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CNN This Morning

Biden To Visit Selma Today, Putting Spotlight Back On Voting Rights; Former President Trump Pitches Himself To Republicans For 2024 Bid; Many Still Stranded After Historic Snow In Southern California; No Signs Of Spill After A Second Freight Train Derails In OH; Housing Market Starts To Cool Off After Years Of Surging Prices; Interview With National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun; 2022 Tax Return Changes; Russia's War On Ukraine; Iranian Schoolgirls Have Allegedly Been Poisoned. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 05, 2023 - 07:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: At least it is for me. Thanks for waking up with us. I'm Amara Walker.

PAULA REID, CNN HOST: And I'm Paula Reid in for Boris Sanchez. Amara, great to be with you again today.

WALKER: Thanks for joining us again this morning.

We're going to begin with a solemn moment expected today in Alabama. President Biden will visit Selma to mark an important moment in civil rights history. The 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

REID: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins us now from Wilmington, Delaware. Priscilla, this is President Biden's third trip to Selma, but his first as president. What are we expecting to see today?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we expect him to use the opportunity to make fresh calls for voting protections. This has been a theme throughout his administration and one in which he'll use this opportunity in Selma to call for that again.

Now, the White House says that President Biden will be -- will be delivering remarks when he is there. He wants to make sure that we are not erasing history, we are commemorating it. That's what the White House says about his remarks. And also that he will note that voting rights is integral to economic justice and civil rights for black Americans. So those are the through lines for his remarks.

But he's also expected to cross the bridge. This is something that happens each year, each anniversary, of course, it is an important moment. One, remember in 1965, that led to a police attacking voting rights activist that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

And it is an opportunity again for President Biden to call on that, while he tries to elevate those calls for voting protections. And one in which, again, as you mentioned, he will be making his first trip down there as president, his third altogether.

WALKER: So it goes without saying that this is a quite an important trip for the President, an important time as well.

Anything specifically he'll be trying to emphasize?

ALVAREZ: Remember that black Americans, black voters buoyed him in the 2020 presidential election. So, part of this is speaking to those voters in a very significant area in Selma. But the other part of it is that remember, this is a -- he's now facing a Republican-controlled House, which means that when he calls for voting protections, a lot of that has to come from the executive.

And in 2021, he actually marked this anniversary by signing an executive order promoting access to voting. So voting rights activist say there's still work to be done there. And they're urging him to act on that executive order and all elements of it, so that is what is likely to come up today, especially when executive action is the more likely action when it comes to facing a Republican-controlled House.

WALKER: Right. Priscilla Alvarez, appreciate the preview. Thank you so much.

And former President Donald Trump vowing to stay in the 2024 race for president even if he is indicted. He told reporters he wouldn't even think about leaving. Trump took center stage on the last night of the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.

REID: And before an adoring crowd declaring his run as the, quote, final battle and using the speech to take some failed jabs at some of his Republican opponents. Here's CNNs Kristen Holmes.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Amara and Paula. Well, former President Trump talking to a very enthusiastic crowd here at CPAC. He painted somewhat of a fatalistic picture of the 2024 elections, saying that he needed to win, that the people knew he needed to win and he took on the establishment. He talked about obliterating the deep state.

But he also went after Republicans in particular, take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going back to people that want to destroy our great Social Security system. Even some in our own party. I wonder who that might be. That want to raise the minimum age of Social Security to 70, 75 or even 80 in some cases. And that are out to cut Medicare to a level that it will no longer be recognizable.


HOLMES: Now that was a thinly veiled jab at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who while he was in Congress, did say that he supported changes to those programs like Social Security and Medicare. We know that Donald Trump has already started to take on DeSantis. Of course, DeSantis himself has not entered the presidential race, but he is seen as Trump's most formidable opponent should he decide to do so.

And it was very clear here, as we were walking around CPAC for several days, that this had really become the Trump show. Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, was not here. Former Vice President Mike Pence also not here. They notably skipped the events, and instead, it was a who's who of MAGA world including a number of speakers like Don Jr. and Matt Gaetz, all who supported Trump in 2024. But it did also show the deepening divide in the Republican Party and just how ugly this primary is expected to get. Amara and Paula?


WALKER: All right. Thank you so much for that.

Let's turn now to Southern California and the weather there. I mean, some residents in the mountains are still buried under several feet of snow after a severe winter storm lashed the region this week. And you can see what it says, help us, there in the snow.

REID: Wow. Incredible pictures and many are getting more and more frustrated as they're running out of food, medicine, and gas as roads remain closed. CNN's Camila Bernal has the story.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara, Paula, we know that there is some progress. We've seen a lot of cruise, a lot of heavy equipment going into the mountain we know the National Guard is there. Their priority is to clean the roads because that is what they want in order to allow people in and out of the mountain.

But what officials are saying is that it's going to take about five days to get to that point. So there is a lot of frustration and a lot of anger, frankly, from residents. I spoke to one resident today who was able to get down from the mountains. She told me she'd been stuck there for days. She came down to try to get food, to try to get supplies because she says there's so much snow on her roof that she's afraid that it is going to collapse.

Now, the problem is she's now not allowed back into her home, so she is extremely frustrated. She was in tears trying to explain her situation. Here is what she told me.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically what we're trying to do, save our home. That's all we want to do. We want to get home. They should let us up there. We actually bought a lot of groceries yesterday. Even a restaurant asked us for stuff. We have tons of food that had to go to waste because we have nowhere to store it.

They need food. Some ladies need diapers, some people need medicine, some people are -- cannot get their insulin on time, the pharmacies are closed. I mean, this is crazy up there. And then they're not letting us go up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERNAL: And authorities did apologize for how long this entire process is taking. But they're also saying look, we're also having to deal with walls of snow. It has not been easy for officials here and for the cleanup process overall. So they're, again, asking for patience and saying that this is going to take a while. Amara, Paula?

REID: Well, meteorologist Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Weather Center this morning tracking the latest. All right, Allison, more snow is heading to the West Coast. It's unbelievable, these pictures.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And the fact that it's going to be so widespread. This isn't just going to impact California, we're talking as it spreads into the intermountain west and even into the high plains. So a lot of areas are going to be dealing with the potential for some pretty decent amounts of snow.

In addition to the snow, you've also got wind advisories and high wind warnings out because you're talking those wind gusts getting up to around that 50, 60, even as high as 70 miles per hour in some areas.

We've also got some red flag warnings up to the east where they're not necessarily going to have the precipitation, but they're going to have the wind and those dry conditions with the wind could end up triggering some wildfires in some locations.

Here's a look going forward. You'll notice at least for today, the bulk of the heavy snow is really focused across areas of Oregon and Northern California. That spreads into Central California then begins to push eastward into other states, especially as we continue into the early portion of the upcoming week, eventually even spreading into areas of the upper Midwest.

Overall, most areas outside of California are looking at about half of a foot of accumulation in snow. The heaviest snowfall accumulation will be in the Sierras where you're going to be talking one, even as high as three to five feet of snow.

Now when we talk about that much snow, that's fantastic for the reservoirs and really for a lot of the water base in California because of the drought conditions. But we've made significant improvements across the West really in just the last two months because of how many major atmospheric river events have pushed through the area, especially California, specifically.

Look at this. This is back from December 27th. Notice how much red and orange color is on the map. Now you fast forward to what the drought monitor looks like. Currently, you'll notice we lost both the exceptional and the extreme drought categories, and really taking just down to about a quarter of the state under severe drought.

So again, ladies, it's one of those where it's good news, especially in terms of the drought. We just need to make sure that the new snow and the new rain that comes in doesn't come in in a very short period of time to trigger not only travel issues, but also the potential for flooding and mudslides. WALKER: Yes, that's always a big concern. But, look, there's a silver lining in all of this with the drought being alleviated in many ways, so we'll take that. Thank you so much, Allison Chinchar.

Turning now to the New York Times reporting this morning and just how panicked top brass at Fox News Channel were after the 2020 election.

Now you might recall, Fox News was the first to correctly call the battleground state of Arizona for President Joe Biden. After election night, though, executives and anchors at the network held a meeting to discuss the Arizona decision, as well as how to keep from anchoring its conservative audience in the future.


In a tape recording of that meeting reviewed by the Times, Fox News Chief Executive, Suzanne Scott, argue that if her network had not called Arizona for Biden, its ratings would have been bigger. And Fox anchors, Bret Baier and Martha McCallum suggested that beyond what the vote totals show, viewer reaction should also be considered before calling a state for a candidate.

CNN has not independently verify the contents of the recording because we do not have a copy of it. But in a statement, a Fox spokesperson says in part, Fox News stood by the Arizona call despite intense scrutiny.

Fox currently faces a $1.6 billion lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which its talent frequently criticized during the 2020 election. Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that some of his top hosts were in fact pushing election lies to the network's audience.

REID: Amara, that is going to be one case to watch.

Now, teams from the IAEA could be in Iran within the next few days, reinstalling equipment to monitor nuclear capabilities. This development came out of a meeting between the Iranian president and the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

At a news conference, IAEA Director General, Rafael Grossi, said Iran will allow, quote, concrete access to people of interest and more sites where uranium is being enriched. Grossi said Iran will assist in an investigation of uranium particles found at undeclared sites in the country. Grossi call the updates, quote, steps in the right direction, but added there is much more work to be done.

WALKER: North Korea is objecting to the latest U.S. South Korean joint military exercises. Pyongyang is even calling on the United Nations to get involved and urge them to stop. The United States and South Korea carried out their fourth air drill of 2023 on Friday.

The exercise involved U.S. long-range bombers, as well as South Korean fighter jets. And the two countries announced another 10 days of large scale exercises taking place next week. And according to North Korean state media, officials there say the recent military actions are inflaming the situation on the Korean Peninsula and irresponsibly raising the level of confrontation.

Still ahead, another train derailment, yes, in Ohio just one month after that other devastating derailment and toxic spill. What we're learning and also the safety concerns, that's next.

REID: Plus, mortgage rates are up and home prices are down. What it means for you, just ahead.



REID: There has been another train derailment in Ohio this time near Springfield just one month after that devastating derailment and toxic spill 200 miles away in East Palestine.


SHAWN HEATON, WITNESS: There was like a loud slam noise and that's when I started noticing all the debris and all the gravel. And after that when the cards start coming off the track and get in a big pile, that's when I just got out there and quick recording.


WALKER: And this latest train derailment, 20 cars went off the tracks a thousand feet from nearby homes. Norfolk Southern says there were no hazardous materials on board and no threat to public health.

CNN transportation analyst, Mary Schiavo, joining me now. Gosh, we're talking about another derailment. I mean two derailments in Ohio in a little over a month and another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Michigan, just days after the one in East Palestine. I mean, is there a common denominator behind these derailments, Mary?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, there is because what people don't realize is, you know, America depends upon rail, and every year it's averaged over the last 20 years about 1,700 derailments per year.

Last year, for example, there were 1,084. And the federal rail administration says that 400 of those 1,084 derailments were actually caused by the track, track defects themselves, but the rest of them, the five to 600, or 700, are caused by for example, collisions with traffic or other factors or human errors, switching errors, et cetera.

So we really have a lot of, you know, rail safety issues that often just go under the radar. People don't pay attention to rail. If we have these many accidents in airplanes with commercial aircraft, I think what people would be saying, so there's really a lot more than meets the eye until you have a spectacular disaster as in New Palestine, Ohio.

WALKER: Clearly there are rail safety issues. I mean, we're talking about train derailments over and over it feels like. And Senator Sherrod Brown had some heated words for Norfolk Southern after learning about the latest derailment, saying in part, "This corporation has been more concerned with its profit margin than with Ohioans' safety. Ohio community should not be forced to live in fear of another disaster.

I feel like there's been so much criticism aimed towards Norfolk Southern, and also, you know, the way that it has lobbied Congress so that it wouldn't have to put in some of these expensive safety measures. Is that how you see it and what needs to be done?

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, in Washington, D.C., where I was for many years, the DOT, lobbying is an art form. Transportation interests and not just rail, aviation, and others are the most expensive, effective, and they really they spend some of them the large dollar amounts in Washington D.C. of our transportation entities.

And for example, the ones safety measure that a lot of people are talking about, they said that it was reversed by prior administration. But in fact what Congress did, and Congress plays a role in this, it's easy to say, well, it's the administration's fault.


Well, yes, the administration runs a federal rail administration, the safety initiatives, but Congress often directs and it was Congress that eliminated some of them by requiring the Department of Transportation to use the old cost benefit analysis rule.

And believe it or not, that's the rule that says, how much would be the value of lives lost versus how much are the safety measures going to cost and they literally have to weigh it. And that needs to be suspended in some evaluations.

For example, in New Palestine, Ohio, where no one died. Under this cost benefit analysis rule, the value of that disaster would be lessened. And so there's a lot that has to be done in the department, starting with some regulation changes.

WALKER: Yes, and definitely Congress plays a role because the railroad industry is regulated federally, right? How important is it to address these pressure relief valves? Because in East Palestine, the NTSB believes aluminum parts on three tank cars melted. This was after the derailment and caused the pressure relief valves not to function and those valves are supposed to prevent pressure inside the tank cars from the building up and causing an explosion.

And there's this new federal push for those aluminum vents to be switched to steel, but it's kind of a recommendation. And they're urging owners to serve a fleet -- survey their fleets and make a change, but that's just a recommendation. Doesn't -- shouldn't it be mandated then?

SCHIAVO: Yes. And the Federal Rail Administration didn't put that notice out, I think two or three days ago that they think. Now, it hasn't been, you know, confirmed or proven yet, but they think that what happened is that aluminum melted and prevented those relief valves from working just as you said, and so they're going to look at into that and see whether those need to be changed, if there's needs to be additional regulation coming out.

But that's a good clue. And, of course, the National Transportation Safety Board will be looking at that because they have to find the probable cause of this accident. And if those valves don't work, that's what led to the bleeding off and the burning and, you know, the manmade disaster on top of the rail disaster and all the problems. So I think that was a good development that they figured that out, and they were looking further at it.

WALKER: A lot should be done, clearly. Mary Schiavo, appreciate the conversation. And thank you so much for watching this with us.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

REID: And still ahead, as we head into the crucial spring home buying season, home prices continue falling, but rising mortgage rates are pushing prospective buyers out of the market. We'll break it all down with an economist, next.



REID: This morning, signs the U.S. housing market is cooling off again. That's because mortgage rates are hovering around seven percent and inflation remains a big concern.

In addition, mortgage applications now at a 28-year low. What will all this mean as we head into the crucial spring home buying season? Well, here with me now to discuss is chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, Lawrence Yun.

Lawrence, thanks so much for being here with us bright and early. I want to get right to it. Mortgage rates and interest rates are up. So where does the market stand right now?

LAWRENCE YUN, CHIEF ECONOMIST, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS: Good Sunday morning to you. Well, you know, the housing market is always influenced most heavily by the movements in mortgage rates. And what we saw throughout last year was home sales coming down because of rising mortgage rates. But interestingly, in January, home sales increase for both new home sales and the pending contracts because mortgage rate had gone down back towards six percent.

Now in March, mortgage rates are climbing again, which is now leading to buyers stepping back again. So it's all about the movements and mortgage rates in determining this crucial spring home buying season meant much of the transactions are occurring in the spring. So we have to see where the mortgage rate will settle.

REID: And right now, it's at about 6.65 percent. I'm sure a lot of people who might want to buy a home in the spring and summer are wondering well, how high could the mortgage rate go?

YUN: Mortgage rate topped out at seven percent last November. It may tried to touch the seven percent again, but by year end, I think the mortgage rate will be closer to six percent. For the simple reason, the overall consumer price inflation, what the Federal Reserve is closely monitoring. I think it will begin to come down for the simple fact that we have a rampant, robust apartment construction building boom.

So with more empty units coming onto the market, it will come down the rents, rent growth. And once the rents begin to taper off, it will lead to much calmer consumer price inflation. And the Federal Reserve will say, we don't have to raise interest rates anymore. So after a couple more rounds of the rate increases by the Fed, I think we can settle down for mortgage.

REID: Are we returning to how things were pre-COVID?

YUN: So certainly, you know we saw the COVID real estate boom in second half of 2020 and 2021, much, much higher than pre-COVID days. Now, the sales activities are actually slightly below the pre-COVID 2019 condition.

But let's remember, there's also a pent-up demand, U.S. population continued to rise. In fact, current sales activity is below the year 2000.Year 2000 level when the U.S. population was 15 million smaller. So certainly, there is a pent-up demand. They're looking for that right affordability, right mortgage rates, and increase inventory choices because we are still short on housing availability.


WALKER: Lawrence, it's Amara walker. I am going to step in here because I think Paula is having a bit of a coughing spell. But on that note, I mean, there's still a shortage of inventory, right, as you have been saying. It's still tight. Who is able to afford to purchase a home in such a climate?

YUN: You know, the sales activities are much more robust in the Midwest and in the south. These are the regions of the country where homes are much more affordable. We have seen sales tumble down out in the west region because home prices are very expensive and consumers simply cannot handle high home prices and rising mortgage at the same time.

Interesting dynamics, that's happening in the past couple of months is that home prices aren't falling in California. There is some job creation in California. So, as the prices drop, people are beginning to take advantage of this lower prices that is occurring out in the west region. So, unlike, say in 2008 when we had a job-losing condition, we are in a job-creating condition. So, any drop in prices people want to take advantage of that situation.

WALKER: Do you have any advice for, you know, first-time homebuyers who have been waiting out, hoping for the right time to strike?

YUN: You know, the home purchase is a wealth building opportunity over the long haul. Timing, is it right for this spring or in the autumn? What is the right time? I would say that a person can easily qualify for a mortgage and willing to stay within budget, go buy it, because five years from now, looking back they will have built wealth. And if somehow the mortgage rate decline, they can always refinance downwards.

And in fact, today's mortgage rate, as you referred to, 6.6 percent, well, just ask our parents what was the mortgage rate when they purchased their home and it was much higher and one of their best decisions ever for their life wealth building opportunity.

WALKER: Oh, yes. My dad tells me that all the time. I mean, it was in the double digits when he bought his first home back in the day. So, yes, in the grand scheme of things, I guess 6.6 ain't so bad if you are not comparing it to, you know, zero. Lawrence Yun, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you so much.

YUN: Thank you.

WALKER: Well, if you haven't filed your taxes already, I hate this time of year, expect a smaller refund. A bigger standard deduction and a later filing deadline. CNN's Christine Romans explains what you need to know as you prepare your 2022 return.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CHIEF BUSINESS CORSSPONDENT: It's tax time and your return might look a little different this year. First, expect a smaller refund, that's because many tax breaks have changed since the last time you filed. For tax year 2022, the maximum child tax credit is $2,000 per kid if your income is below $200,000 or $400,000 if filing jointly. Above those levels the credit starts to phase out. That's at least $1,000 less than the COVID era enhanced child tax credit that expired at the end of 2021.

And it's not the only pandemic provision to sunset. The child dependent care credit is also smaller for tax year 2022. That's the credit working parents can use to pay for childcare or the care of an adult dependent. The earned income tax credit for those without children has shrunk notably, too. Keep in mind the standard deduction is bigger this year, $1,2950 for single filers or $25,900 for those married filing jointly.

Now, that's good news since most tax payers don't itemize. But if you do take the standard deduction, you can't subtract charitable contributions this tax season. That's a change from the last two years when even people who didn't itemize were allowed to deduct $300 in charitable donations or $600 if married filing jointly. You also have a few extra days to file this year. The deadline is April 18th for most taxpayers. That's also the cutoff to file for a six-month extension if you need a little bit more time.


WALKER: We always need more time. Thank you, Christine Romans.

Coming up, Ukraine's military says it is holding the front lines in the eastern city of Bakhmut despite relentless effort by Russia to capture the city. We're going to go live to Ukraine with the very latest.



WALKER: All right. Now, to Russia's war on Ukraine. And Ukrainian forces say, they are holding the front line in the battle for the city of Bakhmut despite intense attacks from Russian forces.

REID: Russia has spent months trying to capture Bakhmut. Ukraine says, its forces remain in control of the city but the Russian mercenary group Wagner claims Bakhmut is nearly surrounded.

WALKER: CNN Correspondent Melissa Bell joining us now from the ground there in Kyiv. Melissa, what is the latest there in Bakhmut?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara, that -- the Ukrainian forces are managing to hold it but only just. We've seen their supply routes taken out one by one. And whilst they're still, they say, able to resupply their troops, it is the removal, the evacuation of civilians that has become much slower and much more difficult.

We've been speaking to the deputy mayor of the town who explained that Russian forces are really throwing everything they have at it. Bear in mind this is a town that has been at the heart of a siege now for seven months. Trench warfare, fierce artillery battle that has only intensified over the course of the last few weeks and there are, by Ukrainian estimates, some four and a half thousand civilians, 48 children at the last count. And they've been trying to get them out as best they can.

We asked the deputy mayor who is left after all these months, and of course, he explained, as you would expect, what we're talking about are the elderly, the infirm, and those that are least well off.


They are the ones who are stuck after this seven-month-long siege and now that they are finding it increasingly hard to get out. Down to five to 10 evacuations a day because they're having to use dirt tracks to get in and out of the town given the damage done to the main arteries (ph) and given the shelling that's going on of those supply routes, Amara.

So, a pretty dreadful picture. But Ukrainian soldiers -- Ukrainian military saying that they are holding on because, of course, every hour gained is an important degradation further of Russia's war machine and, of course, that includes its equipment and, sadly, its men. Amara.

REID: And we know Ukraine is already looking towards rebuilding and hoping to use seized Russian assets to do it. What more can you tell us?

BELL: That's right, Paula. This is a -- on a more positive note. Ukraine looking ahead to what happens beyond this war if and when it ends. 460 million taken from Russian assets that have been seized from Russian banks that will go towards that reconstruction. Paula and Amara.

WALKER: Melissa Bell, really appreciate your reporting there. Thank you so much, Mellisa.

And the Russian invasion has helped to make Ukraine one of the largest mine fields in the world, clearing those mines and other dangerous explosives is very delicate work.

REID: And CNN's Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt has more on the de-mining operation and the risks to those who carry it out.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The hulking armored mine clearer lurches into an open field. Over 40 tons, it spews exhaust, its tracks struggling across the muddy ground. Following close behind, the mine clearance team called Sappers, they advance deliberately on the hunt for deadly explosives. This is delicate work.

MARQUARDT (on camera): This was a Russian position, Russian trenches. And now, these guys are working through here carefully, methodically, looking for mines, for booby traps, and even Ukrainian ordnance, those fired at the Russians who were here.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): Last September, a Ukrainian counters offensive pushed the Russians out of these trenches. Now, Colonel Maksim Melnyk's team has been charged with clearing any explosives.

They have left many traps behind and many of our brothers are Sappers have died, Melnyk says. Russia doesn't obey international conventions. They put mines on top of mines, leave booby traps, and use banned mines.

Russian and Ukrainian mines are scattered throughout the eastern front, making Ukraine one of the biggest mine fields in the world. Rockets and other explosives can often fail to detonate when they land, too. All of it posing immense danger to civilians. The Sappers of Ukraine's DSNS Emergency Service like Eduard Herasimenko, who is a father of a 10-year-old daughter, are keenly aware of the danger.

It's dangerous for everybody, he says. I wouldn't say we take more risks than others, everybody is taking risks now.

Herasimenko was de-mining before the war started. Seeing what Russia has done to his country infuriates him.

They are just animals, he says. There is no other way to describe them.

He finds and carries an unexploded rocket propelled grenade to the side. Working day after day all across this country, deminers know how much they still have left to do. MARQUARDT (on camera): After the war, the soldiers get to go home, but your work continues for years.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): We will keep working for decades, Colonel Melnyk says, this will go on for decades. Alex Marquardt, CNN in eastern Ukraine.


REID: And hundreds of school girls are sick in Iran in what appears to be targeted poison attacks at schools. CNN's Nima Elbagir reports, families fear these attacks are meant to stop girls from getting an education.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Desperation and chaos gripping Iranian cities for month. Terrified parents watch helplessly as their children fall prey to mysterious ailments. CNN communicates with witnesses and survivors of some of these incidents at mostly girls' schools across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was a terrible situation. Girls had been falling on the floor and were crying. Some were unable to walk. We really didn't want to leave one another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They wouldn't let us go home. They forced us to stay inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There was a bitter smell. There was a smell outside, too. Then I felt sick.


ELBAGIR (voiceover): Many of the students who spoke to CNN reported smelling noxious odors. This, as Iranian authorities' explanation has been shifting. But state media is now referring to the incidents as poisonings. Some parents worry these are targeted attacks on girls meant to prevent them from attending school. Many of the attacks have been in the religious heartland of Iran, yet the minister of education has said that most of the cases were caused by rumor and there is no problem.

The reported poisonings began a month and a half after protests erupted across Iran led by women demonstrating against the country's repressive conduct and clothing laws. CNN cross-referenced local media reporting with testimony from victims and eyewitnesses to tally the number of incidents. State media have reported incidents at nearly 60 schools since late November.

CNN has spoken with eyewitnesses in dozens of these cases. In one school in the regime heartland of Qom, at least three incidents were reported to CNN, the latest this week. And incidents continue to be reported into this week in the towns of Isfahan and Ardabil, where medical sources tell us a student was admitted to the ICU suffering seizures after the latest incident. One of dozens who have been hospitalized, another family joining the hundreds desperate for answers.


REID: Nema Elbagir, thank you.

We'll be right back.



WALKER: It has been two weeks since Former President Jimmy Carter entered hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia.

REID: CNN's Eva McKend went there and found residents are reflecting on Carter's years of service and his dedication to the community.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voiceover): Plains, Georgia, is Jimmy Carter country.

GEORGE MCAFEE, PLAINS RESIDENT: He is one of a kind, in my book. One of best.

MCKEND (voiceover): Few American presidents are so closely connected to where they were born and raised. That's why the impact of Former President Carter's failing health is felt so acutely here in this town of about 500. This tight knit area is where Carter grew up, attended high school, met and married the love of his life and where he returned after serving in the White House.

AVERY DAVID ROBERTS, THE CARTER CENTER: This place, this geographic place where we are in this land had influenced him and influenced how he saw the world.

MCKEND (on camera): This train depot, it's museum now. It was carter's campaign headquarters during his presidential run. He went from here to White House, back to his house just down the street. But to the people here, the former president will always be Mr. Jimmy.

MCAFEE: Don't go in.

MCKEND (voiceover): Embodying the spirit of Carter, George McAfee volunteers by walking around Plains, cleaning up the streets.

MCAFEE: I can't stand to see --

MCKEND (voiceover): McAfee has lived in the area his whole life and would frequently see the former president and wife riding the bikes around town.

MCAFEE: He had told me one time when we first moved here, and me and my wife, (INAUDIBLE). He told me, he said, if you ever have any problem or anything, he said, call me.

MCKEND (voiceover): As they brace for the inevitable, people here say they are comforted by his faith.

MARVIN LASTER, FORMER CEO, JIMMY AND ROSALYNN CARTER BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB: All is well with his, all is well with his spirit, all is well with his soul. And that he has lived at the master would have him live.

MCKEND (voiceover): Marvin Laster if the former CEO of the Boys and girls Club of Albany, Georgia, the include the location in location bears the name of the Carter. He's gotten to know the former president well over the past five years, especially when Carter resisted having his name on the club.

LASTER: The only time that I've ever had a disagreement with him about the naming of this club. Just as he did with the Geneva Accords when he was riding the bikes in between the houses to negotiate peace we negotiated peace that day.

MCKEND (voiceover): Respect and admiration echoed by many whose lives cross paths with Carter.

ROBERTS: He really liked learning about what people's life experiences were and trying to think about ways that we could contribute as the Carter Center to making life better and easier for people.

MCAFEE: He is everything in this town. We will miss him.


WALKER: Former President Jimmy Carter there in Plains. Look, we're out of time and have to say goodbye. Paul Reid, it was lovely to have you and thank you for hanging out with us and have a great week.

REID: Of course. Always happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

WALKER: "Inside Politics Sunday with Abby Phillip" is next.

REID: And first programming note, be sure to check out the CNN film "Glitch". It explores how a trivia company went form an internet obsession to a total meltdown. And the million-dollar question is, what happened? Here's a preview.


SCOTT ROGOWSKY, HOST, " GLITCH: THE RISE and FALL OF HQ TRIVIA": I'm working with these guys who started Vine and they want to do this trivia show on an app. I -- to me I, didn't have high hopes for it.

This is HQ. I'm Scott, the host.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: HQ Trivia was everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could actually win real money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just kept getting bigger. Bigger prizes, bigger celebrities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People dressed as me for Halloween.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was doing the "TODAY" show, Colbert, we had a Super Bowl commercial. This company is going to make at least $100 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It got so popular and the app is not ready to work with too many people on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freeze end, disconnection, and error message.


ROGOWSKY: And it crashes. That's when the cracks started showing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colin and Rus started as co-founders but both competing to be the CEO.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have a lack of trust between the two people running the company it leads to chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had HQ imitators.

ROGOWSKY: We're In trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will Facebook copy this, and they did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was some jealousy. I was the face of the product he created.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working day and night, really grueling hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what did they do? They got drunk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the end of this, someone lost their life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't we grab lunch and we can do this after lunch?

ANNOUNCER: "Glitch: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia " tonight at 9:00 on CNN.