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Kyiv Says It Shot Down Volley Of Russian Hypersonic Missiles; New UN Roadmap Shows How To Drastically Slash Plastic Pollution; Air Strikes, Artillery Fire Escalate As Factions Battle In Sudan; Hundreds Feared Dead In Myanmar After Cyclone Mocha; Experts Call For AI Regulation During Senate Hearing; Move Forward Party Leader Vows To Demilitarize If Elected PM; Turkish Presidential Runoff Candidates; Italy's Birth Rate Has Plummeted To A Record Low; Five Men Convicted For Dresden Museum Robbery; Ecuador's "Debt-For-Nature" Deal To Fund Conservation; U.N.: World Can Reduce Plastic Pollution By 80 percent By 2020. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 17, 2023 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN Newsroom, so much for the much hype Russian made hypersonic missile. Ukrainian officials say six were intercepted in one go by air defenses over Kyiv along with a dozen other incoming missiles. Hundreds of those vulnerable in Myanmar living in camps, villages and open air prisons feared dead after Cyclone Mocha makes landfall and how to reduce the world's plastic pollution by 80 percent in less than two decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Good to have you with us. We begin this hour on CNN in Ukraine where air raid sirens have been hurt just hours ago in a number of regions as well as the Capitol Kyiv just one night after being targeted by a barrage of air land and sea fired missiles.

Ukrainian officials say Russia fired 18 missiles early Tuesday. Among them six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and all were intercepted by Ukraine's air defenses. Russia though insists all targets were hit and the USB Patriot air defense system was destroyed. No comment on that from the Ukrainian military. But a U.S. official tells CNN a patriot system was damaged through the airstrikes but not destroyed and assessments are ongoing.

Meantime, for the first time in 18 years, Europe's oldest political organization the Council of Europe has gathered for a summit with leaders from 46 nations meeting in Iceland to declare support for Ukraine as a top priority. The second day of talks will begin in a few hours.

The British and Dutch Prime ministers met on the sidelines and agreed to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, including helping procure F-16 fighter jets.

Well for months now Russian airstrikes especially on Kyiv appear to be increasing in intensity. Firing six hypersonic missiles on Tuesday appears to be another attempt by Russia to try and overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses. More details now from CNN's Sam Kiley.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A new Russian tactic in the air assault against Kyiv concentrated fire by missiles and drones testing Ukraine's air defenses probing for weaknesses. Ukraine says it shot down 18 missiles, including six Kinzhal Russia's hypersonic weapon. It was once considered invulnerable to air defenses. Now, not so much.

YUNI IHNAT, SPOKESPERSON, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE COMMAND (through translator): Six of these missiles were fired in the direction of the Capitol. They were all destroyed by our air defense.

KILEY: Russia has been trying to overwhelm Ukraine with air attacks for months. The results though have been more pledges of air defenses from the U.S .and especially the U.K. and now even Germany after months of holding back.

On the ground, the conflict grinds on in Bakhmut. Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, releasing a new video purporting to show him in the city. He demonstrates uncharacteristic sympathy for an alleged American volunteer killed fighting for Ukraine.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, LEADER OF THE PRIVATE RUSSIAN ARMY WAGNER GROUP (through translator): We will hand him over to the United States of America. We'll put him in a coffin cover him with the American flag with respect because he did not die in his bed as a grandpa. But he died at war and most likely a worthy death.

KILEY: The Washington Post has reported that U.S. intelligence documents suggest that he tried to trade Russian intelligence for ceding territory around Bakhmut. Prigozhin denies the claims, Russia has said that the allegations Prigozhin offered to spy for Ukraine are a hoax. But in the Kremlin, they might one day be considered treason, making this town perhaps a safer place than Moscow for Russia's top mercenary, Sam Kiley, CNN in southeast Ukraine.


VAUSE: Last hour, I spoke with retired U.S. Air Force colonel and CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton and asked him about Ukraine's claim that it was able to take out six hypersonic missiles.


COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, perhaps the hypersonic missiles aren't really hypersonic John, and so that's something that we're going to have to examine. You know, the Russians, of course, have touted the capabilities of the Kinzhal missile for several years now. And in the West, we believed that it was a very effective highly useful weapon that was in essence a game changer in the field of ballistic missiles.


But in this particular case, I think that what we're seeing is something that the Kinzhal was less than meets the eye. And if it's true, the Ukrainians were able to shoot down six of them. That's a significant dent in the purported Russian inventory of Kinzhal missiles, which was supposedly somewhere around 50 or so according to Ukrainian intelligence.

VAUSE: So what do you think was fired at Kyiv by the Russians? It wasn't the hypersonic was sort of old wine in the new bottle.

LEIGHTON: Yes. I think, yes, I think that's possibly the case. I think that what we may have seen is so that, you know, has perhaps sub hypersonic capabilities, I could still go fast could still be a supersonic missile. But I'm sure the missile was not going 10 times the speed of sound, which would have been the maximum speed advertised for the Kinzhal.


VAUSE: For European leaders, there is still the question of what happens after the war. The long term plan, it seems, is to hold Moscow accountable for all the harm and destruction caused by this invasion. All of it now recorded in what's known as a Register of Damages.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): The council has acted to support Ukraine and help it document the abuses committed by Russia. I'm thinking of the bombings of civilian infrastructures of rape used as a weapon of war of the murders of generalized torture of the deportations of Ukrainian children. At the summit, the Council is once again leading the way alongside the victims of aggression by creating today an international register of damages caused by Russia's aggression against Ukraine.


VAUSE: The plan was announced at a summit of the Council of Europe, the main human rights group on the continent the meeting in Iceland, just the fourth summit in the council's 74 year long history. Russia was expelled last year after the invasion of Ukraine.

Chief Justice of Ukraine Supreme Court was fired Tuesday after being caught up in a bribery investigation. The judge is accused of taking a $2.7 million bribe. Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau announced a large scale investigation underway into the court system and shared images of piles of dollars lined up on a sofa.

Kyiv stepping up its efforts to clamp down on corruption to meet conditions for the admission into the European Union. The judge has also been detained by authorities. Fighting is intensifying in Sudan as a conflict between the army and the paramilitary group is now into its second month.

The Doctor's Union reports more than 800 people have been killed as one ceasefire after another has collapsed. Witnesses in the capital Khartoum report a sharp increase in airstrikes and artillery fire that's left a haze of dark smoke on the horizon. The fighting has forced nearly a million people from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis.

And hundreds of those vulnerable people in Myanmar feared dead and rescue groups are warning of a large scale of loss of life after one of the strongest storms ever hit the country. The shadow government there says at least 400 people are dead and unspecified number of missing after cycling Mocha barrel intermediates coast on Sunday, unleashing floods as well as landslides and floods complicating rescue efforts.

Among the hardest hit areas is Rakhine State, where human rights watch says 600,000 members of the Rohingya minority have been living in open air prison camps under government persecution. CNN's Vedika Sud joins me live from New Delhi with the very latest. What more do we know about these rescue efforts, if any, are ongoing?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Very difficult, really, at this point because all the agencies that are trying to get to the Rakhine State, which is on the western coast that was battered by cyclone Mocha on Sunday, are facing a lot of challenges. Essentially, communication lines are still down in most places. You also have a lot of trees that have fallen on the roads, a lot of obstructions of the roads for them to get to these places.

I want to start with some satellite images shared by Maxa that was released on Sunday, and they've compared it to satellite images taken by them in February this year.

John, you can see the widespread devastation the damages to the homes to the tin roofs, as well as a bridge that submerge because of the cyclone. What we're hearing from the Myanmar from the shadow government in Myanmar is more than 400 people have died. CNN cannot verify those numbers for now. But we're hearing that from NGOs on the ground as well.

And this is just day three after the cyclone batter the western coast of Myanmar. But what's really, really upsetting here is the fact that it's the Rohingya community. Those camps there in Rakhine State, in and around Sittwe that have been absolutely destroyed. And we're hearing now that a lot of Rohingya people are burying their loved ones. Here's a man who lost nine of his 14 family members.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Nine out of my 14 family members were killed only five survived. They were killed because they couldn't resist when strong winds swayed them away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): All of my belongings rice, and even dishes are gone. Now I have no money to rebuild my house. We are starving. I haven't eaten for two days. How many days does a person have to go hungry?


SUD: Due to the storm surge was as high as three to 3.5 meters. A lot of sea water has entered the areas around Sittwe and a lot of people have drowned due to those flood waters being really high as what we're hearing at this point. Also the true damage the large scale damage the widespread damage that we're talking about, who's really going to know how bad it is at this point.

It's going to take days really, John, to understand how widespread this devastation is and the true figures, the true death toll won't be out for time to come. Because even the official figures are nowhere close to what the shadow government is revealing at this point. John.

VAUSE: Vedika, thank you. We appreciate it. Vediak Sud live for us there in New Delhi.

And international search and rescue effort is underway in the Indian Ocean after a Chinese deep sea vessel capsized. The crew of 39 includes Chinese nationals, Indonesians and Filipinos now considered missing. China has deployed at least two rescue vessels joining search and rescue crews from Australia, the Philippines and other countries.

Up next, a call for government regulation in front of AI's leading developers who's warning of the threat from artificial intelligence if left unchecked.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My worst fears are that we caused significant we the field the technology the industry caused significant harm to the world.



VAUSE: U.S. Justice Department is cracking down on stolen technology used to help authoritarian governments who abuse human rights. Prosecutors from the disruptive technology StrikeForce announced five criminal cases Tuesday, in one case a Chinese national accused in a scheme to produce weapons of mass destruction for Iran. Others involve providing aircraft parts and sensitive technology to Russia.

Well, your iPhone will soon be able to talk for you using your own voice all it needs is about 15 minutes of training. Apple announced the feature among a group of new accessible -- accessibility updates coming later this year. The tool is meant to help those who have impairments or disabilities involving their voice, or those who actually may lose it over time. Apple says this tool can do a lot of good, but it comes at a time when artificial intelligence is in the spotlight for what it could ultimately be used for both good and bad. And with that comes calls for government regulations of AI for one of the leading creators of artificial intelligence. But questions remain if lawmakers can actually rein in AI. Here's CNN's Donie O'Sullivan.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: And now for some introductory remarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too often, we've seen what happens when technology outpaces regulation.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A Senate hearing on AI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the proliferation of disinformation and the deepening of societal inequalities.

O'SULLIVAN: Beginning with a senator allowing an AI voice to, to give part of his opening statement.

BLUMENTHAL: If you were listening from home, you might have thought that voice was mine and the words from me, but in fact, that voice was not mine. The remarks were written by ChatGPT.

O'SULLIVAN: ChatGPT, the AI bot that became a global sensation, and highlighted just how powerful AI technology can be.


O'SULLIVAN: The CEO of the company behind ChatGPT, testifying before Congress for the first time today.

ALTMAN: I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to be vocal about that we want to work with the government to prevent that from happening,

O'SULLIVAN: Not downplaying the power and the danger of the technology his company is pioneering.

ALTMAN: Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives, but also that it creates serious risks we have to work together to manage.

O'SULLIVAN: Altman joined on Capitol Hill by an IBM AI executive, and Gary Marcus, a former NYU professor and self-described critic of AI hype.

GARY MARCUS, PROF. EMERITUS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: We acted too slowly with social media, many unfortunate decisions got locked in with lasting consequence, the choices we make now will have lasting effects for decades, maybe even centuries.

O'SULLIVAN: The wide ranging implications of AI reflected in the topics discussed, like jobs.

ALTMAN: Like with all technological revolutions, I expect there to be significant impact on jobs. GPT for will, I think entirely automate away some jobs, and it will create new ones that we believe will be much better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overrun by a shortage of 80,000 illegals yesterday.

O'SULLIVAN: Voter targeting and the use of deep fake video and audio in elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we be worried about this for our elections?

ATLMAN: It's one of my areas of greatest concern.

O'SULLIVAN: National security, how AI can be used by America's adversaries.

BLUMENTHAL: Their huge implications for national security, I will tell you as a member of the Armed Services Committee, classified briefings on this issue have a bound it.

O'SULLIVAN: Even the music industry where AI has been used to clone famous recording artist's voices, and create whole new songs.

MARSHA BLACKBURN, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: Who owns the right to that AI generated material? I went in this weekend and I said write me a song that sounds like Garth Brooks. And it gave me a different version of simple man.

REPORTER: Senators eager not to repeat mistakes of the past.

CHRIS COONS, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: We cannot afford to be as late to responsibly regulating generative AI as we have been to social media, because the consequences both positive and negative will exceed those of social media by orders of magnitude.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): Today's hearing in Washington DC barely scratching the surface of this issue of AI that is going to touch all of our lives every aspect of society. But agreement on Capitol Hill among Democrats and Republicans that something has to be done about AI what that is and what that is going to look like remains to be seen. And no doubt there are going to be many, many, many more hearings on Capitol Hill, about this technology. Back to you.


VAUSE: Joining us now is Will Oremus, the technology writer for The Washington Post. Will, thanks being with us.


VAUSE: OK. So Sam Altman was pretty blunt during this appearance before lawmakers like this moment here, listen to this.


ALTMAN: I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to be vocal about that. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening. But we try to be very clear eyed about what the downside cases and the work that we have to do to mitigate that.


VAUSE: One thing, which I was wondering is what is the worst case scenario here? What is Altman most concerned about?

OREMUS: Yes, you know, the worst case scenario for AI is hard to imagine. Because when you talk to people like Altman about what they're what they're worried about, they talk about AI becoming so smart that it escapes the control of humans and starts acting on its own. And I guess the worst case scenario would be, it starts acting on its own, and it does so in a way that's contrary to the interests of humanity.

You know, there are even people who think they're called X risk or people who think there's an existential risk to humanity from AI. I suppose that's the worst case scenario. But there's also not a lot of evidence that it's, you know, that it's coming anytime soon.

VAUSE: Well, Altman suggests is the creation of an entire new government agency to approve and licensed new AI a bit like the way the Food and Drug Administration works approving new medication. But before there's any discussion here about what regulations are needed and how they'll be enforced. Is the bigger problem actually Congress itself which hasn't been able to agree on almost anything It comes from regulation of the tech sector?


OREMUS: Yes, Congress has accomplished very little even when there's basic agreement, even when there's some broad agreement that, for instance, we need to overhaul privacy laws for the digital age or that we need to find some way to rein in the power of the dominant tech platforms, they still can't agree on exactly what should be done. So it's not clear that that will be any different when it comes to AI.

However, they did start this hearing, saying we're trying to avoid the mistakes that we made with social media where we just sort of had a hands off approach for years and years. And then we only began bringing in the executives for hearings, once a lot of things have gone wrong and isn't already harmed our democracy. And then sort of the horse was out of the barn system.

VAUSE: And Will, Altman was talking about the dangers and the need for regulation. He also gave no indication that his company would pause or so development of open eyes ChatGPT out besides he says we'll all get used to it in the end. Here he is, again, listen to this.


ALTMAN: I think people are able to adapt quite quickly when Photoshop came onto the scene a long time ago. You know, for a while people were really quite fooled by Photoshop images, and then pretty quickly developed an understanding that images might be photoshopped. This will be like that, but on steroids.


VAUSE: Here's the problem I have with that. Photoshop can make you look thinner or younger, can do a lot of stuff that essentially harmless on the balance of it all. Yes, there is a downside. But the downside wasn't the potential to destroy humanity.

OREMUS: Yes, well, here's the thing. And so, you know, there's a lot of talk about AI going rogue or getting super intelligent, and destroying humanity. There are critics who say that that kind of talk actually obscures the real risks that are immediate, that are already happening. And the use of AI to make decisions that used to be made by humans means that you are encoding biases, a lot of times that's in the data that the systems are trained on.

And so if you have a bias in the data, and then you're applying that via artificial intelligence, it could affect millions of people instead of just a one by us humans decision affecting the people around them.

VAUSE: There's artificial intelligence. And then there's artificial general intelligence, which has the ability to learn and understand and Microsoft claims from the language to coding to medicine to law, everything it does. In all of these tasks, GPT-4's performance is strikingly close to human level performance, and often vastly surpasses prior models, such as ChatGPT. Given the breadth and depth of GPT-4's capabilities, we believe that it could reasonably be viewed as an early yet still incomplete version of an artificial general intelligence system.

If it isn't AGI then chances are it's still just a few years away if that -- if it's even that long before it comes onto the scene. Can you regulate a control something which has the ability to learn and adapt?

OREMUS: Yes, and that's a good question. And a lot of the hearing did focus on those sort of farther off concerns about AI learning to do things on its own. I think that the thing about the AI systems we have today, they're very impressive, they can actually be dazzling with the right use case.

But what they're fundamentally doing is that -- is they're manipulating language, you know, you give it a prompt, and it will respond in the way that it has been trained to respond by reading tons and tons of websites and tons and tons of human written language. It's combining languages manipulating language, it can manipulate images, but that's still only a small slice of what humans can do.

So, it's a pretty far cry from these machines being as broadly capable as humans, or having you know, the kinds of things like intentions or plans or an ability to really reason. But, you know, there is reason to believe that they are progressing quickly. It's just that a lot of these harms remain speculative for now.

VAUSE: Yes, it's one of those, you know, industries which is so exciting, but yet so terrifying in many ways at the same time. Will, thank you so much for being with us.

OREMUS: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: A rare public speech author Salman Rushdie has warned that freedom of expression in the western world is under threat.


SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: That we live in a moment I think, at which freedom of expression freedom to publish has not in my lifetime been under such threat in the in the countries of the West. Obviously, there are parts of the world where censorship has been prevalent for a long time quite a lot of the world, Russia, China, in some ways India as well.

Now, I've been sitting here in the United States. I have to look at the extraordinary attack on libraries and books for children in schools. The attack on the idea of libraries themselves.



VAUSE: He was referring to recent efforts by conservative politicians to ban books dealing with themes of race and gender identity. He also criticized efforts to rewrite and remove material considered insensitive from books written by British children's author Roald Dahl, as well as the James Bond series written by Ian Fleming.

Rushdie's comments came in a video message at the British Book Awards Monday, nine months after surviving a stabbing attack on stage at a lecture in New York.

Still to come. Impeachment proceedings underway with Ecuador's president on trial over corruption charges and insisting on his innocence. Also ahead, meet mister third place in Turkey's presidential election, the far right wing politician said to be Kingmaker.


VAUSE: Welcome back, I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN Newsroom. The final stages of impeachment proceedings are underway in Ecuador with President Guillermo Lasso facing charges of embezzlement from public companies. President Lasso denies the allegations. Short time ago the Proceedings of the National Assembly were suspended without a vote. They're expected to resume in the coming hours. More details now from CNN's Stefano Pozzebon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Guillermo Lasso's men fighting for his political survival, the first president to face impeachment in Ecuador's recent history. On Tuesday, he defended his record of government in front of lawmakers with passion.

GUILLERMO LASSO, ECUADORIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I salute (ph) those who have pushed with such grit this baseless proceeding,

POZZEBON: The opposition accuses Lasso of embezzlement linked to the negotiations of shipping contracts for the exports of crude oil products. He denies the charges and says that they are politically motivated.

LASSO (through translator): The same reproach you have towards me is the biggest proof of my innocence.

POZZEBON: Lasso's removal could bring an end to a tumultuous two years in power. He took office in May 2021, when Ecuador was still struggling with a COVID-19 pandemic, and his presidency had also to deal with a bloody series of massacres inside the penitentiary system that dented his popularity.

In a poll in March, more than 60 percent of Ecuadorian said it was time for him to go, but on the streets of Quito, few are confident of what the future will bring with or without Lasso. Baramulla Rekachi (ph) and Washington Zamora (ph), two fruit sellers in a street market in the south of the city say they have known each other for 40 years.

But this week, they stand on two opposite sides. While Reckahi (ph) thinks Lasso or should still complete his mandate, Zamora believes the country's situation requires a new leader.


They both agree, however, that crime and not politics is what keeps them up at night.

I have to close down at five or 6:00 p.m. because if you leave later, you get robbed complains Reckahi (ph), who says only a few years ago he could keep his shop open until nighttime.

The recent spike in criminal activity was all too evident over the weekend, when a failed assassination attempt against the local mayor killed one and injured five. Facing his own political his appearance, Lasso condemned the attack and vows to keep fighting against organized crime on Monday, the following day, his political foes.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, border (ph).


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: We're about 90 minutes away from a court ruling on former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's appeal for his 2021 conviction. Two years ago, Sarkozy was found guilty of bribery and influence peddling. He's denied any wrongdoing. Sarkozy served one term as the French leader from 2007 until 2012, but he has faced a number of legal challenges since then.

The leader of Thailand's Move Forward party says he will demilitarize the country if he becomes prime minister. Unofficial results show the party secured the most seats in the general election over the weekend, after a surge in young voters wanting a change from the military government. For us in the scene is CNN's Paula Hancocks' live from Seoul.

I guess the question is, you know, they won the most number of seats, that doesn't actually mean they won the election?

PAULA HANCKOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's true, it doesn't mean that the head of the party is going to become the prime minister. In fact, is what we've seen in the past that the military back parties have taken control. Now, Pita Limjaroenrat, who is the head of the party that won the most votes move forward, spoke to CNN, his first interview since winning the most votes, and he said that he believes that Thailand has made it very clear that they want to change. He believes that his party has a mandate, has a consensus to move forward. And he says that they are already building a coalition.

Now that is key because they need as many votes as they can from the MPs from those in power to nominate him as a prime minister. Now he needs -- or there are 750 people that will vote but 250 of them are from a military appointed Senate. In the past, that Senate has always voted with the military backed candidate. But we asked Pita about this and he said that the unity among the Senate is not necessarily what it was four years ago, and he doesn't necessarily think that that will be a problem.


PITA LIMJAROENRAT, LEADER, MOVE FORWARD PARTY: If we keep communicating and we keep explaining what we're trying to do for the country, how well we mean, for the future of this country, I think that will not be a significant roadblock. And the price to pay, the cost of going against 25 million volunteer in Thailand will be very hefty.


HANCKOCKS: Now his party is the party that made the most progressive promises and pledges. For example, they wanted deep structural reform of the country, which is what many young people came out and voted for. They said they wanted to reform the military to make sure that the military was kept out of politics, they wanted to reform the economy and also the wants untouchable monarchy.


LIMJAROENRAT: First is to demilitarize, second is to demonopolize, and third is to decentralize Thailand. I think with a three prong approach, that's the only way that we can fully democratize Thailand and make sure that Thailand is back to business, Thailand is back on the global arena and making sure that, you know, the country is contributing as well as benefiting by the new definition of globalization.


HANCKOKCS: But you can't talk about elections in Thailand without mentioning military coups. There's been two in the last 17 years or so, there's been a dozen since 1932. And we have seen in the past that when there is a party in power, which the military does not favor, then a coup will happen.

Now we've heard from the incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, he's the former coup leader, former army chief, and he has said, from now on, the formation of the new government will be in process. They have suggested that they would not get involved at this point.

And most experts that you speak to don't believe that there would be a coup this time around. They think that that would be an absolute last resort. It would be very costly to the military both domestically and internationally. Though, it's worth noting that no expert we've spoken to, will rule the chance out completely. John.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to rally his supporters ahead of the country's first ever presidential run off now 11 days away. The main opposition leader came out Kilicdaroglu was expected to win Sunday's vote but finished about four points behind Erdogan.


Now, Kilicdaroglu has vowed to work harder to remove what he calls Erdogan's tie radical government. But the key to the presidency could lie with a man who finished third, a far right politician whose vote total could tip the race in either direction. CNN's Becky Anderson explains.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sinan Ogan's five plus percent to the vote will be crucial to secure in the runoff on May the 28th when the country will head to the polls for a second time. In a contest between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Ogan is part of the right wing ancestral alliance, which is staunchly conservative, anti-immigrant and anti-Kurdish. He tells CNN that the alliance has not made a decision on whether to endorse either candidate. Party is making his demands clear.

SINAN OGAN, TURKISH OPPOSITION CANDIDATE (through translator): What we're thinking is all the political parties should exclude terror organizations. We don't have to give our support to either of the parties. There is no such rule.

When we first started this race, we thought we need to either win the government or we are going to be the kingmaker and we are at that status. Political parties like HDP or Hoda (ph), we want those candidates not to rely on parties that have no distance between terrorist groups, and we succeeded in that.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Ogan is a former lawmaker for the Ultra- Nationalist National Movement party, which was allied with Erdogan's AKP party for this election. But he was expelled from the party back in 2017 when the leader back Erdogan's referendum to transform Turkey from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency. In the lead up to this election, Kilicdaroglu secure the support of the HDP. That's a leftist, mostly Kurdish party that is currently in court over it suspected ties to the PKK, a group that Turkey, the U.S. and E.U. have labeled a terror group. The HDP denies any formal links to the group.

If he decides to throw his weight behind one of the candidates, Sinan Ogan expects those who voted for him to follow suit.

OGAN (through translator): Our electorate is very bonded with us. And of course were willing to, they will come with us. Our base electorate wouldn't vote for those other candidates because Erdogan was the Islamist candidate and Kilicdaroglu was the leftist candidate. But who is voting for us is Canalis (ph) supporting Ataturk and that's why we got their vote. They consider us a younger leader, and we understand the world better today.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Becky Anderson, CNN, Istanbul.


VAUSE: I'll play down a story we brought you yesterday, police investigating a deadly hostile fire in Wellington New Zealand. Now confirm the investigation has been treated as arson. They've also opened a homicide inquiry after five people were killed. The fire actually killed at least six people, I should say.

The fire early Tuesday cause major damage to the building which was hampered efforts to find and identify those who died. At least 100 people were thought to be inside the building.

Still out here never before as the world makes so much plastic, never before it's been so much plastic pollution. Now comes a plan to end this addiction and save the planet. But will it work?



VAUSE: Pope Francis and Italy's Prime Minister are working together to try and boost Italy's very low birth rate. The number of babies born each year has been in steady decline since the 2008 financial crisis. CNN's Barbie Nadeau reports.


BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Italy has a baby problem, a lack thereof. The birth rate in this country once known for large families has plummeted to a record low 1.24 children per Italian woman, one of the lowest in Europe. High cost of living, low wages and expensive housing are just some of the obstacles. Claudia (ph) and Gabrielle (ph) say they often argue about starting a family with so many uncertainties. Claudia says the government thinks that 10,000 euros is enough to have a child but the incentives are temporary, a child is forever. Gabrielle says the government ignores the youth because they are the minority.

The government has to take risks. They also have to take unpopular decisions if they really want to try to stimulate growth. They have to represent the side of the youth he says.

The new government under Giorgia Meloni has focused on traditional families with little wiggle room for anyone else. But Italy offers very little government support or financial incentives for new mothers in comparison with European neighbors such as France and Germany.

Meloni wants a country where it's not scandalous to say we're born from a man and a woman, and where it's not taboo to say maternity is not for sale. This means babies born to same sex couples and immigrants are increasingly overlooked.

Pope Francis says the only hope for the future depends on acceptance and integration.

Demographer Maria Rita Testa points to both structural and behavioral issues.

MARIA RITA TESTA, PROFESSOR OF DEMOGRAPHY, LUISS UNIVERSITY: And so the big problem is to find a solid job, economic independence that allow them to get the credit to buy a house and to start building a family.

NADEAU (voice-over): If no babies are born to replace the aging population or to pay into the pension system, the future of Italy hangs in the balance. And there is no guarantee that those who are able to have children will be willing to deliver.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


VAUSE: Police have seized nearly three tons of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas at a port in southern Italy, estimated street value around $870 million. The discovery was made using high tech scanners and a sniffer dog. Police say the drugs were in two shipping containers from Ecuador destined for Armenia. Gangs have used the port as a major smuggling cup for more than a decade according to authorities. But still no arrests have been made.

Four years after a daring jewel heist in Germany and five of the thieves have been convicted but others have been allowed to walk free. Some of the stolen items worth about $130 million still have not been recovered and may never be found. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has details.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It's one of the most brazen heists in modern history, robbers shattering glass cases with hammers and making off with 10s of millions worth of museum artifacts in Dresden, Germany in 2019. Suzanne.

I don't need to tell you how shocked we are also about the brutality of this break in, the museum's director said at the time. This is of invaluable art historic and culture historic value. The gangsters first started a fire causing a power outage in the Green Vault Museum, then they broke in and stole 21 pieces of historic jewelry. Some of the most valuable in the world studded with more than 4,300 diamonds, the total insurance value of the loot around $130 million.

Five of the six suspects all members of an infamous Berlin mobster clan have now been convicted by a German court, one defendant was acquitted. The sentences range from four years and four months to a little over six years. However, some are walking free after a plea bargain with the prosecution, causing angry reaction throughout the country.


Three of the main offenders among the adults have been released today, the presiding judge said. But where are the jewels? While the robbers did tell investigators where some of the stolen artifacts were located helping divers to retrieve them from a canal in Berlin, the most valuable pieces are still missing without a trace. The now convicts claim not to know where they are.

This means that the state of Saxony can and must claim its damages within the framework of civil lawsuits, the presiding judge said. State authorities are offering a reward of up to half a million euros for clues helping to find the missing historic jewelry, but they acknowledge some of the pieces might never be found because they've been broken into pieces. All this as those now convicted of stealing the artifacts walked out of the courtroom and drove off allowed to serve their sentences at a later time. Fred Pleitgen, CNN Berlin.


VAUSE: Still to come on CNN, the world famous Galapagos Islands under threat from climate change, were creative ways the government's plan to fund conservation efforts.


VAUSE: Well, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands are famous for their rich biodiversity but they're in need of protection from the effects of climate change. So the country is trying a "debt-for-nature" deal to fund conservation efforts. CNN's Lynda Kinkade explains.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Darwin's flycatcher, a creature that helped inspire Darwin's theory on evolution 188 years ago, sits perched on the edge of extinction. These small bird species native to Ecuador's Galapagos Island chain is dwindling in number. On the island of Santa Cruz, just 15 adult has remained, yet scientists see a glimmer of hope in the past year, 12 new chicks were hatched, a sign that the species will live on to fight another day for now. This tiny comeback is helping to spur efforts to protect the rich biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.

These islands are at a perilous crossroads. According to researchers, a million plants and animals worldwide are at risk of extinction from habitat destruction, rising carbon emissions, and overfishing. And as climate change warms the oceans, ecosystems and the flora and fauna that depend on them are being pushed to the very brink. As biodiversity declines worldwide, the Galapagos Islands are litmus test.

To protect this precious ecosystem, Ecuador announced a record setting deal to convert $1.6 billion of debt into a loan it says would channel at least $12 million a year to conserving the Galapagos.

JOSE ANTONIO DAVALOS, ECUADORIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER (through translator): Not only will it allow us to protect 2,500 marine species, of which 38 are migratory, but it will also allow us to move towards a sustainable fishery.

KINKADE (voice-over): It is one of the largest debt for conservation swaps in history. Over the next few decades, Ecuador hopes to channel over $450 million towards protecting one of the most incredible ecosystems on the planet. A move that some say is crucial, not just for the environment, but for Ecuador survival.


ELIZABETH SALINAS, TRADER (through translator): It seems to me that we must help maintain the flora and fauna and thus attract tourism, which is what keeps the country alive.

KINKADE (voice-over): In late 2022, nearly 190 nations signed on to take measures to combat biodiversity loss, passing a U.N. agreement that pledges to preserve 30 percent of the world's land and seas by 2030. Ambitious measures that conservation groups say do not go far enough. Meanwhile, some environmentalists hope Ecuador's debt for conservation model gains momentum in other parts of the world as a win-win for both economies and for conservation efforts.

Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


VAUSE: Right now the world's oceans are a dumping ground for a record amount of plastic pollution. Never before have we produced so much plastic about a trillion pounds every year, and a good deal without a single use. U.N. says we can reduce plastic production by 80% by 2040, and has released a roadmap to get there with three main strategies, reuse, recycle and replace. Report says if an economy reuses and recycles plastic, it could be worth more than $3 trillion in savings, by 2040 can reduce carbon pollution, create hundreds of 1000s of jobs.

And live now at Anchorage, Alaska, Richard Steiner, a marine biologist and conservation scientist who has a long history in dealing with plastic pollution. It's good to see Richard.


VAUSE: OK, before we get to the three step plan to reuse, recycle and replace, which this U.N. report recommends, there's always a throw line ahead of it. And it says, the need to first eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics to reduce the size of the problem. Isn't that essentially the major issue here achieving international agreement on how to do that seems to be the hard part?

STEINER: That's the big one without question. You know, the old trope used to be reduced, reuse recycle, that was from the '70s, you know, Earth Day and everything. And the most -- you know, recycling right now is only constitutes less than about 20 percent of the plastic waste stream globally. So that's not much. That can be improved, it can be more effective, but that alone cannot be the solution.

Although in this -- the plastics and petrochemical industry often say that that's the solution, it's not. Reducing our use of plastics, particularly single use plastics, is critical. And one way to do that is with alternative materials. This has been around for years, using cellulose, cornstarch, plant based materials, glass, ceramic, bamboo, wood, and things like that can replace plastics, they degrade, so they're much less damaging in the environment as they go out there. But the other most important thing is we need to rethink our resource economy from a linear one trip through the economy into the landfill or into the oceans through the rivers and poor waste management to a circular economy where these materials that are produced are used multiple times in the economy and reused as much as possible.

That's the way nature cycles nutrients and energy and systems, that's why we need to start using materials and our economy. We've known this for a long time. Unfortunately, today, the circularity amount in the global economy is less than 7 percent or 8 percent. So we've got a lot of work there.

VAUSE: With regards to recycling plastic, that just seems to be one of the greatest con jobs that was ever put out there by the plastic industry, because the reality is most of it doesn't get recycled. And there's been recent --


VAUSE: -- studies that said the actual process of recycling plastic can actually do more harm than good for the environment. I was kind of surprised that the U.N. actually included that in a major way in this report.

STEINER: Yes, indeed, it's an old narrative by the plastics and petrochemical and packaging industry that it's sort of their business model, if you will, it's having -- they produce and sell the product with petrochemicals and plastics and packaging. They desire us to waste it, throw it away so that they can produce and sell more of it, that's the business mode. They have made billions of dollars with that model. The same way the oil companies made billions with us with producing oil and petrochemical products and us wasting them and them now talking about carbon capture and storage as a solution.

Recycling will not -- will only get us partway there. Reducing the use of these persistent plastic packages is the solution. We know how to do it.

What has to happen, really, and there's some companies actually that have gotten this and are proposing and there's a system, I think, Procter and Gamble and Unilever and Pepsi have this initiative called loop where they're replacing single use packaging with multiple use reusable packages. The way the old milkman used to deliver the milk, right?


But the real solution is for governments to use their tax and subsidy instruments. And that is taxing plastic pollutants or plastic production, and using the tax revenue to subsidize alternatives and reduction in these plastic materials. We know how to do this, government can do this, and they just need to get with it.

VAUSE: Very quickly, another recent study has found more than 13,000 chemicals have been identified as associated with plastic and plastic production, well, then 3,200 of them have one or more hazardous properties of concern. Ten groups of chemicals are identified as being of major concern due to their high toxicity. This stuff is killing us, we've been spewing the amount of toxic chemicals into the oceans at this rate for a relatively short period of time. Are we seeing the health impacts now? Or is that something which is likely to develop into a major health crisis, in what, a generation from now?

STEINER: I would say yes to both of those. We are seeing the health impacts now. Every one of our bodies of every human being on Earth, and likely most organisms on Earth have microplastics in their bodies and our bodies. We don't know much about the long term impacts of that, but we know it's not good. And you know this -- the U.N. plastics treaty that is currently being negotiated, it's one of the few things that I think virtually everybody on Earth can agree on.

Plastic pollution is a huge problem, we see it everywhere, everybody sees it, and virtually everybody wanted solution. So this treaty that's been negotiated is one of the last chances really to get this right sort of like the Montreal ozone treaty. This could be one of the most successful multilateral environmental agreements in history if it is negotiated and agreed successfully next year.


STEINER: And I think the U.N. Environment Program is doing a real good job pulling the nations together and getting it there. We just have to -- it's got to be legally binding global and there have to be consequences for non-compliance just like the Montreal Protocol.

VAUSE: Well that -- yes, the Montreal was a long time ago, Richard, but we'll see what happens.

STEINER: 1987, yes. VAUSE: Different time but maybe they can do it.

Richard Steiner, thank you so much, sir.

By the way, as million water bottles every minute, plastic water bottles are sold every minute. Just a little interesting stat there.

Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. Rosemary Church is up after a very short break. See you right back here tomorrow.