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U.S. Diplomatic Staff, Families Evacuated, Embassy In Sudan Closed; NAACP Sues Over New Policing And Court Laws In Jackson, Mississippi; Gun Ownership Rising As Country Copes With Mass Shootings; Senior Care Costs Rising While Caregivers Struggle Without Help. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired April 23, 2023 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. And welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. I'm Amara Walker.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is good to be with you.
Here are some of the stories we're watching.
Special Operation Forces evacuate American personnel from the U.S. embassy as heavy fighting and clashes intensify in Sudan. Now U.S. officials are trying to figure out ways to help private American citizens who are still there. A team of CNN reporters will have the latest.
WALKER: And the NAACP files a lawsuit after the Mississippi governor signs legislation that expands police reach and makes major changes to the city of Jackson's judicial system.
BLACKWELL: Plus, thunderstorms, hail and flooding -- get ready for a new round of severe weather. We'll tell you where you can see the worst of it.
Several countries are moving their citizens and diplomatic staff out of Sudan. Violence there is escalating. Overnight, American forces extracted American diplomats and their families. A Defense Department official says that fewer than 100 people were pulled out of Sudan in what he called a fast and clean operation.
WALKER: Their exit comes after a week of heavy fighting between rival military factions. And that was despite what was meant to be a 72-hour truce. Beginning Friday, the World Health Organization reported on Friday that 413 people had been killed, thousands injured since fighting broke out. And obviously, this is also forcing people to flee the country. And information coming out of the country has been limited.
We have team coverage. Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak are standing by.
We're going to begin with CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley in Djibouti. He's joining us over the phone now.
Sam, what is the latest? What can you tell us about the U.S. evacuations? I know the Special Operations Forces took off from there.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): They did indeed. There are three Chinook helicopters. At least that is part of what they would call the air package flown as part of the Special Forces Operation. There was also CNN is able to being able to track an AC130. That's an Hercules gunship with howitzer onboard and canon providing no doubt top cover. They flew 800 miles an hour. Sorry, 800 miles, 100 miles an hour in order to extract what the military is saying is less than 100, mostly U.S. personnel, but handful of foreign nationals to who was located with this largely diplomatic group.
Now, the embassy has been entirely evacuated of Americans, and that includes us marines. The local staff left behind. They are guarding at the embassy and the State Department, saying that they hope to reinvest that important ambassadorial location as soon as the fighting subsides.
But the United States, Victor and Amara, is not the only country concern for the citizens. You've got the Egyptians. Turks have just suspended their operations.
There are reports coming, and we've only got this from the rival sides on the ground in Khartoum of a French evacuation that involved a lot -- a road move coming under fire with allegations coming from the Rapid Support Forces that are led by Hamdan Dagalo. His nickname is Hemitte. He's one of the generals fighting for control of Khartoum. He's alleged that an airstrike by his enemies they're disrupted this French evacuation.
That is his allegation. We do not have corroboration for that. The French authorities are refusing to comment on what they say is an ongoing military operations, that the British Special Forces are standing by, or possibly even active as we speak. French forces that could collaborating with Belgium, and the Dutch to try and get their people out because it does seem that, notwithstanding the efforts to try to achieve this ceasefire marking the end of Ramadan, with the Eid festival that was supposed to be the window for these evacuations, fighting has been continuing in the capital and elsewhere.
And one last thing that the Americans are saying that they've got many hundreds of citizens still on the ground there, imploring them to stay in place. Rather than risk while others are taking is the road to ports Sudan, that's another 800 miles to the Red Sea, where it is possible to evacuate people from but it's a very, very dangerous route to be taking not least because of the shortages of food, fuel and water -- Victor and Amara.
BLACKWELL: Sam, give us a little context about how we got here. I know this is a power struggle between two Sudanese generals, but fill in the story of what led to this last week of violence. KILEY: Well, the two generals, that's General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan
from the Rapid Support Forces. And, rather not from the Rapid Support Forces, he's from the government side, and General Hemitte from the Rapid Support Forces side. They have been not quite necessarily allies but certainly rivaled colleagues in knocking over the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir a few years ago, and then again of a civilian administration, and had been in negotiations with one another for the different roles that the two military forces would have in an amalgamated Sudanese armed forces in the future.
And they appear to have fallen out over the roles, particularly for officers within the Rapid Support Forces and who would ultimately would lead to Sudan's entire national forces following this amalgamation. Of course, the RSF will be remembered as being really the heirs of the ferocious Janjaweed of years past in the west of the country.
BLACKWELL: Sam Kiley, reporting from Djibouti -- Sam, thank you so much.
Kylie Atwood is up next from the State Department.
What do you know about the evacuation of U.S. personnel? Fill in that -- that narrative for us?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, as Sam was saying, it was about 100 people that were evacuated by the U.S. military yesterday. That includes all U.S. government personnel on the ground -- the diplomats, their family members and some diplomats from other countries as well. And this was a clean and fast operation, that's according to a senior Department of Defense official.
You had about 100 Special Forces that flew into Sudan. They were on the ground for less than an hour to load all of these U.S. government personnel onto aircraft and get them out of the country, with the secretary of state saying that the conditions on the ground simply pose an unacceptable risk to those U.S. government personnel.
Of course, as we have seen this ongoing heavy fighting, which made it hard for them to do anything in the country -- of course, the streets wrecked with violence, and it also made it hard to get any resources into the country that that embassy needed. Now, as you guys were discussing, the embassy is now closed down. According to the secretary of state, it is temporarily suspended.
Of course, they hope to reopen that embassy when this fighting stops. We really don't know when that will be and there locally employed staff, Sudanese folks who work with us government officials at that embassy and they are essentially watching over it and caretaker status for now. So we'll continue to watch where that space goes.
But when it comes to the U.S. embassy, it's no longer actually operating in all those diplomats now out of the country.
WALKER: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you.
Let's turn now to the White House and CNN's Kevin Liptak.
Hi, Kevin. We know President Biden made the decision to pour us personnel from the country. What else is the White House saying about the operation?
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, certainly. President Biden watching this very closely from Camp David. That is where he is spending the weekend.
And in fact, over the last several days, the president has taken a number of steps to sort of prepare for this eventuality, including prepositioning military assets in Djibouti, the American have quite a large military presence there, but also consolidating these diplomats to the American diplomatic compound in Khartoum. That's on the outskirts of the city. That in itself was quite an extensive undertaking. Obviously, it's a very unsafe situation there.
And so once those diplomats were at the embassy, once they were able to be evacuated, the president did release a statement announcing this operation, saying, in part: I am grateful for the unmatched skill of our service members who successfully brought the these diplomats to safety.
And I thank Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, which are critical to the success of our operation. The president went on to say: We are temporarily suspending operations at the U.S. embassy in Sudan, but our commitment to the Sudanese people and the future they want for themselves is unending.
And now, we should note this operation was for American personnel, people who are working for the American government only. It does not include private citizens and the U.S. says that there is no large scale military evacuation in the offing for private citizens who remain in Sudan. In his statement, the president said that he would be kept updated on efforts by the American government to potentially provide some assistance to those citizens who may want to get out.
But this is certainly not something that you'll see in the large scale going ahead. Now looming over all of this is the specter of that 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, certainly no. One in the White House, the president, his aides want to repeat of some of the chaotic scenes that you saw from there.
These are two very different situations, of course, but one of the lessons that the Americans say that they have learned from that is to begin evacuation sooner. And so certainly the president and his team will very relieved this morning that this operation seems to have gone off successfully -- guys.
WALKER: It sure does. Kevin Liptak, thank you.
Let's get more context now with retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.
Appreciate you joining us this morning.
I mean, look, it's it was a success, right? Because U.S. officials say special operation forces, they spent less than an hour on the ground to execute this evacuation of about 100 people, U.S. personnel and their families. Can you talk to us about what goes into executing such an operation and perhaps how difficult it was to pull it off?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, good morning, Amara. Yeah. What this really tells you is the State Department and the Department of Defense are talking with each other. So, it starts with good news, right?
It wouldn't have been as quick as it took about an hour for the actual evacuation on the ground, but the preparation in advance of that is quite considerable, which means the state department is getting all -- is getting all the resources that they can together. They're getting the personnel. They're marshaling those folks at a very specific location, maybe a couple of locations, and then DOD is aware of all of that, and then they execute from Djibouti.
And with the as Sam Kiley described -- as he understood the operation -- there clearly based on the kit that they used, helicopters as well as probably some C130s, there probably was some refueling that needed to take place based on the legs, the distance from Djibouti to Khartoum.
But this was incredibly well-planned, a priority. That's what happens with every embassy. There are these noncombatant evacuation operations. In this particular case, I suggest this was permissive, which means the government at least stood aside. The Khartoum government as disruptive as it was so the U.S. could get in and get out very quickly.
WALKER: Yeah, I do want to ask you --
MARKS: Nobody want has to fight their way in and fight their way out.
WALKER: Right, right. And that's obviously why this was so fast and clean as we heard from U.S. officials. But to that point, what kind of coordination do you think there was with the people there, the military's on the ground? And we're talking about the Sudan's official army, but also military, but also the RSF, the Rapid Support Forces because the claim was that they coordinated with the U.S. on the evacuation. But, of course, you had the State Department saying, actually, no, that's not true at all.
MARKS: Well, there had to be some effort on the part of the United States to ensure that these combatants were separated. They probably agreed to this separation, or at least they pushed their operations away from where the U.S. had declared they were going to evacuate.
I mean, let's be frank, there is -- Sudan is already in the midst of a civil war, right? We talked about the imminence of civil war. This place has been a wreck for years, and it's falling apart right in front of us. So good decision to get those U.S. citizens, those Am sets out and their family members, which in itself to be incredibly chaotic.
WALKER: What about the private U.S. citizens? It looks like for now the U.S. government is saying, look, we can't do anything. Sit tight shelter in place.
Do you envision any scenario in which the U.S. will carry out a mass evacuation for those American citizens? I think the estimate was about 16,000 many of them being dual nationals. Do you see a situation where the U.S. would carry out an evacuation for these private citizens?
MARKS: Yes, I do. I mean, when you look at the numbers, I mean, wow, they're incredibly broad. You know, you've got some estimates as few as 500. Then you get 16,000.
But that's not unusual as well, because a lot of Am sets just don't declare when they get into country or as you describe, dual citizen, suddenly got a visa and now they're U.S. citizens. Great, they're U.S. citizens in all the -- with all the standing all the privileges that anybody would have, and so there was an obligation on the part of the government to try to protect them.
So they've made -- the United States government has made very clear what they can and cannot do. But the possibility exists and those efforts would again possibly require U.S. military and not just commercial departure, so it could be a mess moving forward.
WALKER: This has to be such a chaotic situation for all the countries involved, you know, that are trying to get their citizens, their personnel out right? It includes France and Spain and Turkey. The list is much longer than what I just mentioned.
But I understand that the Spanish officials, that they have been working to get a quote unquote landing slot. And obviously get, you know, assurances on the security situation before they send an Airbus in, but there's no functioning airport right now, at least in Khartoum.
So can you talk us through these logistics on how these countries, these foreign governments are going to get their people out?
MARKS: Well, what you what you've described as the difference between the United States and many of our friends and partners with the scope of their capabilities. We were able to enter this country. It probably wasn't big knowledge, but we had the capability. We understood what the possibilities were in terms of the aircraft capabilities and the runway capabilities.
So the United States plans very in great detail. Special Operations Forces do this right. We were able to get in and make sure and it ended up being permissive, which is great, but you're looking at a lot of nations that don't enjoy that level of competency, and so there will be great competition for runway access and capabilities.
That's why nations have to cooperate with each other. And I'm certain as described earlier that there probably were some other diplomats that were part of the U.S. evacuation. Those were declared and those were brought out.
WALKER: Yeah, it's clearly a race against time as the situation is deteriorating.
Major General James "Spider" Marks, appreciate you joining us, thank you.
BLACKWELL: Still ahead this morning, the NAACP is suing Mississippi over new laws that expand state police jurisdiction in Jackson, what those laws entail, and the governor's defense of them. We have that for you.
Plus, gun ownership in America is surging. Why there is an uptick in firearm purchases.
BLACKWELL: The NAACP calls it a state takeover of Jackson, Mississippi, and now the group is suing over new laws that expand state police jurisdiction in Jackson. The law also establishes a new court system in a district created by the state.
WALKER: CNN correspondent Isabel Rosales is joining us now.
And, Isabel, critics say that the two laws put mostly white conservative state officials in control over much of a Democratic city where more than 80 percent of the residents are Black. So why do supporters say these laws are even needed?
ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara and Victor, good morning to you. Supporters of these new laws, including the Republican governor, Tate Reeves, they point to the crime rate in Jackson were in the past decade, the homicides per year have doubled, peaking in 2021, the homicide rate per year in Jackson is 12 times the national average, making Jackson one of the deadliest cities in the U.S.
Now these pairs of new laws are creating a divide. Some hope that it will save the capital city after that spike in crime. Others though, are seeing echoes of a racist past.
Let me break down these laws for you. It will allow the state of Mississippi to expand reach of state controlled law enforcement to the entire city of Jackson.
Now, this is a force that has primarily protected capital, the capital and surrounding area that has not been engaged in city law enforcement. This force answers not to local officials, but to state appointed leadership. There's also major changes coming to the judicial system.
It will establish a new court within the boundaries of a new capital complex improvement district. So, this is going to be a judge appointed by the Republican state chief justice. Prosecuting attorneys will be appointed by the Republican state attorney general.
A focal point of this debate as you guys mentioned their husband representation, the legislators who introduces these bills, they represent districts outside of Jackson. The state legislature is majority Republican majority white, but the city of Jackson is majority Democratic and over 80 percent Black.
Here is a statement from the NAACP, which is suing the city of the state of Mississippi. Here's what they said: If elected officials in Mississippi want to help address the results of their negligence and improve the lives of Jackson residents, they should start with completing improvements to Jackson's water system, not undermining the constitutional rights of their citizens.
Governor Tate Reeves spoke at a press conference Wednesday before signing these bills into law. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: Jackson has so much potential. I've lived in Jackson for almost a third of my life. And I want what's best for Jackson. But for us to continue to see young kids getting killed in the streets, for us to continue to see property crimes that are happening here that are causing businesses to leave, we've got to make sure that we have law and order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROSALES: And these laws are set to go into effect July 1st -- guys.
BLACKWELL: Isabel Rosales watching that, and we'll continue to report on it. Thank you so much.
Up next, the proliferation of guns in America. CNN goes to a gun shop to learn about sales, which models people are buying, and who is buying them.
WALKER: Bed Bath & Beyond has filed for bankruptcy. The company posted on their website this morning. They will begin winding down operations. Earlier this year, the company tried to save money by closing 400 locations and by not paying severance to some laid off workers.
Bed Bath & Beyond joins a long list of companies filing for bankruptcy in recent weeks, including David's Bridal, Party City and Tuesday Morning.
BLACKWELL: A judge has blocked any agency in Akron, Ohio, including the police department from using nonlethal force on protesters, including tear gas and pepper spray. It comes after renewed protests in the city after the grand jury decision not to indict the eight Akron police officers who fatally shot Jayland Walker last summer. Now, Walker suffered 46 gunshot wounds or graze injuries in under
special grand jury concluded that the officers were legally justified in their use of force against the 25 year old.
On Wednesday, police used chemical irritants to break up a protest. Police say the department's response was in line and was used because people in the crowd were throwing objects at officers.
WALKER: As the country struggles with mass shootings, gun ownership in the U.S. continues to go up.
BLACKWELL: CNN senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez has more on who is buying guns and why.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Meet Jenn and Shelby.
SHELBY, GUN ENTHUSIAST: Why can't I get it?
MARQUEZ: They don't want their last names used. They are friends, colleagues, gun enthusiasts.
What gun or guns do you own now?
SHELBY: I have a Ruger and a Rossi. Both rifles.
MARQUEZ: Both from Long Island, New York City adjacent, both professionals.
Jenn has her permit but is yet to buy a handgun.
And why do you want to buy a handgun?
JENN, GUN ENTHUSIAST: I've been wanting to buy one for years. I'm also someone that lives alone for a couple of years now, so probably for safety mostly. But I do enjoy coming to the ranges and shooting.
MARQUEZ: Trying them out, seeing which one is the best fit for her.
Shelby like many Americans, made the decision to arm up during the pandemic.
Do you feel safer having a gun?
SHELBY: I do.
Because I'm not sure the chaos is over, and I just feel like a lot of people have guns, and it would be good to have. I'm a single female. I live on my own. And why not protect myself? MARQUEZ: The number of both state and national instant criminal background checks or check required before one can purchase a gun and a rough indicator of how many people are either purchasing or possibly being issued a gun permit surged during the pandemic from under 30 million to nearly 40 million.
Today in states like New York officials say there's a backlog of gun permit applications with more applying everyday.
MIKE MARINELLO, OWNER, SOUTH SHORE SPORTSMAN: The licensing agencies are inundated with applications. During COVID the applications quadrupled.
MARQUEZ: Even in a state like New York, where gun ownership is highly regulated, business at South Shore Sportsman never better.
MARINELLO: 40 percent of my clientele comes from New York City.
MARQUEZ: From New York City?
MARQUEZ: The five boroughs?
MARQUEZ: All five?
MARINELLO: Yes. Staten Island to the Bronx.
MARQUEZ: And what are they buying?
MARINELLO: Handguns if they have a license, like the gentleman that just left or shotguns.
Check, nothing in the chamber.
For many, the constant headlines about crime drives them to gun ownership. For others, it's the mass shootings and the fear of not having a gun if everyone else does.
What effect do all these shootings and major events have on your business?
MARINELLO: In the immediate aftermath in most states, it would lead to an increase in sales because everybody looks at the news. And although that's a terrible event, they say the same thing. There's going to be a new law.
MARQUEZ: So there's a rush to get in to buy a gun.
MARINELLO: There's a rush to get the stuff that they think they're going to lose. MARQUEZ: So who out there is buying guns and why? We met a lot of
people in the medical profession, retirees, housewives, all of them gun users. And it's not just concerns about the pandemic or about crime that is driving gun sales. It all becomes a bit of a feedback loop.
The more they see violence, the more they're concerned they are that everyone else around them is armed. The more they feel they too, need a gun. Back to you.
WALKER: Yes Miguel Marquez. Thank you.
And still to come costs on the rise. The price of senior care is soaring, putting many families in a very difficult situation.
BLACKWELL: The oldest members of the Baby Boomer generation are entering their late seventies and millions of adults are learning the toll of being a caregiver and facing a crippling financial and family dilemma.
WALKER: How to take care of those who need it when the cost of long term or specialized care will financially ruined them.
CNN's Elizabeth Cohen talked to one woman who had to quit her job to take care of her 90-year old mother.
F1: That's all of us when we were little. That's me. That's Peter. That's you.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ada la Barbera (ph) will be 90 years old next week, and she's lived a great life. Originally from Puerto Rico, she met her husband, Peter, an accountant in New York City. They were married for 49 years. She was a teacher had two children and two grandchildren.
And now Ada has dementia and is often confused.
ADA LA BARBERA, DEMENTIA PATIENT: I have a great person over here. This is my mother and she is the best.
COHEN: But this is her daughter, Tammy La Barbera.
TAMMY LA BARBERA, DAUGHTER OF ADA: Ready your favorite.
A. LA BARBERA: Thank you. This is my favorite.
T. LA BARBERA: It's an honor to take care of my mother.
A. LA BARBERA: Good job.
COHEN: But like many Americans, Tammy needs help, and she can't afford it.
T. LA BARBERA: My mom needs somebody 24 hours a day.
A. LA BARBERA: Tammy Yammy.
COHEN: She says Medicare pays for someone to come to the house, but only one day every other week for just 40 minutes.
And Tammy's son helps, too. But Tammy has had to quit her job to care for her mother full time.
T. LA BARBERA: And I'm not asking for a lot just a few hours a week. You know, just to someone I can go to the grocery store, or you know, just have a little break for myself.
COHEN: But even just a few hours is way too expensive. This AARP calculator estimates that were Tammy and Ada live in Murrieta, California one hour with a home health care aide is $137.
COHEN: And residential care for Ada is even more out of the question. $4,000 a month for assisted living and the national average for a memory care unit nearly $7,000 a month.
T. LA BARBERA: We don't have that kind of money. She deserves to be well taken care of. And we get the door shut on us. There's nowhere for her to go.
COHEN: This National Council on Aging report shows 80 percent of U.S. households with older adults are struggling financially today or at risk of falling into economic insecurity.
T. LA BARBERA: We're care workers and we're drowning and we don't have help.
COHEN: She and her mother have only her mother's social security and pension just a few thousand dollars a month, so Tammy is burning through her savings.
Ada is left with her memories.
A. LA BARBERA: That's my wonderful husband. Look at how good looking the guy is.
COHEN: She cared for her husband and her son through cancer before they both passed away. And Tammy is left with dread. I love to find solutions to problems and I can't find a solution to this problem.
COHEN: A very American problem. How to afford care for the people who once took care of us.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: While so many seniors are facing financial problems, those with chronic diseases such as dementia are especially vulnerable to heavy financial burdens -- Victor, Amara.
BLACKWELL: So many families dealing with those challenges. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for the report.
The DeSantis-Disney feud is intensifying. The Florida governor's allies overseeing Disney's special taxing district makes several threats as retribution for the company's efforts to avoid a state takeover. We will discuss next.
BLACKWELL: The feud between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney is escalating. Disney attempted to undermine the takeover of a special district that allows it to self govern its Orlando theme parks. DeSantis allies on a new state board set up to oversee Disney's properties are now looking for payback, threatening to hike taxes, raise utility rates even develop land around the parks.
But the governor's renewed fight against Disney is drawing some criticism from fellow Republicans. Some say he's gone too far. Others say he's been outsmarted.
Let's discuss now with former Republican state representative Juan- Carlos Planas of Florida. He is also an adjunct professor of law at St. Thomas University. Good to see you again.
Let's start here with some of the suggestions that the governor kind of mulled over publicly on what to do with the land around Disney. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): People have said, you know, maybe have another -- maybe create a state park. Maybe try to do more amusement parks. Someone even said, like, maybe you need another state prison. Who knows?
I mean, I just think that the possibilities are endless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: How do you think this is playing for DeSantis?
JUAN-CARLOS PLANAS, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW, ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY: I think it's playing horribly. I think it was obviously very vindictive, not to mention the fact that there is no basis in the law for anything he's talking about, or even basis for invalidating the very legal development order that Disney did with the prior Reedy Creek board.
I think DeSantis is making a fool of himself, and he just keeps digging himself deeper the whole week. BLACKWELL: Do you think this undermines, as former New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie says, kind of undermines his claim to be a conservative that there will be this continued retribution for Disney executives position on Florida legislation.
PLANAS: Well, first of all, I mean, one of the foundations of traditional conservatism was respect and even celebration for free market capitalism. I think that Walt Disney World, everybody who's been there, I think it's the prime example of a private entity that does things better than the government.
I would stack up Disney's monorail over any public transportation system any day of the week and twice on Sundays. The fact that DeSantis is now wanting to take over the, you know, the governmental functions of Reedy Creek is laughable. It's the furthest thing from conservative that you could find.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the 2024 race. He's not in it. He's expected to get in in either May or June. But his team seems to be pretty frustrated by the disparity in Republican congressional support For his potential candidacy and the candidacy of former President Trump.
Let's put up the numbers here, 11 Florida congressional representatives in the Republican Party have endorsed Donald Trump, one supports Ron DeSantis. Does this matter? You think. PLANAS: Absolutely I think it shows that a lot of Republicans don't -- I mean Ron DeSantis is known for not having any friendships. But his campaign keeps taking missteps, even those that are outside his campaign.
He had a super PAC that is doing things for him now and promoting him, and they released an ad. And the title of the ad is "steel is not forged overnight". Well for anyone who's ever looked at the steelmaking process, and you can Google this steel is forged in a couple of hours.
I mean, when -- when this supporting super PACs can't even get the ads correct, I think you have a problem.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about -- I think it's the first time we've talked since the governor signed this six-week abortion ban couple of days ago. He actually signed a 15-week abortion ban about this time last year. That's still being challenged in courts.
PLANAS: Last year.
I wonder though, considering the electoral record of antiabortion elections. We talk about the Wisconsin Supreme Court. We talk about the specific vote in Kansas, the New York congressional vote as well. How does this play for a party that wants to win? Is it -- is it focused on only the primary element or how this might look in in a general? What do you think? PLANAS: It's not. It's basically trying to do everything possible to
win a primary by ignoring what it takes to win the general election. I think Republicans have actually given up at this point trying to win the popular vote.
They're trying to do electoral college math to see what they can do in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and try to get that way. But I think the six week abortion ban is even going to bite them in Florida. If I'm one of these legislators that voted for the six week abortion ban, I'm nervous about my reelection because this is something that once the public looks at what the total ramifications are, they're not going to like it.
A lot of folks -- a lot of women don't know they are pregnant at the six week mark. A lot of doctors do not feel comfortable with this. In fact, we're seeing states with abortion ban now have less applicants for licensing to be OBGYNs in their state.
These abortion bans can have a much deeper negative effect on health care than people seem to realize.
BLACKWELL: All right. Juan-Carlos Planas, thanks so much.
A beach in Hawaii is blocked off to keep a new monk seal pup safe from human interaction. Authorities in Waikiki put up -- look at this.
WALKER: That is sweet.
BLACKWELL: A temporary fence. They'll be patrolling the area 24/7 to keep people away from this endangered animal and its mom.
WALKER: Please stay away. That's what officials are saying, because the baby seal may be cute, but it's mama is fierce. Mother seals have been known to be very protective of their pups and have bitten and seriously injured people in the past.
Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered seal species in the world. There are estimated to be just around 1,500 -- about 1,570 seals left in the wild.
Oh that's very sweet.
And a programming note. Tonight on a new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER", Bill Weir meets the climate experts racing against time to build innovative solutions to protect the planet from the looming effects of the climate crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: The plan is called marine biomass regeneration. And it starts by spraying the deep oceans with gigatons of artificial whale poop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the question is, where does the feces -- the artificial feces come from?
WEIR: Right. That's one of many questions I have. But let's start with that one.
He explains that when people drove baleen whales to near extinction, we lost the oceans biggest fertilizer pumps. One pod can gobble up nutrients from the deep and poop them across hundreds of square miles of ocean surface supercharging the bottom of the food chain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within 3 to 4 days in that area, you might have the whole area covered with phytoplankton (ph). And then within five days of that, that whole area becomes full of fish.
WEIR: And since the biggest can weigh 28 tons, when they die, they take massive amounts of carbon Godzilla to the ocean depths and could be doing millions of dollars worth of carbon removal for free.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would say whaling has to stop completely, but you can catch as much fish as you like because we're going to return the oceans to billions of fish in this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Fascinating. A new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER" airs tonight at eight on CNN.
BLACKWELL: This morning, there are some serious concerns for major flooding along the upper portion of the Mississippi River.
WALKER: There is also the threat of some pretty bad thunderstorms in the south today.
CNN's Allison Chinchar joining us now with more, Allison.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's right. So we begin in south Texas, where we have a severe thunderstorm watch in effect and even a couple off and on severe thunderstorm warnings this morning.
You've got that intense line just making its way through San Antonio headed towards Corpus Christi and Brownsville.
You do have an enhanced risk for severe weather today. The main threat is really going to be damaging winds but also the potential for some hail and isolated tornado. That finally pushes its way offshore later on today, but we will continue to see the threat for some heavy rain across the state over the next few days. Heavy rain is also going to be a concern. Not until the very end of this upcoming week and really into next week for areas of the Midwest.
The concern here is that it takes a lot of that snow that is already still on the ground up here and that could end up triggering some of the rivers, creeks and streams in that area to flood because as all of that snow melt comes and takes place it all flows back into a lot of the same rivers and tributaries over the next several weeks. It will be short term, very gradual because at least the one bit of
good news guys is that the temperatures are not expected to be that warm this week.
WALKER: Alrighty. Allison Chinchar, good to see you. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Thanks so much for starting your morning with us.
WALKER: "STATE OF THE UNION" starts now.