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CNN International: Ukraine: Russian Missile And Shelling Target South & East; U.K. & Netherlands Working To Build "International Coalition"; Biden Scraps Planned Stops In Sydney & Papua New Guinea; U.S. Lawmakers Have 14 Days To Avert Economic Catastrophe; Missing Girl Featured In Netflix Series Recognized By Stranger; At Least Five Killed By Flooding In Northern Italy; Italy's Birth Rate Has Plummeted To A Record Low; Seven-Year-Old Baseball Catcher Engulfed By Dust Devil. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 17, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Russia unleashed an airstrike and more shelling on Ukraine late on Tuesday with a focus on this southeastern region. One U.S. official says Moscow's recent wave of aerial bombardments may be an attempt to confuse and overwhelm Ukraine's air defenses.

Fierce fighting, meanwhile, continues around Bakhmut where in recent days, Kyiv says it has gained ground and the Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson is calling Russian claims that a Kinzhal missile destroyed a U.S. patriot defense system based in Kyiv, like the one seen here, quote, impossible. A U.S. official tell CNN the system was lightly damaged but not destroyed.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins me now live in Eastern Ukraine. Take us through what the most recent movements are, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the fight in Bakhmut is really a story of two fights. The fight in the center of the city, and the fight to push around it by Ukrainian forces. In the center of the city, grinding. Russians seem to be still the ones taking ground around Bakhmut. It seems to be the Ukrainians saying that they're taking -- is ground.

Interesting to see if they can continue to push to try for a potential encirclement, that would be a big stretch from where we stand today. And behind me, you see where the overflow of the Bakhmut battle lands on civilian housing here. This huge crater inside the house here. Over the building next to it destroyed as well.

The neighbors there, we were just talking to them and it's an interesting story because it ties together the whole picture of what's happening here in Ukraine. The neighbors there evacuated to Kyiv for safety a year ago. The house got destroyed here two days ago. They just came back and they were telling us that even in Kyiv now, because of the increase in airstrikes, they don't feel safe. At the moment, they're just salvaging what they can from the house and they'll go back to Kyiv because they still think it's safer than closer to the frontline. How the bigger battle evolves and shifts along the front line here isn't clear.

When they go back to Kyiv, however, they will be, I suppose, at least a little bit assured by what they're hearing from Ukrainian officials that the Russian claims to have disabled a patriot missile system are not accurate. That these systems are complex. The whole air defense structure over Kyiv is more than one system. It's a very complex, sophisticated arrangement.

So when they go back to Kyiv, they will know that they can have safer accommodation. But as to the big counteroffensive that people talk about, here at least it's focused on the battle around Bakhmut, which seems to be an isolated effort of intense, intense fighting, and again, perhaps that key bit inside the city, the Russians seem to be still having the advantage, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nic, thank you for joining us from Eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is renewing his calls for Western Air Defenses amid Russia's latest barrage of aerial attacks on his country. It comes as a spokesman for the British Prime Minister says the U.K. and the Netherlands are working on an international coalition to help send F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's First Lady is in Seoul. Well, she's asking the South Korean leader for non-lethal military aid. Clare Sebastian following all of this, and this is obviously in the run up to this counteroffensive.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we've seen the public relations campaign intensify from Ukraine, and frankly, it's never stopped, but certainly there's been an uptick. We saw the European tour that Zelenskyy took over the weekend to four countries, two and a half days. He has now continued that PR campaign addressing the summit of European leaders in Reykjavik.

And really trying to make the point that, look, yes, we saw this big success for Ukraine's air defenses. If their claim is true and they did shoot down those six Kinzhal missiles, that really is a step forward. But he wants to make it clear that even with that, that does not mean that as Secretary Blinken suggested last week, Ukraine has everything it needs for this counteroffensive.

And look that's true, air offenses are not some sort of one-time thing. You have to provide missiles to shoot down other missiles. The Pentagon leaks in April suggested that Ukraine could run out of missiles and that could potentially still be true. So he's still pushing for that. And of course, still pushing for F-16 fighter jets.

We know that on the sidelines of the summit in Reykjavik, the U.K. and the Netherlands have sort of banded together to try to form this international coalition to provide Ukraine with those F-16s. The Netherlands has them, Belgium has them, the U.K. doesn't, but is trying to play the role of this sort of catalyst to unlock deliveries from other countries.

And Zelenskyy sounded pretty hopeful in the U.K. But the holdout is still the U.S. which of course manufactures the F-16s. They have said they don't think Ukraine needs them at the moment. It's too difficult to train them. So he's still pushing.

FOSTER: OK. Clare, thank you.

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to depart today for the G7 Summit in Japan. But his trip overseas will be shorter than initially planned.


Stops in Sydney and Papua New Guinea next week were scratched off the itinerary because of the protracted political talks in Washington over the U.S. debt limit. In Sydney, Mr. Biden was to meet with the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan as the U.S. shores up ties in the Pacific to counter China.

CNN's Marc Stewart is in Hiroshima, Japan, where G7 leaders will meet. Will anything really get done or is this just a, a big show then Marc?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, Max, there are some expectations that we may actually see some substance from this meeting. If you think about it, the G7 is a group of like-minded individuals and like-minded nations. And if we look at history, especially over the past year and a half, the G7 in particular has been very instrumental in instituting some of those punishments that we have seen against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The question is, during this meeting, will things be taken a step further, as this war is now into its second year? We have seen Europe in recent months continue to export a lot of items to Russia. Things such as automobiles, even chocolate. We've seen Japan import energy from Russia.

Will the G7 go a step further and put more restrictions, even eliminate some of those trade practices? That's something we'll have to see. Another big issue on the table also is likely China. Will we see the G7 nations issue a very strong statement to China, in particular, amid allegations of questionable economic practices? That's something that is still to be determined. When analysts told me, if that were to happen, that would be a big deal.

Also, Max, we cannot discount the backdrop of Hiroshima. This is, of course, where the United States dropped atomic bomb in 1945. It holds a lot of symbolism, a lot of heartbreak in the region. In fact, during a recent interview, an exclusive interview CNN did with Japan's foreign minister, he's told me that he hopes these heads of state from the G7 take some time to reflect on what happened here and hopes that perhaps, it will guide their decision making in the future, Max.

FOSTER: Marc Stewart in Hiroshima, thank you so much for that.

Let's take a look at the debt talks that have caused President Biden then to shorten his upcoming trip. If the debt ceiling isn't raised, the United States will default on its debt obligations as early as June the 1st. If that happens, experts say, it would shatter the U.S. economy causing a domino effect around the world.

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met on Tuesday, but the two sides remained far apart.

Arlette Saenz joins us from the White House with more details on the talk. Some people saying there's no way they'll break this debt ceiling, and this is all posturing. What are your thoughts?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, President Biden's decision to cancel the back half of his foreign trip highlights the urgency of these debt limit talks as the U.S. is potentially just 15 days away from defaulting on its step for the first time in U.S. history.

But look, both sides emerged from that meeting yesterday, calling it productive, but they are still incredibly far apart when it comes to coming up with a clear resolution for raising the death ceiling and averting default. But there is a new phase of these negotiations that is kicking off right now.

President Biden has appointed two of his top aides to join the negotiations directly with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office. McCarthy has selected a Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves to lead his side of the talks. This now ensures that it's simply the White House and McCarthy negotiating directly as they're trying to come to some types of agreements about how long to raise the debt ceiling for the length of spending caps to put on in the future as well as a host of other issues.

There's a key sticking point right now in these negotiations, which centers around the work requirements for some social safety net programs here in the United States. McCarthy has said that including those work requirements is a red line for him. While Democrats, especially progressives, have really balked at the idea of having those as part of these negotiations.

The White House last night released a statement saying that the President intends to push back in negotiations over these work requirements that they do not want to see any programs impacting healthcare or trying to push Americans into poverty. But at this moment, you know, there's a little bit of glimmer of hope in the fact that they are trying to narrow these discussions directly between Biden and McCarthy.

But there is still a lot of maneuvering that needs to be done on the issues. There is also that timeline. It takes time for legislation to move through Congress. President Biden says he'll be speaking with congressional leaders a bit later in the week by phone and then intends to meet with them again when he returns next week.

FOSTER: Arlette Saenz, thank you.

Now, a young girl from the U.S. state of Illinois has been found six years after she was allegedly abducted by her mother who didn't have custody at the time.


On Saturday, Kayla Unbehaun, who is now 15 years old was spotted in a shop in North Carolina. Police say someone recognized her from an episode of the Netflix series "Unsolved Mysteries".

CNN's Jean Casarez joins me from New York. An extraordinary story.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, it is. I want to give you the timeline on this because it is amazing. It was July 2017 and Kayla's father had been ordered by a judge to have full custody of her. Her mother had supervised visitation. Well, on July 7, right after 4 of July, her father Ryan, went to go pick her up from this supervised visitation and she was gone. He couldn't find her. Her mother was gone.

And so I just got finished looking at some court records, and there was an amber alert, which we have in the United States. It was immediately called out, but she was nowhere to be found. And then at the end of July, there was a warrant out for the arrest of her mother for kidnapping.

So six years later, and her father didn't know where she was for all of these years. What was Kayla told? Well, it was last Saturday night, it was North Carolina, 600 miles from South Elgin, Illinois, which is the Chicago suburb, and someone saw her in a store and had seen this episode on Netflix of "Unsolved Mysteries". Went to the store personnel and said, I recognize her. She was on this show of missing children.

And so authorities came, they got her, the mother, they found her in North Carolina. She was arrested, held on $250,000 bail. But Kayla has now been reunited with her father. And there's two things here. She was on the Netflix episode for four seconds, four seconds. And that woman, whoever it was, recognized her from that show.

And Kayla's mother has been released on bail. She is free, and she has a court date in July.

FOSTER: Well, our thoughts with everyone involved in the girl, of course. And thank you so much for joining us, Jean Casarez.

CASAREZ: Thank you, Max.

FOSTER: Now, flooding and mudslides in northern Italy have claimed at least five lives. Rivers have burst their banks amid torrential rainfall. More than 5,000 people are being evacuated with more rain in the forecast as well.

Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. I mean, this has caused major problems, Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And you're looking at some of the major problems. In Cesena, Italy, this is along the Adriatic, so northeastern Italy, and people were forced to climb to the tops of their buildings, rescued by helicopters from firefighters, even into dinghies coming off of their buildings because the flooding was reaching the top levels of their floors and their homes.

I mean, just incredible imagery coming out of this area. One mayor of Ravenna, which is a town close to this particular location, says that his town is simply unrecognizable because of the destruction that the flooding has left behind.

So what is the culprit? Well, we go to the satellite to show you this large, swirling, massive cloud across the northern Adriatic and into the northern portions of the Mediterranean. It is responsible for producing over 100 millimeters of rain just in a 24-hour period, particularly across this northeastern coastline, which is a very vulnerable area to flooding.

You can consider what's just to the north, Vienna. We talk about flooding there quite frequently. Now, keep in mind, the larger story here is that drought conditions have plagued this part of Europe, stretching into northern Italy. We have drought warnings in effect across this particular region. That means the soil is extremely dry.

So when you get that amount of rain in that short of period of time, it cannot soak adequately into the soil below. So it has to rush somewhere. And unfortunately, it rushes into the rivers and streams. It swells them over, they break their banks, and unfortunately, that impacts communities and villages downstream.

You can see there's more rain in the forecast. We anticipate at least another 15 to 25 millimeters today and right through the better part of the weekend. Max?

FOSTER: Derek, thank you.

Formula 1 has been canceled this -- well, they've canceled this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy because of that heavy flooding in the region. Organizers cited safety concerns, saying it would not be right to put further pressure on authorities and emergency personnel. On Tuesday, staff were asked to leave the sight of the race as a precautionary measure.

Now, still to come, the CEO of OpenAI has urged U.S. lawmakers to regulate the use of artificial intelligence, citing concerns about how the technology might be misused. We'll ask how quickly AI is taking over.



FOSTER: How quickly is artificial intelligence taking over? Apple has announced that later this year it'll roll out new accessibility tools for iPhones and iPads that will be able to replicate a user's voice during phone calls. The new feature would need only 15 minutes of training. This type of technology was on full display at Tuesday's Senate hearing on the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.


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

(through AI): Too often, we have seen what happens when technology outpaces regulation. The unbridled exploitation of personal data, the proliferation of disinformation.


FOSTER: What we've just heard was actually an AI generated recording of Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal's own voice, scripted by ChatGPT, the chatbot tool of the artificial intelligence company OpenAI. And it was the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, who urged U.S. lawmakers to regulate the use of artificial intelligence, expressing concerns about how AI can be used.


SAM ALTMAN, CEO, OPENAI: My worst fears are that we cause significant. We, the field, the technology, the industry, caused significant harm to the world.


FOSTER: Now, Darrell West, senior fellow at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brooking Institution in Washington, D.C. Thank you so much for joining us. What was very striking about these hearings was, you know, not just the dangers of A.I., but the speed at which those dangers are coming at us. They were talking about next year's election and so much development before then.

DARRELL WEST, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE CENTER OF TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Yes, AI is becoming ubiquitous. It's being used in many different areas. People are worried about how it's going to be used in the upcoming elections. I mean, the fact that you can use AI to create fake videos and audio tapes, you know, we have the potential that opponents will put candidates in a position where they're saying or doing something really nefarious, even though they didn't do it. But it's going to be very hard for voters to distinguish the fake from the reality.

FOSTER: I mean, regulation is very far behind, isn't it? Are we talking about national governments just beginning to get their heads around it? But there needs to be a global response. I mean, they're just not going to be able to keep up, are they, with the rate of pace here?

WEST: We definitely need more regulation, and we need it very quickly, and we need it on a global scale because every country is experiencing the AI revolution. The good news out of this congressional hearing yesterday is there actually was bipartisan support for tougher rules on AI. They were talking about licensing requirements, having independent audits to ensure the safety records of various AI applications. Some companies already have created ethics review boards so that they can monitor, evaluate and assess the AI performance before products get released. So there are lots of good ideas put on the table, but we need to move quickly because the technology is moving very rapidly.


FOSTER: I mean, the voice example is a good one, isn't it, because it comes down to the fundamental question of, do people know they're being spoken to or communicating with someone who's using AI or the person themselves? And that's really at the core of the current regulation debate, if I'm right.

WEST: Right now, at a minimum, we need disclosure when people are creating fake videos and fake audio tapes. The fact, Max, that anybody could imitate your voice and have you say something that was really controversial, get you in trouble for that, even though it's not really you who said that creates risk for everybody. Creates risk for politicians, for business people, even for ordinary citizens.

So the technology is running amok. Clearly, criminals are going to be using AI to scam people. And so we need to move very quickly to make sure that we get the benefits of AI while still mitigating these nefarious practices that already are emerging.

FOSTER: OK, Darrell West, I really appreciate your time and your insight on this massively moving issue. Now still ahead, empty playgrounds tell the story. The birth rate in a country once known for large families has plummeted. A report on Italy's baby problem when we return.


FOSTER: Italy's population is sinking as birth dropped to a new historic low, below 400,000 last year. Italy's prime minister and Pope Francis are amongst those working on the issue, which is now considered a national emergency.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau reports.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (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 and Gabrielle (ph) say they often argue about starting a family with so many uncertainties.

Claudia says the government thinks that 10,000 euro is enough to have a child, but the incentives are temporary. A child is forever.

Gabrielle (ph) 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.


NADEAU (voice-over): Meloni wants a country where it's not scandalous to say we are born from a man and a woman and where it's not taboo to say maternity is not for sale.

MELONI: (Speaking Foreign Language).

NADEAU (voice-over): This means babies born to same sex couples and immigrant 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 the big problem is to find a solid job, economic independence that allowed 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.


FOSTER: A scary turn for a children's baseball game in Florida.




FOSTER: That's a dust devil forming at home plates. It engulfed a seven-year-old catcher before a teenage umpire quickly pulled him to safety. Although the small whirlwind only lasted a few seconds, he said it felt like 10 minutes. Here's how he described the experience.


BAUER ZOYA, RESCUED FROM DUST DEVIL: I couldn't breathe out much, so I held 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, and all like that, so I don't get freaked about.


FOSTER: He remember.

I'm Max Foster in London, and I'll be back in about 30 minutes with more news. But first, World Sport with Amanda Davies is up next.