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President Zelenskyy In Berlin Met With Chancellor Olaf Scholz; Russia's War On Ukraine; Ceasefire Reached Between Israel And Islamic Jihad; U.S. Border Crisis; After Expiration Of Title 42, There's Been "No Significant Increase" In Immigration; 12-Week Abortion Ban Vetoed By North Carolina Democratic Governor; Debt Ceiling Talks "Moving Along, But Not There Yet", According To Biden; Bracing For Tropical Cyclone Mocha; Myanmar Hit By Tropical Cyclone Mocha; Interview With Rohingya Refugee Response In Bangladesh U.N. Principal Coordinator Arjun Jain; Talks Are Underway In Berlin Between Zelenskyy And German Leaders; Campaign Themes Woven Into Biden's Commencement Speech; Thai And Turkish Citizens Cast Ballots At The Polls; Interview With Emory University School Of Medicine Interim Dean Dr. Carlos del Rio. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired May 14, 2023 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada, and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on "CNN Newsroom".
Have a look here, these images coming to us just moments ago. Germany's chancellor welcoming Ukraine's President Zelenskyy, this after Ukraine gets another multi-billion-dollar military aid package commitment. We'll have the latest from Berlin.
U.S. cities on the Mexican border aren't seeing the migrant numbers some feared. We'll look at what might be behind that.
And talks to break the debt ceiling stalemate, we'll bring you the latest effort aimed at keeping America from defaulting.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN center, this is "CNN Newsroom with Kim Brunhuber."
BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Berlin meeting with German leaders as we speak. He's met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz just moments ago. Now, these are live images coming to us from Berlin and these meetings come on the heel of these talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Germany earlier announced its biggest batch of military aid to Ukraine worth about $3 billion. We'll have a live report from Berlin in a little while.
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy is indicating Ukraine will soon start taking first important steps for its expected counteroffensive soon. He made the statement after meeting Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, on Saturday. But inside Ukraine, Russian artillery is pummeling targets across the country.
Now, this is a video of a drone strike in the western part of the country on Saturday which reportedly left 21 people injured. Ukraine says, another attack in the east killed two people and left 10 others wounded.
So, for more now, Salma Abdelaziz joins us from London. So, Salma, going back to Zelenskyy's meetings in Germany, what's the stake and what's expected to come out of them?
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, you see that reception there, those live images there. This is very much a welcome ceremony for a friend, for an ally, for a close partner as Germany has been in this war on Russia. It is Germany that really was the center of a debate a few months ago, Kim, if you'll remember around tanks.
Germany eventually reaching that deal with the United States that the U.S. provided Abrams tanks and Germany provided those very critical Leopard tanks that's really made a huge difference on the frontlines.
And it showed a change in calculation for NATO. Early on in this conflict, many western partners didn't want to send offensive weapons to Ukraine, fearing that that could escalate the conflict. That that could aggravate the Kremlin. That calculation really the changed in Berlin a few months ago.
And even before his arrival, President Zelenskyy was promised a $3 billion aid package, that's going to include even more tanks and more help. Of course, ahead of this expected counteroffensive. But don't expect that President Zelenskyy is going to provide you all the details of when this counteroffensive is going to start, but it's very much going to be the crux of the negotiations, the crux of the discussions in Berlin today.
Germany wants to know, wants to understand what are the next steps for Ukraine's fighters on the ground. President Zelenskyy has been reassuring his partners as he has in Rome just yesterday that those first steps in the counteroffensive could be taken soon. Kim.
BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much, Salma Abdelaziz in London.
While the Biden administration is praising a ceasefire that went into effect late Saturday between Israel and Islamic Jihad, Egypt brokered the deal to end hostility that erupted last Tuesday when Israel launched another military operation in Gaza.
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BRUNHUBER: Palestinians celebrated the ceasefire but many are skeptical it will hold. At least 35 people were killed over the past week, nearly all of them Palestinians. The IDF says its operation in Gaza killed six Islamic Jihad commanders and struck hundreds of militant targets. Now, this strike on the alleged home of one commander came shortly before the ceasefire took effect. Journalist Elliott Gotkine is covering all of this for us from Jerusalem. Elliott, so take us through this ceasefire and the crucial question. What are the chances that it will hold?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Kim, it's holding for now. It was touch and go at the beginning. It was supposed to come into effect at 10:00 p.m. local time. But for more than hour after that, Islamic Jihad militants continued to fire rockets towards Israel.
And the Israeli defense forces continued to carry out airstrikes against Islamic Jihad militants right up until about midnight, local time, so about 11 hours ago. But for the past 11 hours things have returned to calm and quiet. People are back on the streets of Gaza.
We've seen border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip re- opening gradually and fuel trucks going back into Gaza. And, of course, the communities around the Gaza Strip inside Israel are also seeing a return normality after spending most of the past five days under lockdown and in bomb shelters.
So, at the end of this round of hostilities, Israel says, that there were more than 1,200 rockets fired towards it by Islamic Jihad militants and that Israel hit more than 370 targets. 33 Palestinians killed over the past five days, that includes militants as well as uninvolved civilians, including women and children and there were two killed inside of Israel.
Now, in a statement from the government's press office, they said, in thanking the Egyptians for helping broker this ceasefire. Israel's saying that quiet will be met with quiet and that Israel -- that if Israel is attacked or threatened, it will continue to do everything it needs to do to defend itself. And Islamic Jihad along with other militant factions in Gaza saying that this round of fighting is over but the will to fight has not receded.
Now, one of the interesting aspects of this five-day conflict is that it didn't involve Hamas, at least according to the Israelis, it didn't involve Hamas. They say they draw a distinction between what Hamas was saying, it was saying it was involved and what the Israeli's say they were seeing on the ground, which is that Hamas militants are not involved.
So, of course, we could have seen a much bigger conflict had Hamas, a much bigger, more powerful militant group that runs the Gaza Strip got involved proper. And I suppose one hope may be at the end of this is that this flag march we're looking to see on Thursday, which is where Israelis celebrate, in their view, the reunification of Jerusalem by marching through the city including the eastern part, that can sometimes lead to violence. There are hopes now, perhaps, Kim, that the threat, at least, from Gaza on Thursday has receded. Kim.
BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much. Elliott Gotkine in Jerusalem.
The Biden administration is warning migrants that the U.S. southern border isn't open now that Title 42 has expired. Shortly after the regulation ended Thursday, a top homeland security official said there was no substantial increase of migrants at the border. The long lines of people waiting to enter the U.S. has tapered off dramatically. And some borders communities say they have yet to see the massive surge many were expecting. For more on the story, here's CNN's Polo Sandoval.
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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here on the U.S.-Mexico border there is a general feeling among many stakeholders that the chaos that they expected with the expiration of Title 42 didn't necessarily play out, that's according to at least one senior CBP official. Of course, according to Customs and Border Protection who has cited in a recently filed court document that says that 10-day average of migrant encounters currently stands at about 9,000, which is well below what was expected.
However, there is some concern and some projections that suggested that number could go up to as many as 14,000 in the coming days or weeks. There is a number thought that is critically high here, and that is the daily custody average, which is the total number of migrants that are in the custody of Customs and Border Protection.
That number still stands at about 23,000. So, this -- what you can, perhaps, call a temporary rest pit is allowing them opportunities to process those individuals to make room for others who may possibly choose to enter the country illegally.
Now, there is some speculation here on the ground when you speak to some of those who are running the shelters, that receive some of these migrants after they're processed. They seem to believe that perhaps some of the news coming from the Biden administration of stricter policies could be making it south to the border. So, you have many asylum -- potential asylum seekers just south of the border that are still weighing their options.
There are -- of course, those numbers that are likely to continue to grow, and that is the number of asylum seekers ending up in some of America's largest cities. Of course, many of them here in El Paso telling me that they are wanting to go to California, some wanting to stay in Texas, but many of them continue to say that New York City is their final destination. Polo Sandoval, CNN, Texas.
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BRUNHUBER: The battle over abortion rights is brewing in North Carolina. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed a controversial bill that would have banned most abortions in the state after 12 weeks. A large cheering crowd of supporters gathered in Raleigh on Saturday, cheering on as he used his veto stamp. The move will likely set-up a showdown with the state legislature where Republicans have a veto proof super majority.
President Joe Biden was cautious but upbeat on Saturday about Congress finally raising the debt ceiling. Staff level talks are ongoing this weekend to break the stalemate but the clock is ticking. CNN's Alayna Treene has the details.
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ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: For the fourth straight day, negotiations are continuing among senior staff of congressional leadership and the White House as they continue to try and hash out a deal to raise the debt limit. These talks are occurring after a meeting between the top board congressional leaders and President Biden was postponed on Friday as they struggle to find a path forward.
Now, these negotiations really began in earnest this past week, and normally a deal like this takes months to come together. But the reality is Congress doesn't have months to do this. We are less than 20 days away from June 1st and that is the deadline that the Treasury Department has set for when the government could default on its debt.
The Congressional Budget Office also released a report on Friday backing up the Treasury Department's timeline here, saying that a default is likely to happen in the first week, two weeks of June.
Now, we did hear from President Joe Biden on this Saturday afternoon. He said negotiations are moving along and we should know more in the next few days. Let's listen to what he had to say.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: No, we'll know more in the next few days. Did you ask me something -- is that what you asked?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, how are debt ceiling talks going on now?
BIDEN: Oh, I think they're moving along. It's hard to tell. They have not reached a crunch point yet. So -- but there is real discussion about some changes -- but we're not there yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How confident -- that a debt ceiling will be made before June 1?
BIDEN: Has to be.
TREENE: So, the will to do this is there and neither side wants to see the government default on its debt. But the very short timeline that they're facing has led to anxiety among leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. I am told though that the staff level talks have yielded some modest progress. They began to pinpoint certain policy areas that they could find some common ground. On topics so far have centered on permitting reform, resending unspent COVID relief funds and spending cuts.
Now, the spending cuts issue is something that the White House has repeatedly said that they wanted to avoid in a deal. But increasingly, I am told, that people within the west ring are beginning to recognize it's something that they might have to cave on. So, we're going to see these talks continue throughout the weekend and into next week, but they need to have a deal in hand in the coming days to get a bill through Congress by June 1st.
Remember, Congress moves very slowly and once they have a deal, they still need to draft a bill, sell it to both the House and the Senate and then try to get enough support to pass it. And this is a huge obstacle to come but there is still hope that they can do this and get it done on time. Alayna Treene, CNN, Washington.
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BRUNHUBER: As powerful cyclone Mocha comes ashore in Southeast Asia, millions of people are bracing for the worst. Coming up, we'll have details on the path of the storm. Plus, aide agencies are warning there could be a major disaster as the cyclone barrels toward millions of vulnerable people in Bangladesh. We'll get insights from a refugee coordinator in just a few moments. Please stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: Officials at the southern U.S. border are keeping an eye on severe weather this weekend. A tornado touched down near the tip of Texas coast early Saturday morning. At least one person was killed when the twister damaged his mobile home, about a dozen people were injured and many more took refuge at temporary shelters. Flood watches remain in effect through the area until Sunday night.
In Southeast Asia, tropical cyclone, Mocha, made landfall last hour in Myanmar. Aid agencies are bracing for disasters. The storm threatens millions of the world's most vulnerable people. Its outer bands were already bringing rain and winds equivalent to a category five hurricane to parts of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Disaster response teams handed out aid and food in Myanmar and help residents get to temporary shelters. In Bangladesh, about 1 million Rohingya refugees are at risk from the cyclone.
CNN Meteorologist Britley Ritz has been tracking the storm for us and joins us live. So, it sounds like a real monster, what is the latest?
BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, and it made landfall as of 12:45 local time on the northern coastline of Myanmar, now hitting the friction of the land. So, yes, some weakening but still, again, a massive tropical cyclone with wind gusts still 305 kilometers per hour, moving northeast now, picking up speed at 26 kilometers per hour. Still holding on to some warm water.
These are sea surface temperature anomaly. So, it's about a degree to a degree and a half above where it should typically be this time of year. So, that's fuel for this kind of system until it moves completely out of the water, it's still picking up that fuel. You see all that moisture sitting in the Bay of Bengal but we do some dryer air trying to get pulled into the system. That's why the left-hand side of the system isn't as well organized as the right-hand side.
The system itself over the next 24 to 36 hours, pushes in, and again the friction of the land weakening it to just a basic area of low pressure. Regardless, you're still dealing with strong wind gusts as well as heavy rain. So, that's going to cause landslides and mudslides, especially through some of the higher elevations.
So, the winds will finally start to die down moving into Monday. We're picking up some of the strongest of the winds now as this whole it comes on shore. The heaviest rain really pushing in as the outer bands continue on and the eye wall making its way onto the coastline.
And finally, by the time we get into Monday night and into Tuesday, we wind down with the rain. It's still scattered. And any rain on top of these inundated areas, torrential rainfall is going to be a big issue. So, you'll see the reds, the oranges, heavy rain. 100 to 150 millimeters of rainfall. Even outside of the cone back into Bangladesh and India. We're -- we have areas that could pick up roughly about 250 millimeters of rainfall, Kim.
BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much. Britley Ritz, appreciate it.
Well, aide agencies in Bangladesh and Myanmar have launched a massive emergency plan to help people in the path of the cyclone. So, let's get more insight from Arjun Jane, the U.N. principal coordinator for the Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh.
So, just -- first of, thanks so much for joining us. What do things look and feel like right now?
ARJUN JAIN, U.N. PRINCIPAL COORDINATOR, ROHINGYA REFUGEE RESPONSE IN BANGLADESH: Well, we've been preparing for this for the past 10 days.
We've got food stocks as well as other items and shelter material on standby to provide refugees once the storm and once we assess how damaging the storm has been. Right now, we are still getting news that the southernmost tip of Bangladesh is where we are seeing the most amount of impact of the storm. The winds are picking up right now and we are still on high alert for the next 24 to 36 hours.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, and it is cyclone season. You are used to experiencing them but this one seems different, I mean, as we just heard, the sheer size and scope of what's expected. You're in Cox's Bazar, the world's biggest refugee camp, close to a million people are there. So, describe how people there will be sheltering from this.
JAIN: Well, the camps themselves are the largest in the world. Their shelters -- the refugees are living in shelters made out of bamboo and tarpaulin. The material cannot withstand heavy and intense winds or rains that we are expecting to see. Our number of shelters are in low- lying areas, which means that they are likely to be inundated if there are heavy rains. And we are terribly worried about what might just happen if the storm and the cyclone picks up at this part of the -- on this side of the border.
The government has been excellent in preparing the refugees and working with us in setting up contingency plans. We have got heavy machinery on standby. We have got contingency stocks. The World Food Programme has got ready meals for the refugees if need be. UNHCR has got protection emergency teams. We have medical teams on standby. IOM has got a number of shelter material ready to distribute.
So, we are ready and we are able to respond to the crisis. But right now, it's a wait and see because the cyclone still has to pass us and we still have to estimate how devastating it has been on this side of the border.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. So, these people -- I mean, they're in tarps and, you know, bamboo shelters. Across the country, other people are evacuating but the refugees there, I mean, they can't go anywhere, is that right?
JAIN: Yes, it's been very, very difficult. The government has been evacuating and they've been very successful in evacuating a large number of people from the potentially affected areas. The refugees themselves, especially those living in low-lying areas had been relocated within the camps to more sturdy shelter and other facilities that have been made available to them. But it's always a worry for us. The demand is uneven and the low-lying areas are quite widespread in the camps.
BRUNHUBER: And then the problems don't end when the cyclone eventually moves off. There's the aftermath, flash flooding, mudslides, and so on.
BRUNHUBER: How long do you expect this emergency to last?
JAIN: It's an emergency within an emergency. We've been facing an emergency for six years and we seem to be facing an emergency for the next six if the situation continues the way it is. Just this year, and only this year, there's been a 17 percent cut in the food rations for the refugees because of a funding shortage. We expect more food cuts to occur later in the year.
A couple of months ago, there was a devastating fire and 16,000 refugees have lost their homes. There have been a number of other fires where people have lost their homes since then. And now, we have the cyclone to deal -- the refugees have the cyclone to deal with, and the monsoon season hasn't even begun. The monsoon season lasts for multiple months and the rains, and inundation and the high winds are quite devastating even then.
It's been an emergency within an emergency. And the refugees, I just don't know how they deal with it, but their resilience is remarkable. It's so hard for them this year.
BRUNHUBER: Well, listen, stay safe. We wish you the best as you and so many -- all those vulnerable people out there try to ride out this storm. Thanks so much for speaking with us, Arjun Jain, I really appreciate it.
JAIN: Thank you so much. BRUNHUBER: Voters in Turkey are going to the polls today for elections that will determine the next president and the makeup of the next parliament. We'll have a live report from Istanbul after the break. Please stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom."
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Berlin holding talks with top German leaders. He met Chancellor Olaf Scholz a short time ago as Ukraine prepares for an expected military counteroffensive.
So, for more, Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Berlin. So, Fred, an important show of solidarity there. Take us through where things stand right now, what they'll be discussing, and what you expect to come out of this.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kim. Well, first of all, I think you're absolutely right. I think it is very important, not just for Volodymyr Zelenskyy but certainly also for the Germans as well. And one of the things that you mentioned is absolutely correct. It is that show of solidarity, that I think is extremely important for the German government. You saw earlier, Volodymyr Zelenskyy there greeted with full military honors, meeting Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president of Germany, and then later now meeting Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor.
And if you look at some of the things that have already been announced here ahead of this meeting that you can already say, that at least for the Ukrainians, and probably also for the Germans as well, this has already been a big success. And one of the things that we've been talking about is that big weapons package. The Germans have announced that they are giving to Ukraine, it's 2.7 billion euros, that's around $3 billion.
And a lot of the weapons that the Germans say they are going to give to the Ukrainians are extremely important for them on the battlefield. But then also, of course, for the safety of their population. There's a lot of air defense systems, like for instance, the IRIS-T which is quite frankly one of the most capable in the world right now, also more anti-aircraft guns as well. But then you're also talking about main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
And I think, you know, if we look at some of the pictures that we've been seeing throughout the course of the morning, you can really see how far the relations between Olaf Scholz, between the German government, and the Ukrainians have come since this war started. If you recall at the beginning, the Germans were criticized by a lot of people for allegedly not doing enough, not giving enough weapons.
[04:30:00] One of the main things that we heard in the early stages of Russia's big invasion of Ukraine is that Germans wanting to give only 5,000 helmets to the Ukrainians. And now you see this big package of 2.7 billion euros in weapons, which the Ukrainians, quite frankly, badly need. And you can see that Germany has come a long way, but that the Ukrainians also have come a long way in their relations with Germany as well.
So, I do think this is an important meeting today for Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And quite frankly, an important day for him as well. Because on the one hand, he's meeting the top leaders of the German government but, of course, he is also later receiving one of the main European prizes as well, which is obviously important for the Ukrainians as they try to make their way towards Europe, possibly towards membership of the European Union. Kim.
BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much. Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it.
Well, Iowa almost saw dueling Republican rallies on Saturday night with Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis scheduled to converge on the campaign trail. But bad weather and tornado warnings foiled Donald Trump's plans to rally his supporters in Des Moines. They canceled his appearance. So, that left DeSantis alone in Iowa. Although, he has yet to declare for his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, he definitely looked and sounded like a man running for office. Listen to this.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If we make 2024 election a referendum on Joe Biden and his failures, and if we provide a positive alternative for the future of this country, Republicans will win across the board. We focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again. And I think it will be very difficult to recover from that defeat.
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BRUNHUBER: President Biden delivered the commencement address on Saturday at Howard University, at times sounding more like candidate Biden. Howard is one of America's oldest and most revered historically black universities. It's also an audience that Biden needs to reach if he hopes to win a second term. CNN's Arlette Saenz has our report.
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ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden delivered a commencement address to graduates from Howard University here in Washington, D.C. But much of his speech sounded a lot like a campaign speech as he urged graduates to consider that the battle for the soul of the nation is not yet complete.
Now, the president did not mention his predecessor Donald Trump by name, but he did talk about some of his traits and the moments from his presidency. Biden talked about people who stoked division in the country and also those who try to cling to power. He also specifically referenced those clashes down in Charlottesville and the remarks from the former president when he said that there were very fine people on both sides. Biden warned that there are still sinister forces operating in this country to try to thwart progress including racial progress.
BIDEN: That fearless progress towards justice often needs ferocious push back, the oldest and most sinister of forces. That's because hate never goes away. Until it hides under the rocks, and when it's given oxygen, it comes out from under that rock. And that's why we know this truth as well, silence is complicity. It cannot remain silent. We have to live through this battle for the soul of the nation.
SAENZ: Now, while the president spoke, there were a few graduates who stood up in protest. Holding signs relating to issues that are important to black voters. Black voters, of course, were key in propelling President Biden to the White House back in 2020 and they will be a key constituency heading into 2024.
So, it is note-worthy that he decided to deliver his first commencement address of the season at Howard University, one of the country's most prominent historic black colleges and universities. Somewhere where Vice President Kamala Harris attended when she was in college. But the president today trying to take his message of unity and a push for progress to those black graduates at the school. Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.
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BRUNHUBER: National elections are underway in both Turkey and Thailand. And CNN has correspondents covering both. Our Paula Hancocks is in Seoul with the latest on the vote in Thailand. But first, we're going to go to Jomana Karadsheh standing by for us live in Istanbul.
So, Jomana, polls are open there, what's the mood with so much at stake?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kim, here in this polling center in Istanbul, we have seen this constant stream of people coming in to vote. It's really busy. People are quite upbeat, optimistic. But overall, in this country right now, people are really anxious. I mean, this is a really, really tight race. And a lot of people you speak to tell you this is not just about the next five years, this is about the future direction their country will take.
And there's this huge responsibility people feel. They're coming out here with this determination to have a say in their future and how -- where their country is headed next. You know, they've got the choices when it comes to presidents, two very different men, two very different visions for the country.
You've got President Erdogan who is promising much of the same. What people know, what people have seen, what people have experienced over the past couple of decades of his being at the -- leading this country. And then you've also got the opposition that has really come together in this united front and they are promising change. Essentially reversing what they say are the past few years of one-man rule and taking this country, they say, back to a real democracy.
And we've spoken to so many people who have come here. You know, you see elderly coming in to vote. We've had people who have been brought in. A woman came in from a hospital. You've got people coming in on wheelchairs, you know, and then you've got the young voters. You've got first-time voters. And you speak to everyone, and there's just so much on people's minds. Whether it is the -- you know, what the country has gone through. They have gone -- this is a nation that has gone through so much over the past few years, and even just the past few months.
This is a country that has gone through a traumatic experience with that devastating earthquake and the handling of that disaster for so many, you know, that's really impacting, you know, how they -- to fight to vote today. Then you've also got the state of the country's economy where you got cost-of-living crisis that has worsened with double digit inflation. The currency that's lost much of its value. And you've got a lot of people blaming that on President Erdogan's unorthodox economic policies.
But, you know, speaking to one man just a short time ago, he told us that, yes, the economy is very important for him, but so are his freedoms. That is more important. He says, I can go hungry but I can't live without my freedoms. And you hear that from a lot of people. They say -- especially the young voters, it's about the future of this country and it's about ensuring the Turkish democracy remains alive and that they are able to, you know, to have their rights and their freedoms in this country.
So, a very tight race. We'll have to wait and see how this all shakes out in the next few hours. If neither of those candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote, this goes to a runoff in two weeks. Kim.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, fascinating election to cover. Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul, thank you so much.
And I just want to give you a note for our international viewers, be sure to watch CNN's special live coverage of the elections in Turkey hosted by Becky Anderson. That's at 7:00 this evening in London, 9:00 p.m. in Istanbul right here on CNN.
Well, polling stations in Thailand are set to close in about 90 minutes. The country's voting to choose members of a new 500 seat house of representatives. It's the first election since pro-democracy demonstrations rocked Thailand in 2020. And opposition candidates are posing a strong challenge to the military-backed leader who's ruled Thailand for nearly a decade.
Our Paula Hancocks is following the developments and joins me now. So, Paula, you know, not much on the line here besides, you know, the future possibly of democracy in the country, right?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim, it was interesting to listening to Jomana talking about the Turkey elections and how freedoms and democracy are important, certainly among the young generations. That's exactly what we are seeing in Thailand as well.
One expert said to us that he believes that this is one of the most consequential elections in a generation. You do have -- what you often have in Thailand which is the fight between the pro-democracy alliances and then also the military-backed parties on the other side.
Now, certainly what we have seen in polling before today, before the elections started, was that the two progressive parties, those that are calling for more progressive, more populus policies, and also for the military to be taken out of politics, they were fairing the best. And they appear to have the strongest showing in polling numbers. And then when it came to the military-backed candidate, that's the current prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, he was running in many polls, a distant third.
So, it really depends on the turnout, we are being told, as to whether or not this will be a landslide for the more progressive parties. But of course, there are always concerns in Thailand. We have seen a number of military coups. A dozen in the last 90 years, two in the last 20 years when there is a party in power that is not favored by the military.
Now, many experts we've spoken to say the chances of that are far slimmer this time around but it's not something that you can completely rule out in Thailand.
So, the two progressive parties, you have Pheu Thai, which is the party of the Shinawatra dynasty in Thailand. In fact, Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former prime minister, his daughter is running on that ticket. They have policies like raising the minimum wage, welfare, cash handouts, but also, crucially taking the military out of politics. And then you have another progressive policy, Move Forward, which is going one step further. They agreed with all of those policies from the previous party, but they also say that there should be a public debate about the future of the monarchy. The once untouchable subject of the monarchy in Thailand, it was once a taboo topic. It's now being publicly debated and this is one of the platforms that Move Forward is running on. Kim.
BRUNHUBER: All right. It remains to be seen whether this is indeed a turning point. Paula Hancocks, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
All right. Still to come, the COVID public health emergency has officially ended here in the U.S. But what does it mean for millions of Americans? We'll talk to an expert, that's coming up. Please stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: Well, after more than three years, the COVID-19 public health emergency finally ended this week in the U.S. It comes after the World Health Organization also announced that the virus is no longer a global health emergency. But the agency is also warning against becoming complacent. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This virus is here to stay. It's still killing and it's still changing. The risk remains of a new -- of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths. The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: So, here's a look at how the end of the COVID emergency will affect people here in the U.S. They can expect to start paying for COVID-19 tests. Many will also have to start paying for pharmaceutical treatments. Now, there's no immediate change expected when it comes to vaccines, they'll still be free.
For more on this we're joined by Dr. Carlos del Rio, interim dean at Emory University School of Medicine. Thank you so much for being with us, doctor. So, you know, just to start off, after more than three years, this emergency has been such a huge part of your life for so many people in the medical community for so long. Now, that's it ended viscerally, how does this this symbolic moment feel now that's it's finally here?
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, INTERIM DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, in a way there's a sense of relief, right? A sense of accomplishment. It's been a long three years and I think, you know, we've seen millions of people die here in the United States, more -- you know, millions of people died globally. But it's also a reminder that this is not over.
The public health emergency declaration is over but the pandemic still continues. It's clearly, you know, causing lesser disease and killing less people but we still have this as a problem and we'll need to continue to think about it and do the right thing in order to have it not return as a major problem.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, I mean, it still continues, as you say, it might surprise folks to learn that right now in the U.S. more than 1,000 people die of COVID per week. I mean, it's the lowest since its, you know, since the pandemic started in earnest. But it's not insignificant. So, going forward, vaccines will still be free. Treatments like Paxlovid as well, as long as the U.S. supply lasts. Do you have concerns about what happens after that?
DR. DEL RIO: Well, I even have concerns of what happens now because, you know, vaccines are free and the recommendation from the FDA, from CDC has been that everybody gets a bivalent booster. And if you're over the age of 65 and you've got a bivalent booster more than four months ago, the recommendation is you get another dose. The reality is that only 16 percent of the U.S. population -- one, six, 16 percent has received a bivalent booster, and only 45 percent of those over the age of 65 have received one shot, let alone two.
So, we have a lot of unvaccinated people even now when the vaccines are available for free. What happens when you have to pay for it? What happens when your insurance has to cover? I think, you know, it's going to be less. So, what I would like to see is people, actually, take that opportunity and do take the bivalent booster and do -- you know if you're over 65, you get a second shot. Because the reality is, if you are protected, if you are up to date in your vaccinations, if you get COVID, you're not going to get terrible ill, and you're not going to get in the hospital, and you're certainly not going to die.
BRUNHUBER: In terms of surveillance for COVID, that's going to, sort of, change and lessen as well. But crucially wastewater surveillance, that will continue. It was really something valuable that came from this pandemic looking now at how it's being used for other diseases as well.
DR. DEL RIO: That is correct. You know, once a public health emergency is over, CDC can no longer expect states to send app results. That means states are -- have the -- you know, don't have -- no longer have an obligation and some may decide not to report. But CDC has set up this network of wastewater surveillance.
And wastewater surveillance has really become a great way to monitor, not only COVID, but many other infectious diseases like polio and monkey pox. So, I think we were learning of wastewater surveillance as a very, very good tool for surveillance for a variety of infectious diseases.
BRUNHUBER: Yes. All right. So, looking back, I mean, this whole emergency -- well, certainly, a stress test that showed the nation was wanting on many fronts. So, now looking forward, we know there are many things we have to improve on.
But we also know from previous pandemics that we always say, you know, lessons learned. Never again. This time we'll be ready. But vigilance and the necessary infrastructure, they often shrink when the budget shrinks. So, how worried are you that this will happen again this time?
DR. DEL RIO: You know, I'm very worried. And you know, you got -- as you mentioned to the cycles of, you know, anxiety followed by, you know, essentially ignorance. We don't think about these things. But what I'm most worried about right now is that Congress, which is who allocates funds, is really on a rampage too, you know.
They're not happy with the performance of CDC, they not happy with what happened. And we're seeing funds being withdrawn, we're seeing CDC being investigated, we're seeing the NH (ph) being investigated, and we're seeing a lot of things that could actually put us in a worse place than we are.
In addition, you know, a lot of people, as a result of doubts about COVID vaccines, about -- you know, hesitancy around the COVID, that has spread to other vaccines. So, our -- we are seeing breaks of vaccination probably disease like measles had dropped among children. And that to me is also very concerning.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, unfortunately. That's one of the lessons we have learned from the past three is how much politics can influence health. We'll have to leave it there but really appreciate your insights, Dr. Carlos del Rio. Thank you so much.
DR. DEL RIO: Delighted to be with you.
BRUNHUBER: And we'll be right back.
BRUNHUBER: The Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers will be playing game seven of their NBA playoff series in Boston later today. Up for grabs is a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. The winner will face the Miami Heat who are at the first eight seated team to reach the Conference Finals in 24 years. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets will tip off on game one of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.
Well, sometimes you can win a race just by finishing it. In the Southeast Asian games in Cambodia, 20-year-old runner Bou Samnang came in last at the 5,000-meter run. But because of her determination to finish the race despite torrential rain, health concerns, and a lack of training resources, she's won over the hearts of many.
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BOU SAMNAND, RUNNER (through translator): On that racing day, I knew I was losing. The rain was so heavy. I had the right to abandon the race but I did not because I have a duty to represent Cambodia. So, I did not give up for the sake of the nation. I tried to reach the finish line because I wanted to show people that in life even though we go a bit slow or fast, we will reach our destination all the time. We should not give up. We should try our best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: And since her rainy last place win, she's become an inspiration to her fellow Cambodians. It seems everyone wants to snap a selfie with the runner who just refused to quit.
A 4,000-year-old temple has been discovered in archeological site in Western Peru. Expert believe that the U-shaped building was used for religious ceremonies. An ancient cross symbol was also found carved into its walls. Its discovery suggests that the so-called southern cross was an important symbol to Peruvian cultures as far back as 4,000 years ago. And finally, this hour, one of Australia's most iconic creatures has been reintroduced into the country's oldest national park. On Friday, the platypus made its return to the Royal National Park as part of landmark conservation project. The animal hasn't been seen in the area since the 1970s. Four platypuses were released on Friday and six more will follow soon. The platypus is a unique species in Australia. It's one of only two egg laying mammals, the other is the spiny anteater, echidna.
A little trivia for you as we wrap this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Please stay with us.