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President Joe Biden To Consult With G7 Counterparts On War In Ukraine; Joe Biden "Confident" Of Agreement To Avoid Default; Prince Harry And Meghan Markle "Near Catastrophic" Paparazzi Car Chase; Ecuador President Dissolves National Assembly Ahead Of Impeachment Vote; Fierce Fighting Rages in Bakhmut; Heavy Flooding Leaves 9 Dead in Italy; Chinese Comedian Apologizes for Joke About Military. Aired 12-12:45a ET
Aired May 18, 2023 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.
With the U.S. government two weeks away from default and the country on the brink of an unprecedented economic crisis, Joe Biden heads to a summit of world leaders in Japan.
For Harry and Meghan, it was a near catastrophic, potentially fatal car chase by paparazzi through the streets of Manhattan to New York police, a challenging drive home after a night out. Both cannot be true.
And prove if ever proof was needed that authorities in China are humorless, miserable budge, a Chinese comic triggers a $2 million fine for a joke they did not like.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.
VAUSE: Good to have you with us here on CNN and we begin in Ukraine where explosions have been heard in the capital Kyiv and other regions after a nationwide air alert.
Ukraine's air defense systems have been activated, but officials say debris falling over Kyiv sparked at least one fire. This comes just two days after Russia fighter unprecedented number of missiles, including hypersonic missiles across Ukraine.
And with those Russian airstrikes showing no sign of letting up, the U.S. president will soon touchdown in Japan for a G7 summit, an annual meeting of the world's leading democracies and topping the agenda, support for Ukraine and the question of supplying Ukrainians with F- 16, which until now Joe Biden has consistently refused to do.
Joining me now from Hiroshima, CNN Political and National Security Analyst David Sanger. He is also the White House and National Security Correspondent for The New York Times and author of The Perfect Weapon. It is good to see you, David, let's start with Joe Biden and the G7.
How much pressure will the U.S. president be facing at this summit, if not to supply F-16s to Ukraine, but the next best thing, which is to approve a third party transfer?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, that's going to be one of the interesting things to watch as these pretty well unified G7 leaders meet here.
As you suggested, there is this riff now led in part by Britain, which wants to push for F-16s to go to the Ukrainians, they don't have them themselves. But this has been a very familiar pattern here where others have pressured President Biden to provide more powerful weapons. The American president has been reluctant to do anything that he thinks might lead to escalation and ultimately, to nuclear escalation.
And you know, that question is going to be pretty well hanging over this group about where is that line, we are, after all meeting in Hiroshima. The second to the last place that the United States has ever used, or any country has ever used a nuclear weapon against the civilian population.
And while you'll hear a lot about the need for disarmament and so forth, there's going to be a big push among many of the allies for what's called extended deterrence. That is the deterrent of having the U.S. covering the Europeans and Japan and South Korea.
VAUSE: Well, President Biden heads into this summit with a lot of issues that he needs to tackle, but just getting back to the F-16s, he's always argued that right now, there's no need for by Ukraine for these fighter jets, and they'll get them after the war.
The allies there like Britain disagree, but back in February, Politico reported that the top U.S. General in Europe quietly telling American lawmakers they're giving Ukraine advanced Western equipment, such as F-16 fighter jets could help Kyiv rule the skies and bolster its own offensive against Russia.
It is hard to see how F-16s would not be to Ukraine's advantage. And in many ways, the president's argument doesn't really stack up.
SANGER: Well, they would be to Ukraine's advantage. I don't think any American officials have suggested to me that ultimately, they shouldn't have them as part of an arsenal of deterrence to keep Russia from going after the Capitol and other parts of Ukraine.
Again, the question of sequencing though, John is a pretty complicated one, the F-16s are incredibly expensive. And in a moment where you're beginning to see some aid fatigue settle in in the United States, in some parts of Europe. The question is, could you spend that money better on air defenses, which had been incredibly successful in protecting Kyiv just in the past couple of weeks? Could you spend that money better on more conventional, less expensive arms that are going to help in the ground war?
So you know, as in everything and in every war, there are choices about what you spend and in what order you deliver weapons. And I think that's largely what this argument is about.
VAUSE: Well, the two days of talks in Kyiv between the Ukrainian foreign minister and a special envoy from China have ended in kind of a haze. The foreign minister made clear that any peace deal that was proposed and suggested the loss of Ukrainian territories or the freezing of the conflict was a non-starter.
So, where does this now leave Beijing, as it tries to play this role of mediator?
SANGER: So, you know, the Chinese are in an odd place here. On the one hand, they need to back they're not quite ally, Russia, remember, they have a partnership without limits, as it was described last year at the Olympics.
On the other hand, they really want to be seen as stepping in here and a role traditionally played by the United States to get some kind of talks going and at least appear to be on the side of seeking an end to the conflict.
Now, the U.S. and the Western Allies all say, seeking the end of the conflict is, of course, something we all want. But it's got to be in a position in which the Russians are not rewarded for having invaded a sovereign country. And that's really going to be the sticking point because the Chinese have never said that the Russians have to withdraw.
VAUSE: David, we, as always, we appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
The White House has cut short this overseas trip so the president can return to debt ceiling negotiations back in Washington, visits to Australia and Papua New Guinea have been canceled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I have done in anticipation that we won't get it all done till I get back, is I've cut my trip short in order to be for the final negotiations and sign the deal with majority leader.
I made clear that and I'll say it again, America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills. A nation has never defaulted on its debt and never will. And we're going to continue these discussions with congressional leaders in the coming days until we reach an agreement.
And I have more to say about that on Sunday. And I have a press conference on this issue. As it stands now, the intention is to go to the G7, be back here on Sunday.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Joe Biden will meet with the Japanese Prime Minister on Thursday. Here's images of Fumio Kishida arriving near Hiroshima a short time ago.
Other leaders expected to attend the summit include the Italian Prime Minister, Canada's Justin Trudeau, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, along with Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen from the European Union.
With that in mind, let's go back live to Hiroshima, CNN's White House reporter Kevin Liptak.
And Kevin, Joe Biden sort of arrived at this G7 summit in a weakened position because of his problems back home with the debt ceiling and those negotiations, which aren't going so well with Republicans.
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, this certainly wasn't the major issue that President Biden's aides were planning for when they were making preparations for the summit.
You know, it turns out the biggest threat to global stability is not at this very moment, Ukraine or China, it's the threat of an American default, which would, you know, really reverberate throughout the global economy.
Now, the president's aides say that they made this decision because, you know, there's this pressing deadline, June 1st of when a default could happen when the United States could potentially run out of cash to pay its bills.
But that doesn't mean that they're not leaving a lot of leaders in this region disappointed, that the president will not be able to fulfill his engagements in Australia, and in Papua New Guinea.
And it certainly doesn't, you know, rebut the notion that is persistent among many, particularly European leaders that the American political system is just dysfunctional and can't work properly.
And so, that will be sort of the atmosphere that President Biden will arrive in when he lands in Japan later this afternoon.
Now, as the aides -- as President Biden's aides were making these decisions about which of these stops to skip, this was the G7 was really important for the president to continue to come to the summit, this was sort of a last resort option in terms of skipping the summit.
And the reason for that is, you know, this is in his mind the best opportunity to get his counterparts around the table, speak to them face to face, and really sort of hash out these very important issues, whether it be Ukraine, as you're discussing with David Sanger, but also China.
You know, China I think, is going to loom much larger over this G7 than it has sometimes in the past in part because we are in Asia, the G7 only happens on this continent ever seven years.
But also, because there are these, you know, growing concerns in this region about the military aggressiveness around Taiwan, in the South China Sea and but also the economic coercion issue that really has a lot of leaders alarmed.
So, President Biden's goal on that front when he arrives here will really to get these leaders on the same page. Whether or not he can do that does remain something of an open question. There are major differences between the G7 leaders about this issue of China.
So when the president does land later today, he will meet with the Japanese prime minister, and then his meetings will really begin in earnest tomorrow, John.
VAUSE: Kevin, thank you. Kevin Liptak there in Hiroshima, Japan, we appreciate the update. Thank you.
Well, differing accounts continue to emerge about just what happened in the late hours of Tuesday night in the streets of Manhattan. The spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex says Harry and Meghan and her mother, were involved in a near catastrophic car chase by paparazzi.
New York Police Department, the city's mayor, even the person driving the taxi hailed by Harry and Meghan, have all suggested the so called chase wasn't so dangerous, nor dramatic and certainly did not last for two hours.
More now from CNN's Max Foster.
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Prince Harry and Meghan, along with her mother, Doria Ragland, causing what they say was a near catastrophic paparazzi car chase just after this event.
A law enforcement official telling CNN they were swarmed by paparazzies in New York City on Tuesday night, followed by photographers on cars, motorcycles and scooters.
It was meant to be a night of celebration, with Meghan being honored for her global advocacy to empower women and girls.
Meghan stepping back into the spotlight after keeping a low profile, whilst Prince Harry attended his father King Charles's coronation alone earlier this month.
A spokesperson for the couple said they were involved in the chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi. This relentless pursuit lasting over two hours resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.
ERIC ADAMS, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: The briefing I receive, two of our officers could have been injured. New York City is different from small towns somewhere, you shouldn't be speeding anywhere. But this is a densely populated city.
FOSTER (voice over): New York's Mayor on Wednesday sounding the alarm over the instance, calling it irresponsible.
MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I realized they're never going to protect you.
HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: I was terrified. I don't want history to repeat itself.
FOSTER (voice over): The chase in New York speaking to all the fears that Harry has been so vocal about, including in a recent Netflix series since his mother Princess Diana died following a high speed car chase in Paris in 1997.
Prince Harry's team told CNN, half a dozen blacked out vehicles were involved in Tuesday's chase, driving on sidewalks, running red lights and reversing down a one way street.
Chris Sanchez, a member of Harry and Meghan security detail said the couple switched cars more than once during the chase. They were first seen in a black car, then a yellow cab.
The couple left the U.K. for a life in North America in 2020, partly over press intrusion. Examples of which Harry recounted in his recent memoir Spare.
And even after leaving the U.K., his fight with a British tabloids in court continues. Harry in March appeared at London's high court for a legal case against the Daily Mail.
And last week, on the first day of a phone hacking trial, receiving an apology from the Mirror group newspapers.
A spokesperson for the couple said the images obtained from Tuesday's car chase should not be disseminated and reiterated that being a public figure should never come at the cost of anyone's safety.
The New York Police Department said that although photographers made the couple's journey challenging. There were no reported collisions, injuries or arrests.
Max Foster, CNN, London.
VAUSE: Joining me now from New York is CNN Royal Commentator Sally Puddle Smith, it's good to see you.
SALLY BEDELL SMITH. CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, John.
VAUSE: OK, so this was either a near catastrophic, potentially fatal car chase, all as the New York Police Department described it. There were numerous photographers that made their Harry and Meghan's transport challenging, which means the whole thing has been either played down by the police or totally overblown by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And if so, why?
SMITH: Well, that's a very good question. It's not as if Harry and Meghan are unfamiliar with the disconcerting, shall we say, flashes of strobes from cameras, everywhere they go, they face that.
I think what happened last night is that it was the magnitude of it and the intensity of it. And the fact that they were followed, which I'm sure has happened to them before. I know it's happened to Harry, maybe one car following him.
But this was a -- this was a collection of cars and motorbikes. And I think it was, you know, it's obviously the sort of scene that was, as we can imagine, a reminiscent of what happened to his mother when she was driven into the tunnel in Paris and then they had a terrible car crash, and she died when Harry was 12 years old.
So, I think he -- well, he acknowledged that it was reminiscent of what he thought that his mother might have experienced. But there were so many details of it that were inexplicable. Why would there have been what had been a relatively slow car chase through the streets of Manhattan for almost two hours. It's hard to -- it's hard to understand.
VAUSE: And according to the photo agency, which paid for the photographs and the video, they told People Magazine, there was just four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars, and one of whom was riding a bicycle.
And they had this, one of the four SUVs from Prince Harry's security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless. So, that's their side of the story.
Here's how the taxi driver who was driving Meghan and Harry describe the actions of the paparazzi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNNY SINGH, TAXI DRIVER: We were just making left turns and right turns and that's it. They were not being that aggressive while they were driving behind us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, does this raise questions about security around Harry and Meghan, which, according to Forbes, could cost as much as $4 million a year?
SMITH: Well, it does. I mean, certainly, if one of their drivers was driving that fast and recklessly. It definitely raises questions.
And you know, I don't know what the answer is, in an ironic way, they're more vulnerable, I think, in the United States than they would have been had they stayed in England, in a very protected environment with the royal family behind them to lodge complaints. And to have, you know, complaints that would have some heft.
VAUSE: Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, here's a few headlines. Buckingham Palace silent on new catastrophic car chase with paparazzi. Buckingham Palace shares no comment on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's New York City car chase. Buckingham Palace won't comment on Meghan and Harry's near catastrophic car chase.
You get the idea. That seems to be appropriate, in some ways, given Harry and Meghan have stepped back from their royal duties a few years ago. But what about privately? Would you have expected some outreach perhaps, you know, from King Charles or from Harry's brother, Prince William?
SMITH: Well, perhaps not from Prince William, I don't know. Because I think their relationship is at the moment, sort of in tatters.
But he would think that his bother would have gone to say, how are you doing? Knowing having been there on the night of August when he -- August 31st, 1997. And having had to deliver that horrible news to his son, and knowing that his former wife had been assaulted by paparazzi.
So, on a human level, one hopes that if he hasn't already, that he would have reached out and you know, expressed his concern and his sympathy.
VAUSE: Yes, there is some reporting that maybe that has not happened as yet. But that's obviously very difficult to confirm.
SMITH: It is very difficult to confirm.
VAUSE: Sally, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.
SMITH: You're welcome. Thank you, John.
VAUSE: Still ahead here on CNN, muerte cruzada or mutual death, Ecuador's president evokes a constitutional power dissolves the National Assembly before it could impeach him. Pouring fuel on the fire the country's political crisis. More on that in a moment.
And later, it's not funny because it's true. A stand-up comedian in China fired and fined millions of dollars for a joke about the People's Liberation Army. The latest in a live report from Beijing.
VAUSE: Ecuador will hold snap elections after the president dissolved the National Assembly on Wednesday before lawmakers could vote on his impeachment. The move deepens Ecuador's political crisis with opposition leaders and influential indigenous organizations warning of mass protests.
Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is following developments reporting from Bogota, Colombia.
STEFANO POZZEBON, REPORTER (voice over): Just hours after signing the decree to dissolve Congress and call for new elections, Guillermo Lasso spoke exclusively to CNN to explain his decision.
GUILLERMO LASSO, ECUADORIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is a provision of the Office of the President that is granted to me by the Constitution. Let me be clear, my decision follows the Constitution.
POZZEBON (voice over): The provision is called muerte cruzada, the mutual death and it has never been invoked before. Some say it's illegal. Lasso says the impeachment trial he was facing did not stand.
LASSO (through translator): I am innocent. They were trying to push me out against the law for crimes I did not commit.
POZZEBON (voice over): The opposition accuses Lasso of embezzlement, profiting from contracts related to the export of crude oil. And with the president rejecting all allegations, both sides accepting that a new election is the best path forward.
MARCELA HOLGUIN, ECUADORIAN OPPOSITION LAWMAKER (through translator): The democratic solution was for the president to resign and go home. But if the president invokes the mutual death, we are ready for it.
POZZEBON (voice over): The Electoral Council has pledged to call the election within 90 days. But for now, Ecuador remains in a limbo.
With Congress closed, Lasso would rule by decree until the vote and has pledged to boost salaries with lower taxes and to rein in a brutal spike in crime that has shocked the nation.
Just last year, violent deaths increased by over 90 percent and Ecuador, a generally peaceful country until not long ago, now sees the type of violence of narcotics warfare typical of Colombia and Mexico.
There is no security, this country has become no man's land, says Ramir Hidalgo (PH), who like everyone in Quito, he's waiting to see how the next few weeks will play out. Hoping that in extraordinary times, somehow, some stability prevails.
Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.
VAUSE: A search is underway for at least 50 migrants and two bus drivers kidnapped in central Mexico. Authorities say the migrants were traveling in a tourist bus that was later found abandoned in Nuevo Leon state, not clear where they were ultimately heading. But according to news agencies, nine migrants from Venezuela and Honduras managed to flee their captors and have been rescued.
More bodies have been recovered in Kenya believed to be members of a religious cult, which urged followers to starve themselves to reach heaven. The death toll now stands at 227 after 16 bodies were exhumed Wednesday from a mass grave in a forest. Over 30 people have been arrested including the cult's leader, and more than 600 have been reported missing.
The conflict in Sudan now into its second month, the U.N. is asking for $3 billion to provide lifesaving aid and protection, the largest ever Sudanese -- for the Sudanese people. Most will be spent helping millions avoid starvation. $500 million has been allocated to support refugees and camps in neighboring countries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAMESH RAJASINGHAM, HEAD OF U.N. HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AGENCY: Today, 25 million people, more than half the population of Sudan need humanitarian aid and protection. This is the highest number we have ever seen in the country. The needs in Sudan are fundamental and widespread as you can expect from a conflict, protection from fighting medical support, food and water, sanitation, shelter and trauma care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The U.N. says more than 800,000 people have been displaced, more than 200,000 others have fled Sudan since the fighting began between two rival military factions.
Still to come here, from drought to flood, one extreme to another for a region in Italy. Details on the extreme weather, that's next.
But first, heavy fighting in Bakhmut where both Ukrainian forces and Wagner mercenaries claimed territorial gains, the very latest when we come back.
VAUSE: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
The brutal fight for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has seen significant territorial gains. For both sides, it seems also they claim.
Ukrainian troops are said to be advancing and liberating areas on the city's outskirts. New images show intense shelling and heavy destruction in the western part of Bakhmut as Russians tried to drive out Ukrainian troops.
And the head of the Wagner Mercenary Group says his fighters have edged fort inside the city, clearing buildings still controlled by the Ukrainians.
U.S. official says a Patriot missile defense system suffered minor damage in a Russian attack near Kyiv this week but remained operational. Meantime, Ukraine says its registered criminal proceedings against six
bloggers who officials claimed posted unauthorized images of the country's air defense systems. That was during that assault by Russia.
CNN's Sam Kiley has the details.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Ukrainian authorities have arrested six people they described as bloggers. People who are alleged to have accidentally perhaps posted real time information that could lead to improve targeting by Russia in airstrikes over Kyiv.
Now, doing so is banned as indeed his live reporting from the scenes of recent airstrikes by media organizations such as us for the same reason. The Ukrainians don't want the Russians to be able to improve their capability to strike at targets within Ukraine.
Now this latest move has come as the continued battle for Bakhmut continues to be incredibly violent and bloody, the latest satellite imagery demonstrating once again the scale of destruction of that town, with small pockets of Ukrainian resistance continuing inside the town against the Wagner mercenary organization, whilst the Ukrainians are boasting advances to the North and South of the city in a kind of push-and-pull battle, which could presage if there were Ukrainian breakthrough there, an opportunity to be exploited during the much- vaunted summer offensive.
Sam Kiley, CNN, in Southeast Ukraine.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Russia and Ukraine have agreed to extend a deal which allows for the export of grain, which is critical to the global food supply. The agreement, brokered by the Turkey and the U.N., was scheduled to expire Thursday but has been extended for two months.
The third time the deal has been renewed despite threats by Moscow to withdraw. Here's what the U.S. said after the latest extension.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VEDANT PATEL, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: We strongly support the U.N.'s and Turkey's efforts on the deal, which keeps global food and grain prices low. But, as Secretary Blinken has previously said, we should not need to remind Moscow every few weeks to keep their promises and to stop using people's hunger as a weapon in their war against Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: This grain deal has been vital for stabilizing global food prices and bringing relief to the countries relying on Ukrainian grain.
At least nine people are dead after what some have called unprecedented flooding in Italy. Officials say parts of the Emilia Romagna region received about half of their annual rainfall in 36 hours. That led to rivers spilling over their banks and inundating thousands of acres of farmland.
Emergency officials say at least 13,000 people were evacuated. Several are still missing, according to a local CNN affiliate.
The flooding has led to the cancellation of Sunday's Formula 1 Grand Prix. Barbie Nadeau reports.
BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roads turned rivers as rain many hoped would alleviate drought conditions, now a serious threat in the central Italian region of Emilia Romagna.
There are already victims, and rescuers are searching for the missing.
Hundreds of people were rescued from flooded homes, many brought to safety in rubber dinghies on flooded streets. More than 5,000 people are under evacuation, according to the civil protection. Among them, a 4-month-old baby and an elderly, handicapped man.
The region had been undergoing severe drought. In 2022, low rainfall and extreme heat depleted the River Po, a crucial waterway for transport and irrigation.
A winter with very little snow did little to help.
And as bad as these floods are, they're only a drop in the bucket for what is needed to reverse the drought.
Earlier this month, a downpour swelled the Po by five feet. This deluge water will raise it even more, but it is still well below average.
Extreme weather events are threatening other Italian regions, from Venice, where the Mose floodgates have been raised to protect the city from high water; to Sicily, where heavy storms downed trees and flooded homes.
Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.
VAUSE: And some good news for parts of Italy with the forecast predicting a break in recent heavy rains. Here's CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray.
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We have seen torrential rain and incredible downpours that has resulted in flooding across the Northern sections of Italy. You can see that spin right there, and that's the source of this rain.
So the satellite picture showing that pushing in, bringing lots and lots of rain to the point to where rivers rose very, very quickly and then over filled their banks.
So you can see more than 100 millimeters of rain for some locations in just a 24-hour period, and close to that across areas to the South. And you can see from this video some of the areas that were flooded. You can see rivers running incredibly high, over-filling the banks, overflowing into towns nearby.
So the forecast radar moving forward, the good news is this area that was flooded so badly is going to get a bit of a break. But the bulk of the rain is going to push into Southern sections of France, North -- Northeastern sections of Spain. So we could still deal with some lingering very heavy rainfall.
But for the most part, it's not going to be where we saw that flash flooding event. It's basically going to be a little bit farther to the West. So we'll have to watch out for that.
This is an area that has been very, very dry. We've been talking about extreme drought across much of Europe. But with climate change, we also talk about weather whiplash. You go from extreme drought to flash flooding. And that's what we'll start to see more of in the years to come.
But the ground still remains dry over the last 12 months or so. And you can see a lot of that drought, the highest alert is being across portions of the Iberian Peninsula, Southern Spain, Northern sections of Africa is where we're seeing the most intense drought at the moment.
VAUSE: Heavy flooding is also battering two countries in the Balkans.
In Croatia, the military has been deployed after some areas received more than ten centimeters of rain in two days. Officials say a river in Southern Croatia has reached unprecedented levels.
Across the border, floodwaters have inundated homes and cut off roads in Western parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Rains are expected to continue Thursday, but at a slower pace.
The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization says that, within the next five years, a key global warming threshold is likely to be breached.
A new report says there's a 66 percent chance that the 1.5-degree threshold set out in the Paris agreement will be exceeded for at least one year by 2027.
Just a few years ago, the chance of that happening was almost zero. The report also says the chance of having the warmest year on record,
at least once over the next five years is almost certain.
Winter temperatures in the arctic will rise three times faster than the global average. Well, more on that next hour.
But still ahead, a stand-up comic in China in deep trouble after telling a joke about two dogs chasing a squirrel. We'll explain why government censors were not laughing at the punch line.
Plus, a new digital view of the Titanic could help scientists answer their lingering questions about the ship's fateful voyage. How the massive undertaking came to be, when we return.
VAUSE: A Paris court has denied former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's appeal on his 2021 conviction for corruption and influence peddling. The court upheld a prison sentence of three years. Two years are suspended.
Sarkozy is expected to be under house arrest for one year and will be required to wear an electronic bracelet.
Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer says the decision is not fair, planning to file an appeal at the French Supreme Court.
Sarkozy served one term as president and has faced several legal battles since leaving office.
Well, it's not funny because it is true. A comedian in China has run afoul of government censors over a joke about two dogs and a squirrel. He's been fired and his former employee fined about $2 million.
CNN's Steven Jiang joins us live from Beijing. What was the punchline?
STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, you know, to most people the punchline sounds innocuous, because this comedian, known as House, was describing his thought when seeing two stray dogs chasing that squirrel, and using this phrase, "fine style of work, capable of winning battles."
But the problem here is that slogan was first uttered in 2013 by none other than President Xi Jinping, and so that loose reference has now cost him not only his career. But the latest we have learned is Beijing police is now launching a formal investigation into his case. Meaning that he could now potentially go to jail; because in 2021, China enacted a law banning any insults or slander against military personnel.
The authorities have prosecuted people for that crime and sending them to prison for at least seven months in previous cases. So that's the kind of consequences and chilling effect we are talking about. And small wonder that this art form is mostly young fans, who are now
rightly fearful this could really spell the end of stand-up comedy in China, which had just gone from underground to mainstream.
This is also, really, a reminder of the kind of extremely delicate line comedians but also other artists and public figures have to strike on a daily basis in this highly-censored environment. Because anything could become taboo.
And of course, John, according to many analysts, this is another reflection of Xi Jinping's governing philosophy, right? Reasserting the party's dominance, absolute control in every aspect of Chinese society.
And that is really no joke, with global implications. Not positive ones at that -- John.
VAUSE: It's not a good look when you can't laugh at yourself, hey? Anyway, Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang, live for us in Beijing.
Well, never-before-seen details of the Titanic, now from a massive digital scan of the ship's wreckage.
More than a century after it sank, researchers created an exact digital twin of the Titanic. According to a statement from deep-sea investigators Magellan and filmmakers at Atlantic Productions.
It's said to be the largest underwater scanning project in history, ten times larger than any underwater 3-D model ever attempted, with more than 16 terabytes of data.
So it's very detailed.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more news. In the meantime, please stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after a very short break. I'll see you back here in about 18 minutes.