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CNN International: "Ruby Bridges" Movie Under Review by Florida School District; King Charles III to Address German Parliament; Fatalities Feared After U.S. Army Helicopters Crash in Kentucky; Ukraine: Russians Suffering Heavy Losses Around Bakhmut; Pause on Judicial Reforms Not Enough to Stop Protests in Israel; Wall Street Journal Reporter Arrested in Russia on Suspicion of "Espionage". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 04:30   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Bianca Nobilo. And if you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

Officials at Fort Campbell, U.S. army base in Kentucky have confirmed the crash of two Blackhawk helicopters. They were doing routine training when the crash occurred. The status of the crew members is still unknown.

And sources tell CNN that the New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump's hush money payments is going on a break. It's unclear if and when district attorney Alvin Bragg will bring charges forward against Trump.

Meantime, a Florida school has pulled a Disney movie telling the story of "Ruby Bridges" off its shelves pending further review. The story about the first Black child integrate and all white school in the southern U.S. is a staple in curriculums across the country. But now faces a ban after a parent filed a complaint. CNN's Leyla Santiago, reports.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Disney movie tells the story of "Ruby Bridges," the six-year-old first grader who became the target of hatred and racism when she integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.

It is now the latest flashpoint over instructional materials as the state of Florida limits how lessons on race, sexuality and gender are taught in the classroom.

The PG-rated movie is now under review by Pinellas County schools in Florida. A review that stems from a complaint by a parent of a second grader asking it be removed from the schools list of approved films.

The North Shore Elementary parent whose name was redacted in the complaint form by the district, says the movie is spelling out objections to use racial slurs and that that White people hate Black people and is more appropriate for eighth graders.

It's not the first time some parents have objected to how the story of "Ruby Bridges" is taught in the classroom. In 2021 in Tennessee, one mom told CNN --

ROBIN STEENMAN, MOMS FOR LIBERTY, WILLIAMSON COUNTY TENNESSEE: All this curriculum highlights is the mean white people and how she's victimized and it speaks to nothing of the good.

RUBY BRIDGES, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: So when I share my experiences and my story in these books, I share our shared history. Good bad and ugly.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): That's what Bridges herself told a U.S. House committee last year. According to the Florida district, the movie will not be shown at this particular school for the rest of the year. But is still available at other schools in the district and in the districts movie library. And will now go through the formal objection process to review challenged material per district policy.

No word on how long the review will take to complete.

SANTIAGO: And context here, this is the same Florida school district that pulled Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison's "Bluest Eye" in January from when a parent complained about it, and it was reviewed from officials in January from high school libraries when a parent complained and objected, and school officials reviewed it,

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Miami.


NOBILO: The screenwriter of the 1998 film is pushing back against claims that it's inappropriate for use in schools. Toni Ann Johnson says that each teacher should be able to answer questions about the movie and provide more context. But she argues, it remains an important story that needs to be seen.



TONI ANN JOHNSON, SCREENWRITER, "RUBY BRIDGES": One parent should not have the right to, you know, just say, I don't think this is right. And then everybody has to abide by that. My parents weren't able to do that. I think this is a privileged that Black parents don't have. Black parents aren't able to just march into the school and say I don't like this movie so nobody can watch this movie for the rest of the year.

The film does highlight Black humanity, which a lot of films don't do. I didn't have any films like that as a child. There were no films that centered a young Black girl. This film has been around for 25 years. It has worked for 25 years and it can continue to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBILO: The new board handpicked by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to oversee Disney's footprint in the state is now considering legal action against the company. Disney reached a 30-year deal with the outgoing board just days before Republican Governor Ron DeSantis stacked the board with political allies in a hostile takeover.

Under the agreement, the new board can't do much of anything without first getting approval from Disney. In a statement to CNN, Disney stood by its actions.

Quote: all agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida's government in the Sunshine law.

King Charles III is set to address the German Parliament in the next hour. As he and his wife Camilla spend their second day in Germany. And it will be his first speech to the Bundestag and the first speech ever by a British monarch. Charles delivered part of the speech at the banquet last night in German and is expected to do the same during his address to lawmakers today.

And later on, he'll meet with Ukrainian refugees who found sanctuary in Germany from the war at home. And he'll visit an organic farm as well. So, Thursday is going to be a jammed packed a for the King. And our Max Foster is traveling with King Charles III in Germany and joins us now from Berlin. Max lovely to see you. I feel complete once again. Tell us how King Charles III is being received in Germany. And do you think the soft diplomacy of this trip will provide a boost to this relationship that's been a bit battered by Brexit.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: I think so. The Germans have put a huge effort behind this. We had fighter jets accompanying us as we came in on the royal flight. There was this moment in central Berlin yesterday, a full ceremonial welcome, which no other head of state has received at all since the Second World War. So they're doing everything they can to roll the red carpet out.

And then we had that banquet last night where the German chancellor spoke about the King as a highly symbolic visit. Saying it was a tremendous personal gesture.

Interestingly there as well, Bianca, as you said Charles was speaking German, but he also had some German relatives there in the banquet as well. So, there are personal ties to the country as much as these deep diplomatic ties between the two countries. Which have suffered, frankly, haven't they since Brexit, but they're trying to reestablish those. I think that that's why the British government particularly wanted Charles to come here as one of his first visits. So Rishi Sunak very much behind the idea of this entire trip.

NOBILO: And Max tell us a bit more about the King's agenda for the rest of the day. This trip to an organic farm is intriguing.

FOSTER: Well, he's always going to have something organic in any sort of day of events, isn't he? Because that's his big mission and Germany very big on green issues as well. And speaking to members of the crowds here, they do talk about him being this green pioneer. So that's definitely part of the story here. He's currently meeting the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and he's then going to come to where I am to the Bundestag and give the big formal speech which is a big honor. We wait to hear what he has to say.

The government -- the British government would have been very involved in that speech and I think it will all be about deepening ties. What more can we do?

You also mentioned he's going to go along and meet some Ukrainian refugees. He's talked about how Germany has accepted a million of them and he really wants to celebrate how Germany has got behind Ukraine in its war, and he'll call it an unjust war.

These images I'm told are coming in now of Olaf Scholz meeting the King. So there you have the head of the government having this meeting ahead of that big speech. I wait to see what Olaf Scholz has to say about all of this today.

Today is a bit more political. Yesterday was about the two heads of state meeting. Talking about the historic ties. Today is more about the current ties between the U.K. and Germany and how they can find common ground on policies such as Ukraine. So I'm sure that will come up in the readout we get from this meeting afterwards.

NOBILO: Max Foster thank you so much talking perfectly to those pictures that we were just receiving, which showed King Charles III, shaking hands with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and walking into the Bundestag building. Max, thanks so much.


A historic win for Vanuatu at the United Nations on Wednesday. The island nation, one of those calling on the international court of justice to define the obligations countries have to combat climate change. Vanuatu has taken a beating from escalating severe weather. Just this month to cyclones ripped through the islands. It could take more than a year for the world's top court to issue its official opinion on the matter.

Still to come, America's top general says that Russian troops are being slaughtered in the battle for Bakhmut. More on that in the live report coming up.

Plus, the political chaos in Israel is leading to tension with the United States. We're live in Jerusalem with the details.


NOBILO: Back to our breaking news. U.S. Army officials at Fort Campbell in Kentucky say two Blackhawk helicopters have crashed during routine training, and the state's governor says fatalities are expected. These photos from the crash site were obtained by WKDZ radio and the helicopters were with the 101st Airborne Division.

We're hearing now from someone who witnessed the crash Wednesday night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two helicopters came over pretty low and all of a sudden, soon as I got over the house, something popped, a loud bang and everything shut down. It was all of a sudden, so we jumped. The truck came over here. That's what we've found two helicopters, so.


NOBILO: We'll bring you any new updates to this story as they come in. So do stay with CNN.

Ukraine's defense minister is now suggesting that a counter offensive campaign could begin as early as next month. Oleksii Reznikov says that German Leopard tanks now arriving in Ukraine will likely be on the battlefield in April or May as Ukraine prepares to launch a counterattack against Russian forces.


That word comes as Ukraine reports heavy Russian losses around the eastern city of Bakhmut. Officials say in just one day, nearly 100 Russian soldiers were killed. Though they acknowledge the Russians have had partial success in their attacks.

Still, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman says it's the Russians who are paying the highest price.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: These forces are very undertrained. They're essentially doing frontal assaults in the machine gun positions, etcetera, and they're getting slaughtered -- the Russian troops are. The Ukrainians are doing a very effective area defense that is proven to be very costly to the Russians. For about the last 20-21 days, the Russians have not made any progress whatsoever in and around Bakhmut. So, it's a slaughter fest for the Russians. They're getting hammered in the in the vicinity of Bakhmut. And the Ukrainians have fight very, very well.


NOBILO: CNN Salma Abdelaziz is following these developments. She's with me here now in London. Salma, obviously it's very difficult to actually ascertain the numbers of casualties and fatalities on either side here. But what are we learning? What do we know for sure about the toll taken on both forces in Bakhmut?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's difficult to ascertain the casualties, and it's also difficult to ascertain the level of control on either side. There's a couple of reasons for this, of course. We're not on the ground. Ukraine has very tough censorship restrictions, essentially to protect its intelligence on the ground. It makes it very difficult. And what you have, of course, is two competing narratives here. One from Moscow, one from Kyiv. Ukraine saying that it's had some success in recent days that up to

100 Russian soldiers were killed just in the last period. That they've been able to hold and maintain the city of Bakhmut, but they also admit that there has been partial success on the part of Moscow.

Now you'll remember, a few days ago, a couple of weeks ago it was, that the head of Wagner Prigozhin -- Yevgeny Prigozhin was celebrating by putting a flag, the Wagner flag right in the middle of Bakhmut. It seemed all but ready to fall. And even now Prigozhin saying, yes, we are being battered heavily. Admitting that in a voice message, saying that they are still inflicting serious damage on Ukrainian forces, but still struggling, of course to take hold of that entire city.

This is a battle that's been going on for months now. So, all eyes on where that goes. But still very much that war of attrition between these two sides as we head into the spring.

NOBILO: Salma, thank you.

Unrelenting protests as second round of talks and simmering tension between the U.S. and Israel. It's all linked to the Israeli Prime Minister's controversial plans to overhaul the judiciary. Those reforms are paused for now, while negotiators from the ruling coalition and opposition hold meetings. But many are skeptical over whether a compromise would happen.

Benjamin Netanyahu called the debate public and often painful, but says that he hopes an agreement can be reached. He also downplayed the discord with the Biden administration.

CNN's Hadas Gold is standing by live in Jerusalem. Hadas, do we get the sense that these tensions between the U.S. and Israel, you know, mainly around the statements from President Biden. His intervention is having any impact on Netanyahu's decision-making process here.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I spoke with a senior Israeli official yesterday who briefed reporters and he was adamant that the U.S. pressure had nothing to do with their decision to pause the legislation that they had been trying to push through since early January. Instead saying that it was the massive levels of protests as well as that general strike and the fears, the official said, of pro- reform protesters clashing with anti-reform protesters in the streets. There were threats of that happening on Monday. And that is what the official said is what ultimately pushed Benjamin Netanyahu over the edge.

Now ironically, he actually was prescheduled to give a speech yesterday to the U.S. hosted democracy forum. He gave a virtual speech where he talked about how he says is trying to rebalance the branches of government and now they are trying to reach some sort of agreement and negotiation. Take a listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And we have to make sure that as we shift the pendulum from one side of an ever powerful judiciary, which is different from an independent judiciary. How do we ensure that the judiciary remains independent and that we balance the need to strengthen the executive and the legislative and at the same time protect individual rights. I think that balance can be achieved and that's why I've promoted a pause.


GOLD: Now the senior Israeli official also playing down the tension with the Americans by saying it's a 2 out of 10 on the level of crisis. But clearly there has never before been a moment like this between Israel and the United States, especially from President Biden, who has long called himself one of the most stalwart supporters of the Israeli state. And he is now saying that he will not be having the Prime Minister visit the White House anytime in the near term -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Hadas Gold live in Jerusalem. Thank you.


Still ahead, ending in NBA playoff drought. One team is heading back to the postseason after the longest playoff drought in NBA history. Details for you after the break.


NOBILO: This just in. We've got some breaking news to bring you, a "Wall Street Journal" journalist has been arrested on suspicion of espionage by the FSB. We're hearing that via Russian state media and we have Salma with us. Now this is breaking just now. What are you learning?

ABDELAZIZ: So be patient with me because I'm just getting this information. But as you said a "Wall Street Journal" journalists arrested in Russia. This is, according to a statement that's been published on state media. The statement coming from the FSB from the Federal Security Service. I'm going to read you a direct quote from that statement. Again, that's on Russian state media from the FSB.

It says quote: The illegal activities of the correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper, "The Wall Street Journal," U.S. citizen Evan Gershkovich, born in 1991, accredited to the Russian foreign ministry, suspected of espionage in the interest of the American government have been suppressed.


We also understand that he has been detained on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains in an area there. The statement goes on to say that he was trying to obtain secret information related to, quote, the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.

Now this journalist is someone who covers Russia, Ukraine. He's also worked for AFP and other news outlets. So, a prominent journalists that we're speaking about here to you. And what's important for us to remember in the context of this -- and again, this is breaking news. We don't know the details yet. I'm just reading you what I have in this statement. But you'll remember after the invasion of Ukraine just a few days after for that Russia passed this law, this piece of legislation that Moscow said was too -- against fake news.

But what many activists' groups saw it as actually was a censorship law that prevented journalists from even acknowledging that the war in Ukraine is the war in Ukraine. Requiring them to use the language that Moscow uses, which is the special military operation.

So, this is going to be extremely important. I would expect the State Department in the United States is already scrambling to figure out what's happening.

NOBILO: Yes, a lot of potential for escalation here. You mentioned this law, which Russia introduced in the early days of the war. It calls to mind those scenes of Russian journalists as well expressing forms of opposition to Russia's invasion and the subsequent crackdown that we saw on them.

I mean, what? What would you expect the response to be from the White House?

ABDELAZIZ: You would absolutely expect strong condemnation. You will expect that the White House will say this is a journalist for a prominent American newspaper doing his job. Carrying out the very important job of being a free press and that that is absolutely necessary at this time. Very much, we have seen Russia, we have seen President Putin crack down on any dissent. You'll remember those protests that were cracked down on. So, this will be critical. The next thing is to hear from the White House.

NOBILO: Salma, thank you so much. We'll be checking in with you throughout the day.

That does it here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London and EARLY START is next.