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IDF: Dozens of Weapons Found Near Al-Amal Hospital; Maryland Governor: 'Long Road Ahead' after Bridge Collapse; Group: Russian Security Aware of ISIS Threat Days in Advance; Gazans Struggle to Find Food Amid Looming Famine; U.N. Report: World Wastes More Than 1B Meals Every Day; Japan's Rintaro Sasaki Following in Footsteps of Greats. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 00:00   ET


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: -- less than 30 seconds away, Cashe McClay. I am so excited. I feel the energy, too. I'm so excited. A listening party has to happen right now. I like it's almost -- this is actually kind of a New Year's Eve.


I know Anderson, I know you do the New Year's Eve show, but let me take a second. I'm going to count down: ten, nine, eight, seven --


COATES: -- six, five, four -- get your phone, please. Two, one!

OK. Signing out. Cowboy Coates, Cache McClay, bye. Keep watching CNN. I'll be back. I've got to go.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the struggle to survive in Gaza, as desperate families forced to scavenge for food. Warnings that famine is now setting in.

Dozens are dead in South Africa after a bus filled with Easter worshippers plunges off a 50-meter cliff.

And three U.S. presidents share a stage in New York City for a big- money, star-studded fundraiser for Joe Biden's reelection campaign.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: The International Court of Justice says the catastrophic conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate, with famine setting in.

It's demanding that Israel do more to get humanitarian aid into the territory. And that includes access to food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.

Israel criticizing the decision as, quote, "cynical" and blaming Hamas for the situation. It accuses the group of commandeering, hoarding, and stealing aid.

Meanwhile, a U.N. humanitarian group is appealing for large-scale aid deliveries to Gaza by land, not the aerial drops you see there. The group says Israel must open more access points and supply routes.

The U.N. reports more than 1.1 million people are struggling with food insecurity. The Israel-Hamas war is taking a harsh toll on the youngest and most vulnerable in Gaza, as wars always do.

CNN's Melissa Bell reports for us from Jerusalem.


MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With fears of famine in the Gaza Strip worsening day by day, there has been the confirmation of the death of a six-year-old --

BELL (voice-over): -- Mohammad al-Jafar (ph), that we'd been able, through a freelance cameraman, to meet with a couple of weeks ago in the North of the Gaza Strip at the hospital he was being treated at.

The tragic news from his family. The young six-year-old has now died. He is the 30th victim, 24th child, to die of famine in the Gaza Strip --

BELL: -- that we know of. The fear: that this could be a toll that rises much, much higher. There has been continued fighting fierce close combat, fighting around the Al-Shifa hospital, as well --

BELL (voice-over): -- according to the IDF, but also to Palestinian sources on the ground.

Operations have continued around further South around the al-Amal Hospital, both hospitals that the IDF says it is carrying out targeted operational activities in to flush out terrorists. It speaks of hundreds of arrests and eliminations of what it describes as terrorists around Al-Shifa over the course of the last few days around al-Amal of a dozen terrorists, it says, being killed and a cache of weaponry being found, as well.

BELL: For the civilians in and around both hospitals, a dire situation. Not only the artillery fire, the airstrikes --

BELL (voice-over): -- but also, we hear from eyewitnesses, hundreds of bodies strewn on the ground. The impossible escape, the fact of being separated from their families.

And from the Palestinian sources we've spoken to, both doctors and journalists, the news of, in some cases, their detention and abuse by the IDF, allegations we've put to the Israeli Defense Forces. But on which they've not, for now, responded.

This -- all of this picture, of course, leads to huge fears about what happens next in Rafah, the Southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. The intention of the Israelis. What we're hearing from officials and the statements of people like

Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking only on Wednesday of the fact that he believed that victory was close and that an invasion of Rafah was inevitable; that that could be the next step.

The United States will continue to urge Israel to show restraint and to think of other ways of carrying out its desired aim of rooting out the last Hamas battalions from Rafah without carrying out a fully- fledged --

BELL: -- ground invasion, given the more than 1 million Gazans currently sheltering in and around that part of the Gaza Strip.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOLMES: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is a CNN military analyst and former commanding general of the U.S. Army, Europe, and 7th Army.


Always good to see you, Mark. Let's talk about Rafah. I mean, they had a prewar population of 300,000, 1.2 to 1.4 million. What would a military operation in Rafah look like? How difficult, how risky for civilians?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, from the same point (ph), personally you've got to consider, Michael, is what's the enemy doing there. And Israel is claiming that there are four battalions or more of Hamas operating from inside or underground Hamas and especially that there are many senior leaders, Hamas leaders there, including Sinwar and as well as the potential for the 130-plus remaining hostages.

Now, Israel believes these are the last remaining Hamas strong points within Gaza, even though they've still been fighting in Khan Yunis. So what you're talking about is the potential for a massive operation. They -- Israel started an air campaign in that, a relatively minor air campaign on Monday.

But you're going to see them looking to destroy, complete the destruction of Hamas in this area. And it's going to be very tough because as you said, there's 100 and or 1.2 million people living above those subterranean tunnels and shafts that are in this area.

HOLMES: Yes. And then when it comes to those civilians, in a purely logistical sense, you're a logistical guy. You know, how difficult is the notion of moving civilians out to safer places if there is such a thing, and most people think there isn't.

HERTLING: Well, it's going to be tough in this particular area, because the Israeli army has gone all through the Northern and central part of Gaza, pushing the Palestinians toward the South into Rafah.

Now, the Israeli government has said there's the -- an option, or Mr. Netanyahu has said there is an option of moving these Palestinians to a part of the Gaza called al-Mawasi, which is a small area about a little bit Northeast along the Mediterranean Sea from Rafah.

And you'd be interested in this, Michael, because being an Australian, this area covers about 40 square kilometers. And according to the U.N., the Sydney International Airport is about nine square kilometers.

So you kind of get a perspective of how small this area is and how you're trying to fit 1.2 million people. And you add to that the fact there is no capability of supplying water, food, sanitary conditions, tents in this area, just yet.

And it's going to be a mass exodus once Israel starts the campaign in Rafah of Palestinians moving out of that again, after they've already been moved several times in a forced displacement.


HERTLING: And it's going to be very difficult.

HOLMES: Yes. No, I've been there a bunch of times. I think people forget how small Gaza is with so many people.

And now, as a military man -- and you know, I was with you in Iraq, so I know what you've seen, or some of it. What do you make of the level of civilian casualties and the level of destruction of buildings in terms of the issue of proportionality? Because you served in high population areas like Mosul and so on in Iraq.

HERTLING: Yes, but nothing's like this, Michael. I've just got to say, yes, we were in Mosul and Tikrit and Kirkuk and several large, populated cities. But we didn't have an enemy that had built his defensive position under the main elements of those cities.

You know, there was a report today that the Israeli Defense Forces found an additional 300 terrorists in the al Shifa Hospital, an area that's -- that's been receiving a lot of attention.

The -- Hamas has purposely built their defenses underneath things like hospitals and schools and mosques and civilian structures. So when you're talking about prying them out of those locations, you have to go in, both with explosive devices, as well as with human beings, with soldiers.

And that's just exceedingly difficult.


HERTLING: You know, Michael, at the beginning of the war, the Israeli army thought that there was about 300 miles of tunnels underneath Gaza. They now claim that there's close to 570 miles worth of tunnels and about 5,700 entry and exit points.

So when you're talking from a military perspective, you have to close or at least control those entry and exit points. You have to clear those tunnels, and it's just one of the most difficult military operations you can -- you can imagine.

HOLMES: Again, going back to our time in Iraq -- and I saw you, you know, walking around the local population, interacting with the local population.

Israel says it wants to eliminate, apart from Hamas -- it wants to eliminate radicalization in Gaza. And you know, you -- you are running these areas in the North of Iraq, dealing with local populations in a very hands-on way.


Do you think what's happened in Gaza will increase radicalization rather than the desire to eliminate it?

HERTLING: Yes, it will most definitely increase it. And that's the unfortunate part.

Israel has run an effective military campaign. They have not run an effective political campaign.

Michael, you know, when you were with us, I banned the phrase "gaining hearts and minds," and instead what we said is "gained trust and compliments."


HERTLING: And the Israeli government has not done that with the Palestinian citizens.

So even though they may be protecting some of these Hamas terrorists, they haven't seen any kind of alternative from protecting them.


HERTLING: They don't have their own government with the Palestinians, and they can't depend on the Israeli government for protection.


HERTLING: And security. So we've seen that with the problems with the humanitarian aid going in there. There has been very little attention paid to that, even though it has improved in the last month or two. But it's still not sufficient to deal with the population that is certainly going to be kind of persuaded by the terrorists, as opposed by the Israeli Defense Force.

HOLMES: Yes, you've got a unique perspective in, you know, both those areas. The military side and also the population side.

Wish we had more time. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thanks so much.

HERTLING: Pleasure, Michael. Good to see you again.

Now, just a little while ago, the U.S. president said Saudi Arabia and Arab countries are, quote, "prepared to fully recognize Israel for the first time." But he didn't go into any detail with that.

The remarks coming during a huge fundraiser for Joe Biden's reelection campaign. Billed as an armchair conversation with Democratic predecessors Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, President Biden repeated calls for a post-Gaza plan, and all three presidents called for a two- state solution.

The event inside New York's Radio City Music Hall was interrupted several times by pro-Palestinian demonstrators demanding a ceasefire. They were scolded at one point by Obama, who suggested they talk less and listen more.

Hundreds of others rallied outside protesting the Biden administration's handling of the war. The Biden-Clinton-Obama fundraiser said to have raised more than $25 million.

In South Africa, an 8-year-old is the sole survivor after a bus went off a cliff. She's said to be in serious condition and receiving medical treatment.

The accident happened Thursday on a mountain pass in Limpopo province. Crews are working to recover the bodies of the rest of those onboard. Forty-five people who were traveling to a conference to celebrate Easter.

Officials say the bus driver lost control and collided with some barriers on the bridge. That reportedly cause the bus to go over the edge, falling some 50 meters to the ground, where it then caught fire.

Maryland's governor is admitting the state has a very long road ahead as a salvage operation gets underway after the collapse of the Key Bridge. Governor Wes Moore told reporters that recovery efforts for those still missing is a main focus, as divers battle murky water conditions.

Officials are also working to reopen the channel and restart traffic to and from the port before, of course, ultimately rebuilding the bridge.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): The Dali is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower. And the Dali has the Key Bridge on top of it. We're talking three to 4,000 tons of steel that's sitting on top of that ship. So we've got work to do.


HOLMES: The U.S. federal government says it is giving the state $60 million as what they describe as a down payment for cleanup work and rebuilding.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is bringing in the largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard to help clear the debris.

CNN's Pete Muntean now with more from Maryland. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New video shows the fateful final moments before Baltimore's iconic Key Bridge was taken down by a crippled cargo ship: flashing lights on top believed to be from the pothole repair crew that perished?

GAYLE FAIRMAN, UBER DRIVER: I could've been on that bridge.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Uber driver Gayle Fairman says she was stopped by police moments before the bridge's dramatic plunge into the Patapsco River below.

FAIRMAN ([h): If my passenger wasn't a little bit late coming out to the car and getting into it, we probably very well could have been on the bridge when it collapsed.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Now National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who boarded the Dali again on Thursday, are detailing the crew's desperate attempts to avoid disaster as the hundred-ton ship barreled out of control.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: We've seen the recordings. We have data which is consistent with a power outage.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): But NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy says it is too early to know what triggered the outage.

The Dali's voyage data recorder shows it shoved out from the port of Baltimore early Tuesday at 12:39 a.m., traveling at eight knots, or roughly nine miles per hour.

The ship maneuvered without issue for 46 minutes. Then at 1:25 a.m., numerous alarms sounded on the ship's bridge.

At 1:26 a.m., the crew ordered steering and rudder commands, then radioed for tugboats to come back and help.

At 1:27 a.m., the crew began dropping an anchor on the left side of the ship and warned over radio that it was approaching the Key Bridge.

At 1:29:33, impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire Key Bridge has fallen into the harbor.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Investigators now underscore that the 47-year- old bridge was designed without redundancy. Known as "fracture critical," the NTSB says the failure of one support causes the entire bridge to fall.

The older design is common on nearly 17,000 existing bridges in the United States. The Key Bridge did have protective barriers, known as dolphins, but investigators say the Dali slipped through them. TROY MORGAN, STRUCTURES ENGINEER: The idea is not to really design

these bridge piers to absorb that kind of direct impact. It's just not -- it's not feasible; it's not economical. But usually, there are other real protective measures that can be taken to kind of limit the exposure of the peers to the ship itself.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): With the port a backbone of Baltimore's economy, there is an urgent push to reopen its shipping lanes, even at a reduced capacity.

At least 11 ships are trapped in the port, critical for moving everything from sugar to cars. The Army Corps of Engineers is working to move the Dali first, but its bow is now pinned under the weight of the collapsed bridge.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): If we can open one of the lanes sooner, then that, obviously, will allow ships to come in and out.

MUNTEAN: NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy says there is an issue with the ship's voyage data recorder. The data it recorded is very bare bones: engine RPM, movement of the ship's rudder, and heading of the ship's bow. That is about it. Not like the recorder on a commercial airliner that records about 1,000 points of data.

The good news is the recorder captured a lot of audio from the ship's bridge. So the NTSB is now relying on that and interviews it is conducting with the crew of the Dali. All 21 of them are still on board.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Dundalk, Maryland.


HOLMES: The Kremlin was reportedly not entirely in the dark about the deadly terror attack near Moscow. After the break, a report that its security services knew in advance the attack could be in the making.

Plus, the world wasted about a billion metric tons of food in 2022. After the break, I'll talk with an expert about the staggering data in a new report on food waste.



HOLMES: Russia says it has detained a 12th suspect in last week's terror attack near Moscow. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the shooting and arson attack, which left more than 140 people dead.

The terrorist group spokesman praised the attack on social media Thursday and urged supporters to strike elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is giving a clearer timeline about its warnings to Russia that a terrorist attack could be coming. Washington says it gave a heads up to Moscow multiple times, including more than two weeks in advance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: On March the 7th, at 11:15 in the morning, Moscow time, following normal procedures and through established channels that have been employed many times previously. The United States government passed a warning in writing to Russian security services.


HOLMES: Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to ignore the U.S. warnings before the attack. He called them a provocation. But now an activist group in London says Russian security services were aware that ISIS might have been preparing to strike.

CNN's Matthew Chance with that story. And a warning, some images in his report might be disturbing.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the worst terror attack in Russia in 20 years. And new evidence suggests the Kremlin's own security services were aware of an ISIS threat.

Internal Russian intelligence documents obtained by the London-based Dossier Center warned of an increased likelihood of an attack in Russia just days before the assault.

According to the investigative organization, ethnic Tajiks could be involved, radicalized by ISIS-K. That's the central Asian offshoot of the terror group claiming responsibility for the attack near Moscow with statements, photographs, even this propaganda video filmed by the attackers themselves.

The Kremlin hasn't responded to CNN's request for a comment on the Dossier Center report.

But U.S. intelligence warnings to Moscow were dismissed by President Putin himself as a provocation intended to intimidate and destabilize Russian society. The Kremlin seems determined to blame Ukraine, which adamantly denies any involvement for this destruction and bloodshed.

Suspected Islamists may have carried out the attack, says Moscow. But it was supported by Kyiv, and Russian investigators now say they've extracted evidence from the battered suspects.

SVETLANA PETRENKO, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE (through translator): Working with detained terrorists, studying their technical devices, evidence was obtained connecting them with Ukrainian nationalists. We have confirmed data the perpetrators received significant amounts of money and cryptocurrency from Ukraine.

CHANCE (voice-over): But it's hard to take the Kremlin fighting a brutal war in Ukraine at its word. Critics say they may be using the tragedy in Moscow to bolster flagging support for a conflict costing tens of thousands of lives, and to mask the shortcomings of its own intelligence services, too focused in recent years, say critics, on Russia's political opposition, like supporters of the late Alexei Navalny, and not enough on the Islamist threat.

For the Kremlin, that's a damaging criticism. President Putin, here visiting a military helicopter base North of Moscow, has long cast himself as the guarantor of Russian stability and security,

Now, more than ever, to many Russians, that guarantee seems threadbare.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: When we come back, mothers and fathers in war-ravaged Gaza watched helplessly as their children go hungry for months now. The disturbing fallout from the Israel-Hamas war, when we come back.



HOLMES: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me, Michael Holmes. And a closer look now at the dire situation for Palestinians in Gaza.

A U.N. humanitarian group calling on Israel to expand supply routes into Gaza so that large-scale aid can be delivered to those Gazans who are now starving.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh with more on their daily struggle to find food. A warning: you may find some for the images in this report disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video, filmed 11 days ago at a Northern Gaza hospital, captured little Mohammed's (ph) final days. His labored breaths and all that staff tried to do to keep him alive.

On Thursday, 6-year-old Mohammed (ph) became the 24th Palestinian child to die of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza. And the fear is many more vulnerable lives could be lost.

Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory.

The pain visible in the eyes of mothers like Nijlat (ph), who's helplessly watched her children go hungry for months. Her husband, Madan (ph), has thought the unthinkable: throwing his children in the sea, he says, to spare them this torture of an existence.

Bantai's (ph) family endured months of bombardment in Northern Gaza. But it's the looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home. "If you grab a bag of flour, someone can kill you to take it," Madan (ph) says. "Our daily meal for our children became things we hadn't heard of before, like ground soybeans and a wild plant that we'd never tasted before. Food that animals refused to eat, we ate."

What they'll do, where they'll go, they don't know. All they want right now is to feed their little ones.

"My children were crying every night, asking for a piece of bread," Nijlat (ph) says. "We were dreaming of white bread. We were eating animal feed."

For the first time in five months, they say, the children are having real food, even if only plain bread.

This is what Bantai's (ph) family left behind in the North: scenes that tell of the desperation of so many, who also just want to feed their children, as they rush the little aid that's made it into this part of Gaza.

More than a million Palestinians are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to a U.N.-backed report, with famine projected to arrive in the North any day now this, in this man-made crisis, where Israel has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies.

People every day find themselves scavenging for food, forced to pick wild plants to boil and eat.

This grandmother can't hold back her tears as she washes weeds and leaves. It's today's meal. "What else can we do?" she says.

It's the indignity of hunger, avoidable suffering as the world watches on.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Now after hearing that report, you might find the next one infuriating. It's about an absurd amount of food waste.


More than one billion meals are wasted every day around the world, while nearly 800 million people go hungry. Those startling statistics coming from a new United Nations report.

It says households, restaurants, and other services throw out about a fifth of their available food, with 13 percent of the world's food lost between the farm and the dinner table, as well.

Most wasted food ends up in landfills. And that breaks down into methane, a greenhouse gas that fuels climate change.

All right, let's talk more about this with Dana Gunders, the executive director at ReFED, a non-profit dedicated to ending food loss. She joins me from Truckee, California.

Good to see you. These statistics that we just went through a mind- boggling: a billion meals are wasted each day; 800 million people are going hungry.

Why is that happening? What's gone wrong?

DANA GUNDERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REFED: You know, it's really just a -- it's a market failure of the whole system, all the way from the farm to grocery stores and into our homes, where there's food lost all along the chain. Sometimes it's because something doesn't look quite right. Sometimes it's because prices are so variable. And sometimes it's because it hasn't been kept cold, and it can spoil whether at the market or at people's homes.

It's really a tragedy.


GUNDERS: One billion meals a day.

HOLMES: It is. It's stunning. And the household side of it, too, is -- I mean, all of us in our day-to-day lives at home, the average person wastes, I think it said 79 kilograms. That's 174 pounds of food each year.

I mean, how do we change our behaviors so that does not happen?

GUNDERS: You know, there really are some very easy ways. Planning your meals can work really well. Freezing food is very effective. You can freeze all sorts of food, things like milk and bread, and maybe half a jar of pasta sauce. It's like a magic pause button on your food.

And also making sure that we use everything in our refrigerator before we go out and buy more food is important, as well.

HOLMES: Yes, I wanted to talk -- ask you more, because I know that you and ReFED are all about ideas and solutions. So how does it get changed? What needs to happen in the big picture, not just households? And how feasible are the solutions?

GUNDERS: Yes, well, you know, I think one thing is that this is not just one problem. We really need a suite of different solutions.

But there are some effective policies out there, such as not allowing food to go into landfills and really making sure that we, at minimum, can recycle the nutrients that are in the food into compost and back into the soil.

We are seeing businesses use some of the new technology that's out there to do a better job of forecasting how much food they need. And really being much more precise about matching the demand with the supply.

And then there's some great solutions that are kind of last-minute sale deals. You know, there are apps that can help restaurants or grocery stores sell food at the last minute, so that they don't need to then throw it out.

HOLMES: Yes. And when it comes to policy, you know, reading the report, 21 countries have included food loss and waste in their national climate plans. That's according to the report. Despite the fact that it generates eight to 10 percent of global emissions -- This is talking about methane -- almost five times more than the emissions from the aviation sector. Another mind-blowing statistic.

Do you think people understand those impacts? And with only 21 governments having it as a matter of policy, what do governments need to do?

GUNDERS: Yes. No, I don't think people understand the impacts. And it's not intuitive, but really, that methane is coming from the food rotting in the landfills and -- and creating almost two-thirds of all the methane that comes from landfills is coming from food.

So it would be fantastic to see more governments really make commitments around this and see it as the opportunity it is.

Because when you save food from going to waste, not only do you save the greenhouse gases; not only do you save the food, and you're able to feed people, you also save the land. You know, there's a huge amount of land that is going to waste to grow all this food that never gets eaten.

And there are biodiversity consequences, soil consequences and others.


So it really should be a higher priority. And there's also a huge economic benefit to many of the stakeholders involved.

HOLMES: You know, my mind goes back to the 800 million who are not getting enough food. It just makes you wonder what does it say about us humans when, you know, so many have so much and waste it while so many go without.

GUNDERS: Yes, it's absolutely true. People are not going hungry because we don't have enough food in this world. People are going hungry because we're not getting it to them.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. Well put.

Dana Gunders in Truckee, California. Really appreciate you making the time. Thanks so much.

GUNDERS: Thank you so much for having me.

HOLMES: Really big issue

All right. More to come on CNN. A major name who seems headed for Major League Baseball. We meet the high school wunderkind following in the footsteps of Shohei Ohtani. Or he hopes so. Stay with us.




HOLMES: Beyonce's "Texas Hold 'Em" from her new album, "Act II: Cowboy Carter." It's been releasing at midnight local time, Friday around the world.

The album now available on the U.S. East and West Coast, where West Coast fans got it a couple of hours early.

It's Beyonce's first full foray into country music, although she crossed into the genre in 2016 with the song "Daddy Lessons."

Cowboy Carter" features collaborations with a host of artists including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Miley Cyrus.

The 2024 Major League Baseball season is finally underway here in the United States. And Shohei Ohtani did not disappoint in his first game as a Dodger in Los Angeles.

Fans greeted the Japanese superstar with a standing ovation in his first at-bat and he finished the day with a walk, a single land, a double. As the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals seven to one/

Ohtani is the highest paid player in the major leagues, with a ten- year -- wait for it -- $700 million contract.

And from an icon of baseball today, to perhaps a rising star of tomorrow. Teenage Japanese slugger Rintaro Sasaki is following in Ohtani's footsteps in a way that's very close to home. Ohtani's high school coach is Sasaki's dad.

The teen recently signing a letter of intent to play for Stanford. Hanako Montgomery reports.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At just 18, Rintaro Sasaki is a baseball phenomenon, hitting a record 140 home runs in high school, far surpassing Japanese baseball legends Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi, both graduates of Sasaki's alma mater and icons he grew up with.


MONTGOMERY: Right now, I'm in Hanamaki-Higashi, a high school known for its elite baseball team. It's been the birthing ground of some of the biggest Japanese baseball stars in recent years, including Shohei Ohtani, Yusei Kikuchi, and soon to be, Rintaro Sasaki. RINTARO SASAKI, BASEBALL PLAYER (through translator): I was a big kid in elementary school, so I used to wear hand-me-downs from Yusei. Shohei-san also gave me a lot of baseball equipment to use, which I really appreciate. MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Sasaki's the projected No. 1 pick in Japan's professional baseball draft. But this slugger is forgoing all of it to go to Stanford, a decision his father, who's coached Ohtani, Kikuchi, and now his son, advised him to make.

HIROSHI SASAKI, HEAD COACH AND RINTARO'S FATHER (through translator): In Japan, people tend to focus more on shortcomings, but in the U.S., they develop individuality. I think this is a very good choice for him.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): This unassuming high school, tucked away among Japan's snowy Northern mountains, now boasts three baseball stars. So what's the secret?

Coach Sasaki tells me it's not about the power in the arm, but in the mind.

H. SASAKI (through translator): I think the most important thing is to not blame others or to make excuses. Once I stopped doing that my life changed. And the other thing is to set a firm goal.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): And of course, practice, practice, and more practice.

Still, Sasaki has a way to go before reaching the heights of Ohtani, his dad tells me.

H. SASAKI: I'd never seen such a level of athleticism before. The moment they joined the team, I knew they'd be tremendous athletes once they got stronger.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Ohtani and Kikuchi, forever legends for this Japanese high school, and a source of motivation for Sasaki.

R. SASAKI (through translator): One day, I want to be playing on the same field as Ohtani and Sasaki (ph). That's what's driving me.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Hanako Montgomery, CNN, Hanamaki City.


HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. But WORLD SPORT starts after the break.