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U.S. And European Leaders Denounce Referenda Plans; Putin May Call For Mobilization Of Military Reserves; Occupied Areas Of Ukraine To Vote On Joining Russia; Population Decline in Hong Kong; Hong Kong Exodus Blames COVID Regulations and Politics; FDA Issued Warning About Potential Danger on Social Media Challenges; California Teachers Struggle to Find Affordable Housing. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead. Gathering in crisis in the hours ahead. The U.N. General Assembly begins day two why Ukraine isn't the only issue at the top of the agenda.

The force of hurricane Fiona. CNN is on the ground in Puerto Rico to show you the path of destruction.

And a new report protecting children from sex abuse which nations are most prepared to keep kids out of harm's way.

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

CHURCH: Thanks for being with us. Well, leaders in the U.S. and Europe are denouncing plans for referenda in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine to become a part of Russia. Separatists in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson announced on Tuesday the votes would take place this weekend. The deputy U.S. Secretary of State calls it a sham and says it's happening because Russia appears to be on the ropes in Ukraine. And here's the U.S. national security adviser.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We know that Russia will use the sham referenda as a basis to purportedly annex these territories either now or in the future. Let me be clear. If this does transpire and obviously it's not a done deal yet, but if this does transpire, the United States will never recognize Russia's claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine. And we will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine.


CHURCH: And if these territories voted to become a part of Russia, that could provide Vladimir Putin with the pretext to declare war on Ukraine and mobilize his two million strong military reserves. Russian media report he will make a national address soon. On Tuesday he called for more weapons of destruction for Russian troops as soon as possible, but Ukrainian leaders say they will fight on.




KULEBA: The Russians can do whatever they want, they will not change anything.


CHURCH: The latest from the battlefield. A Russian missile strike on residential buildings in Ukraine's second biggest city Kharkiv. The screen is black because the attack came in the dead of night. Kharkiv's mayor says crews are working to rescue people trapped in one building. But authorities are still gathering information on casualties.

So let's bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian. She joins us live from London. Good morning to you, Clare. So, leaders of the U.S. and Europe are on edge right now as we await a national address from a Russian President Vladimir Putin. What are the expectations and likely ramifications in the wake of his call for more weapons of destruction for his troops?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary. I can tell you that the address by President Putin has actually started right at the top of the hour. This -- it seems to be an address to the nation to Russia at the time was suggest that he wanted to do it at a time that was convenient for all of Russia's 11 time zones right now. Right now it's 9:00 a.m. in Moscow, about 4:00 p.m. in the far east of Russia.

He has so far said that he's going to focus on the situation in the Donbas. He talks about Russia's brothers and sisters in the Donbas and Donetsk and Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as well. Those are the four regions that have announced that they will hold referendums on joining Russia. So far this week he says this is about the security and territorial integrity of Russia.

Really a sort of flipping of the narrative there because essentially, what these referendums amount to is a land grab, really, if you look at the precedent of Crimea, where the referendum was not recognized internationally, I was there, it was very clear, this was neither free nor fair that these referendums will likely follow that same path and amount to essentially a mass annexation violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

So, this is a very significant moment in this now seven -- nearly seven months old conflict Russia.

[02:05:02] So far still calling this a special military operation. It's possible that could change as a result of this address by President Putin. The first time he has really made a televised speech to the nation since the very start of this conflict in February, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. I know you will continue to monitor that a dresser from the Russian president. Of course, we will get back to you as soon as something of note is mentioned in that address. Many thanks to our Clare Sebastian joining us live from London.

Well, the war in Ukraine is dominating the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly with harsh criticism of Russia from French president Emmanuel Macron. And German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Ukraine's president will address the group by video link in the hours ahead. On Friday, the assembly voted down Russia's objection to letting Volodymyr Zelenskyy speak virtually. U.S. President Joe Biden will use his speech to rally the world against the war.

He is expected to argue the invasion is a violation of the U.N.'s 1945 charter. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres kicked off Tuesday's session with an impassioned plea for action on the environment. He wants wealthy nations to tax the record profits of energy companies to help countries hurt by the climate crisis and global inflation.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Let's have no illusions. We are in rough seas. A winter of global discontent is on the horizon. A cost of living crisis is raging, trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding and our planet is burning. People are hurting with the most vulnerable suffering the most. United Nations charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy. We have a duty to act and yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.


CHURCH: President Biden also has meetings planned with the U.N. secretary general as well as British Prime Minister Liz Truss. More now on day two of the General Assembly from CNN's senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth.

RICHARD ROTH, CNNS SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: It's rare for a U.S. president to adjust his speaking slot at the U.N. General Assembly high level debate. But that's what Joe Biden has done. Instead of going in the traditional U.S. slot second behind Brazil which was yesterday. He will go later today. In fact, he will be going several speakers after the president of Iran. U.S. officials say President Biden will condemn Russia strongly for its invasion of Ukraine, and also comment on Security Council reform.

Many world leaders criticize Russia during their speeches on Tuesday. The French president denounced Russia for its invasion and condemned those who were trying to remain neutral on the affair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Those who are keeping silent today actually are in a way complicit with a cause of a new imperialism, a new order that is trampling over the current order and there's no peace possible here.


ROTH: The French president denounced as fake, the plan to referendums announced in eastern Ukraine yesterday. As for Iran, the French president also met with Iranian President Raisi yesterday. The two men discussing the stalled nuclear deal that died after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement. The Iranians want guarantees, the western countries feel they've gone far enough.

The French president said the ball is in Iran's court. Richard Roth, CNN United Nations.

CHURCH: And be sure to watch later today for an exclusive CNN interview with French president Emmanuel Macron on "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper. That is 4:00 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast 9:00 p.m. in London.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are bracing for more violent weather as Hurricane Fiona strengthens to a category four storm over the Atlantic. The storm is continuing to gain power as it passes over the area early Wednesday. But on Tuesday Fiona battered the islands with sustained winds toppling over trees and power lines in some towns. Residents are under a shelter in place order amid a downpour.

But so far no deaths or injuries have been reported. But across other islands in the Caribbean, at least five deaths have been reported from the hurricane. As recovery efforts begin. Puerto Rico has managed to restore power to some 300,000 customers. But more than a million remained with our power on Tuesday amid the difficult cleanup. CNN's Leyla Santiago spoke with residents still in need of the most basic supplies.



LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hurricane Fiona wiping out power to the majority of the roughly 3.1 million residents here. 60 percent of them without water and about 1200 people housed in shelters.

Five years ago, Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria now barely recovered from that catastrophic storm. The island and its people are suffering again. Officials say at least two have died on the island as a result of the storm. One man swept away by a flooded river behind his home. Another man died while trying to fill his generator with gasoline setting it on fire.

We traveled with the National Guard as they tried to clear roads in the mountainous region of Cayey. Their goal, access. And to start moving in much needed supplies to these isolated areas. SANTIAGO (on camera): And the island's interior like Cayey, a very mountainous municipality. This is part of the problem, the mudslides that blocked the road and block access to that power substation.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Hector Rivera Santiago was gathering drinking water off the mountain side.

So he came to the mountain side to get water because there's no water at his house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Power. We know that, you know, we're going to face that. And we can deal with that. But the biggest concern is when a water can live with a water.

SANTIAGO: Carlos Vargas (ph) lives just beyond a big mudslide that blocked access to the road. The National Guard had to evacuate about 35 elderly patients from a facility here before the mudslide demolished the building.

LT. COL. JOSUE FLORES MORALES, PUERTO RICO NATIONAL GUARD: We carry the elderly, their chairs and their beds and we just ran over and carry them over the landslide so we could get him out before the house collapse.

SANTIAGO: The recovery ahead without its own set of challenges.

PEDRO PIERLUISI, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: The hurricane and now the storm, the related storm has impacted the whole island. So we're still in the middle of this event. We're basically responding at this point. The next step will be recovery. We're not there yet.


SANTIAGO: And in Cayey, the gas stations are busy. Lines are forming people coming to get gas, diesel to power those generators they need to be able to turn the lights on at home since there is no power. But the governor says he expects that by tomorrow night a good chunk of the island will have power restored. One big exception though the southern part of the island. One of the hardest hit areas in Puerto Rico right now.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Cayey, Puerto Rico.

CHURCH: And our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins me now with the very latest on Hurricane Fiona. So Pedram, what are you seeing?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yes, Rosemary. The storm system is just strengthened as the 2:00 a.m. Eastern advisory from the National Hurricane Center. It is now a category four system. And just look at how large of a system it is. We measure the system from northern cloud field all the way through its southern cloud field stretches about 900 kilometers or essentially north to south if it replaced across the state of Alaska.

Kind of speaking to just how large of a feature we're talking about. Here's the menacing tropical system. 215 kilometer per hour sustained winds. That's near the eyewall. It is moving away from the northern tier of Turks and Caicos. So conditions there are going to begin to finally improve in the coming hours. But system is poised to retain this category four intensity over the next several days.

And again, just look how large the eye wall area of the storm is. It spans about 64 kilometers. So essentially you can fit Puerto Rico inside the eyewall from its northern fringe to its southern fringe. But there's a storm system. It is forecast to move over a very warm pool of water here with sea surface temperatures at around 30 degrees Celsius. The reason that's important is that 28 is typically what it takes to maintain a storm system.

So we're going to up this a notch by a couple of degrees potentially further strengthening the storm system. And of course notice Bermuda, Rosemary, it sits at about 1200 kilometers north of it. Model guidance here over the next couple of days does bring this storm very close to Bermuda, possibly moving just west of Bermuda. So this is something we're following as the story progresses.

CHURCH: All appreciate you tracking that. Pedram Javaheri, many thanks.

And if you want to help those affected by Hurricane Fiona, you can go to You'll find a list of verified organizations ready to help you make a difference.

Well, now to the U.S. migrant crisis. A civil rights advocacy group has filed a class action lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The state of Florida and others accusing them of defrauding vulnerable immigrants to advance a political motive. The move comes after two planes carrying nearly 50 migrants mostly from Venezuela arrived in Massachusetts from Texas under arrangements made by DeSantis.

He joined other Republican governors sending migrants to largely liberal areas in the north to protest what they've described as the failure of the federal government to secure the U.S. southern border. The DeSantis office responded to the lawsuit on Tuesday saying the migrants were moved on a voluntary bases.


CHURCH: Meantime, President Joe Biden is responding to reports that DeSantis may send migrants from Texas to Delaware which of course is the president's home state. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Ron DeSantis, it looks like he's sending migrants to Delaware. Do you have any comments or response to that, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He should come visit we have a beautiful shoreline.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Joining me now is Adam Isaacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington office on Latin America. He has spent nearly three decades working to solve problems at the root of crises just like this one. A pleasure to have you with us, sir.


CHURCH: We are learning more about how 48 migrants mostly from Venezuela ended up on flights from Texas to Martha's Vineyard last week. And now a class action lawsuit has been filed against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, claiming these migrants were deprived of their liberty and due process over an unlawful goal and personal political agenda. But even before they arrived at the U.S. border, they had taken a very dangerous and life-threatening route to flee their own country.

What do you know about that journey? And what would they have been through just to get to the U.S.?

ISAACSON: It's a remarkable journey. I mean, in some cases, they came from about as far south as you could go. More than six million people have left Venezuela out of 30 million in the last seven or eight years or so. And many of them tried to settle in South America. A lot of the people that were on that plane had actually been living in the southern part of South America. They ended up crossing about 10 countries on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

But probably, whenever I talk to migrants who've taken this route, what they always talk about is a place called the Darien Gap. It's where the Pan American highway ends along the Panama-Colombia border. You've got to walk through about 60 miles of jungle that is completely ungoverned. And I've had migrants tell me that -- and some of these Venezuelans who said, I saw dead bodies. I heard of women being raped, I got robbed.

But despite that, I mean, because of that danger, the Darien Gap has been sort of a natural barrier to overland migration for a long time, no longer. Last month, 31,000 people migrated to the Darien Gap on their way to the United States. And 22,500 of them were Venezuelan. So this is a route that has really opened up now despite the dangers which shows how desperate people are.

But it also just shows that, you know, they're willing to take on this arduous journey without a penny in their pockets just to try to, you know, escape repression of Venezuela and make a living in the United States.

CHURCH: Yes. And let's get to the root of that. Because when they're confronting a journey, as dangerous as that, as you mentioned, they must be in very desperate circumstances in their own country to want to flee. What are they fleeing exactly?

ISAACSON: Well, Venezuela, over the course of this century, has really devolved from democracy to one of the most repressive dictatorships in the Western Hemisphere. At the same time, that dictatorship really mishandled the economy. So Venezuela used to be one of the wealthiest countries in the hemisphere, it is now one of the poorest. You know, the power is rarely on, even in a lot of large cities. Potable water is hard to get.

The health system has collapsed. And if you don't have access to dollars, because of inflation, and devaluations, you make the equivalent of maybe $4.00 a day, you can't feed your kids, you're putting your kids to bed hungry. People have fallen out of the middle class into poverty. So you roll all of that repression and need into one and you have had this wave of migration starting around the middle of the 20th hands.

And now really, just since the middle of last year have started to make its way up to the U.S.-Mexico border.

CHURCH: So if we go back to those 48 migrants that we were talking about at the start that ended up at Martha's Vineyard after their journey from Texas by a plane. We now know, of course, that a Texas sheriff has opened a criminal probe into these migrant flights claiming that these Venezuelans were lured to a hotel for two days, then flown to Florida and then onto Martha's Vineyard under what he calls false pretenses.

What do you think when you hear this? Knowing what these people have already been through just to get to the United States.

ISAACSON: When somebody has been brave enough to go often with their kids through a situation like that, you know, really facing adversity that most U.S. citizens will never really have to face in their lives. For a governor to view them as just sort of faceless pawns subjects, people without any ambitions or identity of their own people, you could just send on false pretenses to another state to make a political point or to just sort of position yourself for the 2024 presidential campaign.


My blood boils. I mean, I think most decent people's blood would boil at that knowing what these people went through and then knowing how they were just used really just as a prop. It's stunning. I don't want to use any foul language on this interview.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. Adam Isaacson, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

ISAACSON: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: And still ahead this hour a new report looks at how countries prevent child abuse. A child advocate will explain what host governments can do to protect young Ukrainian and Afghan girls from exploitation. That's when we come back.


CHURCH: In time for the U.N. General Assembly a new report ranks hell 60 countries are responding to the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. The out of the shadows index found the U.K., France and Sweden rank as the best environments for children. The United States was a few spots behind them at number 13. At the bottom of the list, Cameroon, Nigeria and Uzbekistan were ranked as having the worst environments.

The index says it doesn't try to measure the scale of childhood abuse, but instead focuses on how countries are approaching the problem.

Joining me now is Joanna Rubenstein, former president and CEO of the World Childhood Foundation, USA. Thank you so much for talking with us.


CHURCH: Your newly released index ranks the response of 60 nations to child sexual exploitation and abuse. What shocked you the most about what you found while compiling this index? And which nations are responding well and which need to do better?

RUBENSTEIN: Well, Rosemary, it is rather depressing to notice that out of the 60 countries which are home to 85 percent of all the children in the world, none of the nations is really performing perfectly. So, we have the best 10 countries which actually this time because the second time we're doing the index together with the economist impact. U.K., United Kingdom is ranking number one.

And number two is France and number three is Sweden. What these countries do right is that they not only respond in a proper way to child sexual exploitation and abuse, but they also have adequate support services and they invest in prevention. And the prevention is probably the key to success.


So, what is great also to see that when we look at the top ranking 10 nations, it's not just the rich countries. We have actually three middle-income countries that are ranking among that top 10. And I'm very happy to say that one of them, South Africa, is ranking pretty high. And it's probably because there is more focus in that country on how to protect their girls and boys from sexual exploitation and abuse.

And by also having not just the right prevention education but also the right response systems that are child focused child friendly.

CHURCH: Right. And so, how does your index help as an accountability instrument and a tool to engage governments in the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse of children?

RUBENSTEIN: It's actually a great scorecard that helps the government to decide what are the right measures. What are the right interventions when it comes to both prevention and response? It helps them to decide what is it they can do. And let me just give you an example. We have countries that rank very low like Nigeria, the consent age is 14. If they just change the legislation and don't marry their children too young, they will be ranking higher.

So, there are certain things that the countries can do more easily. Only half of the countries surveyed 60 countries have really legislation to protect children from online sexual abuse. Well, they could actually work on it and make sure that their internet providers can ensure that children are safe online.

CHURCH: Right.

RUBENSTEIN: These are just some examples of what countries can do. But probably the most important part is that the countries have to raise awareness about the topic in the countries. And they have to have the national plans, how to deal with sexual exploitation and abuse and action plans and hopefully also funding for it.

CHURCH: And girls in Afghanistan and of course, in Ukraine, or fleeing that war-torn nation clearly suffer the most at the hands of human traffickers. So, what more needs to be done to crack down on the sexual exploitation abuse of these particularly vulnerable young women and girls?

RUBENSTEIN: I think that we have learned already during the Ukraine war that the girls or children were disappearing when reaching some of the receiving countries. And that was an indication that these countries perhaps didn't have enough of protection for these children, they were not registered immediately. And the traffickers were better organized and simply kidnapped some of these kids, we have to avoid that.

So being aware means also putting the right protection mechanism in place. And that's what countries can do. When we talk about the Afghan girls or girls that are refugees in some of the developing countries, internal refugees are crossing the borders, it is a much more difficult situation. And there, it requires really a global commitment to support these children. We know that children that are fleeing their countries, our refugee children are at higher risk of abuse and exploitation.

These are more vulnerable children. And we have to pay more attention to make sure that the way how we take care of our refugees also focuses more on children and their well being.

CHURCH: Jonah Rubenstein, thank you for shining a light on this issue. Appreciate having you.

RUBENSTEIN: Thank you so much, Rosemary, for having me.

CHURCH: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.



CHURCH: Some new developments now from Moscow where Russian president Vladimir Putin has just wrapped up a national address. These images from just moments ago, and this comes as the Russian-backed leaders of separatist regions in Ukraine announced referenda in the coming days on those territories joining Russia. And those efforts have been condemned by the U.S., Europe, and other world leaders.

So, I want to bring back CNN's Clare Sebastian joining us again live from London. So, Clare, Russia's President Putin just finished his national address. What was the big headline?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, Rosemary, this is a pretty big step for Russia which has resisted any, sort of, signs of mobilization so far in this conflict which has continued to call its special military operation. He now says this will be a partial mobilization, which is the exact wording he used, concerning the country's forces who are in reserve at the moment. In February, that was estimated to be about two million people. Have a listen to the exact wording of what he said.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I think it is necessary to support the decision to partially mobilized citizens of Russian Federation. I would like to underline this is a partial mobilization.


SEBASTIAN: So, that is -- this is not a full mobilization, not a full-scale conscription like we saw in Ukraine where, of course, men of fighting age were not allowed to leave the country. But this was a significant speech by Vladimir Putin, railing against the west saying that the goal of the west is to weaken divide and ultimately destroy Russia. He said he supports the decisions of those four regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson to hold referendums starting this week on joining Russia.

He says that Russia's goal is to protect these people. And I just want one more quick point is that at the end of speech, in a particularly vitriolic moment, Putin accused the west of making threats -- nuclear threats against Russia. And he said Russia also has weapons of mass destruction and will use all the resources at its disposal. So, a particularly sinister moment in this very strongly worded speech from the Russian president.

CHURCH: Yes, very chilling and exactly what has put western leaders on edge. So, Clare, what will it mean if these regions, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson go ahead and vote to become part of Russia this weekend? What will be the consequences of that?

SEBASTIAN: Yes, I think. Rosemary, first of all it's worth noting that these votes are not likely, certainly, in the context to then taking place during a war are not -- have almost zero chance, I would say, of being free and fair. I was in Crimea and watched that referendum happen and it was very loosely observed. And I actually saw someone drop, at one point, two ballots into a ballot box.

So, that is certainly worth bearing in mind as we go into this. But this is an effort by Russia who was on the back foot in the battlefield after Ukraine's very successful counteroffensive to consolidate its gains, to sort of annex, essentially, these territories claim they are Russian and therefore up the ante. This essentially would be Ukraine fighting not only to defend itself but fighting on territory that Russia claims its own. Rosemary.


CHURCH: Yes. Clare Sebastian, many thanks for monitoring that national address from Russians president. Joining us live in London. Appreciate it.

Well, later this hour, Hong Kong is a financial hub and a world-class city but that's not stopping a record number of people from leaving. Coming up, why Hong Kong is seeing an exodus of talent.


CHURCH: Hong Kong is seeing an exodus of some of its most talented residents. Last month the financial hub recorded its sharpest annual drop in population. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us live from Hong Kong to talk more about this.

Good to see you, Kristie. So, Hong Kong authorities are signaling a change and strict COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy. Could that possibly be enough to stem this exodus of talent in the city?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Rosemary, on Tuesday, we heard from Hong Kong's top leader John Lee who said that the city plans to make an announcement for an orderly opening up. Now, keep in mind that the fate of Hong Kong is still tethered very closely to mainland China and its tough zero-COVID policy, tough pandemic restrictions remain in place here in the territory.

At the moment, all new arrivals have to pay for three days hotel quarantine followed by four days of self-monitoring -- the South China monitoring post is reporting, according to a source, that could be soon followed by zero-hotel quarantine followed by seven days self- monitoring. An announcement is wildly expected to made later this week. But it remains to be seen whether it's enough to stop the exodus of talent from Hong Kong.


STOUT (voiceover): American couple, Sarah Churgin and Stephen Kody (ph) are fed up with the city. She's a vet, he's a banker. And after eight years in Hong Kong, they're packing up for a one-way trip back to the U.S.

SARAH CHURGIN, EXPAT LIVING HONG KONG: The biggest thing for us has been the change in how often we can see our families. Usually, I got to see them anywhere between two and four times a year. Now we went two and a half years without seeing anybody.

STOUT (voiceover): Sara and Stephen joined over 100,000 other residents abandoning the Chinese territory this year. Unable to endure life in a city that's become one of the most isolated in the world. Mask mandates remain in effect here. And as other countries live with COVID-19, people have fled Hong Kong's heavy-handed restrictions and they've been leaving in droves.

STOUT (on camera): Hong Kong is bleeding talent at a record pace. Over the last year, the financial hub long billed is as Asia's world city, has seen over 113,000 residents leave, including expatriates and non-permanent residents.

STOUT (voiceover): It's the city's sharpest annual drop in population on record since 1961. Authorities attribute part of the decline to a natural decrease of reporting more deaths than births.


Experts say Hong Kong's changing political landscape and strict zero- COVID policy have prompted many to leave.

LUCY JORDAN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: You're witnessing a historic departure. The result of the social unrest and the social movement here in Hong Kong and then followed by COVID.

STOUT (voiceover): The government has eased the hotel quarantine period from a peak of 21 days to three. And plans to host the International Rugby Sevens and the Global Banking Summit in November are seen as opportunities for Hong Kong to open up.

But Beijing's political crackdown and the territory has also contributed to the population decline. An offer of citizenship by the U.K. has attracted at least 140,000 Hong Kongers to apply for the special British National Overseas or BNO visa.

Including Gavin Mok, who moved to the U.K. last year with his wife and two daughters. A former stockbroker, he's now a delivery driver in Exeter who has no plans to return.

GAVIN MOK, HONG KONG RESIDENT NOW LIVING IN THE U.K: I'm glad that I made a decision. Freedom of speech, democracy, everything. You can say whatever you like.

STOUT (voiceover): Gavin misses the comforts of Hong Kong, but he relishes his freedom.

PAUL YIP, POPULATION HEALTH EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: In Hong Kong, the population is very volatile. I mean, very fluid. The -- it can turn one way or the other. It really depends on the development of Hong Kong or how people perceive this place.

STOUT (voiceover): 7.29 million people still call Hong Kong home. But not Sara and Stephen, despite their many fond memories.

CHURGIN: In addition to COVID, there has been a lot of political changes. The city has changed a lot since we both came eight years ago. And some of that is not going to go back.

STOUT (voiceover): Their boxes are sealed, plane tickets booked, even for the cats. Another family ready to leave the city they once loved. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT (on camera): Now, a senior Beijing official has rejected concerns about an exodus of talent from Hong Kong. On Tuesday, we heard this from the deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office saying, "Based on these statistics", referring to the Hong Kong government census, "Hong Kong's population drop is caused by multiple factors, and there is no way to suggest that it is a result of an immigration wave."

Now, Huang also said that because Hong Kong is an international city, the population is highly mobile. Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Thank you so much for that report. Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong.

Well, health regulators in the U.S. are issuing a warning about dangerous social media challenges, including one that encourages people to cook chicken using NyQuil. The Food and Drug Administration warns boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated. And inhaling the vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body and hurt your lungs. The FDA says young adults and adolescents are especially susceptible to these types of online dares.

Well, thank you so much for joining us. World Sport is up next then I'll be back with more news from all around the world in about 15 minutes from now. You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.


LEMON: I want to ask you specifically about these referenda in Donetsk and Luhansk. You say that it won't solve Putin's problems, why not?

HALL: It's not going to solve his problems because at the end of the day it's not really going to change anything. So, it's not as though the Ukrainians are going to go oh, OK. So, well so, now, you know, in the Donbas, and Luhansk, and Donetsk, these people have decided that they want to have their own referenda and they want to join Russia and Russia has agreed to annex yet another part into Crimea. And so, therefore we're just going to sit back and let that happen.

The Ukrainians are no way going to let that happen. They're going to continue and they're going to push in, and they're going to try and exert military control. Putin, in the past -- in the recent past, he said, well, wait a second. That would be attacking Russia. Well, you know, that's kind of moving the goalposts. It doesn't count if you annex a place then call it yours. And say, OK, now, it's off limits. The Ukrainians are going to have none of that and they're probably going to have some significant success.

LEMON: Yes. Putin is saying that Russia needs, "Weapons of destruction as soon as possible." What you think that means, weapons of destruction? He didn't say mass destruction. But he did say weapons of destruction. What do you think that to mean? HALL: You know, he's saying some very strange stuff. And that's one strange thing to say. I mean, another strange thing to do is, you know, to go to North Korea and say, hey, can you give us some ammo? I mean, that for a vaunted -- supposedly vaunted Russian military. And you've got to get your drones, by the way, from Iran. I mean, that doesn't look like a very vaunted military. But it's not just the military. It's all of Russia that seems to be on the brink of fraying.

I think you have to think of Russia right now as a ship. Of course, Putin is the captain of the ship. But there is a lot of other really important people on the ship. These people who run the place and who are close to Putin and work on his auspices. But if the ship starts to take on water, which it's going to, and it looks like it is going to sink, these powerful people, the heads of the security services, the heads of the police, aren't going to simply sit back and say, boy, it's too bad we had this guy as the captain and the ship's going to go down. They're going to do something about. They're going to try and change the captain. And that's, I think, what Putin is facing right now and why he's saying some of the things that he's saying.

LEMON: Steve Hall, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

HALL: Sure.

LEMON: Soaring inflation pushing teachers in California out of their homes. So, where are they going? We'll tell you, next.



LEMON: Across the country, teachers are in short supply and under pressure as they deal with soaring inflation and rent. Many can't afford to live where they work. CNN's David Culver reports from Los Angeles, where educators are being pushed to the brink.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): For Shanika Whiten, it is a struggle that starts before the sun's up. A single mom living in Los Angeles, battling debilitating MS.


CULVER (voiceover): And yet, still determined to get on work to time. She let us tag along. On the drive, telling me about her journey.

WHITEN: There's been months where I would worry about, oh, you know. I'm not going to be able to afford to pay rent this month.

CULVER (voiceover): Shanika has worked more than 20 in special education, always for the L.A. school system. But rising rents and a surge in cost of living have nearly forced her and other school employees out. WHITEN: It's sad to live the way we are because of inflation. And everything is going up, except your paycheck. Your paycheck is not going up. It's, like, oh, how (INAUDIBLE) going to survive?

CULVER (voiceover): It's a common burden felt by teachers and other school employees nationwide. On average, rents have nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Cost of living, increasing at roughly six times the rate it was a decade ago.

To retain teaching talent, school systems are now doubling as both employers and landlords. From mountainous eagle county Colorado to the beach paradise of Maui in Hawaii, school districts are funding affordable housing for staff. But construction is often years off. Leaving some school districts, like Milpitas in San Jose to act are urgently. Asking parents in this message to step forward if they have a room for rent. Some 66 people are already offering their homes to educators.

Also, in Silicon Valley, this former convent, no longer for nuns. Now, used as teacher housing. The National Education Association supports these kind measures, affordable housing and more pay for teachers. Back at Norwood Learning Village in L.A., where Shanika lives, the need is now.

CULVER (on camera): The demand for these apartments is soaring. This property has 29 units altogether. Nearly 600 people are on the wait list, hoping just one of them opens up. Most of those individuals, work for the school system.

SAM CHANG, MANAGER, NORWOOD LEARNING VILLAGE: Yes, the need is really great. That's just basically what that means.

CULVER (voiceover): Sam Chang manages the facility, and lives here with his wife, a teacher, and their kids.

CULVER (on camera): When you hand over the kids, what their reaction?

CHANG: Normally, it's a very positive, joyous, momentous type of reaction. A lot of people, they almost feel in disbelief because of not only the price that they're getting the unit for, but also the quality of housing here.


CULVER (voiceover): In a county where the average rent for a three bedroom is $3,000 a month, Shanika is paying less than half that, and feels like one of the lucky ones.

WHITEN: Living where I am. Paying what I pay. It's a blessing. It's a blessing.


CULVER (on camera): Don, teachers here in Los Angeles start with a salary around $56,000 a year. Now, that puts them in this difficult middle ground. They earn too much to qualify for California's affordable housing. Though not enough, they point out, to cover comfortable, convenient housing. It's left school systems desperately trying to find creative ways to both recruit and retain what is a dwindling workforce. Don?

LEMON: David, thank you. And thanks for watching everyone. Our coverage continues.