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North Carolina Overrides Governor's Veto to Ban Abortion; President Biden Cuts Short of his Upcoming Asian Tour to Tackle Debt Ceiling Standoff; Ukraine Shoots Down Russian Missiles; Nine-year old Girl from Illinois Was Found after Six Years, Apparently Influenced from a TV series; Move Forward Party Leader vows to Demilitarize, Demonopolize, and Decentralize Thailand if he Becomes PM; Debt-for- Nature deal to help Conservation Efforts in Ecuador. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 17, 2023 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and Welcome everyone, I'm Rosemary Church.

Ahead on CNN Newsroom, North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature overrides Democratic Governor Roy Cooper's veto, banning most abortions in that state after 12 weeks.

Gaps reportedly remain after the latest negotiations between the White House and Republicans, trying to head off a possible default on the U.S. debt.

And Ukraine says it successfully shot down six hypersonic missiles launched by Russia, a claim Moscow refutes.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center. This is "CNN Newsroom" with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. And we begin in North Carolina where the Republican-led assembly moved to ban most abortions after 12 weeks, overriding a veto from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. The vote in the State Senate on Tuesday was 30 to 20 along party lines. Just hours later, the State House also voted 72 to 48 to do the same. Governor Cooper slammed the vote in a tweet saying, Republicans are unified in their assault on women's reproductive freedom and vowed to fight back. The State's Democratic Attorney General also criticized the move, saying they are not done yet. They will keep coming until they completely ban abortion in every instance.

CNN's Diane Gallagher has more.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly voted Tuesday to override a veto from the State's Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Cooper signed that veto on Saturday, just days after the assembly rushed through a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks, with some exceptions and a slew of other changes to abortion access, paperwork and reporting requirements in just a matter of 48 hours.

Now, the Governor had toured the state trying to put pressure on four Republican lawmakers, claiming that their vote on this bill, well, wouldn't gel with something that they had said during their campaigns in regard to abortion access. Several of those lawmakers pushed back on Cooper. And on Tuesday night, every single one of the four Republicans that he had put this pressure campaign on over the past week, well, they voted to override his veto.

The new law will go into effect in North Carolina. The majority of those new stipulations and requirements and restrictions happening on July 1st. Democrats have no further recourse on this particular bill. It is now law. The Democrats have told CNN that they plan to use this as a way to energize their base in the state, looking ahead to 2024.

Diane Gallagher, CNN, Raleigh, North Carolina.


CHURCH: I'd like to bring in CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein. He joins me now from Los Angeles. I appreciate you being with us.


CHURCH: So, the U.S. State of North Carolina's General Assembly has just banned abortions after 12 weeks, overriding the governor's veto. What do you expect the fallout of this will likely be?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, it's just an extraordinary story where a Democrat, a woman who was elected as a Democrat staunchly supportive of abortion rights, quit the party, joined the Republican Party allegedly because she felt slighted over how Democrats are dealing with her on other issues, and voted both to ban abortion and now override the ban the governor's veto.

North Carolina, one of only four states that Trump won in 2020 where there is a Democratic governor, but there's now because of her switch a supermajority in the legislature. North Carolina falling into line really underscores the extent to which a curtain is falling across the red states. As I've written, the red states in America are building what I've called a nation within a nation. That is, our very by its own rules on a whole variety of civil rights and civil liberties issues, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, what teachers can say in the classroom, whether you need a permit to carry a gun, and above all, whether abortion is legal.


And you are seeing a divergence on these core questions between half the country and the other half of the country that is as profound as any separation between the states that we've seen in the U.S. since the fall of state-sponsored segregation and Jim Crow in the 1960s. It is a profound separation that is underway. And we have not reached the end of it.

CHURCH: And this comes, of course, after the 2022 midterm sent a resounding message to Republicans that abortion rights were very important and still are very important to American voters. And they wanted to ensure that all women have access to safe abortions, but the GOP appears to be ignoring that message. Will they pay the ultimate price for doing that come 2024?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, so as I wrote on, the Sunday after the election, the story was actually a little more complex than that. In blue and purple states, states where abortion was still legal, the reaction was exactly what you described. Governor -- Republican gubernatorial candidates, and in most cases, Senate candidates, who wanted to ban abortion were decisively defeated in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and more narrowly defeated in Arizona. And in all of those states, you saw 60 percent or more of voters say they wanted abortion to remain legal. And big, big majorities of those pro-choice voters voted for Democrats, voted no on the Republicans who wanted to ban abortion.

The story was very different in the red states that actually did ban abortion. In places like Florida, and Texas, and Ohio and Iowa, and Tennessee, and even Georgia, which on a state level is still Republican-leaning, Republican governors and Republican legislators who banned abortion did not face a backlash from their voters. So the question really is, which side of this divide does North Carolina fall in? Is it fundamentally a red state where voters who might nominally say they are pro-choice not consider that a sufficient reason to break from their traditional loyalty to the Republican party, or is it more like a Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania where swing voters emphatically said no to this?

They'll have a governor's race next year. We'll see. But the bigger question may be, of the 25 states that Trump won in 2020, North Carolina is probably the only one that Democrats have a serious chance to contest. And I think the question will be whether a promise from Joe Biden to try to pass a national law restoring abortion rights in all states will allow Democrats to make a serious push at North Carolina, which has generally been trending away from them in the Trump era.

CHURCH: Ron Brownstein, we appreciate your analysis. Thanks for joining us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: CNN projects Daniel Cameron will win the Republican governor's primary in Kentucky.


DANIEL CAMERON (R), KENTUCKY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight we prove that here in Kentucky, the American dream is alive and well because here in Kentucky, You are judged by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character.


CHURCH: The state attorney general thanked Donald Trump for his endorsement saying you just heard it, in fact, the Trump culture of winning is alive and well in Kentucky. Cameron will face popular Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear in November's general election. The race is seen as an important bellwether for next year, especially where Democrats are defending Senate seats in red states including Montana, Ohio and West Virginia.

America's dangerous standoff over the debt ceiling has caused the U.S. president to scrap part of his planned swing through the Pacific region. Joe Biden is leaving later today for the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. He was supposed to visit Papua New Guinea and Australia afterwards for a separate set of meetings. But now he will be heading back to Washington right after the G7 for debt talks with congressional leaders as the U.S. creeps ever closer to default.

The latest round of negotiations on Tuesday between Republicans and the White House resulted in no major breakthroughs. The top House Republican said the two sides are still far apart, but that a deal is possible by week's end.


KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: I did think this one was a little more productive. We're a long way apart, but what changed in this meeting was the president has now selected two people from his administration to directly negotiate with us.

CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The bottom line is that we all came to agreement that we were going to continue discussions and hopefully we can come to an agreement. We don't have much time, but default is just the worst, worst alternative.


CHURCH: And a default could happen as soon as June 1st. CNN's Jeremy Diamond picks up the story.



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden on Tuesday emerged from his negotiations with congressional leaders saying that the discussions were productive and that they're making progress towards a deal that could avoid the U.S. potentially heading towards default. Of course, there has been some progress in these negotiations that have been held mostly at the staff level in the days leading up to the meeting. Talk about potential spending caps and other areas of potential agreement between Democrats and Republicans.

But make no mistake, there are still huge gaps between the two sides and some major sticking points including, for example, on the notion of work requirements for some of these safety net programs, disagreement between the two sides on that. And amid some of this progress, but also the major sticking points that remain, President Biden canceling the second portion of his foreign trip.

He is still scheduled to go to Japan on Wednesday, but he is canceling the second portion of that trip to Australia and Papua New Guinea. Here's the president on Tuesday.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Cutting my trip short, I'm postponing the Australian portion of trip and I've tripped my stop in Papua New Guinea in order to be back for the final negotiations with congressional leaders. There was an overwhelming consensus, I think, in today's meeting with the congressional leaders that the falling on the dead is simply not an option.

DIAMOND: Now the president has appointed two senior level staffers to now lead these negotiations with the Speaker of the House. They are the president's Counselor Steve Reschetti and his director of the office of management and budget Shalonda Young. Those two senior advisors will join the White House's legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell who has been leading those staff level negotiations. But it does signal that there's a ratcheting up of this that we're getting to a more serious phase of these negotiations. The president himself, he said that he will be in touch with Speaker McCarthy over the phone while he's in Japan, and that he will then meet again with those congressional leaders when he returns to the United States next week.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, The White House.


Joining me now from Seattle, Washington is Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow. Appreciate you being with us.


CHURCH: So President Biden met with congressional leaders Tuesday in an effort to prevent this country defaulting on its national debt come June 1st. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the two sides are far apart, but he expects a deal by week's end, spending cuts in exchange for his party agreeing to lift the debt limit. But with only two weeks left to make a deal and get it through Congress, there is a risk the debt ceiling won't be raised in time. If that happens, what would default for the housing industry, house prices, and everyone's mortgage payments?

TUCKER: Yeah, you know, U.S. Treasuries are the bedrock of the financial system, and so if their value and the repayment of Treasury debts came into question, we are concerned that could send cascading fear and uncertainty throughout the credit system, and what that would mean for homeowners and homebuyers is much higher borrowing costs. As lenders are worried about their counterparties, they require higher interest rates to make loans. So we are estimating that this could raise mortgage rates by about two points from about 6.5 percent toward 8.5 percent on a 30-year mortgage in the U.S. That would be a huge blow to affordability for home buyers who have already been struggling with major affordability challenges in the last year or so. And I think that would really impede the volume of home sales at the moment by discouraging so many home buyers.

CHURCH: Yeah, that is a terrifying prospect, isn't it? So what could home buyers do right now to try to protect themselves against any negative impact of a debt default? Or is it too late to do that with less than two weeks to go before that June 1st default deadline?

TUCKER: At the moment, it does not seem too late. We're not yet seeing that kind of mortgage rate uncertainty or rising mortgage rates come into play yet. I think that bond markets are still hoping that policymakers can reach a deal and resolve this without actually going into default. So at the moment, for these last couple of weeks of May, mortgage rates are still hovering in about that same 6.5 percent neighborhood, and this is really the heart of the spring home shopping season in the United States.

So this, you know, this is the time of year when on Zillow, we see some of the most new listings on any given week. A lot of home buyers are busy out there. So if you see the perfect house right now, this could be this could very well be a good time to go out and lock in that rate and close on a mortgage with a lender.

CHURCH: Yeah, good advice. And so overall, what is the worst case scenario debt default could be for home buyers and indeed renters because there would be that trickle-down effect, wouldn't there?


TUCKER: Yeah, the worst case scenario that we're -- that we are considering is especially what would happen if a default sort of ground on for a couple of months. And we actually saw some of the spending that the U.S. lays out every month being forced down to exactly equal the intake of taxes.

That would really throw a wrench in GDP and could actually lead to a lot of rising unemployment, layoffs or furloughs. So that would certainly impact consumer confidence. And again, when we took a close look at the impact on the housing market, we're estimating almost a quarter in some of the hardest hit months later this summer if we really enter that kind of worst case default scenario.

CHURCH: Yeah, all right. Well, let's hope it doesn't get to that point. Jeff Tucker, thank you so much for talking with us. I Appreciate it.

TUCKER: Thanks so much for having me on.

CHURCH: And still to come, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran was killed while fighting in the battle for Bakhmut. Here, how the head of the Wagner mercenary group reacted to the news.

And later, a girl from Illinois missing for six years is found safe more than 600 miles from home. And police say a well-known television show helped lead to her rescue.




CHURCH: Air raid sirens sounded for another night across several regions and in Kyiv just one night after the Ukrainian capital was targeted by a barrage of Russian missiles. Ukraine says all 18 Russian missiles launched at the country early Tuesday were intercepted, including six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, that is a claim the Russian defense minister is denying. And Russia is claiming to have destroyed a U.S.-made Patriot air defense system in the missile strike. The Ukrainian military has declined to comment, but a U.S. official tells CNN the Patriot system was likely damaged, not destroyed, and the U.S. is still assessing the potential damage.

And CNN's Sam Kiley is following all the developments for us and has more now from southeast Ukraine.


SAM KILEY, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new Russian tactic in the air assault against Kiev. 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.

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

KILEY (voice-over): 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, WAGNER GROUP LEADER (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 (voice-over): The Washington Post has reported that U.S. intelligence documents suggest that he tried to trade Russian intelligence for ceding territory around Bakhmut. Progozhin denies the claims. Russia has said that the allegations Progozhin 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: And CNN's Clare Sebastian is following developments for us. She joins us live from London. Good morning to you, Clare. So European leaders are meeting today in Reykjavik. Are we seeing any more progress on Ukraine's request for fighter jets at this juncture?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Rosemary, I think really a measure of where we are in this conflict, Ukraine facing the kind of barrage of missile strikes like we saw on Monday night and with the expectation, the weight of expectation to launch some kind of counter- offensive really stepping up the intensity of their international pitch for more weapons.

President Zelenskyy speaking to this summit in Reykjavik, a council of Europe summit, on the face of it, you know, set to discuss damages in the war in Ukraine, reconstruction, compensation for victims, things like that. He used that opportunity to again make the case for more weapons, saying that the performance of Ukraine's air defenses shows that when weapons and training are provided, that does guarantee 100 percent success. So he is really building on the momentum of his European tour over the weekend where he did get more weapons pledges and of course we heard that the U.K. and the Netherlands are going to work together to try to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16s which it has now made very clear are its fighter jet of choice as it tries to expand its air defense capabilities but it's not just about Europe again a measure of where we are in this conflict Ukraine is now looking outside of Europe as well.


The First Lady Olena Zelenska in South Korea, trying to push the government there to end a policy that has so far prevented them from sending weapons into a conflict zone. Take a listen.


OLENA ZELENSKA, FIRST LADY OF UKRAINE: When there is a criminal in your house who has come to kill your family. Humanitarian aid alone will not save the residents.


SEBASTIAN: So the reality is that South Korean weapons are already very likely in Ukraine or making it into Ukraine. The U.S. said in November that it intended to buy 100,000 artillery shells from South Korea in order to send to Ukraine.

But I think, again, a measure of where we are, the intensity and the length of this war and, of course, the potential for an upcoming counteroffensive. It's clear that European and U.S. producers are struggling in many cases to meet the demand that Ukraine has.

CHURCH: Alright, our thanks to Claire Sebastian for that live report.

Well, fighting is intensifying in Sudan as the conflict between the army and a paramilitary group is now in its second month.


The Doctors' 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, resulting in a haze of dark smoke along the horizon. The fighting has forced nearly a million people from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis.

Still to come, there was a break-in at the home of President Biden's top security advisor. We have details on Jake Sullivan's encounter with the intruder. That is next.




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. One of U.S. President Joe Biden's top advisors came face to face with a trespasser in his own home in the middle of the night. Jake Sullivan was unharmed, but the Secret Service is taking the matter seriously.

CNN's Evan Perez has details on the security breach.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SR. U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Secret Service is investigating how an intruder entered the home of U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan last month without being detected by Secret Service detail guarding his home.

Sullivan has 24-7 Secret Service protection, and he was unharmed in the incident which occurred in late April. The Secret Service said in a statement that it is taking the failure seriously. Modifications to the protective posture have also been made to ensure additional security layers are in place, as we conduct this comprehensive review.

Sources tell us that Sullivan encountered the person inside his home in the early morning hours and he told investigators that he thought the person was intoxicated. There was no threat made and the source said that the person left Sullivan's home without the Secret Service detail noticing.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: U.S. lawmakers are now reassessing security measures in their district offices after a man attacked two staffers at the office of a Virginia Democrat on Monday.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Gerry Connolly told CNN his district office in Fairfax City, Virginia was an easy target for a man wielding a metal baseball bat.

REP. JERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Enraged in an enraged state.

TODD (voice-over): The suspect injured two of Connolly's aides with the bat and damaged much of the office. Connolly said his staff was still cleaning up the blood on Tuesday morning. He told CNN's Manu Raju this incident exposes a whole insecurity for members of Congress.

CONNOLLY: I think we're going to have to reassess the security we provide or don't provide district offices. If you're in a commercial office space like me, you have no security. None.

TODD (voice-over): House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he spoke to Connolly about the incident and said this about security at members' district offices.

KEVIN MCCARTHY, U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: It's something you have to be continually cognizant of. What we've done in the past is we've put more money in where people could protect their and look at their district offices.

TODD (voice-over): Connolly says he's met with Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger to discuss beefing up security at his office. On Tuesday, Chief Manger told a House committee about the alarming rise in threats against lawmakers.

TOM MANGER, CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: It's going up to over 400 percent, over the last six years.

TODD (voice-over): Major cited the most disturbing high-profile attacks against members of Congress and their families, like the assault in late October targeting then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, captured on this police body cam video. Drop the hammer.


These incidents spotlight what could be the toughest challenge for Capitol police and the Secret Service, protecting members at their homes and offices back in their home districts. The U.S. Capitol police doesn't protect those unless there's a specific known threat to that member. Starting last summer, lawmakers can receive up to $10,000 each to secure their homes. And a GOP source tells CNN, members can get funds to secure their offices with equipment like intrusion detection and video monitoring.

MATT DOHERTY, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: Extremely minimal, especially since the Capitol Police have that disadvantage. They don't have a field office infrastructure like Secret Service and FBI to protect their jurisdictions.

TODD (voice-over): From former Secret Service agent Matt Doherty, who once wrote guidance for how to protect lawmakers, recommendations that could be implemented almost immediately. Have a vestibule of double glass doors, require visitors to be buzzed in, and train staff to spot trouble.


DOHERTY: Hopefully, if they're trained in observing concerning behaviors, they would know that this person was a little off and perhaps not buzzed them in.

TODD (on-camera): Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger recently discussed the need to provide extra layers of security for members of Congress, but he was very careful about one aspect of the plans. Manger said he couldn't disclose details of those improvements because, quote, we cannot afford to make it easier for any potential bad actors.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: An Illinois girl has been found safe more than 600 miles away in North Carolina, six years after she was allegedly abducted. Kayla Unbehaun was nine years old in 2017 when authorities say her mother, who did not have custody, took her and never returned. A felony warrant for kidnapping was issued on Saturday. Kayla, now 15, was spotted at a shop in Asheville, North Carolina.

Police say someone recognized her from an episode of the Netflix series "Unsolved Mysteries." That person notified a store employee who then called police.


LT. DIANA LOVELAND, ASHEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: It is unusual, but it's good that when someone does suspect that they recognize someone no matter how old the story might be, that they are not afraid to give us a call so we can come investigate.


CHURCH: The girl's mother was arrested and is due back in court in July. Kayla is now reunited with her father in Illinois.

Migrant crossings at the U.S. southern border appear to be holding steady without the massive surge, some officials had feared. U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas counted fewer than 5,000 crossings on Tuesday, a slight uptick from a couple of days ago. But that's only about half the number of migrants encountered last Wednesday, shortly before Title 42 expired. Cuellar also says the number of migrants has dropped by almost 10,000 over the past week.

Still to come, the leader of Thailand's Move Forward Party outlines his plan for a new government and it doesn't include military rule. His vision for a new Thailand, that's next.




CHURCH: The leader of Thailand's Move Forward Party says he will demilitarize the country if elected Prime Minister. Unofficial results show the party secured the most seats in the general election over the weekend thanks to a surge in young voters wanting a change from the military government.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me now from Seoul with more on this. So Paula, how likely is it that Thailand's military will respect this result?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, that does remain to be seen. But at this point, we have spoken to the leader of the Move Forward Party. He gave us his first interview since clinching most the majority of the votes in that election, or at least he had the most votes. And he said that Thailand has made it very clear that they want a change. He has said that the amount of votes that his party has received, they will be validated in just a couple of days, shows that he has a consensus. He has already started to build a coalition, he says, to make sure that he has as many seats as possible to be able to become Prime Minister.

Pheu Thai, for example, the party that had the second most amount of unofficial votes has already said that they would stand by him. And the reason for that is because there are 750 MPs that have to vote for Prime Minister. 250 of those who are in the Senate are military- appointed. And in the past, they have always supported a military- backed candidate.

But we did ask Peter about this, and he said that he's not so concerned now because the unity in the Senate is not what it was four years ago.


PITA LIMJAROENRAT, LEADER, MOVE FORWARD PARTY: If we keep communicating and we keep explaining what we're trying to do to 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 votes here in Thailand will be very hefty.


HANCOCKS: Now he spoke about his policies as well, the fact that he wants to keep the military out of politics. He also wants deep structural reforms within the country, including to the economy and the once untouchable monarchy.


LIMJAROENRAT: First is to demilitarize. Second is to demonopolize. And third is to decentralize Thailand. I think with a three-pronged 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, making sure that the country is contributing as well as benefiting by the new definition of globalization.


HANCOCKS: Now we can't talk about elections in Thailand without speaking of military coups. There have been two in the last 17 years. There's been a dozen since 1932 and often when there's a political power in power, then that the military does not favor, then they have carried out a coup.


Now we did hear from the incumbent Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is the previous coup leader. He's also a former army chief. And he said from now on, the formation of the new government will be in process. Now, there has been many experts who have assumed that there wouldn't be a military coup this time around, because it would be too costly for the country domestically and internationally, and the fact that there has been such an overwhelming amount of support for the progressive parties. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, thanks to Paula Hancock joining us live from Seoul.

In a rare public speech, author Salman Rushdie has warned that freedom of expression in the Western world is under threat.


SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: 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 countries of the West.


CHURCH: 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 remove what some consider insensitive material from new additions of works by British children's author Roald Dahl, as well as James Bond novelist Ian Fleming. Rushdie's comments came in a video message at the British Book Awards on Monday, nine months after surviving a stabbing attack on stage before a lecture in New York.

Hundreds of people are feared dead and rescue groups warn of a large- scale loss of life following one of the strongest storms to ever hit Myanmar. The country's shadow government says at least 400 people are dead and an unspecified number missing after Cyclone Mocha roared across Myanmar's coast on Sunday, unleashing floods and landslides. There's an urgent need for food, water and shelter. Among the hardest hit areas is Rakhine State, where Human Rights Watch says 600,000 members of the Rohingya minority live under government persecution.

Still to come, the world famous Galapagos Islands are under threat from climate change. We will look at the creative way the government plans to fund conservation efforts.



CHURCH: 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. The small bird species, native to Ecuador's Galapagos Island chain, is dwindling in number.

On the island of Santa Cruz, just 15 adult pairs remain. 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 a litmus test. To protect this precious ecosystem, Ecuador announced a record- setting deal to convert $1.6 billion of its 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 two 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's 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% 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.


CHURCH: A children's baseball game in Jacksonville, Florida took a scary turn after a dust devil suddenly formed at home plate.



As you just saw, the seven-year-old catcher stood in place for several seconds as the dust devil engulfed him. A quick-thinking teenage umpire pulled the boy to safety.


BAUER ZOYA, RESCUED FROM DUST DEVIL: I couldn't breathe that much, so I hold it in my breath. And I feel like I couldn't touch the ground, so I kind of lifted up a little bit. I didn't know what to do, so I was thinking about something that was happy, not like that, so I don't get freaked about.


Though he was only inside the Dust Devil for a few seconds, he told CNN affiliate WJXT it felt like 10 minutes.

Great work on the umpires of the half-year. Thanks so much for spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom continues with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo, next.