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Evacuations Ongoing After Dam Collapse In War Zone; Millions In U.S. And Canada Under Air Quality Warnings; Football Megastar Lionel Messi Coming To MLS; Prince Harry Emotional During Second Day Of Testimony; Saudis Make Big Moves in Sports, Entertainment; Pope Doing Well after Hernia Surgery; 'The Little Mermaid' Tanks in China, South Korea. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up this hour here on CNN.

Floodwaters from breached dam begin to crest across southern Ukraine, bringing death and homelessness to a region already battered by more than a year of war.

The air over New York City remains hazardous and the worst in the world, but forecast to improve are just plain old unhealthy in the day ahead.

And coming to America, soccer player Lionel Messi announces plans to join MLS club into Miami and bend it like Beckham.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Thank you for being with us. We begin in southern Ukraine where it's just gone 7:00 in the morning and rescue operations continue under fire in parts from Russian shelling in the Kherson region, two days after the biggest dam in Ukraine suffered a major breach.

The Ukrainian president calls the damage catastrophic, pleading for a clear and swift humanitarian response from the international community.

Thousands of homes are believed to have been flooded. So far, more than 1,500 residents have been evacuated from Ukrainian controlled areas.

And now, the United Nations has stepped in. As Ukraine claims Russian forces are offering no help to get residents out of areas under Russian occupation.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The situation in the occupied part of the Kherson region is absolutely catastrophic. The occupiers have simply abandoned the people and these dreadful conditions without rescue, without water. They are left on the rooftop and flooded communities.


VAUSE: Ukraine and Russia are accusing each other of being responsible for the collapse of the dam Nova Kakhovka. Ukraine has now begun an investigation into a war crimes and possible ecocide.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in the flood of Kherson Region, witnessed firsthand the rescue mission which is now underway.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Raging floodwater with whole towns submerged. This Ukrainian military drone video purports to show a family trapped in a Russian controlled village pleading for help. But all the small drone can do is drop a bottle of water.

We went on a rescue mission in Kherson where the water levels are still rising.

PLEITGEN: So, these guys tell us that they've been at work here since last night. They said the work during the night was extremely difficult and that they're really tired but of course, they have to keep going.

PLEITGEN (voice over): They found this house abandoned but rescued three kittens. Roman Skandrakov (PH) tells me the volunteers face Russian shelling on nearly every sortie.

Of course, it's extremely dangerous, he says, especially today, it's very loud.

Russia and Ukraine continue to blame each other for the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant.

The Ukrainian say on their side alone, hundreds of thousands or without normal access to water and nearly 2,000 homes are underwater. While the rescue efforts are hampered by the near constant artillery and mortar barrages.

Look, we're working despite the possibility of us being shelled. We're taking risks every day, Ukraine's interior minister tells me. We understand that this is war and it is very difficult to completely avoid a drone or incoming missile.

And that dangerous work is far from over. The authorities here say they expect they'll be busy all night getting more people to safety.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


VAUSE: With us now in southern Ukraine and joining us is Selena Kozakijevic, area Manager for CARE Ukraine. Selena, thank you for being with us.

It's been more than 48 hours now since the dam collapse. At this point, what appears to be the most immediate and urgent problems caused by the bridge? What are your biggest concerns now in the coming days?


Yes, as was mentioned before, more than 2,600 buildings have been affected by the floods in almost in around 20 settlements in the Kherson region as far as our latest information shows.

Obviously, the evacuation of the affected population in the flooded areas was the main priority and immediately upon the evacuation, the provision of food, water, safe space for those evacuated.


Another of course, the important thing would be to provide safety knowing that the conflict is ongoing actually and that people are exposed.

VAUSE: And with that in mind, here's a little more from the Ukrainian president on rescue operations within Russian occupied areas around the Kherson region. Here he is, listen to this.


ZELENSKYY (voice over): A clear and prompt response from the world is needed to what is happening. It is even impossible to accurately determine how many people in the temporarily occupied territory of Kherson region may die without rescue, without drinking water, without food, without medical assistance, our military and special services to the extent possible, despite the shelling --


VAUSE: So, has CARE and other aid agencies been given access to these areas under Russian occupation? Have you tried? Have you made any kind of effort to get there? Is it possible to even get into these areas under Russian occupation?

KOZAKIJEVIC: Obviously, CARE operates in Ukraine with local partners, national organizations that are present and have been present in Ukraine.

However, the right bank of the river is not accessible. And this has been a difficult situation, knowing that some of our partners do report receiving calls through the hotline pleading for assistance as it is deemed necessary at the moment.

However, this part of the river is not accessible at the moment.

VAUSE: Do you have any assessment of the extent of the damage there, the humanitarian needs, as well as maybe numbers of those who have died or hurt, I guess in the areas controlled by the Russians and also in the areas that you now have access to?

KOZAKIJEVIC: We do receive reports that as of yesterday evening that two persons were declared missing and their whereabouts were unknown.

So far, we are not aware of the actual casualties from the floods themselves.

What remains important, obviously, in the area around Kherson City that is accessible, there is access for humanitarians. There are a number of volunteers of local organizations working together with the authorities in providing immediate assistance.

What we understand is that around 1,800 people have been evacuated so far.

VAUSE: Here's part of an assessment of the damage by your aid agency CARE. At least 150 tons of oil have been released into Dnipro River with the risk of further leakage of more than 300 tons.

This may lead to the need to Nyzhniodniprovskyi National Nature Park to disappear which is more than 80,000 hectares of protected land. Forgive me if my pronunciation was bad.

This assessment as bad as it sounds, is it just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the environmental damage here?

KOZAKIJEVIC: Obviously, the risks to the environment are extremely high and there is a huge risk of water being polluted and contaminated. And this is only not an immediate issue requiring provision of safe drinking water for those who are affected, but also could be a mid to long term issue to be resolved and to be -- to be monitored.

In addition to that, obviously, there are other risks related to contamination of the area with unexploded ordnance and explosive devices. So, all of these are the risks that we are looking at right now.

VAUSE: Selena, thank you so much for being with us. We wish you all the very best in these operations. Please stay safe.

KOZAKIJEVIC: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: 75 million people in the United States, millions more in Canada are now breathing noxious, smoky hazy air drifting south from hundreds of wildfires burning in Canada.

This is what New York City looks like right now. Time there it is just eight minutes, nine minutes past midnight. The air quality is the worst of any major city in the world. Worse than New Delhi, worse than Beijing, worse than Shanghai designated hazardous which is the most severe level.

This time lapse shows smoke engulfing the city over a three hour period Wednesday afternoon. Skyline vanishes behind a thick orange haze by 2:00 p.m. From the Midwest to the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, states are urging

people to stay inside, put on masks if they need to go outside.

Smoke is emanating from more than 100 fires active in central Quebec. Officials warned the smoke could blanket much of the United States and Canada for the next several days.

We get the very latest now from New York City from CNN's Athena Jones.



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never experienced anything like this before, never to this degree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That did shock me how quickly it came in last night.

JONES (voice over): To Cleveland, Ohio and even as far south as Raleigh, North Carolina, unhealthy air blanketing a large swath of United States. From over 400 Active wildfires burning in Canada, more than half of them determined to be out of control according to the Canadian interagency Forest Fire Center.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Last year and this year, the worst wildfire season we've ever had right across the country.

JONES (voice over): Canada's wildfire season got off to an unusually early and intense start in May, picking up aggressively this month, largely in Quebec.

More than nine million acres have burned in Canada so far this year, 15 times the normal amount. Smoke from those fires traveling more than 500 miles to blanket New York City.

ERIC ADAMS, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: From the gloom over Yankee Stadium to the smoky haze, scurrying our skyline. We can see it, we can smell it and we felt it. And it was alarming and concerning.

JONES (voice over): The Air Quality Index reaching levels that could be harmful for everyone, New Yorkers being urged to stay indoors as much as possible, or wear a high quality mask.

ADAMS: This is not the day to train for a marathon or to do an outside event with your children. Stay inside, close windows and doors and use air purifiers if you have them.

JONES (voice over): Wildfire smoke contains particulate matter, or PM2.5. Among the tiniest and most dangerous pollutants, it's able to infiltrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream and has been linked to conditions like asthma and heart disease.

School districts in central New York not far from the fires in Quebec, among the first to cancel all outdoor activities. Public schools in New York City and Montgomery County, Maryland doing the same.

Officials warning this smoke will continue to impact much of the East Coast until at least the weekend.

ZACHARY ISCOL, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: We expect this to be a multiple day event. So we expect that that advisory to remain in place for the next few days.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Bill McKibben is founder of Third Act which organizes people over the age of 60 for action on climate and justice.

In 1989, he wrote the End of Nature, widely regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. He is also the distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, and we are lucky to have him with us this hour. It's good to see you again.


VAUSE: OK, so this heavy kind of dystopian haze blowing in from Canada just seems to bring together so many elements of this climate crisis. Here's the governor of New York state, listen to this.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We've seen some very extreme weather. My first week as governor almost two years ago, we had two hurricanes. We had record snow events in Western New York, my hometown, and now we're seeing something that is absolutely unprecedented.

So, climate change, we have to be prepared for all conditions, especially what we're experiencing now.


VAUSE: And what we're experiencing now is kind of like, you know, it's an example that you cannot hide from climate change consequences. There is nowhere to run, what happens in one country doesn't stay in one country.

And yes, we have to be prepared. But it also seems we have to put into place the solutions, which we know are out there, we just have to have the will to do it.

MCKIBBEN: That's right. Look, what we're -- what we're reminded of today and in some ways, what the power corridor of the northeastern United States is learning that much of the rest of the world learned a long time ago, is that when you burn things, it's bad all around, it gets in your lungs, it gets -- it gets in the air. It's scary.

It's been scary in New York, and D.C. and Philadelphia, and all those places the last couple of days, that's because we didn't do what scientists told us to do 30 years ago. We've burned more carbon in those 30 years than we did in all of human history beforehand. We better now step up to the plate and do what science is telling us to do. Which is turn off the fossil fuel, turn down the heat, give those forests a chance not to burn in the decades ahead.

VAUSE: I want you to listen to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the impact from these wildfires on his country Canada, here he is.


TRUDEAU: People across the country are being affected are seeing vulnerable people at risk, outdoor events cancelled. Kids having to be kept inside at recess.

I can't help but think my conversation with Liam (PH) yesterday to conversations with my own kids, the past few years have been challenging for kids.


VAUSE: Yes, they've been challenging. But what happens if we continue to head down this road of environmental destruction with the accelerator flat to the floor, belching carbon pollution and unprecedented rates like we're doing right now? What sort of world are we giving our children and their children?


MCKIBBEN: It was Prime Minister Trudeau who told an oil and gas conference in Texas four or five years ago, no country would find spend a lot of oil under its soil and just leave it there. That was his defense for digging up the incredibly dirty tar sands of Alberta and pumping that oil all over the world.

Look, we've got to leave fossil fuel in the ground if we're to have any hope of slowing down the rate at which the planet is warming, the rate at which its forests are burning.

If we don't, then well, the world we leave behind for our kids, we're getting a kind of foretaste of just how dystopian it's going to be.

VAUSE: And from 2006 to 2010, I was based in Beijing, I was a CNN reporter there. Almost every day I woke up in that city, it looks like it does right now in New York and Washington and other parts of the United States.

He's part of the report I did in efforts to try and clear the pollution before the Beijing Olympics. It's a very young version of me.


VAUSE: Never before has the city this big with this much pollution taken such drastic action to try and clear the air so quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: You know, they succeeded in a band aid approach of clearing the air, it was still bad, it is still bad. It's still worse in many parts of the world. Billions of people across Asia, and Africa, are waking up to this kind of dirty air every single day.

The differences in Asia especially, it's caused by burning fossil fuels, especially coal. And that's an easy fix.

So, you know, for people in New York and Washington, welcome to how the rest of the world lives.

MCKIBBEN: Yes, it's terrible in New York right now, and we shouldn't make light of it. But it's precisely how most people across much of the world live every single day. That's why nine million people a year one death in five on this planet comes from the effects of breathing fossil fuel combustion.

The good news is we have an easy fix. We now live on a planet where the cheapest way to produce power is to point a sheet of glass at the sun. We should be in an all-out effort to move to renewable energy and to save energy so we don't have to use as much of it.

VAUSE: Bill, as always. It's so great to have you with us. Thank you for your time, Sir.

MCKIBBEN: Thank you, John. Take care.

VAUSE: Still to come, back to the future for Prince Harry. The British Royal ends days of testimony against three major British tabloids by relitigating the past we'll explain in a moment.

Also, an announcement from a soccer player. Lionel Messi announces where he will play next. And the football world is caught by surprise.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Messi coming into Miami is one of the best thing that ever happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, for the Argentinians, this is so exciting because we was waiting for this moment for a long, long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having a figure like him in this country is tremendous.


VAUSE: That's not quite a done deal but football legend Leonel Messi told the world he is heading to MLS club into Miami. There was speculation he would leave Paris Saint-Germain and maybe would return to Barcelona where he spent 17 seasons. Possibly he may have headed to Saudi Arabia to cash in on his later years. But the 35-year-old led Argentina to the World Cup championship last

year, he's won a record seven Ballons d'Ors. Major League Soccer tweeted this, The GOAT, greatest of all time is coming. Millions of MLS fans all over the world welcome you, Leo.

CNN's Don Riddell.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT CORRESPONDENT: These are heady days for sports fans in South Florida but the excitement went into overdrive on Wednesday with news that Lionel Messi is coming to town.

The Argentine World Cup winner who is now widely regarded as the greatest football player of all time says that having left Paris Saint-Germain, he's now on his way to Major League Soccer and enter Miami.

To paraphrase the NBA legend LeBron James, Messi is taking his talents to South Beach.

LIONEL MESSI, 20222 WORLD CUP WINNER (through translator): I made the decision that I am going to Miami. I still haven't closed it 100 percent, I'm missing some things. But we decided to continue my journey there.

RIDDELL: Well, this month sports fans in the region have been enjoying the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers runs to the NBA finals and the Stanley Cup final but the Messi news is absolutely huge.

Many had expected Messi to move to Saudi Arabia with whom he already has pretty close business ties and where his generational rival Cristiano Ronaldo is already playing.

But his move to the states will significantly boost the global audience of Major League Soccer, and it's perfectly timed as well. The United States will be co-hosting the next World Cup in just three years time along with Canada and Mexico.


VAUSE: Thanks to Don Riddell from CNN World Sport for that report.

An emotional day for Britain's Prince Harry concluding testimony in his phone hacking lawsuit against British tabloids. He appeared uncomfortable during cross examination, where at times he clashed with a lawyer for Mirror Group Newspapers.

CNN's Max Foster breaks down all the details and reporting in from London.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Day two of Prince Harry's evidence and we saw more details emerge of his accusations against Mirror Group Newspapers as well as one point of pretty emotional display from the Royal.

He was again cross examined by the lawyer for MGN Andrew Green on dozens of stories which Harry says were obtained using illegal means by the group's journalists, including phone hacking.

At one point, he alleged that the private investigator working for MGN fitted a tracking device in the car of former girlfriend Chelsy Davy, he described an article in the now defunct British magazine The People that gave great detail on a private conversation between him and his father now King Charles, saying that kind of article just perpetuated feelings of distrust within all of my relationships.

Harry highlighted this picture, an article published by the Sunday Mirror in 2007, which shows him dropping Davy off in a private road near Kensington Palace. He said he was suspicious of the means by which the photographer knew about this location, it posed a security risk.

One by one, the court went through articles published in the 1990s and 2000s. Harry detailing his suspicions about how the information was sourced.

Green would then point to legitimate ways MGN reporters could have gathered information on him, such as via palace spokespeople. He repeatedly accused Harry of entering into the realms of speculation, and this accusation that led to Harry's only real show of emotion in his two day appearance.

Later, he was questioned by his own lawyer about how it felt to be repeatedly accused of speculating, having to sit through so much cross examination, how he paused for a long time and got visibly choked up.

Harry's evidence finished early in the afternoon, and the court then heard from Jane Kerr, a former Mirror journalist who wrote many of the articles Harry identified in his testimony.

Kerr has been defending her stories and is denied using any illegitimate means to obtain information. MGN is contesting all of Harry's claims saying he lacks evidence or they've been brought too late. Harry said in court today that he would feel some injustice if he and other claimants lost their case.

We'll have to wait a while to hear the result though, the hearing is expected to go on for another three weeks or so.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


VAUSE: FBI agents are now in Peru for the extradition to the U.S. of the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Peru is temporarily transferring Joran van der Sloot to the U.S. to face charges of trying to extort Holloway's mother, after her daughter vanished. He's already serving 28 years in a Peruvian prison for murdering another young woman in 2012.


Holloway was last seen alive 18 years ago as she leaves in nightclub with van der Sloot and two other men in a river. Her body has never been found.

Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, from the gas pump to the Gulf Coast. Saudi Arabia flexing its growing influence on the world stage. We'll explain in a moment.


VAUSE: Welcome back, I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. A number of sources tells CNN federal prosecutors have told Donald Trump's legal team, the former president is a target in their investigation into how he handled classified documents.

Legal experts say it's clear -- it's a clear sign an indictment may be imminent. It's also an indication that the investigation is focused on Trump's actions, not just those around him.

Prosecutions are looking at how Trump handled sensitive material, which were found at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after he left the White House.

FBI agents retrieved more than 100 classified documents in a search last August, almost a year ago.

The latest candidate in the Republican race in the U.S. President was asked about the documents investigation during a CNN town hall just a few hours ago, Mike Pence pulled some punches. The former Vice President said he does not want to see the Justice Department indict his former boss, arguing it would be terribly divisive for the country.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're the emblem of democracy, we're the symbol of justice in the world and the serious matter which has already happened once in New York, of indicting a former president of the United States sends a terrible message to the world.

I hope the DOJ thinks better of it and resolves these issues without an indictment.


VAUSE: Very different though during his campaign kickoff earlier in the day in Des Moine, Pence went after Trump over his actions ahead of the -- during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to which some protesters, a lot of them chanted hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence because Mike Pence refused to overturn the election results as Donald Trump has asked him.

Pence said Trump should never be president again, that if he has to choose between Trump and the Constitution, he will always choose the Constitution.

One of the most successful professional golfers on the PGA Tour is speaking out about the new partnership with the Saudi sponsored LIV Golf.

Rory McIlroy says he still needs a lot of answers, but feels the move will eventually be good for the game. McIlroy became one of the leading critics of LIV Golf when it launched a year ago.

At the time, Tiger Woods said players who joined LIV turned their backs on the organization that helped them succeed. McIlroy now says he has mixed emotions.



RORY MCILROY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I still hate Liv. Like, I hate Liv. Like, I -- I hope it goes away. And I really expected that it does. It's hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb and, you know, feeling like I've put myself out there, and this is what happens. Again, removing myself from the situation, I see how this is better for the game of golf. There's no denying that.


VAUSE: PGA tour commissioner Jay Monahan was also very critical of Liv Golf when it launched a year ago, but he is now defending his new partnership. On the Golf Channel Wednesday, he said a lot of players were shocked by the news. No kidding. But he's trying to convince them of the positives.


JAY MONAHAN, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: I understand the criticism I'm receiving around the hypocrisy and me being hypocritical, given my commentary and my actions over the last couple of years. I'm confident that we've done something that's in the best interest of our sport and ultimately in the best interests of PGA Tour members.


VAUSE: This is clearly a win by Saudi Arabia, and it's also the latest example of the kingdom exerting its influence on the world stage. CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, explains.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Whether it is gobbling up golf rights or signing yet another global soccer star, or setting oil price trends -- Saudi cutting production by one million barrels a day -- or in diplomacy -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken's three-day visit -- many, many roads now seem to lead to Riyadh. U.S. relations with the desert kingdom have been rocky, President

Biden making democracy and human rights a core issue. But increasingly, Saudi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, setting his own agenda.

Blinken hoping to thaw U.S.-Saudi tensions and build on recent cooperation, hoping both Yemen and Sudan end internal conflicts. Ahead of his arrival, Blinken putting Israel on his agenda, too.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATES: The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

We believe that we can and, indeed, we must play an integral role in advancing it.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Blinken's days-long visit meeting not just Saudi officials, but regional and other diplomats, too. Discussing ISIS in Africa and Asia, and likely Iran's nuclear enrichment program, as well as Russia's war in Ukraine. All point to Saudi's growing influence.

Monday the crown prince hosted Venezuela's president. Tuesday, Iran reopened its diplomatic mission in Riyadh, thanks in part to bin Salman strengthening ties with China.

Last month he hosted Ukraine's President Zelenskyy; hopes to help broker peace there one day.

Whether diplomacy or sport, MBS is thinking big. Eye-poppingly big. Listen to the Saudi private investment fund governor who bankrolled Saudi's Liv Golf tour, explain Saudis' growing influence in the world of golf.

YASIR AL-RUMAYYAN, SAUDI PIF GOVERNOR: The potential there is really big. I mean, if you look at the -- the size of golf, of monetary wise, it's about 100 billion today. And I think the growth is -- it's there.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): From Formula 1 to boxing to music festivals. MBS is reimagining his kingdom. As strange as it seems to many outside the region, outraged at the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, bin Salman is offering his population entertainment, unimaginable a decade ago, when religious conservatives he banished held sway.

At home, his re-branding of Saudi Arabia has gained traction, albeit detractors risk jail if they speak out. Significantly, however, he has yet to persuade the world he can be trusted.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Pope Francis is now awake and fine, apparently, after hernia surgery. Doctors say he will remain in hospital for another ten days. The 86-year-old pontiff has been increasingly fragile in recent years, with numerous ailments. A man in Rome is CNN's Jim Bittermann. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A day after Pope Francis made a surprise trip to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, he was back in, this time for surgery. And the man who performed the operation said it all went well.


DR. SERGIO ALFIERI: The surgical operation and the general anesthesia were well-tolerated by the Papa (ph). Now he's awakened. He's fine. And he's already at work.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): It's the second time this year the 86-year- old pontiff has worried the faithful, after spending four days in the hospital in March for bronchitis.

And it's the second time he's had abdominal surgery in two years.

This year the Vatican says he was placed under general anesthesia, so doctors could repair a hernia the Vatican said was causing recurrent, painful and worsening symptoms.

Medical sources say it's probably related to the surgery that the pope had to remove half his colon in 2021.

The pontiff has been dogged with health issues for years. He often uses a cane or a wheelchair due to the pain in his right knee. He also suffers from chronic sciatica, which has caused him to cancel engagements.

As the surgery went on, the faithful and even non-Catholics showed concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm not Catholic. But he's an important person, and he does a lot of good. And I hope he does well and that he recovers quickly.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): But the recovery period could be long. The Vatican has preventively canceled the pope's audiences and events until June 18.

Even so, afterwards, he'll need to be fully recovered, because he has big summer plants. First to Portugal in August for World Youth Day, where he'll spend a grueling four days meeting with young Catholics from all over the world and visiting the Shrine of Fatima.

And then to Mongolia at the end of August.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Rome.


VAUSE: Coming up next on CNN NEWSROOM, Disney's newest and brightest star widely praised around the world for her performance in "The Little Mermaid." Everywhere, that is, except parts of Asia and South Korea. We'll explain why.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he comes, the Iron Sheik. Right over the top and into the ring, trying to attack the Sergeant. But the Sarge beat him to the shot.



VAUSE: It's fake, right? One of the great villains of sports entertainment, who rose to be a champion, while at the same time terrifying opponents and thrilling fans, has passed away.

WWE Hall of Fame wrestler the Iron Sheik, real name Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, was 81 years old. He was born in Iran, became a central character in all of the over-the-top antics of pro-wrestling during the 1980s, winning the heavyweight championship -- they took it seriously, apparently -- in 1983.

He lost that title a month later to that other great athlete, Hulk Hogan.

Fans never tired of the Iron Sheik's cold (ph) boots, bombast and infamous Camel Clutch finishing hold. Who could ever forget the Camel Clutch?

Disney's new live-action movie, "The Little Mermaid," is tanking in China and South Korea, mostly in part because of the racist backlash. People complaining on social media that Ariel is played by Halle Bailey, a black actress.


The movie has grossed less than $500 million in each country since it was released late last month.

Kristie Lu Stout now live for us from Hong Kong with more. What's going on?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, you know, "The Little Mermaid," as you just mentioned, it is dramatically underperforming in these key markets, South Korea and China, the world's second largest box office, amid racist critiques and criticism out there.

The black actress Halle Bailey has been praised for her inspired, star-making turn as the main character, Ariel, in this Disney remake. But apparently, that's just not enough to win over certain would-be viewers in China and South Korea who simply can't get over the fact that Disney cast her in this part.

Now, the film has found success in many countries around the world. Let's walk through some data points for you. According to Comscore, globally, the film has made some $327 million. But China, again, the world's second largest box office, has contributed a very, very small amount.

According to Ndata (ph) -- this is a Chinese box office tracker -- in mainland China, the film made only $2.7 million in its first five days. And you have to compare that to "Spider-man Across the Spiderverse," which in the same period of time brought in nearly $20 million in the first five days of its opening.

And some in mainland China have been openly sharing their thoughts and objections online. You know, one Netizen on Malyen (ph) -- this is a Chinese movie box office platform -- said, quote, "The fairytale that I grew up with has changed beyond recognition."

And Chinese state media has encouraged such reactions. In, fact this op-ed that was published before the film's debut in China in The Global Times" says this: quote, "The controversy surrounding Disney's forced inclusion of minorities in classic films is not about racism, but it's lazy and irresponsible storytelling strategy," unquote.

Now, Disney declined to comment on the story to CNN.

I should add that similar reaction has been found online in South Korea, with one user there saying that the movie had been, quote, "ruined," and using the hashtag "#notmyariel.

According to the Korean film council, in South Korea, this film, "The Little Mermaid," attracted some -- more data here -- 472,000 viewers in the first week, and compare that to the 643,000 fans that showed up for the latest "Fast and Furious" sequel over the same period -- John.

VAUSE: It's their loss. You know what? Don't see it. It's a good movie. If you don't want it, then it's not -- Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout for us in Hong Kong.

STOUT: Thank you.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, back on the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM, but first WORLD SPORT starts after the break. See you back here in 17 minutes.