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Biden Signs Debt Limit Bill, Averting U.S. Default; GOP 2024 President Hopefuls Head To Iowa; Horrific Train Crash In India; Austin Police: Suspect Called, Confessed To Murders; Meet The Oligarch Who's Stealing Putin's Limelight; Ukraine Ready For Its Sweeping Counter Offensive On Russia; Escalation Between Wagner Group And The Head Of The Russian Military; Interview With Retired U.S. Army And Former Assistant Secretary To State Of Political-Military Affairs Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt; First Lady Jill Biden In Egypt To Strengthen Ties With Allies; Joran Van Der Sloot Could Soon Be In U.S.; Experts Say A.I. Poses Risk Of Human Extinction; Interview With Center For Advanced Preparedness And Threat Response Simulation Founder Phil Siegel; Ford Warning Lincoln SUV Owners To Park Vehicles Outside And Away From Buildings; Transforming A Library Into A Safe Haven For Youth; New Florida Law Impacts Pride Celebrations. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 03, 2023 - 14:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't bear to be without cupcakes? Forget Yelp. You'll yelp when you see who loves our cupcakes enough to eat 60 of them.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The bear left her mess behind, but the guy cleaning up with a mop takes the cake, not to mention the six cupcakes.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


PAULA REID, CNN HOST: Hello. Thanks for joining me. I'm Paula Reid in Washington in this weekend for Fredricka Whitfield.

This just in, President Biden has now signed the debt ceiling bill into law, keeping the U.S. out of a default on its loans. This suspends the debt limit through early 2025, taking the threat of a default off the table until after next year's presidential election. Let's get right to CNN's Priscilla Alvarez at the White House.

Priscilla, what is the administration saying about this bipartisan deal?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Paula, with this signature, President Biden averting the first-ever default in the United States. This has been a threat looming over the White House for weeks and months, and led to some tough negotiations between White House negotiators and Republican negotiators. Now, we have been covering that minute by-minute, and last weekend, last Saturday is when President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had to reach that tentative agreement on the debt ceiling. And now, a week later, that is signed into law.

Now, President Biden took a victory lap yesterday in an address to the nation, and he did so from the Oval Office, really signaling the gravity of the moment and what the president saw as an accomplishment.

The White House had been fairly mum over the course of these negotiations, but over these remarks just yesterday, President Biden outlining the consequences had there been a default on the economy, also talking about and saying how they protected their own priorities and their legislative achievements, as well as Medicare and Social Security, but ultimately, also stressing bipartisanship. This was something that could only be passed with Republicans and Democrats. Take a listen to what President Biden said about that.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I know bipartisanship is hard and unity is hard, but we can never stop trying. Because in moments like this one, the ones we just faced, where the American economy and the world economy is at risk of collapsing, there's no other way, no matter how tough our politics gets, we need to see each other not as adversaries but as fellow Americans, treat each other with dignity and respect.


ALVAREZ: Now, President Biden also commended House Speaker McCarthy for his "good faith negotiations." But the White House has received criticism from allies on the left who say that there were too many concessions and also that there shouldn't have been negotiations to begin with. Remember, that was the White House position earlier this year. But now, as of a few moments ago, this bill has been signed into law, again, averting a default come this Monday. Paula.

REID: Priscilla Alvarez, thank you.

Now, to the race for the White House. Nearly the entire field of GOP presidential candidates and contenders are in Iowa right now as the 2024 race begins to heat up. The Republican presidential hopefuls are attending Iowa senator Joni Ernst's annual Roast and Ride event.

Former President Trump is skipping today's event, but all the other leading candidates, including Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott and Asa Hutchinson, are in Des Moines, as is Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to formally announce his presidential run in the coming days.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us from Des Moines. All right. Jeff, all the candidates are set to start delivering their speeches soon, so what can we expect to hear as they try to pitch themselves to Iowa voters?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, this is one of the rare times in this presidential campaign, the early stages of it, where several contenders are in the same room. We've been watching them work the crowd.

Speaking behind me is Senator Chuck Grassley, of course, the 89-year- old senior Republican senator from Iowa, turning 90 at the end of this summer. He is calling for a Republican Senate and he said it's time for a new president.

So, he's really setting the framework here for the conversation that's been going on among Republican voters, really railing against the policies of the Biden White House, and even some specifics of that debt deal, even though a lot of Iowa's delegation did support it.

But the presidential candidates really are littered around the room, Nikki Haley just a few feet away from me here, here fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Former Vice President Mike Pence, and a few others. They have been shaking hands and meeting voters here, and they will start speaking in the next hour.


And of course, as you said, Donald Trump is not here. Is not in the room. But he certainly is looming large over this Republican presidential race. But when we talk to voters, they really get the sense they are sizing up these candidates and looking for an alternative to the former president.

Of course, the Trump base is still very strong and occupies a portion of the party, but it is certainly not the vast majority of the party. So, today, the burden on these candidates is to introduce themselves and make the case to these voters.

It's a tough climb, of course, for many of them, but that first Republican presidential debate was actually announced yesterday, it will be August 23rd, so that's what all of these candidates are trying to work toward. So, we'll be hearing from these hopefuls later this afternoon.

Of course, the reason we are in Iowa, Iowa opens the Republican nominating contest early next year, likely in January. And Nikki Haley, I mentioned here, she will be on a CNN Town Hall tomorrow evening here from Des Moines. And Former Vice President Mike Pence, when he announces on Wednesday, he'll be on a CNN Town Hall Wednesday evening as well.

So, Paula, you get the sense of this campaign is heating up, as the temperatures do, and the rhetoric, of course, as well. Paul.

REID: Jeff, I have to admit, I'm a little jealous. Iowa in June, during campaign season, motorcycles, meat.

ZELENY: Come on out. Come on out.

REID: It just doesn't get any better. Well, thank you so much for that report.

ZELENY: It doesn't. REID: And a quick programming note, tomorrow night live from Iowa, Jake Tapper moderates a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The evening kicks off at 8:00, only on CNN.

Now, to the horrific train crash in India. Nearly 300 people were killed, and more than 1,000 others were injured when three trains collided. Earlier today, India's prime minister arrived at the scene, telling the nation he is feeling unbearable pain over the crash. Officials now pointing to signal failure as the suspected cause. CNN's Ivan Watson is in Delhi with the latest.

IVAN WATSON: Paula, Indian government officials are calling this one of the deadliest train disasters this country has seen in a century. More than 280 people killed, more than 1,000 people injured, and almost a perfect storm of three separate trains colliding, two passenger trains and a cargo train in India's Eastern Odisha State.

It took place in the evening on Friday, and the rescue efforts have continued. They've been called off after 9:00 p.m. local on Saturday. The rescue workers say that they've brought in a crane to pick up overturned train cars that they fear there will not be further survivors at this stage and that they also believe that there are more bodies caught underneath these enormous train cars that have been overturned and derailed.

The Indian prime minister was supposed to be inaugurating today a new high-speed train, but instead, he has had to rush to the scene of this horrific disaster to share condolences and to meet with some of the survivors. He is calling for an investigation and is vowing that whoever is responsible will be punished for this.

India has an enormous railroad system. It moves more than 13 million people around the country every single day. It also has a history of deadly accidents in the past, with large death tolls. But that said, the scale of the loss in this disaster is still staggering for this country. There were long lines of volunteers who were trying to donate blood to help some of the survivors.

As for the cause of this horrific disaster, one railroad official here in India tells CNN that it could have been a switching error and that could have either been due to technical malfunction or to human error. Paula.

REID: Ivan Watson, thank you.

And still ahead on "CNN Newsroom," Texas authorities say a man called police and admitted to two murders. Now, they are looking into whether he is involved in several other deaths.



REID: Now, to a disturbing confession that authorities say could lead to even more troubling discoveries. Police in Austin, Texas, say a 62- year-old man called them and admitted to committing two murders. And now, authorities believe he may be involved in 10 other killings.

Raul Meza Jr. was arrested this week on four charges, including capital murder, and that was after a five-day manhunt. He's being held on a million-dollar bond. CNN National Correspondent Camila Bernal joins me now with the latest. Camila, what is going on?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Paula. I mean, it is chilling because this is a man that told police that he was ready, that he was prepared and looking forward to killing again, that's what the Austin Police Department said.

He made this phone call to police on May 24th, and that conversation started a little bit like this, he said, my name is Raul Meza, and I think you're looking for me. And so, when the detective started talking to him, he essentially described killing his 80-year-old roommate and he said what the manner of the relationship was like, talked about the actual killing and described the manner in which he killed his roommate. And then, also talked about information that had not been released to the public.

In addition to the confession of killing his 80-year-old roommate, he also talked about killing a 66-year-old woman in 2019. And so, authorities believe he is responsible for these two killings, but also say they're looking at cold cases between eight and 10 of them that they believe are also connected or linked to Raul Meza. And so, now, authorities are saying, you know, this could be problematic here and will look into all of these cases.


As you mentioned, there was a five-day manhunt. And when he was arrested, they were able to collect more evidence. Here is Brandon Filla with the U.S. Marshals.


BRANDON FILLA, U.S. MARSHALS: I think he was surprised. They approached, surrounded him, and they took him into custody within the blink of an eye. And I think that was a key advantage based upon what was in that bag that he had. When I, you know, talk about, you know, the duct tape, the zip ties and the firearm with additional round of ammunition.


BERNAL: The reason why authorities believe that he was ready to kill again. But what's also very disturbing about this specific case is the criminal history of Raul Meza. He was convicted in 1982 for killing an eight-year-old girl and he served 11 years of his 30-year sentence. Authorities in Austin are saying, you know, justice was not served in this case and they believe he should have been in jail a lot longer.

So, there are a lot of questions of whether or not these most recent crimes could have been prevented. But what authorities are now saying is that they're committed to investigating the latest killings, but also these cold cases and what could come of those cases. Paula. REID: Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

BERNAL: Thank you.

REID: And still ahead, he's known as Putin's chef, leading the charge for the war in Ukraine. Up next, an inside look to how he rose to power inside Putin's Russia.



REID: Ukraine's president, Zelenskyy, says his country is ready for its sweeping counteroffensive on Russia. Zelenskyy made the comment in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal." He didn't commit to an imminent start to the operation, but he added that Ukraine can't wait months to do it.

We're also seeing an escalation of the feud between Russian-backed Wagner Mercenary Group and the head of the Russian military. The head of the Wagner Group is accusing the Russian military of laying mines as his fighters were getting ready to exit the town of Bakhmut, following the long and bloody battle there. And just a few minutes ago, he threatened to move his troops to Belgrade, Russia to protect that territory.

CNN's Melissa Bell has the profile of a very controversial leader.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): For months now, Yevgeny Prigozhin has been leading the charge in Ukraine and stealing the limelight.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, HEAD OF WAGNER PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY (through translator): Guys, don't bully the Russian military.

BELL (voiceover): The taunt typical as he announced the withdrawal of his Wagner mercenaries last week after claiming the first Russian advance in Ukraine in months. Power on the ground that has translated into far more open political confrontation with Moscow.

Long known by his nickname as Putin's chef, the oligarch shared the Russian president's humble beginnings in the tougher neighborhoods of St. Petersburg. Reportedly a former convict, he used Putin's rise to build a vast catering empire.

As Putin set his sights on Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014, Prigozhin's forces were there, the Wagner Mercenary Group that he founded became known as Putin's private army, operating on his behalf but in the shadows across the Middle East and Africa for years.

But it took the chaos of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine for Prigozhin to take center stage himself. Flexing his power and his voice, which he raised loudly again this week against Russia's top military brass, after drone attacks on Moscow brought the war far too close to home for comfort.

PRIGOZHIN (through translator): You are the ministry of defense; you didn't do a damn thing to stamp this out. Why are you allowing these drones to fly to Moscow?

BELL (voiceover): Because propaganda is arguably what Yevgeny Prigozhin does best. Setting up this notorious troll farm in St. Petersburg, which was blamed or pumping out disinformation around the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. despite denying any involvement.

Now, he is personally taking his propaganda machine on the road and across Russia, turning his attention to what he calls the enemy at home with increasingly obvious political ambitions of his own.

ABBAS GALLYAMOV, RUSSIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: While the system was stable, there was no place for him and he was waiting and waiting, and then the system started collapsing and he found the opening and he burst into the system.

BELL (voiceover): And Russia's political system, just like its history, appears to be something Prigozhin is very aware of.

PRIGOZHIN (through translator): All these divisions can end up in a revolution, just like in 1917. First, the soldiers will stand up, and after that, their loved ones will rise up.

BELL (voiceover): With Prigozhin's very thinly veiled threats, he's also now clearly hoping that Russian society may be ready for a message even more hardline than that of the man who helped make him.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.



REID: Well, let's bring in retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He is the former assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs under President George W. Bush.

All right. General, Vladimir Putin is not known for putting up with a lot, especially someone as belligerent as Prigozhin. So, why is he tolerating this?

BRIG. GEN, MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.) AND FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY TO STATE OF POLITICAL-MILITARY AFFAIRS: Well, I think you've got to go back to the fall of the Soviet Union, the time between Yeltsin and Putin. During that time, the country was the wild, wild west, and that was the rise of the oligarchs as they tried to privatize the entire industry's industrial base inside of Russia. Prigozhin was one of those that took advantage of this.

Prigozhin is a former hot dog salesman from Leningrad, but he, like so many of the other oligarchs, made billions of dollars. And candidly, when Putin came to power, there's this reciprocal relationship between the oligarchs and Putin, and Prigozhin is one of them.

REID: But why does he continue to put up with it now?

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, he is in debt to Prigozhin. But, look, let's -- we've seen this in America. We've seen a rise of a nationalist right-wing person who is appealing to the people on the ground, in many ways, he shares the same characteristics as Trump, very, very belligerent, very, very loud, goes directly to the people.

I think Putin, number one, gets a lot out of Prigozhin by his mercenary army that's doing far, far better than the Russian military. And number two, I think Putin sees him as a potential political candidate against him in the near future, and that goes to the old saying, keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.

REID: That's a good explanation. Ukraine's president, Zelenskyy, of course saying his forces are ready to begin their counteroffensive. Have -- I want to take you to have a listen to what U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told our colleague, Fareed Zakaria, just a short time ago.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, when you think about the Ukrainian counteroffensive, what are you looking for to see that, in fact, the massive investments the United States has made in helping Ukraine are paying off?

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, first, this is not an exam. We're not grading Ukraine's counteroffensive and saying, you know, you did well based on what we gave you or you did poorly. What we want to do is support Ukraine to make as much progress as possible on the battlefield so that it is in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table. And we do believe that this counteroffensive will allow Ukraine to take strategically significant territory back from Russia, areas occupied by Russia that are rightfully sovereign Ukrainian territory.


REID: So, does Ukraine have enough support from the U.S. and other allies to succeed in a counteroffensive?

KIMMITT: Well, listen, Paula, in a bit of self-promotion, I wrote about this a month ago in the "Wall Street Journal." They need to accomplish certain milestones in this counteroffensive to maintain the support of the United States and western nations. They need to decisively defeat the Russians. Jake talked about that, about making significant progress. They've got to reach objectives that prepare them for further counteroffensives. This will not be the last.

They need to cut the Crimean corridor, they need to decisively defeat the Russians so that the Russians understand they can't win this war, and they need to accomplish enough to keep the West on side and not seeing this as just more examples of trench warfare.

REID: So, what are they waiting for?

KIMMITT: Listen, there's always a tension between the politicians and the military. The politicians always want this to start early, the military knows that every day they delay the counteroffensive, they get stronger, they get more supplies, they get more intelligence on the ground, and that tension, I think, is what you're seeing play out between the politicians and the commanders.

The commanders say, no, I need a couple more days to get ready, the politicians say, we've got to get this thing going. So, I think Zelenskyy and his generals are trying to work this out in terms of timelines.

REID: And we've seen how Russian strikes, they've been aimed at Kyiv pretty much every day for the last week. Is Russia trying to wear down Ukraine's air defenses?

KIMMITT: No, I think they're trying to wear down the Ukrainian people. This is what's called a spoiling attack on the part of Russia. They know a counteroffensive is coming, so they know they can't stop the military, so they continue to pound the civilians so the civilians are the ones that say, look, let's end this thing quickly, let's get this over with. We can't take these kinds of bombings.


But I think the Ukrainian people have demonstrated, like the British people during the blitz of 1940, that they're willing to stand behind their military and take the attack on civilian targets so that the military can actually conduct the offensive when and how it's necessary.

REID: General Mar Kimmitt, thank you.


REID: And you can watch Fareed's entire interview with Jake Sullivan at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow on "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

And Jill Biden is in Egypt today and spent part of her day visiting the pyramids. Her stop in Egypt is the second leg of her six-day trip across the Middle East; North Africa and Europe. She is in the region to strengthen ties with allies. She's also promoting empowerment for women and education for young people.

After Egypt, Jill Biden will travel to Morocco before heading to Portugal on the final stop of her tour Monday. And by the way, it's the first lady's birthday today. She turns 72.

And Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway has been taken from his jail cell in Peru, a sign he could soon be headed to the United States. More on that development straight ahead.



REID: A woman in Florida is facing child abuse and arson charges after her car caught fire with her children inside as she allegedly shoplifted at a mall. According to a report from the Oviedo Police Department, security watched the woman and another man steal items from a department store for about an hour. As the woman began to leave, she saw the car engulfed in flames and dropped the stolen items, while people outside the mall helped rescue the children from the car.

Both children were rushed to the hospital, one suffered several first- degree burns to her face and ears. Police are still trying to figure out what caused the fire.

And the transfer process has begun for the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. According to officials in Peru, Joran van der Sloot is being moved from a maximum-security prison in the south to a different facility in the country's capital, Lima. Van der sloot is currently spending time there for murder. He is set to be transferred to the U.S. to face charges for allegedly extorting Holloway's family after she went missing in Aruba in 2005.

CNN's Isabel Rosales is following the story. Isabel, talk to us about how this transfer is going to play out.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Paula. The exact timing of when Joran van der Sloot will be on U.S. soil, that is not known. But we do have a brand-new statement from the Peru's penitentiary system that indicates that in the coming days van der Sloot will be handed over to Interpol Peru and then from there, eventually, will be handed over to the FBI.

Now, this temporary transfer, as it's being called, has been approved by the highest levels of the Peruvian government, namely the Supreme Court signed off on it and also Peru's president agreed to this transfer as well. Van der Sloot has been the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of an Alabama teenager by the name of Natalee Holloway.

Holloway was last seen alive 18 years ago in Aruba. She was on vacation there and was last seen alive with van der Sloot and two other men. The three men were all arrested numerous times but then released due to a lack of evidence. Holloway's remains have not been found this this day. Back in 2012, an Alabama judge legally declared her dead.

So, let's talk about the charges that he's facing here in the U.S., namely wire fraud and extortion. That is connected to an alleged plot to extort the Holloway family, namely there was a reward around that time for $250,000 for any information leading to the finding of Holloway.

Van der Sloot said, hey, I know where her remains are at. A representative of the family actually went to Aruba, van der Sloot pointed to a home, said, she's in the foundations there. Took $25,000 in cash from them, but then called them up and said, hey, that information was not correct, it was false. So, there is the wire fraud right there.

So far, nobody currently has been charged in the murder of Holloway. Van der Sloot has been in a Peruvian prison now serving out a prison sentence 28 years for the murder of a separate, totally separate murder of a Peruvian woman. So, what will happen here is that once his legal proceedings in the U.S. are completed, he must return to Peru to serve out the remainder of that sentence. Paula.

REID: Isabel Rosales, thank you.

ROSALES: Thank you.

REID: And an absolutely jaw-dropping warning from artificial intel experts, take A.I. seriously or risk the unthinkable. We'll explain.



REID: As artificial intelligence technology becomes more and more entwined with daily life, some experts are sounding the learn. Earlier this week, dozens of academics, celebrities and even industry leaders, like the chief executives of Google's DeepMind, signed a statement calling to reduce the risk of global annihilation due to A.I.

The letter was brief and to the point, saying, mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.

Joining us now is Phil Siegel. He's an entrepreneur and the founder of the Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation. Phil, thanks for joining us.


REID: So, as I said there, this warning did not mince words. I mean, you agree that A.I. poses a human extinction level threat. So, if that is true, how?

SIEGEL: Yes. I think, first I would say, if the goal of those experts was to sound an alarm and get us off the dime to start putting together some regulations and guardrails around artificial intelligence, that brings some good to the discussion.


I think the human level extinction, you have to be very careful. You know, I don't think or, you know, at least I don't worry in any kind of timeframe that's reasonable that A.I. will become sentient and, you know, like in "Terminator 2," you know, bring extinction to the human race. But I do worry a lot that A.I. tools will be able to help bad actors do even worse things and to do them faster and more efficiently. And because of that, we do need to move.

It -- you know, one of the great examples was social media where it took us too long and a lot of the damage was done before we've started to really regulate that area.

REID: So, what needs to be done to combat that threat?

SIEGEL: Yes. I think that there's really four areas that we need to focus on. Number one would be -- really the first priority would be children and making sure, just like we're doing with social media, that we're protecting children from any kind of negative consequences of artificial intelligence type of phishing, cyber, whatever you want to say.

Second, I would say, we have to harden our civil and criminal code. We can't have situations where somebody can say, my A.I. made me do it, and, you know, kind of wiggle out of a crime that they've committed. The third area really is what I would call fairness.

You know, today, we have humans that make decisions on hiring, financial services, health care. We can adjust humans' thinking and behavior, it's much harder to do that with A.I. We can't hard code in those negative types of things into the algorithms that, you know, make things unfair -- more unfair in our society.

And then, the fourth is really these big guardrails around how the algorithms work, making sure that people register new applications in some way so that we know what we need to be guarding against.

REID: So, just to give a sense of what this technology is capable of, we saw videos circulating online showing deep fakes of both Republican Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis and also Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Let's take a look.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There were these huge bins of clothes and everybody was rifling through them like crazy and I grabbed one, and it fit. So, I don't think that this is totally just a woman's suit.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, people might be surprised to hear me say this, but I actually like Ron DeSantis a lot. Yes, I know. I'd say he's just the kind of guy this country needs.


REID: Wow. Now, of course, both of those are fake. One spoofing an "Office" episode, but the other looking like a very real news segment. So, how damaging could this type of disinformation be?

SIEGEL: Well, obviously, it can be very damaging. I think if campaigns are producing these types of videos, they need to -- just like the candidate needs to say, I approve this message, it needs to be very clear that these are produced by the campaign to illustrate a point or whatever it is they're trying to do.

The second thing I'd say is there's a little bit of difference between the two. One is clearly meant to mislead, the other is a little more satire, and I think would be -- I'm not a lawyer, but I think it would be upheld by any court as a First Amendment type of thing, the DeSantis example.

But I think even more importantly, this is a great opportunity, Paula, for, you know, CNN, other reputable news agencies to really step up to the plate and help society understand, you know, when these things are occurring, how we make sure that, you know, they don't impact people's decisions, and it really -- you know, having that good old-fashioned journalism to, you know, wrestle these things to the ground and inform the public I think, will be a really important activity for all of you.

REID: Phil Siegel, thank you.

SIEGEL: Thank you.

REID: And Ford is warning owners of Lincoln SUVs to park their vehicles outside and away from buildings because they could potentially catch fire. Ford officials say the problem stems from a battery monitoring sensor that could get damaged when parts around it are serviced, causing a short-circuit and overheating. Models from years 2015 through 2019 are affected. And owners are being advised to take their cars to a dealer and have a fuse installed free of cost.

And next, a crackdown on drag shows in Florida changes pride celebrations across the state. We'll explain, next.


And the violent civil war in Guatemala is long over, yet nearly 30 years later, the country is still struggling with the aftermath. Among those killed during the conflict was the father of this week's CNN hero. In his memory, she helped open a library in his hometown, as she noticed that many of the children in her rural community were living in extreme poverty. So, she started an organization dedicated to helping them build a better life. Meet Brenda Lemus.


BRENDA LEMUS (through translator): The children come to the library looking how to do homework because they don't have the resources at home. The parents don't know how to read.

LEMUS: Hi. My name is?

LEMUS (through translator): They began to come with that desire to get ahead. Then, I began to realize that there were more obstacles that impede them from studying. We provide educational opportunities and the tools so that they can break that cycle of poverty. We now have children who say they want to be engineers or that they want to be chemists.


We are hundreds of people involved. We give to people love, respect and dignity.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Incredible work. And to find out how Brenda has helped more than 2,000 kids through her community building programs, go to And while you're there, nominate your hero.



REID: Pride Month has officially kicked off, but many festival organizers in Florida will have to adjust or cancel their events this year. A new set of laws signed by Republican governor and presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, will punish any businesses that host drag shows with minors in the audience. CNN Anchor and Correspondent Victor Blackwell spoke with some of these organizers about how they plan to save Pride Month in the Sunshine State.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Pride across Florida will be noticeably less colorful this year. Festival organizers are making significant changes or canceling altogether some LGBTQ plus celebrations. They fear potential consequences from Governor Ron DeSantis' new law that many believe targets public drag performances, a mainstay of pride events.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome, welcome to St. Cloud's first Pride event.


BLACKWELL (voiceover): Kristina Bozanic, coordinator of Pride in St. Cloud, canceled the Orlando area event that was planned to include drag performers. According to the new law signed by DeSantis just weeks ago, local governments are banned from issuing public permits for events that include some adult live performances. Venues risk steep fines and losing licensing if a child is present, knowingly admitting a child would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

BOZANIC: Once the bill was signed, I said, we can restructure the event. We'll make sure it's only 18 and up for that portion. They went and talked with all of the performers and came back to me and said, we're really sorry, but we just don't feel safe.

BLACKWELL (voiceover): Organizers in Port St. Lucie canceled its annual Pride parade. They reached an agreement with the city to host a slimmed-down festival. Drag performers were welcome, but anyone under 21 was not.

STEPHANIE PEYMAN, STUDENT: I was in the closet for so many years and I still face hatred and oppression. And I can't even go to my own PrideFest?

BLACKWELL (voiceover): Kissimmee Pride is on, but drag indoors only.

STEPHANIE BECHARA, COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER, CITY OF KISSIMMEE: For example, drag bingo will be taking place inside of our civic center and it will be an event where we will be requiring I.D.s and we're also asking folks to go ahead and pre-register online to participate.

BLACKWELL (voiceover): John Paonessa's Orlando restaurant, Hamburger Mary's, host drag shows most nights. He's filed a federal lawsuit against the state. He claims he's losing business because of the new law. Ron DeSantis' office has not responded to a CNN request for comment on the lawsuit.

JOHN PAONESSA, OWNER, HAMBURGER MARY'S: We have a street party with a stage with the performers out front during Pride. We usually get 3,000 or 4,000 people in the street watching. That's something we can't do.

BLACKWELL (voiceover): At the start of a month that's impact a celebration of visibility, some feel that the Sunshine State is shoving them back into darkness.

PAONESSA: Now, with the governor stepping in and the legislation that's going through, it's -- we're moving back in time. And it's unfortunate for us and everybody else in the state because what they're doing, it's heartbreaking.

BLACKWELL (on camera): And these are the begins of Gay Days here in Central Florida. More than 150,000 people are expected to come here from around the world to celebrate Pride. They'll be at the major theme parks wearing red shirts to be seen.

In a statement from the CEO of Gay Days, he says that they are working with their hotels and differently venues to make sure that they don't run afoul of the new law. However, according to website, there is a drag queen bingo event that is advertised as open to all ages. So, we'll see how they navigate that. They've also invited Governor DeSantis to the event. It's unlikely he will attend.

Victor Blackwell, CNN, Orlando.



REID: Thanks for joining me today. I'm Paula Reid. And I'll be back tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. "Smerconish" starts right now.