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Zelenskyy Calls For Swift Humanitarian Response From International Community After Dam Collapse; Millions Of Americans Under Air Quality Alerts As Canada Wildfires Rage; Prince Harry Gets Emotional in Court During Second Day of Testimony; Justice Department Informs Trump He Is Target Of Classified Documents Probe. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up here on CNN, floodwaters from a breach 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 at this hour and the worst in the world. But forecasts to improve to just plain old unhealthy in the day ahead.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Thank you for being with us for another hour here at CNN Newsroom. We begin once more in southern Ukraine where rescue operations are ongoing and under fire from Russian forces in the Kherson region. Two days after the biggest dam in Ukraine suffered a major breach. The Ukrainian president calls the damage catastrophic. It's pleading for a clear and swift humanitarian response from the international community.

The full extent of the devastation remains unknown, but one aid agency says close to 2,000 homes in Ukrainian controlled areas have been flooded. More than 1,500 residents in those areas evacuated. Ukrainian officials say residents in areas under Moscow's control are receiving no help to evacuate. No assistance from their Russian occupiers.


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


VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) humanitarian and ecological disaster, Ukraine's deputy defense minister reporting battlefield gains around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which she says remains the epicenter of the hostilities. More details now from CNN Sam Kiley reporting in from eastern Ukraine.


SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Ukraine's third assault brigade is in action near Bakhmut, and they claim they're making advances around the city. But their attack is dependent on Soviet era weapons. Modern equipment from the USA and NATO is apparently being held in reserve for a Ukrainian offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a name for your grad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This truck's called Pensioner.

UNIDETNIFIED MALE: Is it good enough for this fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good enough. But I'd like something newer.

KILEY: Ukraine gets no help at all with aircraft not so far. This Soviet era helicopter is ancient, but in combat almost every day, flying dangerously low to avoid missiles and Russian jet hunter killers.

SERHIY, PILOT, UKRAINIAN ARMED ROCES: These helicopters are probably older than my parents and maybe even like my grandparent's age. To fly them, they are very reliable machines. .

KILEY: These aircraft will fly more salties as fighting intensifies in a relentless cycle of war. Ukraine has now got added rage at what it's calling a Russian ecoside. This part of Kherson has suffered Russian bombardment across the river for months, now near total destruction from upriver.

Russia is widely blamed for the collapse of the dam at Nova Kakhovka, which has been under its control since March last year. Civilians who survived the Russian occupation of their town and an offensive to free it are now facing down a new horror. Thousands have no drinking water. Here, a drone delivers help, an adaptation of a system originally designed not to save life, but to take it. Sam Kiley, CNN, in eastern Ukraine.


VAUSE: To this 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 collapsed. At this point, what appears to be the most immediate and urgent problems caused by the breach. What are your biggest concerns now in the coming days?

SELENA KOZAKIJEVIC, CARE UKRAINE AREA MANAGER: Good morning, John. 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, 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 (through translator): 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, our savings.


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 the Dnipro River with the risk of further leakage of more than 300 tons. This may lead to the Nyzhnia Dniprovsky National Nature Park to disappear, which is more than 80,000 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. 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 monitored.

In addition to that, obviously there are other risks related to contamination of the area with the unexploded ordinance 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: An early and unusually intense start to the Canadian wildfire season has left tens of millions of Americans and Canadians breathing noxious and hazardous air. It's eight minutes, nine minutes past one Wednesday morning, or Thursday morning I should say right now in New York City. And this is how the skyline looks right now. It's still kind of hazy air quality the worst in any major city in the world designated as hazardous.

This thick hazy smoke has delayed roughly 2,000 flights. Officials have canceled outdoor activities for children. The time lapse shows smokes engulfing the city over a three hour period Wednesday afternoon. The skyline nearly vanishes behind a thick orange haze that's by 2:00 pm.

From the Midwest to the Northeast, and Mid Atlantic, people are being urged to stay inside. And if they wish to go outside, here's the change wear a mask. The smoke is emanating mainly from 100 fires active in central Quebec.

Officials warn the smoke could blanket much of the United States and Canada for the next few days.


Very latest details now from CNN's Bill Weir reporting in from New York.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMIATE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Canadian wildfires have burned an area 15 times above average for this time of year. And in a world connected by climate crisis, fire and wind are now creating other worldly scenes across the American Northeast and on the streets of New York a mixture of amazement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been living in New York for the most part of 35 years, and I've never experienced anything like this before.

WEIR: And concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For years we've been wearing masks indoors and taking them off outdoors, and now it's the reverse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we're from Australia, and we have a lot of bushfires in Australia, so we're used to this. And this season hasn't been as bad. But it did shock me how quickly it came in last night, and the air quality was bad later in the evening.

WEIR: The sky over Lower Manhattan turned from dirty yellow to a frightening orange in just a few midday hours. The smoke forcing ground stops at LaGuardia and the street lights in Central Park to come on in the middle of the day.

WEIR (on camera): If you get any glimpse of the sun at all on these surreal days, it's this apocalyptic, glowing ball in the sky. The air quality index today on par with New Delhi, India, a city four times larger, which much lower air quality standards, of course.

And just today, the American Lung Association dropped a new report where they examined how many lives will be saved if the U.S. could electrify its vehicle fleet by 2050, it'd be almost 90,000 life saves. And that doesn't account for the prevalence of wildfire smoke now more common on a planet heated up by fossil fuels.

WILLIAM BARRETT, NATIONAL SENIOR DIRECTOR, AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION: Yes, the study is really only focused on emissions from those power plants and the vehicle tailpipes, so we really need to take a comprehensive view. And that new study really illustrates that making these changes today can help bring out major, major public health benefits over time.

WEIR: Any number above 300 on the air quality index is considered dangerous for everyone, regardless of health. And since parts of New York topped 400 today, doctors are bracing for what comes next.

DR. DANIEL STERMAN, DIRECTOT OF PULMONARY MEDICINE, NYU LANGONE: Short term, I can say that I'm very worried as a pulmonologist who takes care of patients with COPD and lung cancer, asthma, but I'm very worried about all of my patients. Patients who've had COVID and had COVID injuries. Who may not have had other lung injuries but survived COVID only to have this exposure and the risk to them of reexacerbation of their underlying lung disease. Many, many health problems that I'm worried about for all of my patients.

WEIR (on camera): Now, when it comes to that little particulate, the really dangerous PM 2.5, research shows that when there are 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, emergency rooms for asthma attacks tend to double. Well, indoor air monitors the last couple of days have shown levels above 150. We take so much solace in being inside most of our lives and thinking that is a protected space.

But health officials also warning check the filters on your air conditioning. Make sure it's recycling the air if you have one that goes out through the window as well. And check those filters. Make sure they're quality enough to get you through what could be a smoky summer regardless of where you live. Bill Weir, CNN, Brooklyn.


VAUSE: An emotional day for Britain's Prince Harry as he concluded testifying in his phone hacking lawsuit against the Mirror Newspaper Group. Harry seemed uncomfortable at times during cross examination. He also clashed with Andrew Green, the lead lawyer for the tabloid newspapers. CNN's Max Foster has details reporting in from London.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): 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 a private investigator working for MGN fitted a tracking device in the car of former girlfriend Chelsea 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 and that 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 it's 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 speculating, and having to sit through so much cross-examination, harry 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 has 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 to begin extradition to the U.S. of the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, who is temporarily transferring Joran van der Sloot to the U.S. to face charges of extortion of Holloway's mother after her daughter vanished. He's already serving 28 years in a prison there for murdering another young woman in 2012.

Holloway was seen alive 18 years ago as she left a nightclub with van der sloot and two other men in Aruba. Since then, her body has never been found.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, another three Republican presidential wannabes have made it official, and among them, former Trump Vice President Mike Pence of hang Mike Pence fame. More on his campaign launch in a moment.

Also, soccer player Lionel Messi reveals where he will play next. It's not in Europe. It's not in the Middle East. Spoiler alert bend it like Beckham. We'll explain in a minute.


VAUSE: A number of sources have told CNN Trump's legal team has been told by prosecutors the former president is a target in their investigation into the alleged mishandling of classified documents. Legal experts say it's a clear sign of an imminent indictment, as well as the investigation being focused on Trump's actions and not just those around him.

Prosecutors are looking at how Trump handled sensitive material 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.

The newest candidate in the Republican race for the U.S. president was asked about the document investigation during a CNN town hall just a few hours ago. Mike Pence he pulled his punches, the former vice president said he does not want to see the Justice Department indict Donald Trump, arguing it would be terribly divisive to the country.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: 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: Oddly enough, earlier, during his very low key official campaign launch, Pence took a much tougher tone towards Trump, saying he should never be president again. CNN's Kyung Lah was there.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Mike Pence on his own.

PENCE: I'm running for President of the United States of America.

LAH: The former vice president taking Donald Trump head on.

PENCE: I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be President of the United States. And anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be President of the United States again.

LAH: It's a message resonating with Iowa Republicans tired of the Trump drama.

JOSH STEUTERMAN, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: Many that I've spoken to don't need the distractions that came with other candidates, that they're looking forward to finding solutions.

LAH: It's here in Iowa that the Pence campaign begins their persuasion campaign, selling a familiar brand of the Republican Party to an electorate reshaped by the former president.

J.C. RUDDY, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: So not that Mike Pence, if he were to get elected, could do a good job. I just don't think he'd do as good a job as Donald Trump.

LAH: In his kickoff speech, Pence touted the successes of the Trump administration, but suggested the former president has moved away from conservative principles.

PENCE: When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative, and together we did just that. But today, he makes no such promise.

LAH: Pence called out the former president's stances on entitlement programs, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and abortion policy.

PENCE: Sanctity of life has been our party's calling for a half a century, long before Donald Trump was a part of it. But now he treats it as an inconvenience. Even blaming our election losses in 2022 on overturning Roe v. Wade, it will. LAH: Be a tightrope for Trump's former VP to walk once loyal

lieutenant in his administration.

PENCE: I'm deeply humbled as your vice president.

LAH: A political tie broken on January 6 over election lies.

PENCE: President Trump was wrong then and he's wrong now.

LAH: Former New Jersey governor Christie announced his presidential bid Tuesday, kicking off his campaign with sharp attacks against Trump, too, telling CNN today ...

CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: he disappointed our party. He disappointed the country, and that's going to be the focus of this campaign.

LAH: The Republican field continues to expand, with North Dakota Governor Doug Bergam also entering the race today.

DOUG BURGUM, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where we come from, when something isn't working, you stop and you try something new. That's common sense. Joe Biden has got to go.


VAUSE: Thanks to Kyung Lah for that report. Let's go now to CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein live for us this hour in Los Angeles. Good to see you, Ron.


VAUSE: Here's the former Vice President Mike Pence at a CNN town hall a few hours ago, twisting himself into knots. Listen to this.


PENCE: This kind of action by the Department of Justice, I think, would only fuel further division in the country.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sir, I just want to clarify. What you're saying is that if they believe he committed a crime, they should not go forward with an indictment. You just talked before about committing to the rule of law.

PENCE: Let me be clear that no one's above the law.


VAUSE: OK. A few hours earlier, at a Des Moines community college with a few hundred people attending, Pence was sharply critical of Trump. He said he should never be president again. Was Pence hoping no one was at that campaign launch, that no one heard what he said back then, and he kind of just changed his tune a few hours later? It's just bizarre. BROWNSTEIN: It was not only a few hours later, it was really almost a

few minutes later. Right? I mean, I watched that whole speech this morning, and that was as strong and unequivocal as Mike Pence has ever been, that Donald Trump is unfit to be president again and should never be near the Oval Office. He was certainly more direct on that point than almost anyone else in the Republican field, sounding more like Liz Cheney, say, than Nikki Haley.

Then he went on Fox News in between the announcement and the CNN town hall and said that if Donald Trump was the nominee, he would support him, someone who he just said was unfit to ever be president again, which is an argument that he repeated at the CNN town hall.

So, John kind of coming away from the whole day. On the one hand, I think it does show with Pence making these kind of direct arguments against Trump.


Christie ready to make the same arguments against Trump, and DeSantis going after him, at least on policy, that there is the potential that you could hear a stronger case against Donald Trump presented in the 2024 race than Republicans really heard for almost all of the 2016 race.

On the other hand, I think that kind of the impressling that we're talking about with Mike Pence shows how wrapped around the axle Republicans remain on the issue of whether they can separate themselves from Donald Trump even as his legal troubles mount.

VAUSE: Just explain to me why, though, just getting back to Pence himself, why does he continue to try and win over the hang Mike Pence crowd in the first place? That just seems like it's never going to happen.

BROWNSTEIN: Did you notice the response in the first 15 minutes of the CNN town hall when he delivered all of his big lines, big applause lines from the announcement speech about, he will always stand for the Constitution and always uphold the rule of law? It was silence. There was not a lot of appetite in that room for arguing that Donald Trump was a threat to the Constitution.

And I think that is the challenge. 70, 75 percent of Republicans believe that he won the election, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And large majorities say he does not bear responsibility for January 6. I mean, this is a fundamental challenge for the candidates.

There is a piece of the party that does believe that Trump acted improperly after the November 2020 election and certainly acted improperly on January 6. But they all must deal with the reality that right now, most Republicans believe that he did nothing wrong, that his presidency was a success, and they must find a way to maneuver around him despite that. VAUSE: Okay, so you mentioned that Chris Christie, the New Jersey

governor, former governor, he's also in the running. He also explained during a CNN interview why he worked as an advisor to candidate and then President Donald Trump. Here he is.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDDIATE: Yes, I thought I could help to make him a better candidate and a better president if he won. And I didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president, and that's why I ran in the first place. Turns out I was wrong. I couldn't make him a better candidate, and I couldn't make him a better president.


VAUSE: Christie at least he's one who's got candid like he's, you know, there's sharp shade, the straight shooter, says it like it is. If it ever gets to the point of man a man, you know, with Trump and Christie, is he the one that's most likely to take Trump down if it ever does get to that point?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, as I said, there are several of the candidates who now seem more willing to go after Trump. Christie certainly is at the head of that line. Now, whether he's going to have the meet the requirements to get on the debate stage, 40,000 donors, you know, a certain polling level we'll have to see.

Republican voters, I think, are going to hear more of a case that Donald Trump is unfit to be president again. I think they're going to hear it from Christie, they're going to hear it from Pence. They may hear it from others. And the question of how they react to that, whether they just circle the wagons more intensely if more of these indictments come down, it certainly seems possible.

This is really going to be I think, having listened to Pence today and listened to Christie, I feel this is really going to be a revealing test not only of the Republican leadership, but of the Republican broad electorate here.

Are they going to simply kind of, you know, na-na-na-na ignore what they are hearing from these other GOP leaders? Or are they willing to face the implications of everything that has happened since the election in November 2020?

VAUSE: Yeah, I guess they've done it for about seven years now. I guess we'll see what happens over the next year or so. Ten in the running, more to come.


VAUSE: Ron Brownstein, thank you for being with us, sir. It's always appreciated.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Take a short break here on CNN Newsroom. From the gas pump to the golf course, Saudi Arabia flexing its influence on the world stage, spending some big bucks to do it. Back in a moment.



VAUSE: Still not a done deal, but football legend Lionel Messi says he is heading to America to play for MLS club Inter Miami. And the speculation of where he would land after once leaving Paris Saint- Germain, some suggested he might return to Barcelona. He spent 17 seasons there or possibly head to Saudi Arabia and cash in on his later years.

The 35-year-old Argentinian led Argentina to the World Cup championship last year. He has won a record seven Ballon D'Ors,

Major League Soccer tweeted, "The GOAT -- greatest of all time -- is coming. Millions of MLS fans all over the world welcome you, Leo."

Here is Don Riddell.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: 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 is now on his way to Major League Soccer and Inter Miami.

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

LIONEL MESSI, SOCCER LEGEND (through translator): I made the decision that I'm 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: Well, thanks there to CNN's Don Riddell.

One of the most successful players on the PGA Tour is speaking out about the new merger between the Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf. Rory McIlroy still wants answers but that the move4 believes 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 another golfing legend 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. I hate LIV. I hope it goes away. And I would fully expect that it does. It is hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb and you know, feeling like I have 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: At the time LIV Golf launched, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was one of its fierce critics. Now he is defending the new partnership.

On the Golf Channel Wednesday, he said a lot of players were shocked by the news and that is an understatement. He is now 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 years.

I am confident that we have done something that is in the best interest of our sport, and ultimately in the best interest of PGA Tour members.



VAUSE: This new partnership is without a doubt a win for Saudi Arabia and many critics say it is just another example of sportswashing, an attempt by the kingdom to hide its horrible record on human rights abuses.

CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson explains this is just all part of the kingdom's growing influence on the world stage.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Whether it is gobbling up golf rights or signing yet another global soccer star, or setting oil price trends, Saudi cutting production by 1 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 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman setting his own agenda.

Blinken hoping to thaw U.S.-Saudi tensions and a build on recent cooperation, helping both Yemen and Sudan and internal conflicts.

Ahead of his arrival, Blinken putting Israel on his agenda too.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: 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: Blinken's days-long visit meeting not just Saudi officials but regional and other diplomats too, discussing ISIS and 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. eyepoppingly 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 size of golf, monetary-wise it is about 100 billion today. And I think the growth is there.

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

At home, his rebranding of Saudi Arabia has gained traction, albeit detractors with jail if they speak out. Significantly however, he's yet to persuade the world he can be trusted.

Nic Robertson, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Pope Francis is said to be resting comfortably after a hernia surgery. Doctors say he will remain in hospital for another ten days or so.

The 86-year-old Pontiff has appeared increasingly fragile in recent years with numerous ailments.

More details now from our man in Rome, CNN's Jim Bittermann.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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, SURGEON, GEMELLI HOSPITAL: The surgical operation and the general anesthesia were well (INAUDIBLE) about the Pope. Now he is awakened. He is fine. And he is already at work.

BITTER: It is 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 is the second time he has had abdominal surgery in two years.

This time, 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 heroes.

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: I am not Catholic, but he is an important person, and he does a lot of good, and I hope he does well. And that he recovers quickly.

BITTERMANN: But the recovery period could be long. The Vatican has preventatively canceled the Pope's audiences and events until June 18th. Even so afterwards he will need to be fully recovered, because he has big summer plans. First to Portugal in August for World Youth Day where he will 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: Still to come, working from home. For so many, WFH in a post pandemic world is just the new normal. And it seems getting them out of their jimmy jams and back in the office, well, they'll only do that kicking and screaming.

But what does the data actually say about working remotely? We will discuss in a moment.


VAUSE: In the early 1990s, two well-known outdoor brand moguls fell in love with each other and with saving the wilderness. Cashing in on their lucrative careers, they decided to funnel (ph) their earnings into conservation.

In today's "Call to Earth" we will look at so-called "rewilding" projects in South America sponsored by Kristine and Douglas Tompkins and supported by Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative. They brought back depleted ecosystems, they pulled them from the brink.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: In the upper right corner of Argentina, you will find a lush land brimming with life. A park called Ibera (ph) and a home to 4,000 species of plants and animals.

Near the very top of that intricate food chain, and vital to keeping it balanced, is the majestic jaguar. But until 2021, the biggest cat in South America had not been seen in the wild here for 70 years.

KRISTINE TOMPKINS, CONSERVATIONIST: When we decided to try to reintroduce jaguars back into Ibera ecosystem, we had to first understand what happened to them in the first place.

So we went back in. It's not hard to find, and you see why there are no jaguars left in this 2 million acre territory.

WEIR: Kris and Doug Tompkins made a fortune in adventure gear and fashion but now hold the legacy of launching what Kris calls a world first breeding program aimed at reintroducing keystone species back into the region.

TOMPKINS: Almost 11 years later now, we have between 14 and 18 jaguars living in the wild. And we have seven individuals who are sort of on deck to be released.


WEIR: It is the fruit of a labor Kris and Doug began decades ago, when they traded in high powered lives of fashion for a cabin off the grid deep in Patagonia.

TOMPKINS: The roots of Tompkins Conservation sprouted when Doug, after a really successful business career went back to Chile and Argentina in the early 90s, looking for a way to give back to the two countries you love so much, and to help nature begin to heal itself.

WEIR: Doug's vision involved a rewilding approach to conservation. And it began by buying up millions of acres, turning ranches back into grassland and forest. And then giving it all away with the creation of new national parks.

TOMPKINS: To create the system where species that have gone missing have the space and the safety to come back and not be extinct again. WEIR: Along with its offshoots, Rewilding Argentina and Rewilding

Chile, Tompkins Conservation has conserved around 15 million acres over the last three decades and after tragically losing her husband, Doug, to a kayaking accident in 2015, Kris Tompkins carries on the dream.

TOMPKINS: This photograph is a picture of Doug and me flying in the little plane which we did nearly every day, and really understanding the territories that we were becoming interested in and would eventually develop as national parks.

WIER: Today, their donated land has inspired the creation or expansion of 15 national parks. And in addition to the jaguars, they successfully reintroduced 13 other species, like the giant anteater, collared peccary and propus deer.

TOMPKINS: So here is an example of community members, a species that have gone extinct and is back now and a team member. That tells the whole story. Rescuing an orphan anteater cub.

0I feel extraordinary pride for what we have done so far, but I'm definitely not satisfied. I'm happy about the past, but I'm completely focused on the future. Where will we be passing about in ten years?

So we can elevate ourselves, because of what has been done in the past, what can we do now? What are we doing now?


VAUSE: What are we doing now? Let us know what you're doing to answer the call with #Call to Earth.

Back in a moment.


VAUSE: Disney's new live action movie "The Little Mermaid" is tanking at the box office in China and South Korea. Many believe it is part of a racist backlash.

There are complaints on social media that Ariel is played by Halle Bailey, a black actress. The movie has grossed less than $5 million in each country since it was released late last month.

Kristie Lu Stout live for us in Hong Kong. Not the first time this has happened. I guess it's not going to be the last?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, no, perhaps. But let's walk you through the data of what is happening here with the story. "The Little Mermaid" is dramatically underperforming in two significant markets, especially China, the world's second largest box office and South Korea amid racist commentary and critiques that are out there.

[01:49:58] STOUT: The black actress Halle Bailey, she has been widely commended and praised for her performance as the main character Ariel, but apparently not enough to win over certain would-be viewers in China and South Korea who just can't get over the fact that she was cast by Disney in this role.

Now the film has found success in many countries around the world. I will walk through some data points for you. In fact, according to ComScore, the film has made $327 million globally. But China, again the world's second largest box office, has contributed a very small amount. According to (INAUDIBLE), this is the Chinese box office tracker in mainland China, the film made only $2.7 million in its first five days.

When you compare that to the Spider-Man movie "Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse" that had brought in nearly $20 million in its first five days.

Some in mainland China have been sharing their objections online. You know, one netizen on a platform called Mao-yen which is a box office movie platform, said quote that "The fairytale I grew up with has changed beyond recognition," unquote.

And Chinese state media has been ignoring such responses. In fact, let's bring it up for your, an op-ed that was published before the film's debut in China, "The Global Times" said this. Quote, "The controversy surrounding Disney's forced inclusion of minorities in classic films is not about racism, but it is, lazy and irresponsible storytelling strategy," unquote.

Disney declined to comment to CNN on the story, but we have also seen similar reaction online in South Korea, with one user saying that the movie had, quote, "been ruined". Adding the #NotMyAriel. According to the Korean Film Council in South Korea, "The Little Mermaid" attracted, here are more numbers for you some 472,000 viewers in its first week, compare to the near 643,000 fans who showed up for the latest "Fast and Furious" movie over the same period, John.

VAUSE: "Fast and Furious, huh? Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you.

Is it a good thing? working from home, that is. Author, TV personality as well as business entrepreneur Martha Stewart says, no.

In an interview with "Footwear News Magazine", Stewart describes the hybrid model's ineffective, quote, "You can't possibly get everything done working three days a week in the office, and two days remotely. Should America go down the drain because people don't want to go back to work?

So many bosses are pushing for a return to work full-time, others defend the practice. According to new data, average office occupancy is still about 48 percent of pre-pandemic levels. In fact return to work seems to have stalled earlier this year.

Let's discuss all of this with our very favorite business commentator, senior fellow at the Claremont Graduate University, Drucker School of Management, our very own Ryan Patel -- well, you know, almost our ve2ry own -- in Los Angeles. Good to see you.


VAUSE: Ok. So Twitter owner and Tesla boss Elon Musk, he has a moral problem with the whole WFH, working from home which seems to be kind of a WTF moment. Here he is.


ELON MUSK, CEO, TWITTER: (INAUDIBLE) cars, servicing the cars, (INAUDIBLE) houses, fixing houses, making the food, making all the things that people consume. It is messed up to assume that they have to go to work but you don't. How is that -- it is not just a price of thing, I think it is morally wrong.


VAUSE: Beyond the morality, here's the data, U.S. worker productivity year over year has declined for five straight quarters for the first time on record. Productivity fell 2.7 percent the first quarter of this year compared to last year. But concurrently the number of hours worked increased which means people are working longer hours, but aren't as productive as they once were.

This is really a direct causation argument saying that never happens, but is working from home actually playing into these numbers? Is it having a real effect?

PATEL: Well, it does, because yes it tracks (ph) to that degree but the problem with that is, John, when you say you're hybrid worker -- you are working hybrid, you actually have to do something. It just can't ok, you come in three days. The leadership team, the business leaders, have to do more. They have to be more inclusive.

Guess what, it is hard to be hybrid. But to be successful at it you have to do more. You have to be inclusive with your workers. You've got to have it in person. You just can't let it be. And I think that is the issue that I see in the numbers.

It does work for some companies because they have to build a culture, they actually have t6o care not just to leave them alone.

VAUSE: Ok, so there is a right way to bring employees back into the office. There is a wrong way of doing it.

Here's the wrong way from the "Wall Street Journal", a new CEO says employees can't work remotely after all, and they revolt after insurer Farmer Group told staff last year they could be remote, some sold cars, moved to new, cities."


VAUSE: Oh boy. This raises the question, how hard will it be if they ever want to unwind this whole WFH model and clearly a return to the office, eight hours a day, five days a week isn't going to happen anytime soon if at all?

PATEL: Yes, I think it's an extreme, right. Those culture -- you saw Martha Stewart saying her team wants everybody back, even though she hasn't got anybody back in yet, she thinks that way and I think there's other teams that want to be remote work. We think that Stanford did a report last month, 50 million job postings only -- when I say only 12 percent of it was remote work.

So it's not -- we are not talking about half of the companies are going that way. It really is talk about extreme cases of companies who maybe a couple years ago, their CEO comes out and says we're never going to return to work but we care about our employees. And all of a sudden, they go, just kidding. Now, we're going to check your office cards to see if you are coming back.

That is not going to fly. Those are the extremes. But it is the ones in the middle, that I believe, John, that there's going to be some flexibility, and again in this time when you're looking for employee retention, this could be -- a 0flexibility might be something that goes a long way for certain employees.

VAUSE: Well there is a labor shortage, there will be flexibility.

But just to bring this whole discussion full circle, you mentioned Martha Stewart, surprisingly she added these comments. Look at the success of France with their stupid, you know, off for August, blah, blah, blah. That is not a very thriving country.

Quite surprising, if thriving is defined by GDP growth, France has outpaced the U.S. in both 2021 and 2022. How about them numb apples.

And just to totally confuse everything here, a study last year found only 29 percent of French workers say they work remotely at least once a week. The lowest rate in Europe. So, in a way France is saying, that you are more productive if you are actually back in the office if you look at the GDP numbers. Yes?

PATEL: You always beat me to the point, John. I mean that is what it is. That is what it is all about. You know, I think it was -- you know, I don't think Martha Stewart will be inviting us to a any party anymore, but you know, I think France is doing what it's always done. They have built a culture that works for them.

At the end of the day, Elon and Martha, any business is going to run it the best way profitable it can be. Each to his own. There is no cookie cutter (INAUDIBLE) stereotype to everybody have to do one model. It makes no sense because businesses are trying to make the top line and keep their employees.

And so that's what I think they are going to try to do. So it's kind of funny when we're having this conversation.

VAUSE: So what we're saying here is that businesses are different, no one size fits all. And everyone's got to find the size that fits them best, right. Is that how you see it?

PATEL: Yes, guess what, it is hard work too. It's not easy. That is what it is all about.

VAUSE: Thank you so much, Ryan Patel. As always it is great to see you. We'll talk soon.

PATEL: Right, John.

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

The news continues here next. My friend and colleague, Paula Newton, she will be up a after very short break.

And I hope to see you right back here tomorrow.