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People Mag: Suspect Followed Female Victims On Instagram; Alec Baldwin Vows To Fight Charges In Deadly Movie Set Shooting; Three Active Duty Marines Arrested For Breaching Capitol On Jan. 6; WH To GOP: Biden Won't Stand For "Unprecedented Economic Vandalism"; Biden: "Fully Cooperating" With Classified Docs Probe; Florida Blocks Proposed High School A.P. African-American Studies Class; Crypto Mining Wreaks Havoc On Towns With Noise Pollution; New 988 Suicide Hotline Seeing Major Spike In Calls. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired January 21, 2023 - 13:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST (on camera): Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. And we're learning new details on the suspect accused of killing for Idaho college students in the weeks before the murders. People Magazine reporting that Bryan Kohberger followed all three of the female victims on Instagram and then repeatedly message one of them.

CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal is following the latest developments for us. Camila, what more can you tell us?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hey, Fred. So, this is really important because authorities have not given us a connection between Bryan Kohberger and the victims. They've not said whether they knew each other or whether they had interaction. So, People Magazine is finding one of these connections saying that Bryan Kohberger followed the three girls on Instagram and also saying that the three girls did not follow him back.

The report also saying that not only did he follow them, but he reached out to one of the girls in particular repeatedly. Those messages went unanswered. It's unclear whether she saw the messages or whether she just chose not to answer them. But People Magazine saying they were able to review that Instagram account before it was deleted. They also went a little bit further saying that the girls worked at this Greek restaurant and saying that Bryan Kohberger had visited the restaurant at least two times in the weeks leading up to the killings.

Now, they do say that they're looking into all of this. And it's hard to prove because authorities are unable to speak. The Greek restaurant in Moscow saying that this is untrue that people's report is untrue. But they also released a lengthy statement. I want to read part of it saying, we all decided collectively to support the families and not share anything that could potentially harm the investigation or cause the families more stress. And it's not just the employees of the Greek restaurant that are not allowed to talk, there is a broad and sweeping gag order, essentially not allowing anyone connected to this case to speak publicly. So, we'll have to wait and see what happens in court. There are a couple things to remember here. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for June. Bryan Kohberger has pleaded or has not pleaded yet.

We're waiting to see what happens with that. And if it does go to trial, one of the biggest pieces of evidence that police have at the moment is one of the surviving roommates that places him at the house, at the crime scene, the day that these students were killed. So, we'll have to wait to see how this legal process plays out. And of course, we'll have to wait to see what happens in terms of Bryan Kohberger and his defense.

But there's not a lot that we're going to be learning likely over the coming weeks because of that gag order, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Camila Bernal. Thanks so much. All right. Just a day after involuntary manslaughter charges were announced against actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, we're now learning the film Rust is still in production. An attorney for the movie tells CNN the film will include on set safety supervisors and union crew members and will bar any use of working weapons or any ammunition.

Baldwin did not speak to reporters about the charges against him when he was seen walking into his Manhattan home on Friday. His attorney said the actor was blindsided by the charges. CNN' Gloria Pazmino is with us now. Gloria, what happens now?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, for not only have we learned that production on the film continues, but sources telling us that Alec Baldwin is also going to continue as the lead in that film. You showed the photos of Alec Baldwin arriving at his Manhattan home yesterday, he declined to speak with the media who had been gathering there for several days trying to hear from Alec Baldwin directly days after these charges were announced.

Now, the couple of weeks and months ahead will be long illegally speaking of both Alec Baldwin and the armorer that was on set will have to have a preliminary hearing which will determine if there was a probable cause to even go -- to go ahead with trial. But I want to just give you an idea of Alec Baldwin's mindset going into all of this. We did hear from him several months ago. My colleague Chloe Melas spoke with Baldwin back in August. And here's how he reacted to that incident.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: My job is not to concentrate on weather if the gun is safe. We have people there for that.


They're going to -- they're not -- they're not going to charge anybody in my mind. Criminal charges are things you avoid unless you know you can make a case.


PAZMINO: Now, like I said, it gives you an insight into how Alec Baldwin sees this whole thing. We know that he is accused of failing to perform safety procedures that could have prevented this fatal incident from happening. Obviously, Baldwin and his attorneys seem to think that that was not the case and they do plan on fighting those charges. So, the next couple of weeks and months will be interesting in terms of seeing how this develops from the legal angle of all of this.

But so far, Alec Baldwin and not speaking to reporters and we are waiting to hear how else this develops in the next couple of days.

WHITFIELD: All right. Gloria Pazmino, keep us posted as you learn. Thank you. Three active-duty U.S. Marines who work in intelligence have been arrested for taking part in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. One of them was allegedly pushing for a second Civil War. CNN's Jeremy Herb joining us now. Jeremy, what are authorities saying about this?

JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS REPORTER (on camera): Yes, Fred. These three Marines, Corporal Micah Coomer and Sergeants Joshua Abate and Dodge Dale Hanesan -- excuse me, Hellonen. They're facing a number of charges including in -- disorderly conduct in a Capitol building. Now, according to the court filings, this trio went into the Capitol on January 6 for about an hour that went to the Capitol Rotunda according to these filings.

They placed a red MAGA hat on one of the statues that's in the rotunda, and then they took a photo with it. Now one of the interesting things that we've learned in this indictment is just how authorities discovered this trio. One of the Marines, Coomer, he sent messages on his Instagram page in addition to posting photos on his Instagram page. These messages he sent after January 6 to an associate saying, "Everything in this country is corrupt. We honestly need a fresh restart. I'm waiting for the Boogaloo."

What's a Boogaloo? The associate asked in response. Civil War 2, Coomer replied. And now that is a reference to a rallying cry that's used among some far-right groups. In the photos that he posted, he also included a caption, glad to be a part of history. One of the other Marines, Joshua Abate, according to court documents, he admitted while he was getting an interview for a security clearance that he had gone into the Capitol on January 6 with a number of his friends.

He said during this interview, according to the documents that the riot was being portrayed negatively. And so, as a result, he didn't tell anyone about his involvement. We should note here that none of these Marines so far have entered a plea when it comes to their conduct. But the fact that this arrest happened this week, that is a sign that authorities are continuing to look for those who went into the Capitol on January 6, two years ago.

Marine -- the Marine Corps they said in a statement that they are aware of this investigation, and they are cooperating with authorities, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Clearly, it's far from over. All right. Jeremy Herb, thank you so much.

Still ahead, a group of Baltic foreign ministers calling on Germany to provide Ukraine with leopard tanks as Russian forces step up hostilities arounds Zaporizhzhia. We'll go live near the frontlines.

Plus, Ukraine is not only fighting Russia on the battlefield but also at the altar how the invasion created a turmoil inside the Orthodox Church. And news just in to CNN, we're learning about the extent the Avenger star Jeremy Renner's injuries in the snowplow accident that sent him to the hospital. Details in minutes.



WHITFIELD: New Russian attacks on Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say Moscow is keeping up its assault in the Bakhmut areas. CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Ukraine for us. Russian -- Russia has already claimed victory in the area. But the fighting continues. Where are things stand?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes. The Russians have claimed that they've taken Soledar, which is just north of Bakhmut. And we've been to that area and certainly it does appear they're in control of most, if not all of that town of 10,000 people before the war now. It seems that the last 24 hours have been very difficult in the region of Zaporizhzhia to the south of here where regional officials say there were 21 individual Russian strikes resulting in the death of one woman and in their words, the destruction of dozens of buildings.

Now, just south of here in the town of Kostiantynivka overnight, there were at least a dozen missile strikes on that town. And just yesterday here in Kramatorsk, one person was killed when -- there are three missiles hit the city, one right in front of a kindergarten. Fortunately, the kindergarten was not operational at the time because of course the war classes have not been held in months.

Now as far as the situation in Bakhmut goes, we were there yesterday we saw that the Ukrainians are continuing to pound Russian positions but the Russians are responding in kind. And what we noticed is that the Russian shelling is getting deeper and deeper inside the city. What we saw is there are fewer and fewer people are left in that one large city. Now the Ukrainian defense ministry is now saying that they do expect the Russians to launch a massive offensive.

At some time, they say perhaps as late as the end of this month, perhaps February, perhaps into March. The expectation is that after that mobilization that began last September, that the Russians have been mustering their forces perhaps to launch a massive spring offensive. Fredricka?

[13:15:03] WHITFIELD: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. So, Ukraine is not only fighting Russia on the battlefield but at the altar. Since the Russian invasion last February, there has been turmoil in the Orthodox Church. Prewar, Ukraine's Orthodox Church was split into two. One independent branch loyal to Kyiv and the other loyal to Moscow and its controversial Patriarch Kirill who has been an enthusiastic supporter of Russia's invasion.

Shortly after the war began, the Moscow supporting part of the church, publicly cut ties with its northern neighbor. But Ukrainian authorities believe some of its priests and some of its worshipers remain loyal to Russia. Scott McLean reports.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just outside Kyiv is the Church of the Nativity. It's been here since the Soviet days. But now it has a new priest, Father Pavlo Mityaev and has a new denomination.

MCLEAN (on camera): Oh, wow. Beautiful.

MCLEAN (voice over): The Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

PAVLO MITYAEV, PRIEST, ORTHODOX CHURCH OF UKRAINE (through translator): Previously, nobody paid attention to whether it was a Ukrainian or Russian-speaking church. They were simply coming to God. But when the war started, everything changed.

MCLEAN: In September, parishioners here voted to cut ties with the Orthodox branch that had been loyal to Moscow.

SVITLANA SHUMILINA, ORTHODOX CHURCH OF UKRAINE MEMBER (through translator): It was very difficult, but we understood why we were doing it. First and foremost, it was about security.

MCLEAN: Three to 400 churches have switched their allegiance to the church of Ukraine since war began, including one of the most famous cathedrals in the country. Evidence perhaps of a growing mistrust of the formerly Moscow link branch despite its public break with Russia.

KATERYNA GAN, ORTHODOX CHURCH OF UKRAINE MEMBER: It's not like just a church. It's like agenda. It's like a Russian agenda here in Ukraine.

MCLEAN: Ukraine suspects that agenda lives on in some churches. This video surfaced in November showing a patriotic Russian song being sung on the grounds of Kyiv's famous Lavra monastery. Days later, the site was raided by Ukraine security service, officially to prevent it from being used for hiding sabotage and reconnaissance groups or even storing weapons. But the raids at churches across the country turned up little more than Russian passports, symbols and books.

Metropolitan Klyment is a bishop in the church once loyal to Moscow.

METROPOLITAN KLYMENT, BISHOP, UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (through translator): There was no mention in the findings of weapons or saboteurs. Instead, they said they found printed matter, documents which are not prohibited under Ukrainian law.

MCLEAN: Klyment admits there have been traitors. One priest was convicted of leaking Ukrainian battlefield locations to the Russians. But he says the reputation of the entire church has been unfairly tarnished.

MCLEAN (on camera): Do you feel like the government is questioning your patriotism?

KLYMENT: It is absolutely unacceptable. Members of the church like anyone else are citizens of Ukraine, and sometimes they are among the country's finest citizens. Proving their patriotism by laying down their lives.

MCLEAN (voice over): In a statement, the Ukrainian Security Service said the raids are aimed exclusively at national security issues. This is not a matter of religion. The Ukrainian government is now considering a ban on churches with centers of influence in Russia. Klyment thinks that will only push his church underground.

KLYMENT: There's a danger now that millions of Ukrainians will be forced to perform their religious rites and receive spiritual guidance illegally.

MCLEAN (on camera): Do you view this as religious persecution?

KLYMENT: What else would you call persecution if not this?

MCLEAN (voice over): On Christmas Day, Clemens church carried on with mass just steps away from its former cathedral.

KYRYLO SERHEYEV, UKRANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SEMINARY STUDENT: We pray for our country and first for our military, even if we have sanctions, our patriotism, not becoming less.

VIKTORIA VINYK, UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH MEMBER: I speak Russian but I have never been to Russia. I feel really bad, but I hope for better in my country.

MCLEAN: So that harmony can return to a church now bitterly divided. Scott McLean, CNN, Kyiv.


WHITFIELD: Still to come. The U.S. Treasury Department taking extraordinary measures to keep paying the government's bills and avoid a default after the U.S. hit the debt ceiling. Why a default could be catastrophic for the U.S. economy next.



WHITFIELD: Avengers star Jeremy Renner says he broke more than 30 bones in the New Year's Day accident that sent him to the hospital for more than two weeks. Renner was injured by a snowplow while clearing a driveway near as Nevada home leaving him with blunt chest trauma and orthopedic injuries according to his publicist. And in the 9/11 call from the incident, Renner is heard in the background moaning in pain as an unidentified caller speaks to the operator.

Some information in the call has been redacted by the Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shallow breath. Lot of pain. He's conscious.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got him covered in blankets. His head's covered. Are we drifting off?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he starting to kind of drift off into sleep?



WHITFIELD: Wow, some close calls there. Renner underwent two surgeries and was treated in intensive care. He is currently recovering now at home.

All right. Meantime, the clock is ticking and now that the U.S. has reached the debt ceiling on Thursday.


What happens next is a high stakes showdown between congressional Republicans and the White House over a critical question. Will the U.S. default on its $31 trillion debt? CNN political analyst and Princeton professor and historian Julian Zelizer joining me right now. Julian, good to see you. He's got quite the resume. Let me read a little bit of it. He's also a co-author of The New York Times bestseller, Myth America.

All right. Julian. So, you wrote in a CNN opinion article that this debate shows House Republicans are weaponizing the government. How so?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what they're doing is using a process that should be routine. Raising the debt ceiling to pay for things that the government has already agreed to pay for. And they're trying to leverage that to obtain big spending cuts from the Biden administration. And also, to cause some chaos in American politics. And so, a weaponizing government is often just taking things that should be ordinary, and making them both extraordinarily -- extraordinary and contested.

WHITFIELD: So, we're seeing House GOP members from swing districts pushing back at the White House's plan for no negotiations over raising the debt limit. I mean, is the White House miscalculating the Republicans unified strategy when it comes to the debt ceiling?

ZELIZER: They might be. President Biden has been through this before. A big turning point was in 2011 when he was vice president for President Obama and the Tea Party use this as a way to leverage spending cuts. I think Biden is being advised to stand firm, not just to win this battle, but to set a precedent that you can't do this, that you can't threaten the Senate the country into default over this kind of dispute.

But he might be miscalculating both the unity of Republicans that moderates won't in the end break from the Trumpian Republican Caucus or that he will be able to sway them as this process unfolds that Republicans will be the ones politically punished, rather than the Democrats. And that's the high stakes we're looking at right now.

WHITFIELD: So, what are your concerns, you know, that officials won't be able to end the standoff and this country defaults on its debt this summer?

ZELIZER: Well, it would be catastrophic. It's a term that's fitting for this. It would obviously cause turmoil in the markets. It would cause the government to be unable to pay for services from Social Security benefits to government employees and it would potentially really spend to send the entire economy and global economy into a tailspin. So, besides the way in which this is being handled, meaning weaponizing the debt ceiling, they're playing with people's future and their security.

So, it's a dangerous game and it's being driven by the House Republicans, and I think everyone is trying to scramble to figure out what to do and how to avert this.

WHITFIELD: And I mean, there would be no winners, I mean, Republicans, you know, who are digging in their heels, they would not win. I mean, clearly the White House wouldn't win, the economy, Americans as a whole, no one wins. So, given that, is it your feeling that there will be some compromise, there will be a way in which to avert what would be catastrophic come June?

ZELIZER: That's what should happen. And it's true that voters in red states and red districts will suffer as much as those in blue, this is not a partisan divide in terms of the effects. That said, we've seen in American politics. And we've seen in recent Republican politics, how ideological concerns can drive decision making above what looks politically rational. And Republicans in the House might make a calculation, this is better, it's in their benefit, and they'll be able to sell their voters that this is a democratic problem.

And if that's the logic, reaching an agreement will be nearly impossible.

WHITFIELD: Well, perhaps here as an example, Arizona Republican Andy Biggs, you know, suggesting that he was willing to default to keep a promise to voters. And in response, the White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said, Biden quote, I'm quoting now, "And the American people will not stand for unprecedented economic vandalism." So, what do you make of each side trying to frame the debate this way? Promise versus economic vandalism?

ZELIZER: Yes. And these are words that President Obama used too. He said he wouldn't negotiate and give hostage takers essentially the ransom they want. And I think those are the two perspectives. And those are at odds.


And that's why the administration is now looking at other routes to solve this temporarily by shifting around funds and reallocating money to renew discussions over things like using the 14th Amendment as a way that the treasury will keep borrowing and deem it unconstitutional to default on the debt.

And we've hit that point in the discussion because those two narratives that you just mentioned, there's no room in the middle.

And that's what everyone is looking for in politics while the administration is trying to see what measures they can use to save the economy.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It's scary for everybody, really, for everybody.

Let's switch gears now. President Biden says he has no regrets over the decision not to publicly reveal the discovery of classified documents sooner, which were recently found at his private residence and his old office.

Take a listen to what he told reporters this week.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, quite frankly, what bugs me is that we have a serious problem here we're talking about. The American people don't quite understand why you don't ask me questions about that.


WHITFIELD: So, what are your thoughts on how the president is, you know, handling this and what it says for how he might be able to govern further?

His argument of, you know, transparency, yet, at the same time, the respect of the boundaries with an ongoing DOJ investigation.

ZELIZER: Two things can be true at once. It might be true that Biden handled the papers much differently from the former president, turned everything over right away. It might be that the questions are not really fair.

But at the same time, it is a political problem. I think this does affect how he's perceived at the moment and undercuts some of the investigation into the former president. And it will raise questions.

I mean, one of Biden's great assets, as John Alter, the columnist, wrote in "New York Times," is his trustworthiness, and how people saw him that way.

I think this will cause problems as he heads into a year or two where House Republicans will be conducting endless investigations trying to tarnish his reputation.

So I think this moment, even if unfair, will still be very problematic. And the administration needs to figure out how to handle it more effectively.

WHITFIELD: All right. Julian Zelizer and professor, thank you so much. Good to see you.


ZELIZER: Thanks, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, Florida officials are citing Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' Stop WOKE Act as a means to block an African-American A.P. studies course. I'll discuss with an anti-racism scholar after the break.



WHITFIELD: The state of Florida has blocked a new advanced placement course for high school students on African-American studies.

In a letter to the college board last week, Florida's Department of Education said, "The proposed course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

The decision comes following efforts by Governor Ron DeSantis to overhaul Florida's education curriculum to limit teaching Critical Race Theory, which DeSantis recently banned from schools under the Stop WOKE Act.

The college board unveiled plans for the course last year. It's currently being offered as a pilot in 60 schools across the country this year with the board planning to make it available to all schools in 2024.

Joining us right now is Boston University Professor Ibram X. Kendi. He's also the director of Boston University's Center for Anti-Racist Research.

Professor Kendi, so good to see you.


WHITFIELD: What's your reaction to this decision by the Florida governor?

KENDI: So, I think when you put it in totality, what you see is Florida and the Florida governor thinks that African-American studies, as you stated, significantly lacks educational value.

And just so we know, a few of the courses that Florida has not banned include A.P. European history, A.P. Italian languages and cultures, A.P. German languages and cultures.

So does this mean that studying -- our students studying African- Americans is not educationally valuable but studying Italians and Germans and Europeans is? I think that's a tragedy.

WHITFIELD: He's also equating A.P. African-American studies to Critical Race Theory. What's wrong with that?

KENDI: African-American studies, as a discipline, emerged in the late 1960s. Critical Race Theory emerged in the late 1970s. So it demonstrates that Florida officials don't understand history.

WHITFIELD: And this is a pilot A.P. course, long time coming in so many schools which had no studies on African-American history on the impact in which African-Americans made on American history.

So what is right about having such a course?

KENDI: Well, first and foremost, how can you understand American history if you don't understand the histories of all the people who have been here?

How do you understand a culture, the different cultures of people if you don't study it?

There was a time in this country's history before the African-American studies where students of all backgrounds were primarily reading white and -- white authors and primarily learning about white American culture.

And they were thereby systematically ignorant about the cultures of other people in a multicultural, multiracial world.


And so it was certainly tragic then, and it's tragic now, whenever we do that to our students.

WHITFIELD: When you put it like that, it is dismissive. It is overlooking the contributions of African-Americans, ignoring a population of people and the derivations of people and their impact on American history.

Why would the Florida governor not see it that way?

KENDI: Well, I think, first and foremost, again, Florida's governor has made it clear who and what he values and who and what he doesn't value.

And certainly, he doesn't value democracy. He doesn't value African- Americans. He seems not to value truth or history.

All he seems to value is scoring political points with the people who similarly don't value African-Americans.

WHITFIELD: Do you worry about, first, Florida, if it means the omission of A.P. African-American studies, and then other states might follow?

KENDI: I mean, that is certainly the fear. And I certainly am worried about that. And I think we should all be worried about that.

I want my daughter, who is 6 years old, to not only learn about African-American history and culture, but I want her to learn about Asian-American history and culture, Latinx history and culture and white American history and culture.

I want her to be fully versed in the lives of the people she's interacting with. I think, as parents, we should all want that, as teachers, we should all want that.

WHITFIELD: Boston University Professor Ibram X. Kindi, a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for being with us.

KENDI: Of course. Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: Coming up next, it's one of the most peaceful spots in North Carolina, but crypto mining and its noise pollution is changing that for homeowners. That's straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: We're following this breaking story out of Florida where police say a woman is barricading herself inside a Daytona Beach hospital room after shooting her husband, allegedly, who is terminally ill.

CNN affiliate, WESH, is reporting that officers were dispatched to Advent Health Hospital over reports of a person shot. Police are asking for people to remain clear of the area.

CNN has reached out to the hospital staff, some who are currently on lockdown inside the hospital. The status of the woman's husband is unclear at this time. We'll bring you more as we get it.

All right. For the residents in one Appalachian town in North Carolina, a new and different type of pollution is disrupting their lives, noise pollution.

Crypto mining is to blame for it. Banks of servers run all day, every day, consuming massive amounts of electricity from coal and natural gas, making a lot of noise in the process.

CNN's Bill Weir takes a closer look at this latest type of environmental pollution.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the sound of Green Mountain Farm --


WEIR: -- certified by Quiet Parks International as one of the most peaceful spots in North Carolina --


WEIR: -- thanks to their rare local enforcement of laws against noise pollution.


WEIR: Meanwhile, about 90 minutes away, beautiful Cherokee County sounds like this.


WEIR: It is stack upon stack of computer servers, and the fans needed to cool them.

This is what`s known as a crypto mine. And it makes the sound of people in San Francisco trying to make virtual money.

WEIR (on camera): How do you describe that noise?

MIKE LUGIEWICZ, MURPHY RESIDENT: We`re probably sitting at probably 65 decibels right now. When it`s at about 75, 80 decibels, I`d say a jet engine, a jet engine that never leaves.

WEIR (voice-over): Sixteen months after the mine fired up without warning, Mike Lugiewicz put his house up for sale in frustration.

TOM LASH (ph), MURPHY RESIDENT: There would be turkeys out in the field and deer by the hundreds.

WEIR (on camera): Yes.

LASH (ph): You don`t have that anymore.

WEIR (voice-over): While Tom Lash (ph) misses the wildlife --

PHYLLIS CANTRELL, MURPHY RESIDENT: You don`t sleep at night.

WEIR: -- Phyllis Cantrell says she feels trapped.

CANTRELL: You can actually lay your head on the pillow and hear it hum up through the walls.

WEIR (on camera): No way.

Have you thought about moving?

CANTRELL: We`re 73 years old. Where are we going to go?

WEIR: Imagine a game where the dice have a billion sides and the first person to roll a 10 wins. That is essentially crypto mining.

And to play that games these days, you need computers, thousands of computers running 24/7, 365.

And after China outlawed crypto currency and crypto mining, more and more mines like this began popping up in Appalachia, places where the power is cheap and the regulations are either nonexistent or unenforced.

(voice-over): But in this deep-red Republican pocket --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's up 24/7. (INAUDIBLE). What are you guys going to do to help?

WEIR: -- the mine has upended local politics.

JUDY STINES, MURPHY RESIDENT: I like to be behind the scenes, and I - I like to stir the pot. And I knew that we -- we needed to win an election.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forget the noise --

WEIR: Outrage over the mine helped flip the balance of power in November`s county election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Homegrown U.S. Senator Thom Tillis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


WEIR: With the new board of commissioners now asking for federal help in ending American crypto mining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- to champion legislation to ban crypto mining operations in the United States of America.



WEIR: When asked over LinkedIn for reaction, Chandler Song, one of the mine`s co-owners, wrote, "Oh, boy, they wanted us so bad a year ago."

As for the proposed ban, it is unconstitutional, to say the least.

Song and his crypto mining co-founder made "Forbes'" 30 -- under 30 list a few years ago and recently claimed quarterly revenues of more than $20 million.

But when asked follow-up questions, Song went silent.

His mine in Murphy has not, so far. But the county attorney is looking for a legal way to shut it down.

A cautionary reminder that the next time you hear a place as peaceful as Green Mountain Farm --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re playing roulette with their lives.



WEIR: -- chances are someone got loud and fought for it.

Bill Weir, CNN, Murphy, North Carolina.


WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Bill.

A design shop in Miami, Florida, turns nature into art in today's "START SMALL, THINK BIG."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plants are my medium as an artist and my love as a human.

Planet future is about a botanical art gallery. We work with leading plants and we preserve moss'. The moss is amazing because it's so flexible and allows me to use it in many, many forms.

I start from a little arrangement to landscape and vertical gardens, and the kind we're asking, a little more, a little more.

I collaborate with many artists, jewelry designers, architects. We have many, many different types of clients like hotels, homes, offices.

Plants are for everybody. You can find plants around the world in little scale and at very big scales.

I'm from Argentina, and it's a very beautiful city. Nature was my closest friend. I understand there the need that I have to be surrounded by plants.

The possibility to connect with nature in your house, in your office, allows you to use your soul.




WHITFIELD: Since the summer launch of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline, the new three-digit number has seen a significant rise in call volume, routing more than two million calls, texts, and chat messages to call centers with the majority being answered in under a minute.

So what's behind this major uptick in calls?

CNN's Jacqueline Howard has a report.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: The operators behind 988 tell me that they expected this increase in calls, but it is eye-opening when you look at the numbers.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that, just last month, in December 2022, compared with the previous year in December 2021, the number of answered calls to the lifeline increased by 48 percent.

Chats answered increased by 263 percent. And texts answered increased by 1,045 percent.

And those increases appear to reflect how more people know about the 988 number. It's easy to remember, only three digits.

And it seems like more people are seeking help for mental health crises. That's according to 988's Deputy Director Dr. John Palmieri.

Have a listen.

DR. JOHN PALMIERI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, 988 CRISIS HOTLINE: We know that there are many individuals in this country who are struggling with suicidal concerns, with mental health or substance use concerns, who aren't able to access the care that they need.

And so this is truly an opportunity with 988 as a catalytic moment to be able to transform the crisis care system to better meet those needs.

HOWARD: And in a way to better meet people's mental health needs, the 988 lifeline is also increasing the number of call centers that take calls in Spanish.

And it has a special pilot program for LGBTQ-plus youth. And in Washington state, there is a pilot program specifically for the American Indian, Alaskan Native community.

So we'll continue to watch all this unfold. This summer will be 988's one-year anniversary since its launch?

Back to you.


WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

This just into CNN. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain expected to step down. That's according to "The New York Times." Let's get right to CNN's White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, what are you learning?


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this would mark a significant change in leadership at the White House.

"The New York Times" reporting just moments ago that Chief of Staff Ron Klain is expected to step down in the coming weeks.