms of moving away from gas is, it's a powerful industry. Lobbyists and soon, in fact, 20 states now have laws on the books that prevent cities from banning gas hookups in new buildings.

How to combat self interest in this fight, and move away from what's obviously a big problem?

JACKSON: We are a federalist country here in the United States. And states try and do different things. But a number of large cities, not just here in California -- San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose -- have banned natural gas construction in new buildings and homes.

But New York City, just last month or so, also banned gas appliances in new homes starting in 2027. I think these incentives make a lot of sense.

What we don't want to do is take, you know, perfectly good gas appliances out of homes now. What we want to incentivize is not putting pollutant gas stoves into new homes and buildings. I think those gas bans in the future make a lot of sense to me.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. A fascinating study and an important one. And one everyone should take note of.

Professor Rob Jackson, thanks so much.

JACKSON: Thank you very much, Michael.

HOLMES: And scientists are trying to figure out a mysterious signal that is 4,000 light years away. Astronomers say an unknown, spinning object shining in these photographs of the Milky Way with that star symbol there is unleashing giant bursts of energy every 18 minutes.

Theories include, it's a remnants of a collapsed star, or a dense neutron star. It's so unusual, one scientist called it spooky. Very scientific.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN.

Do stay with us though. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Kim Brunhuber next.