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Protests In Israel After Netanyahu Fires Defense Minister; West Condemns Putin's Plan To Station Nukes In Belarus; Massive Cleanup Underway In Tornado-Ravaged Southern U.S.; At Least 28 Migrants Dead After Two Boats Sink Off Tunisia; More Migrant Children Crossing Dangerous Darien Gap; West Condemns Putin's Plan to Station Nukes in Belarus; Honduras and China Formally Establish Diplomatic Ties; Argentina's Macri: I won't Run Again for President; Daylight Saving Row Leaves Lebanon with Two Time Zones; Board Game Enthusiasts Promote More Earth-Friendly Designs. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 01:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to all of our viewers watching from around the world. I'm Laila Harrak. Ahead on CNN Newsroom, Israel's political crisis deepening this hour. Benjamin Netanyahu faces mounting political opposition as anger erupts on the streets laid into the night.

Nuclear reactions. Condemnation growing over Vladimir Putin's plan to move tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. We'll look at how dangerous these weapons really are. And neighborhoods decimated as officials in Mississippi promise help is on the way. A new severe weather threat looms for millions of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: We begin this hour in Israel, where there is outrage over the firing of the country's defense minister after he voiced opposition to controversial plans for a judicial overhaul. Massive crowds packed the streets of Tel Aviv late Sunday, part of

spontaneous protests that erupted after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked Yoav Galant.

While these thousands of protesters aren't the only ones responding to that move, the Consul General of Israel in New York resigned. In the hours ahead, universities in Israel plan to go on strike, while the country's largest labor union is set to hold a news conference it promises will be dramatic.

In a statement just released, Israel's president is calling on Netanyahu to halt the judicial reform process immediately. While Galant was the first member of Netanyahu's Cabinet to voice opposition to the judicial reforms. But now three other ministers, all members of Netanyahu's Likud Party, also suggest halting the plans. While Israel's former prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is also now calling on Netanyahu to suspend the judicial reform and wants him to withdraw the dismissal of the Defense minister. CNN's Hadas Gold following developments has more now from Jerusalem.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firing his own defense minister, who's a member of his own political party after the Defense Minister Yoav Galant dared to make a striking speech on Saturday evening calling for this massive judicial overhaul that's being pushed forward by the Netanyahu government to at least be frozen for a few weeks, warning that this overhaul, which would give the Israeli parliament the power to, for example, overturn certain Supreme Court decisions saying that it needs to be frozen because of the divisiveness that it is causing, he believes is a threat to Israel's national security.

This is partly because there are now members of Israeli military, the reservists, including elite members of the reservists for the Air force, saying they will not heed the call to serve if these reforms go through, because they will feel as though they are no longer serving a democracy.

Now, we didn't hear from Benjamin Netanyahu for nearly 24 hours after this speech was made. But then a short statement on Sunday evening came out saying that Netanyahu had fired his defense Minister.

We are also hearing from an official in the prime minister's office saying that Netanyahu fired the defense minister because he lost confidence in him after the defense minister gave this speech going against the government, against the coalition, saying that if he had coordinated -- by not coordinating the speech with the Prime Minister's office, he had sabotaged any efforts to try and reach a solution.

Now, the defense minister tweeting shortly afterwards that, "The security of the state of Israel has always been and will always remain the mission of my life." But now this isn't just a political crisis, it's also a security crisis because Israel has been in a very sensitive security situation now for more than a year, with incredibly rising levels of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

There's been record levels of deaths on both time, and Ramadan has just begun. Passover is coming soon. The two holidays will overlap, and they're expected to be a very sensitive, potentially even volatile time because of these holidays, especially here in Jerusalem.

And right now, it's not clear who is the minister of defense. Meanwhile, the opposition leader Yair Lapid now says that the prime minister himself is a threat to the security of Israel. Then of course, this announcement of the sparring leading more and more protesters to take to the streets just minutes after the firing was called. The protesters vowing to only intensify now their movement, especially as the prime minister appears to be vowing to just push ahead with this massive judicial overhaul.

Hadas Gold, CNN Jerusalem. HARRAK: Well, last hour I spoke with Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, and began by asking him how he described the mood in Israel amid a deepening political crisis.



YAAKOV KATZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE JERUSALEM POST: The mood is terrible. There is -- there are people out in the streets burning things in the highways, in the middle of the roads. There is a feeling of complete distress. It feels as if the prime minister has lost control. It feels as if this country is going down a very dangerous road.

What we've seen until now has been a lot of protests, 300,000 people weekly taking to the streets. But now this is something else, right? The fact that the defense minister was sacked just because he dared to speak up against the judicial reforms shows a whole other level of what is happening here in the political system.

You know, if in the past, Laila, you could have said this is just about the right or the left. Here, this is already people within the prime minister's own party, the defense minister, who's coming out and saying, this is wrong, and then just gets fired. So Israelis, and many of them today are feeling extreme anguish and fear of what is coming.

HARRAK: Any sign that the prime minister is prepared to hit the brakes on this? Have we heard from him?

KATZ: He's supposed to speak sometime this morning. He just announced that he'll be giving another one of these dramatic speeches. He did the same thing last Thursday, if you recall. And then on Thursday, he gave a speech where people thought, OK, maybe this is where he's going to hit the brakes. Maybe he's actually going to take a step back from where he's been heading.

But in the end, he basically doubled down and said, yes, I'll be sure to safeguard civil rights, but I'm moving ahead with my judicial reform. I think what we saw last night when he fired Yoav Galant, the defense minister, was basically a decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

He is moving ahead with the legislation. They plan to bring it this morning to finalize the piece of legislation in the Knesset, the Parliament's Committee, and finalize it and prepare it for a vote on Wednesday when it will be brought for a second and third reading. That's the final voting process in the Israeli Knesset.

And the reason to fire Galant, I think, is basically to send a shot across the bow and to create a deterrent to tell any other member of the coalition, if you dare cross me, if you dare violate your commitment to my judicial reform, I will fire you. And that is meant to get other people who might be considering doing this in the Parliament to back off.

HARRAK: So there are no other dissenting voices within the Netanyahu administration?

KATZ: Look, there are. You know, we saw after Yoav Galant's speech on Saturday night, there were a couple of other members who came out and issued statements of support. They said, we support that. We support the call for dialogue for this piece of legislation to be done in harmony, if that's even possible at this stage, to be done together between the opposition and the coalition, the protesters and the supporters.

But those people did not say they would vote against it. They did not say that they would not, as Galant said, give their hand towards or in support of this legislation. So I have yet to hear of any other possible public dissenter. There are people who are behind the scenes murmurs of opposition within the ranks of the coalition, but those people have yet to come forward. I'm not sure -- I mean, this, you know, the firing of the defense minister could go both ways, right?

It could be the straw that breaks the camel's back and gets coalition members to say, wow, the prime minister has really lost it. On the other hand, we know that politicians tend to be concerned about their own future before maybe the future of the people. Sometimes, sadly, that is, and therefore this deterrent might actually work.

HARRAK: Yaakov, how unprecedented is this very moment? I mean, is this now about more than just overhauling the judiciary?

KATZ: Oh, this is much more. This is -- you know, I say to people all the time whether you are supportive of the judicial reforms, you're against it, you like the protesters, you don't like the protesters. To see such a huge amount of people, you know, you have to look at -- it might just seem like 300,000 people, and that's so many.

That's 2.5 percent of our population. That's the equivalent of about 8 million Americans taking to the streets on a weekly basis for 12 weeks straight. That's unimaginable, right? And what these people are saying is they care about democracy. I think it shows the vitality, the vibrancy of Israel's democracy, the character of the state, the commitment of its people to fight for what they believe in, right?

You know, we've for long looked at Israelis over 75 years of statehood as a country that has forever really been embroiled in conflict and really shined sometimes in those moments with its bravery and its courage and its ingenuity. I think we're seeing that again now, and that's something that should be inspirational.

But on the other hand, it's very concerning. It's how a government sees that its people is in distress and doesn't stop, it doesn't care. And that's something that I think we need to look at and say, OK, so what can be done? How can people make sure their voice is heard?


HARRAK: So describe for us what is going to happen in the next couple of days?

KATZ: Look, I'm concerned. You know, so today it will go to the Knesset committee, and there will be some technical voting Tuesday. Tomorrow, there's no meeting of the parliament. So that'll probably maybe a quiet day, although there could be some protest.

I would predict that if this actually comes to a vote on Wednesday, if the prime minister does not slam the brakes, we will see a massive, possibly unprecedented protest in Jerusalem outside Israel's parliament on Wednesday, when people will be streaming to the parliament building.

You know, I don't want to jump and say this Israel's January 6 moment. I hope it's not. I hope we will not see those images. But I think that we will see a very distressed crowd who will be trying to do whatever they can democratically and legally do to make their -- themselves heard and get their point across. There will be -- the city where I live will be paralyzed. I have no doubt about that.

But I don't know that this will end. I don't know that, you know, people in the coalition who think, oh, we'll just pass this legislation, and then everyone will go back and see that life is OK. The sky hasn't fallen in. I'm not sure that's true. I think that we are at a point, this is an inflection point in the state of Israel's history, and it talks to a lot of questions of what type of country does Israel want to be.

HARRAK: An inflection point. Yaakov Katz, thank you so much.

KATZ: Thank you.


HARRAK: Condemnation is growing among Ukraine and its Western allies over Vladimir Putin's announcement that Russia would move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. The European Union's top diplomat called Putin's announcement, quote, an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security. Lithuania's Foreign Ministry said it will call for new sanctions against Russia.

While any mention of nuclear weapons by the Russian president raises alarm, analysts say there are likely other motives behind his announcement. CNN's Matthew Chance has more. Now reporting from Moscow.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what Putin said is that Russia is planning to station a number of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, the first time since the 1990s that any part of Russia's nuclear arsenal has been stationed outside the country. Putin added that a storage facility is scheduled to be completed by July.

So by the summer, potentially, these small but powerful battlefield weapons could be deployed. But while Putin's frequent references to Russia's nuclear missiles and weapons are alarming for the rest of the world, they don't necessarily mean that we're taking a step closer to Armageddon. Much of this may be for domestic consumption. To show Russians that Putin still has the initiative, when actually progress on the battlefield has been pretty stagnant. Certainly, the U.S. State Department has reacted calmly to the announcement saying they don't see any reason to adjust their nuclear posture, nor any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon. Where this Russian decision will be felt though, is Belarus, Moscow's ally in what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

Putin made it quite clear that the tactical nuclear weapons will not simply be handed over to Belarus, but would remain under the command and control of Moscow. And what that means is that Russia will likely be stationing even more of its troops there, slowly but surely moving into Belarus, gradually tightening its grip over that country.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

HARRAK: The Ukrainian government is now urging its western allies to take action against what it calls the Kremlin's nuclear blackmail. CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Kyiv with more.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ukraine has reacted angrily to Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, with the Foreign Ministry here calling for an extraordinary meeting of the U.N. Security Council to condemn the move. A senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described this plan by the Russian President as a sign he's afraid of losing the war and is thus resorting to scare tactics.

A spokesman for the State Department told CNN the U.S. does not plan to change its strategic nuclear posture and sees no sign that Russia is intending to use nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, fighting in the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine continues to be intense, with one Ukrainian army spokesman telling CNN the Russian forces there do not seem to be suffering from a shortage of artillery shells.

Russian forces have cut all but one road into the city, where officials say that despite a seven month siege, 4,000 civilians live under ever more dire circumstances.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Kyiv.


HARRAK: Authorities in the eastern city of Avdiivka are urging people to evacuate, especially those with children, because utilities like cell phone service and electricity are being shut down due to Russian shelling. Here's how one soldier described the situation there.


VITALII BARABASH, HEAD OF AVDIIVKA RMA (through translation): The prospects for the town are very bad. Every day we have multistory buildings falling apart. There hasn't been a day in the last couple of weeks when we haven't been shelled. The town is being wiped off the face of the earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRAK: Another soldier says Russian airstrikes have cut off some supply routes and that the Russians have, quote, no shortage of ammunition. In the southern U.S., some of the same areas that suffered a barrage of violent storms over the weekend are in harm's way again.

Millions of people are under threat of severe storms in Georgia. The governor issued a state of emergency after a large tornado struck south of the town of LaGrange on Sunday. At least three people were injured, dozens of homes were destroyed and as many as 100 were damaged.

After Friday's rash of tornadoes leveled entire neighborhoods, people in the hardest hit areas now face the monumental task of trying to rebuild. At least 10 confirmed tornadoes struck Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, killing 26 people. In the city of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, the damage is immeasurable.


REBECCA COOPER, OWNER, TEA AND SHAKE SHOP: We're just trying to get what we can out of the rubble. It's pretty shocking.


HARRAK: While the area is still mostly without power and without the businesses that provide basic necessities, what Mississippi's governor says help is on the way. One longtime resident describes it this way.


JACK BURKHALTER, SERVICE LUMBER EMPLOYEE: The Family Dollar Store was practically new. It's gone. And I think there was loss of life there. Flower shop, beauty shop, barber, law offices just down the street are all gone. And then further back north of here, there was an auto parts store, local restaurant that's been there for I don't know how many years, since I was a child.


HARRAK: Well CNN's Nick Valencia is in Rolling Fork with more on the damage left behind.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With all of those who were unaccounted for on Saturday, now located safely, the effort is entirely on the cleanup here and there is a lot of it to be done. There's very little of this community that was untouched by the storm that ripped through here on Friday night.

But one of the things that's really stood out to our crew here is just how everyone is chipping in to help. It's something that the governor talked about earlier when he spoke to the media.


TATE REEVES, MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: What we've seen over the last 36 hours in Mississippi, on the one hand, has been heartbreaking to see the loss and devastation of these communities, but on the other hand, has been inspiring and gives me great reason for optimism.

And quite frankly, makes me damn proud to be a Mississippian, because Mississippians have done what Mississippians do in times of tragedy, in times of crisis. They stand up and they show up.


VALENCIA: Part of what's giving us a better understanding of the scope of this devastation is the aerial footage that we've seen. It shows just how widespread this damage is and gives an indication of how much time it will take to clean up.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Rolling Fork, Mississippi.

HARRAK: Still ahead, another migrant tragedy at sea. More than a dozen people killed after two boats sank in the Mediterranean Sea. Why Italy is now calling on Europe to help. That's up next.

Plus, why thousands of migrants cross a dangerous area between Panama and Colombia every year. We'll have a detailed report for you.



HARRAK: Germany is bracing for a nationwide transport strike in the coming hours, grounding planes and halting trains. The departures board at Munich Airport tells the story, with every listed flight now marked canceled.

Two major unions representing millions of public sector employees have called the one day strike to protest inflation and demand significant wage increases. One top union boss calls it a matter of survival. Western Europe has been plagued with labor actions lately as rising prices have pinched the pockets of millions of workers.

At least 28 migrants have died after two boats sank off the coast of Tunisia as they were trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Italy. Well, this is the Italian Coast Guard says they rescued thousands of people in the past 48 hours.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau has more.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was another deadly weekend on the Mediterranean migration trail between North Africa and Italy. Tunisian authorities say that scores of people died after two boats went down off the coast of Tunisia that were trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.

In the meantime, Italian Coast Guard officials say they coordinated the rescue of 3,300 people in the 48 hours between Saturday and Sunday and took them to the island of Lampedusa. Those people were on 58 different boats that were in distress. Italian authorities are calling on Europe to help stem the flow of migration and help accept those who do qualify for asylum.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.

HARRAK: U.S. officials are warning of a surge in migrants crossing through the dangerous Darien Gap. It's a narrow strip of land separating south and Central America. Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives to cross its treacherous jungles, which they say is plagued by thieves, corpses and even sexual violence.

And as CNN's Rafael Romo reports, the number of children crossing it is increasing.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Venezuelan family of five is safe for now. Before arriving to a shelter in the Panamanian capital, they cross the Perilous Darien Gap, a jungle region connecting Colombia with Panama to escape the financial crisis in their home country.

The mother is pregnant, and all three of their children are younger than eight. The father, the only man in the group, says they thought they were doing fine in the beginning.

Apart from the cliffs and all that, we were kind of calm, he said, until we started seeing dead bodies. His son wanted to share with us some of the horrible things he saw.

It was terrible, he said. We found six dead bodies. The deadly dangers his family saw are nothing new at the Darien Gap, as many migrants have also reported seeing or being victim to homicides, robberies and sexual violence along the route.

(voice-over): What's new is the fact that more and more families with children seem to be risking it all for the American dream. According to UNICEF, nearly 46,000 migrants crossed into Panama in the first two months of 2023. Of those, 9,656 were minors, a figure that is seven times higher than the one observed in the same period last year.

(voice-over): In 2022, more than 570 pregnant women like Angela Jimenez (ph) also enter Panamanian territory through the Darien Gap, facing risks that are compounded by the fact that they are expecting.


I fell, she says. I'm not kidding you. I fell, like, four times and rolled downhills. The Darien Gap has caught the attention of U.S. immigration authorities.

GLORIA CHAVEZ, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: I wanted to be there. I wanted to be and to see the Colombia and Panamanian border, because we had seen that and heard that there was a lot of different types of populations coming through there, coming through the Darien jungle, up to the southern border of Mexico and then the United States.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a challenge that we have to solve together. ROMO (voice-over): Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken led a delegation to Panama to promote joint solutions to a common problem.

BLINKEN: Helping stabilize and strengthen communities that are hosting migrants and refugees, creating more legal pathways to reinforce safe, orderly and humane migration, dealing with the root causes of regular migration.

ROMO (voice-over): Back at the shelter in Panama City, children do arts and crafts to calm their nerves after the terrifying ordeal. Officials say more than a thousand unaccompanied minors crossed the Darien Gap last year and feared that figure may be even larger in 2023.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


HARRAK: Drummers and dancers greeted U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on her arrival in Ghana Sunday. She's on a weeklong trip to Africa that will also take her to Zambia and Tanzania. Five Biden administration officials have visited the continent already this year, but Harris, the first black woman to serve as U.S. Vice President, is the highest ranking figure by far.

It's all part of a diplomatic push aimed at strengthening U.S. ties across the region. In Accra, Harris said the world would benefit from empowering Africa's young people.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: When I look at what is happening on this continent and the fact that the median age is 19 years old and what that tells us about the growth of opportunity, of innovation, of possibilities, I see in all of that great opportunity, not only for the people of this continent, but the people of the world.


HARRAK: Earlier, I spoke with Cameron Hudson, a senior associate at the Africa Center at the center for Strategic and International Studies. He said part of the vice president's goal with this trip is to counter the influence of rival powers in the region.


CAMERON HUDSON, SR. ASSOC. CTR. FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES' AFRICA CENTER: Obviously, the backdrop to this is this competition with China. China has been aggressively moving in with business deals and investments onto the African continent at the same time that the perception has been that Washington has essentially been stepping back, certainly since the Trump administration disengaging in some places diplomatically, financially.

And so this is really an effort by the Biden administration to make good on some of the promises they've made in the first two years, to really re up the relationship level with African countries, to try to drive investment and to try to give Africans more of a voice at the international table where decisions around climate change, debt relief, counterterrorism, where those kinds of decisions are being made. They want Africans to have a voice at that table.

The challenge, certainly from the Africans perspective is they're saying, well, why can't we have all of these countries as our partners? If China wants to build a port and Russia wants to sell us arms and the United States wants to invest in our health and education sector, why can't we be partners with all of these countries? That's traditionally not been the way it has gone.


HARRAK: That was Cameron Hudson with the Africa Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies speaking with me earlier.

Still ahead, Ukraine and its allies in the west are reacting to Moscow's plans to move nuclear weapons into Belarus. I'll speak with an expert on Russia's nuclear forces.



LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world.

I'm Laila Harrak. And this is CNN NEWSROOM.

More now on the condemnation from the West over Vladimir Putin's announcement that Russia plans to move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus. NATO calls the move dangerous and irresponsible while noting the alliance had not seen any change in Russia's nuclear posture.

If it happens, this will be the first time since the 1990s that Russia has stationed any nuclear weapons outside its borders.

For more now on this story, I'm joined by Pavel Podvig. He is a senior researcher at the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research, and an independent researcher on the Russian nuclear forces project. And he joins me now from Geneva.

Sir, so good to have you with us. Thank you for your time. Let me first get your reaction, if I may. Are you concerned that signals President Putin is preparing to use tactical nuclear weapons in this war?

PAVEL PODVIG, SENIOR RESEARCHER, U.N. INSTITUTE FOR DISARMAMENT RESEARCH: Well, I don't think we're that close to the actual, uh, use of tactical nuclear weapons in the war. No, I think at this time, all tactical nuclear weapons are thoroughly far away from the point where they could be used.

They are all safely in storage in the storage sites today in Russia, but well, maybe at some point in the future, there will be an additional storage site in Belarus. But that's in my view is still means that they will be not very close to the point where they can actually be used.

All right. Let's talk about tactical nuclear weapons. What exactly is a tactical nuclear weapon? How do they differ from other nuclear weapons?

PODVIG: Well there is no very bright line that separates these two. But we can definitely say that weapons that are assigned and deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles or our strategic submarines. Those are strategic.

Normally the weapons that, for example, could be delivered by short range ballistic missile or cruise missile like Iskander (ph) or short- range bomber like SU -- in Russia. Those are considered tactical.

And the idea is that those tactical weapons could be used or they were designed to be used on the battlefield for what they would call tactical missions.

And as I mentioned, it is important to understand that when it comes to Russia, then only those weapons that are strategic those on intercontinental ballistic missiles and the submarines. Only those weapons are deployed in the sense that they are mated to their delivery systems. They are actually installed.


PODVIC: All others are stored in storage facilities. There are about 30 of them in Russia. And they are guarded and this is -- they are not moved out there. So this is what the U.S. intelligence tells us when they say that there is no change in the posture. These basically tell us that those weapons are still in storage, they are not moving.

HARRAK: They haven't moved. I mean does it make a difference whether they are moved or not? Can't they just be I mean, used from Russia launched from Russia.

PODVIG: Well yes, but that applies to Russia as well as these alleged new facility in Belarus. Even in the Russian tactical weapons are stored in bunkers, basically dedicated facilities.

So -- and yes, you are right. If we look at these move or projected move weapons to Belarus that doesn't make maybe much political or military sense, because if you think about any scenario in which nuclear weapons could play a role the fact that certain weapons will be stored in Belarus doesn't make any difference at all.

HARRAK: It doesn't make any difference at all. How does this compare with U.S. deployment of tactical nuclear weapons abroad? I mean, Mr. Putin says, you know, the U.S. does it so he can do it, too. Is that a legitimate point legitimate point.

PODVIG: It is definitely one of the points that president Putin was making And maybe the main point even. But yes, that would be very much the same as the practice that exists in NATO. So you will have weapons stored in the host country and the host country -- will train to use those weapons. But and it is important in both cases, that weapons in any event will be firmly under control of the owner in the United States in the case of NATO and Russia in the case of Russia-Belarus. So there are -- there are no concerns about nuclear weapons being somehow given to Belarus.

There is nothing of that kind. Everything will be under Russian control.

Pavel Podvig, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. Thank you.

PODVIG: Thanks.

HARRAK: North Korea has conducted more weapons tests this time of short range ballistic missiles. South Korea's joint chiefs of staff say two such missiles were launched Monday morning. They flew about 370 kilometers before falling into the water east of the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang has ramped up missile launches amid ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. They're the largest joint exercises since 2017 and will end in early April.

Still to come. Honduras establishes diplomatic ties with China after breaking off relations with Taiwan. We're live in Beijing with the latest on what the move means for all countries involved.

Plus, what time is it? It's not a simple question if you're in Lebanon right now. We'll explain what's behind the clock confusion after a short break.



HARRAK: It's the end of one relationship and the start of a new one for Honduras. On Sunday, the Central American country signed a formal document recognizing one China and establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing. It comes after breaking off relations with Taiwan.

CNN Beijing bureau chief Steven Jiang has more on this developing story. Steven, was this decision by Honduras welcomed by Beijing?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, of course, here it's being held as a major diplomatic victory with officials saying this is quote-unquote "in line with the broader trend of our time, and officials and state media here have made a point of noting how this now means Taiwan has only 13 formal diplomatic allies left in the entire world, nine fewer than when Taiwan's current president, Tsai Ing-Wen took office back in 2016.

But of course, Taiwan has pushed back with its foreign minister saying this is but the latest example of Taipei no longer interested in engaging in so-called dollar diplomacy.

Now this is something Beijing would never acknowledge publicly. That's something actually they have accused Taipei of doing but there have been precedents of small and often impoverished countries switching diplomatic recognition back and forth between Taipei and Beijing, depending on who offered them more money.

And Taiwan officials have said Honduras had asked Taipei to provide them with billions of dollars in the form of foreign aid and forgiven debts.

Now of course, many view this latest news as a reflection of Beijing's increasing clout, economic and political on the global stage. But this is also a sign of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's increasingly hardened rhetoric and policy towards Taiwan, the self-governing island the Communist Party here has never controlled but has nevertheless vowed to reunify with the mainland by force if necessary.

It's really one of the most critically important piece in Xi Jinping national rejuvenation plan. But the interesting to hear to notice that even as Beijing intensifies its diplomatic squeeze over Taiwan, the island itself has become a very popular destination for western politicians to visit, especially legislators to show their support as it is increasingly being viewed on the front line in this global competition between democracy and autocracy.

And on that front and major test is coming up in the coming days as Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-Wen is widely expected to meet with the U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. during her stopover as she visits some of the island's remaining allies in Central America.

Remember how Beijing reacted furiously to then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island last year with days of military drills around the island.

So now all eyes are on Washington and Beijing to see how they handle this likely meeting between Tsai and the new U.S. house speaker, Laila.

HARRAK: Steven Jiang reporting for you from Beijing. Thank you so much.

The polls are closed across Cuba, where citizens voted Sunday for members of their national assembly, but the result is a foregone conclusion. Activity of voting centers was reportedly brisk from the hour they opened.

Cubans have been increasingly restive as they face rising prices and chronic shortages of many products. Low turnout would signal widespread dissatisfaction with the communist government.

But the candidates have little to worry about. 470 people are running for exactly 470 seats, and no opposition candidates were on the ballot.

Two Cuban migrants who fled their country before the election may have escaped in a more brazen fashion than originally thought. Yesterday we told you about the pair who flew a motorized hang glider out of Cuba and landed it at an airport in southern Florida.

Well now the Aviation Club of Cuba says they stole it. The club says the gliders -- the glider rather was used to give tourists beach flights, but it seems two fleeing flyers had other ideas.


HARRAK: In Argentina, a former president has put to rest speculation that he might run again in October presidential election. Mauricio Macri, now leader of the opposition, says he won't be a candidate because he wants to open the field to others in his political party.


MAURICIO MACRI, FORMER ARGENTINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I want to confirm I will not be a candidate in the next election. I am convinced that we must expand the political space for the change that we initiated and that we have to inspire others with our actions.

But I will keep defending freedom, democracy and the values we share as I've always done. And I will do it on your side with the certainty that the Argentines have matured and we will not allow being trampled by populism anymore.


HARRAK: Argentines are facing very tough times, with inflation recently surpassing 100 percent throwing many families into poverty. And Macri's party is considered the front runner against the incumbent leftist president Alberto Fernandez, who defeated him in the last election.

At least 21 people have been arrested in connection with a corruption probe into Venezuela's state oil company. Petroleum from PDVSA was siphoned off and sold on the black market. Well, the money didn't go into PDVSA's, according to the Venezuelan attorney general. Instead, cryptocurrency was used to line the pockets of individuals.

Well, the attorney general says the exact amount of the money diverted is not yet known. But if convicted of the theft, those charged could spend up to 30 years behind bars.

Do you know what time it is in Beirut right now? If your answer is no, then you're not alone. Even the people in Lebanon can't agree.

The clock confusion has to do with the government decision on daylight saving time.


HARRAK: What time is it in Lebanon? On Sunday, that basic question got complicated. In a decision announced Thursday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati delayed the beginning of daylight saving time by nearly a month which has created two rival time zones in the country and a lot of confusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were at a house party last night. And we looked at our phones. One phone showed the clock 1:00 a.m. and another 2:00 a.m. it was like what is happening.

HARRAK: Lebanon usually moves its clocks forward by an hour over the last weekend of March, aligning with many European countries. And though no official explanation was given a video circulating on Lebanese media showing a conversation between the country's parliament speaker and the prime minister suggests the reason for the postponement may have been to allow Muslims to break their Ramadan fast an hour earlier.

Lebanon's largest Christian church said it would not abide by the government's decision, saying it was made without consultation or consideration of international standards, a view shared by many Lebanese businesses, media organizations and schools which went forward with the time change, though many Muslim institutions still remain on winter time.

Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines said it won't change its clocks but would adjust its flight times to keep in line with international schedules. Many Lebanese say it is a disorienting dilemma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you imagine that I have to follow different timings for my children's school, my work, my online course? I don't even know how I'm going to set different times for all of this. Anyways it's fine. That's Lebanon.

HARRAK: Time crunch isn't great timing for a country facing many critical problems including a deepening economic crisis, a plunging currency, political deadlock and a history of tensions between Christians and Muslims that once erupted into a 15-year-civil war, one man says despite the confusion, he thinks it's a waste of time to get upset over an hour's difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will wear a watch on the right hand following the new time and another watch on the left hand keeping the old time. So I tell whoever asked me to pick which one they want the new or the old.


HARRAK: Still to come. Some game designers are done with rolling the dice on climate change. They're pulling back the curtain on how board games are made with a winning strategy on how to make the process greener.



HARRAK: When was the last time you played a board game? A real physical game, not on a screen. Board games are a booming business, with one estimate putting global sales at $19 billion a year and growing, but that means more cardboard boxes, more plastic tokens and paper cards.

So a group of game publishers, designers and players has come up with what they call the Green Games Guide offering solutions to make the board game industry more sustainable in the years to come.

Eric Zimmerman is one of the co-authors of the Green Games Guide. He's a game designer and an arts professor at NYU's Game Center in New York. So great to have you with us, Eric.

Now, board games and the climate crisis, not exactly a connection that people might readily make. But explain why board games are not great for the environment.

ERIC ZIMMERMAN, CO-AUTHOR, GREEN GAME'S GUID: Well, you're right that it is maybe not a connection that everyone would make. But I think that the climate crisis is something that is really affecting the whole globe.

When you look at other forms of design and production if you're talking about the fashion industry or the construction and building trades, there's a lot of initiatives going on in those industries to try and figure out how can we change practices? How can we change what we're doing in order to make our products more sustainable.

And in the tabletop game industry, and we're talking about card games and board games that you would play at home with your friends on a tabletop, there really wasn't anything comparable.

And so we are a group of, you know, passionately concerned tabletop game players and producers who want to figure out how we can improve things for the tabletop game industry.

So the Green Games Guide, it's a publication that's online for free, and it's our first pass at really trying to think about how can we make a difference and how the game industry, the tabletop game industry can change?

HARRAK: All right, let's talk about that, because I'm trying to understand. Is this about packaging? Can you give us some concrete examples of board games without naming any names that are the worst offenders when it comes to being environmentally unfriendly?

ZIMMERMAN: It's really across the board in terms of the way that we need to change our thinking about what's -- about the way that we're manufacturing games. So for example, tabletop games have a lot of wood and paper and pulp, and there's a lot of ways that those materials can be sourced today.

For example, it's possible to use certified sources from the forest industry that make sure that the sources of paper and pulp that are making up the rules for the game or maybe the board the tokens that you're moving around, are not doing logging that's destructive to the environment. And maybe they're made out of recycled paper, for example.

Plastic is another big offender in the tabletop game industry. Our tabletop games are full of plastic. So from dice to little pieces and tokens and plastic is something that doesn't get recycled very much is going to be in the environment for us and clogging up the ecosystem for centuries to come. And it's really incumbent upon us to figure out ways to really design out the plastic in our games.


ZIMMERMAN: And that might mean changing everything from the coding on the cards that you use. So you're not coding those paper and products with plastic to figuring out hey, maybe I don't need to have little plastic figures. Maybe I can have pieces in my game that are made out of more sustainable materials.

It also goes to the design of the game itself that we can think about games that are maybe not gigantic, large, heavy objects that make a lot of -- that have a much bigger carbon footprint in terms of when they're shipped.

So it goes to everything from what's inside the box to what's outside the box to the way that the box is designed.

HARRAK: Absolutely now, my final question to you and in a nutshell, if you can. The Green Games Guide is targeted at game publishers. What has their reaction been? Have they been receptive to some of your recommendations? Will they take them on board?

ZIMMERMAN: Well you know, here's the great thing. We had so many wonderful examples of companies that are already very much at the forefront of this and making change.

And just to give you a few examples, Clarkson Potter they are the game imprint of Penguin Random House, the giant book publisher. They recently switched to using only FSC certified paper and pulp. So they're really doing all of that stuff that keeps, all of their paper. And they're trying to eliminate plastic entirely from their games.

Wingspan which is a lovely game by Elizabeth Hargrave recently re- published the very popular game about butterflies. And they redesigned the whole game to make it much more sustainable. Of course, that game is about nature and it made perfect sense for that particular title.

(INAUDIBLE) Games as a game publisher out of Japan, and they are known for doing lovely, beautiful little tiny card games that are exquisitely designed. And they can help us think about flipping the script on the idea that luxury means waste.

So I think what's interesting about the Green Games Guide is that we're not just talking about the material science, although that's a big part of what we're trying to do.

We're also trying to change the culture of games. We're trying to rethink what does good design mean. Good design doesn't have to mean something that is wasteful. Good design can also mean something that's good for people and good for the planet, is efficient and takes things like social sustainability and labor practices into account as well. So the Green Games Guide is trying to tackle all of that. So far,

we've had a really good response. The guy just came out were very excited about sharing it. And I'm working with an amazing group of people to help get this document and this information out into the world.

HARRAK: What a great initiative Eric of the Green Games Guide Eric Zimmerman talking to us there. Thank you so much. Thank you for explaining it all.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you so much, Laila.

HARRAK: And thank you for watching.

Rosemary Church is up next and I'll see you tomorrow.