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UAW: :"Reasonably Productive" Talks On Strike Day Two; Obama: "It's Time To Do Right" By The Automakers; UAW Targets Crucial Plants In Strike Against Automakers; GOP Presidential Hopefuls Court Conservatives At Iowa Event; Texas Attorney General Acquitted In State General Trial; Biden, Netanyahu To Meet At U.N. General Assembly; Lawmakers Face Deadline To Avoid Possible Shutdown; Speaker Kevin McCarthy Stares Down Another Right Wings Revolt As He Tries To Avert A Government Shutdown; Sarah McBride Makes Bid To Become First Transgender Member Of Congress; Judge Rules DACA Is Illegal, Giving It Another Legal Setback; Although DACA Program Is Still Active, New Applicants Are No Longer Accepted; After An Extended Visit, Kim Jong Un Departs From Russia; Apparently, China has Stopped Its Spy Balloon Program, According To Sources; U.N. Reports 11,300 Flood Deaths In Derna, Libya. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 17, 2023 - 07:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: I'm not concerned.


WALKER: You've got to like --

BLACKWELL: You don't want a robot, do you?


BLACKWELL: No, you don't want to robot.

WALKER: We'll be right back.

At least you smiled. You don't have to laugh out loud, but I got something.

BLACKWELL: What? Did the robot voice?



WALKER: You didn't say you were embarrassed of me this time.

BLACKWELL: I wasn't embarrassed. And you know what? It actually was right on time. I think. It's perfect.

WALKER: Thank you. Everyone, take note.


WALKER: Victor is complimenting me.


WALKER: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN This Morning. So great to have you. I'm Amara Walker.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is very good to be with you.

WALKER: The United Auto Workers Union is entering its third day of strikes against three major U.S. automakers, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. While talks between the automakers and union members are still ongoing, the union says they remain far apart in terms of a deal on pay increase and benefits.

BLACKWELL: Former President Barack Obama weighed in on the strike Saturday. He called on the auto companies to do right by their workers. Hundreds of union members walked the picket lines. They say they are prepared to stick it out in order to get an agreement.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is in Ohio with more.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, Amara, Saturday, we saw the first small signs of any progress in these negotiations between the union and any of the big three automakers. This, after the union met with Ford. A source with the union telling CNN, "We had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today".

Certainly no deal, but a big step in the right direction after days of this hostile back and forth between the sides of Ford saying in a statement that they are committed to reaching an agreement with UAW that rewards our workers and allows Ford to invest in the future.

But we're also starting to see the ripple effect from these three plants that are now shut down by the strike. General Motors and Ford announcing at least 2,600 workers will be laid off in the days ahead because their facilities can't operate while these three factories are on strike. Still, so many of the workers I've spoken with who are on the picket line right now, making 500 a week in strike pay tell me they're ready to strike for as long as they need to.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their $20 proposal is to pay TPTs is ridiculous. Six years and I have not had a raise in almost two years now. I tap out at 19.28.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I've been making 19.28 for two years, trying to raise a family and with inflation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me hopeful that they're getting the message that, you know, we're on strike and we're ready for this and we've been preparing and, you know, bringing a good offer to the table.

COHEN: And why did you want your daughter to be here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I just brought her out just to kind of get her involved just so she knows, you know, what's going on with dad at work.


COHEN: And the head of the Auto Workers Union, Shawn Fain, has said that more factories could go on strike and the days ahead, depending on how these negotiations play out. Victor, Amara?

BLACKWELL: Gabe, thanks.

Joining me now is the executive director for the Center for Labor and a Just Economy at Harvard, Sharon Block. Sharon, thanks so much for being with me. You know, when the UAW characterizes their talks with Ford, as reasonably productive, it just reinforces that this is not one big conversation with four players.

These are three individual negotiations and conversations. How does this unprecedented trio of strikes influence UAW strategy, but also the individual automakers and how they approach these negotiations?

SHARON BLOCK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR LABOR AND A JUST ECONOMY AT HARVARD: Sure, and you're absolutely right. This is an unprecedented strategy. So we're all just speculating as to how it's going to play out. But I think, as Shawn Fain has said, one of the benefits from his perspective of the strategy is that it gives him maximum flexibility.

So, I'm sure he is now thinking about what the next step is. Are there -- is he going to ask his members at other facilities to go out on strike? And now he can respond based on how the negotiations are going with each of the companies because you're absolutely right, these are three separate negotiations. They're obviously informed by what's happening with each company. But ultimately, the union will sign separate contracts with each of the big three.

BLACKWELL: So you think that having all three at once gives the UAW an advantage that they would not have, otherwise, if they were striking just against forward or just against Stellantis?


BLOCK: Absolutely. They're putting pressure on on all three companies, but they have the ability to ratchet sort of calibrate that pressure, depending on how negotiations are going. The companies can see which company is having more pressure applied, where the negotiations going better, but it just puts a lot more variables on the table so that the companies, you know, don't -- as Shawn Fain has said the companies don't know what's going to come next.

BLACKWELL: I mentioned in the intro to Gabe, the former president, Barack Obama, weighed in and said that it's time for the automakers to do right by the workers. Of course, we heard from President Biden. It said that record corporate profits should mean record contracts.

And let me put up one more variable here. This is the Gallup poll taken around Labor Day that shows 75 percent of the people polled support or side with the workers versus 19 percent who side with these automakers. What is the value, the influence of public support on what happens inside these rooms?

BLOCK: I think it's incredibly important and again, this is something that makes this strike and this, you know, getting to a resolution of this labor dispute different than I think we've seen certainly in the past couple of cycles of UAW negotiations, because public support for the workers is higher than it's been in decades.

And what that does, I think it gives some confidence to the union, to those workers, like, you were just talking to out on the picket line that the customers are going to understand and they're going to stick with them. And I think that puts a lot of pressure on the company's representatives at the bargaining table.

This is a union for lots of reasons that the company should believe can sustain a strike. And so there's going to be no easy out for the companies without, as President Obama said, coming up with a contract that's fair. I think it's really important that that came from President Obama because, obviously, he was president when this union made great concessions to save the auto industry in our country.

And really what they're saying now, and I think this is resonating with the public, one reason why you see such high public support for this -- for the strike is that it's time for the union to share in the success of these companies. They bore really heavy burden when these companies weren't doing well. And now that the companies are taking in record profits, it's time for the companies to share those profits, share that success with these members.

BLACKWELL: I introduced you, by reading off your current role at Harvard, but you're also a former assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Labor in the Obama administration. We've heard from those around the White House. We spoke with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell yesterday that she does not see that there is a role for the administration in mediation or negotiating here. Do you see a role for this administration in trying to end this strike?

BLOCK: I think the administration right now is doing exactly what they should be doing, which is expressing support for workers getting a fair share. I mean, it's really a central tenet of Bidenomics to have a strong middle class. That's what the UAW has really stood for in this country for a very long time, creating middle class jobs. And that's central to our economy being successful. So I think continuing to reinforce that message.

But this is a negotiation between the union and the companies. That's the system that we have. You know, it does seem to be working. A strike doesn't mean that our system doesn't work. It's a way of influencing what happens at the negotiating table. You know, as you said in your -- in the intro, there does seem to be some progress with the negotiations at Ford. So no, I don't see a role for the administration to actually intervene in the -- in what's happening at the negotiating table.

BLACKWELL: Sharon Block --

BLOCK: It's creating the right environment. Sorry.

BLACKWELL: I apologize for interrupting there. I think we got it your message there. Sharon Block, we appreciate you waking up early for us on a Sunday morning and helping us understand what's happening with these three simultaneous strikes. Thanks so much.

WALKER: With roughly four months until the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential hopefuls spent yesterday courting the state's conservative evangelical activists.


Nearly all of the major candidates addressed the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's fall banquet Saturday. But, of course, former President Trump, who is confident in his poll numbers, did not show up for the event. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, four months before the Iowa caucuses opened the Republican presidential nominating contest, the field of candidates were in Iowa on Saturday evening, with the exception of frontrunner Donald Trump.

The candidates were reaching out to evangelical voters, a critical part of the constituency here, but there were several distinctions that were made on key issues, most notably on military promotions. Of course, one issue on Capitol Hill in Washington has been Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville's blockade of military promotions.

Well, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the only veteran in the race, said he supports the senator's actions.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I support what he's doing. First of all, what the Defense Department is doing is outside the law. They are breaking, violating the law by funding abortion tourism with tax dollars.


ZELENY: But former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, whose husband Michael is currently serving on a tour of duty, said she disagreed. And she said military members should not be used as political pawns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So why go and create all of this and hold those who sacrifice so much for our freedoms? Why hold them as political pawns? When all you have to do is get in there and ask for an up or down vote in the House and the Senate.


ZELENY: Those differences underscore an increasing sense of competition between DeSantis and Nikki Haley as they try and reach out to undecided Iowa Republican voters. Now, later in the evening, former Vice President Mike Pence said he unequivocally supported the House impeachment inquiry against President Biden.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to jump to conclusions about this, but I must tell you where there's smoke, there's usually fire in Washington, D.C. And the American people deserve the facts and I'm going to be out there championing and defending House Republicans as they bring the facts to the American people and hold Joe Biden and his family accountable.


ZELENY: So President Biden, of course, the center of much of the criticism. Former President Donald Trump not on hand and rarely spoken about. His supporters were here in force, though, and they say he will be campaigning aggressively. In fact, he's coming back to Iowa on Wednesday. The question is, can any of these rivals catch him, or is this a race for second place?

Victor and Amara?

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jeff.

Texas's embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton will keep his job. He's been acquitted in his state Senate impeachment trial. The conservative A.G. and Trump ally faced 16 articles of impeachment. They stemmed from accusations that he repeatedly abused his office to help a donor. But the acquittal is not the end of his legal trouble.

Ed Lavandera has details for us.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara and Victor, Ken Paxton is celebrating his victory in this impeachment trial by calling the case that was brought by House impeachment managers as a sham and a shameful experience. Paxton's lawyers say that the vote in the Texas Senate was a total vindication.

And it was a resounding victory for Ken Paxton of the 18 Republican senators that were voting on the 16 articles of impeachment. Only two of them voted to convict Ken Paxton. He was acquitted on all 16 of the 20 articles of impeachment that were brought in this trial. The other four charges were also dismissed. Paxton says he is ready to get back to work.


DAN COGDELL, PAXTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a trial that should have never happened. Period. Full stop. The right result happened, but it shouldn't have gotten this far.

TONY BUZBEE, PAXTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We are proud of the case we put on. We should not have had to prove our innocence, but that's what we did. And we believe that the court reached the right verdict. We're very proud of the work we did.


LAVANDERA: This impeachment vote has erupted what can only be described as an all-out civil war among Texas Republicans. The Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, after the trial, spent several minutes blasting House Republicans for voting on these articles of impeachment and bringing these charges to the Senate side.

And on the House side, the Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan shot back. Dan Patrick saying that it was clear based on that speech that this entire voting process was orchestrated from the very beginning, essentially, accusing senators of predetermining their vote before hearing all of the evidence. And also going on to say that this process cheated the voters of Texas of justice in this case.


And also Democrats and some Republicans saying that this vote is essentially condoning corruption at the highest levels of Texas politics.


ANN JOHNSON (D), TEXAS HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Our lawyers, the board of managers presented overwhelming evidence that Ken Paxton is the most corrupt politician in the state of Texas at this time, and the Republicans in the Texas Senate just returned him to the office of Top Cop.

I will rely on what I said on the floor of the Texas House. God help us.


LAVANDERA: Ken Paxton is still facing legal troubles. He has state securities fraud charges, and these are charges that have loomed over him since he first took office and those charges are expected to continue moving through the court system. And he's also under federal investigation for the very same issues that came up during this impeachment trial. So there are still many legal troubles that Ken Paxton will be facing in the weeks and months ahead.

Amara and Victor?

WALKER: All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you. Still ahead, President Biden is set to address the United Nations General Assembly this week as he gets ready to meet with several world leaders.

Also, it appears China has suspended its surveillance balloon program after one was shot down by the U.S. by American fighter jets back in February.

BLACKWELL: The number of people killed in Libya, it's unimaginable because of those devastating floods. Searchers expect to find even more victims. We're live with the latest.



WALKER: In just days, President Joe Biden will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the U.N. General Assembly. This will be their first face-to-face meeting since Netanyahu returned to office, and it's significant since Netanyahu hasn't gotten a White House invite since then.

BLACKWELL: Now, some have interpreted that as a sign of the administration's disapproval of Israel's proposed judicial reforms. Priscilla Alvarez is here with us to give us a preview of the meeting. What should we expect, Priscilla?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that this is an opportunity for the two leaders to talk about regional issues and focus on their shared values or shared sort of position on democratic values. Of course, these were two long-time allies, but there had been some headwinds as Netanyahu moved forward with a judicial overhaul.

And as you mentioned there, there was no invitation to the White House. This is a meeting that's happening on the sidelines of this summit, and that was seen as a disapproval by the White House when it came to these judicial reforms.

Now, this is part of President Biden's visit to the United Nations General Assembly, where he, too, on Tuesday, will be giving a speech. And as he has done in his previous remarks, he's going to talk about the U.S. and sort of renewed U.S. leadership on the world stage, and the move away from the America First policies of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

Now, Jake Sullivan also previewed that, saying that the President will lay out steps that he and his administration have taken to advance a, quote, "vision of American leadership".

Of course, we can also expect that there will be a focus on the war in Ukraine. That has -- was the case last year as the U.S. reasserted the support for Ukraine and rallying allies to stand behind them will likely see the same here, especially as domestically there continues to be pushback from some Republicans in providing additional aid to Ukraine. We'll also see President Zelenskyy visit Washington after the U.N. General Assembly.

So all of this happening this week. There will also be other meetings with world leaders, including including the president of Brazil, Lula. So the president, President Biden will be busy with all of that. Again, as he tries to reassert U.S. leadership and paint a picture moving forward of the U.S. standing for democracy, this, too, has been a message of his campaign going into 2024.

Amara, Victor?

WALKER: Priscilla Alvarez, appreciate your reporting as always. Thank you.

Congress has until the end of the month to avoid a possible government shutdown. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made no serious progress on a funding bill.

Joining me now is Congressional Reporter for Politico, Nicholas Wu. Good morning, Nicholas. Good to see you. We have seen this dreadful rerun of this movie many times before, but typically the ending is that Congress somehow gets its act together at the last minute and they end up passing some kind of bill, even if it's just a stopgap bill.

This time around, is a shutdown more likely, especially as the House Speaker is facing the showdown with his far-right conference?

NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Lawmakers I've talked to are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of government shutdown. And that's just because, you know, with a couple of weeks until this deadline, there hasn't really been any progress towards any kind of spending deal. We haven't seen, you know, a full negotiation start yet between the House and the Senate, let alone between Democratic and Republican leaders.

And coming up this week, the House is set to take up its own, you know, Republican only stopgap funding bill that is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Senate, and so that doesn't get us any closer to a resolution. Meanwhile, Democrats I've talked to are already prepping for the worst, and they have obtained this invitation where members are going to hold a briefing on how to best prepare for a shutdown. So, things are not looking good on Capitol Hill.

Yes, that's definitely not a vote of confidence there from you. So, what options does McCarthy have to convince the hardliners to pass at least, you know, a continuing resolution? I mean, will he have no choice but to attach a border bill, which as you know, is a no starter for the Senate?


WU: So that's what McCarthy is going to try to tee up in the House this week, this some sort of stopgap funding bill with some constitute to spending and with elements of the GOP's border bill. But we know something like that is never going to pass the Senate where this -- you know, where senators say they want some kind of spending bill with fewer strings attached.

So the tricky balance here is for figuring out -- is for McCarthy to figure out how he can satisfy the elements of the right who won't accept a spending bill without these sorts of strings attached. And, you know, something that can pass the Senate.

Meanwhile, Democrats are saying that they're not really going to help out McCarthy on something, that has all these sorts of provisions that they don't want attached on the border, spending cuts, or likewise.

WALKER: Yes, it makes you wonder just how this is even sustainable, even in the short term for House Speaker McCarthy to govern. As you know, Nicholas, McCarthy reportedly blew up in a meeting during his right flank to vote him out. That was on Thursday. Do you think he could end up turning to the Democrats again to avert a shutdown, even though we know the consequences of that would be, you know, McCarthy being voted out?

WU: Well, that's why the prospect of him doing so is so unlikely. This is something that, you know, Democrats had talked about the possibility of happening, you know, during the debt, fight some months back. But now, that threat is very real. Some Republicans are, you know, openly talking about using this motion to vacate against Kevin McCarthy.

They don't have the votes to actually oust him right now, if that were to come up. But if McCarthy were to strike some sort of compromise or bargain with Democrats to get a spending deal across, the number of Republicans who would be willing to vote to oust the speaker would very likely grow, and that would be a very real threat to his power. And so this is why he's such in -- in such a hard place right now.

WALKER: That's right. Let's turn now, Nicholas, to your reporting on Sarah McBride. She is a 32-year-old Delaware state senator who is running for a House seat next year. If she wins, she would be the first openly transgender member of Congress.

Tell me more about your conversations with her and about how she isn't afraid to lean into her gender identity at a time when, as you know, there's been an onslaught of Republican led policies against the LGBT community. But at the same time, you know, she wants to show that she's multidimensional, right?

WU: I spent the day following State Senator McBride on the campaign trail, as she's, like you said, trying to be the first openly transgender member of Congress. And what I found interesting was this balance she's trying to strike between, you know, leaning into talking about her gender identity. It's a, you know, it would be a history making run.

This would be, you know, something that she sees as a way to, perhaps, have broader conversations about identity, at a time when, yes, there are politicians who are, you know, threatening parts of her identity, itself.

While at the same time she's trying to make this very affirmative case to voters about how she has this record in the state Senate and she has, you know, a policy plan and that she could work on in Congress beyond just, you know, the historic nature of her candidacy. And so, you know, it's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out over the next year with voters since, you know, this is such a groundbreaking run.

WALKER: Nicholas Su, always great to see you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, a big setback for DACA this week. A federal judge in Texas ruled a regulation meant to preserve the Obama era policy is unlawful.



BLACKWELL: This morning, Dreamers are facing another legal setback. A judge ruled against the Biden administration's efforts to preserve the Obama-era program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

WALKER: Right. And the order won't impact those currently protected under the program. Here is CNN National Correspondent Camila Bernal.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The success of this Mexican candy family business is, in part, thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA.

IGNACIO VIRAMONTES, BUSINESS OWNER AND DACA RECIPIENT: When we got DACA, like -- it was like a -- it was a boost. It was like a catalyst. And then things just happened faster. Things were easier.

BERNAL (voiceover): Licenses, loans, leases, all possible after Ignacio Viramontes began benefiting from this Obama-era program.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are the chamoy --

BERNAL (voiceover): Now, Ignacio and his two siblings benefit from DACA.

CROWD: Everywhere we go.

BERNAL (voiceover): They make part of the more than 580,000 so-called Dreamers in the U.S. Undocumented immigrants, often arriving to the U.S. at a young age, eligible for work authorization, and shielded from deportation. But a federal judge in Texas this week ruled that a regulation intended to preserve DACA is unlawful.

JEAN REISZ, CO-DRECTOR, USC IMMIGRATION CLINIC AND PROFESSOR, USC GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW: The time is running out. And I think that even if the Biden administration appeals, which I believe they will, I -- and I think it will go all the way up to the Supreme Court, looking at our Supreme Court and looking at the law, I think it's likely that the Supreme Court would find it unlawful and then it's over. BERNAL (voiceover): Jean Reisz professor and co-director of the Immigration Clinic at USC's law school says the ruling could force a more permanent solution.

REISZ: People are reminded of the uncertainty, how many -- how much time do they have left? Years, maybe. And I think it really puts pressure on reform.

BERNAL (voiceover): At the center of the issue is the scope of the president's authority, which is why for years congressional leaders have tried to come to an agreement over immigration reform and failed.

ALEX GALVEZ, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: I think the agreement is there, but I think because certain factions of Congress have taken such a position against DACA, that it's very hard to come back to the middle and save face.


BERNAL (voiceover): Immigration Attorney Alex Galvez says that the end of the day it's the beneficiaries of the program that suffer.

GALVEZ: The Dreamers are in limbo once again. It's a political ping pong. Yes DACA. No DACA. Yes DACA. No DACA.

BERNAL (voiceover): The Texas ruling does not impact current beneficiaries, but it does prohibit new applications. Yet, the reality is that Ignacio does feel impacted.

VIRAMONTES: Even though I'm living like comfortably right now, and always in the back of my head is, like, what if one day somebody decides to come and end DACA.


WALKER: Yes, a lot of uncertainty that they are dealing with. CNN National Correspondent Camila Bernal reporting from Los Angeles.

This just in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wrapped up his trip to Russia just minutes ago, that is according to Russia's state news agency. You can see here, Kim boarding his personal armored train, which left as Russian officials wave goodbye. State media report, Russian officials gave the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, several gifts, including body armor and suicide drones. This visit lasted several days, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has already said that Russia plans to build stronger relations with North Korea. Western countries warned Russia, Thursday, that the country must not break international sanctions on North Korea.

BLACKWELL: CNN is learning from several sources that China appears to have suspended its surveillance balloon program, at least for now. You'll remember of course a Chinese spy balloon was shot down in February after it was seen floating across U.S. airspace. Well now, U.S. officials believe that Beijing made a concerted effort not to launch any more balloons.

CNN's National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand has more.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Victor, Amara, U.S. officials tell CNN that China appears to have suspended its surveillance balloon program following a major diplomatic incident earlier this year when one of the countries' high altitude spy balloons transited the United States. Officials said that they now believe that Chinese leaders have made a deliberate decision not to launch additional balloons since the one over the U.S. was shot down by American fighter jets back in February. And, importantly, the U.S. has not observed any new launches from China since that episode occurred.

Now, the apparent suspension of the program comes as both the U.S. and China have sought to stabilize relations. But officials also say the suspension could be the result of Chinese President Xi Jinping getting pretty angry that the spy balloon crossed over the U.S. at all without his knowledge, and he was apparently not pleased that it caused such a diplomatic uproar, according to sources. Now, Chinese communist party leaders apparently even reprimanded the operators of that surveillance program over the incident, according to a source familiar with the intelligence.

Now, importantly, the program was pretty extensive before it was halted. And the Chinese launched roughly two dozen missions globally in recent years. And so, the program could be deemed valuable again and it could be restarted, according to experts. So, how long this suspension actually lasts, that is going to likely depend on how U.S.- China relations play out over the next several months. We should note that President Biden and Xi Jinping could meet on the sidelines of a summit in San Francisco in November, though a meeting has yet to be confirmed. Victor, Amara.

WALKER: All right. Thank you so much, Natasha.

Still ahead, the U.N. says more than 11,000 people have been killed in the Libyan City of Derna after the regional was ravaged by flooding. We're going to have the very latest, next.



WALKER: These figures are just staggering. More than 11,000 people have been killed in Libya by devastating flooding waters that ravaged the coastal town of Derna last week, and those numbers are expected to rise even further as aid workers say hope of finding any survivors is dwindling.

BLACKWELL: Rescuers have been searching collapsed buildings, but international rescue missions believe that most of the bodies were washed away to sea.

CNN International Correspondent Larry Madowo joins us live from Nairobi in Kenya. Larry, tell us what you know about this rescue and, in many cases, just recovery now, honestly, efforts. LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Victor, Amara, this is still ongoing. Rescue efforts are ongoing. They are searching under damaged buildings and in the sea, hoping to find survivors, but it's been a week since this catastrophic flooding. So, the chances of finding people still alive are minimal.

And here's the thing, the U.N. saying 11,300 people have been confirmed dead, and most of them are in the eastern City in Derna, and 10,000 people are still missing. That's why they are still searching. Hoping just to find some bodies so they can give them dignified burials in this tragedy of unspeakable proportions. The local media there in Libya say, about 891 buildings fully damaged, about -- another 200 -- 211 partially damaged, a few more are submerged. We're talking about 15 percent of buildings affected in this city. It may never return in the form that it was before. This flooding has led to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in that part of the country.

I want read a section of this report from the U.N. that says, Storm Daniel's multi-faceted impacts have severely exacerbated already high levels of pre-existing needs and vulnerabilities.


Damaged or destroyed scores of homes, hospitals, schools and other critical infrastructure, and significantly increased the affected population's exposure to waterborne diseases and protections risk. So, the rebuilding effort here will take months, probably years and will never be the same again.

WALKER: Yes. Yes, you're probably right about that. You know, I think a lot of people may not know for the last decade or so, Libya, this is a country that has been divided politically for quite some time. And now it has two rival governments, one that's internationally recognized and in the eastern parliament-backed administration. I can't imagine that that's making the response any easier?

MADOWO: It's making it much harder, Amara, because they can't agree on the response here and how many people have been killed. Part of the crumbling infrastructure is because of the division in the country. And while there's a lot of international support coming, it's not well coordinated. So, for people who already been through so much, this is just the last thing they needed.

WALKER: That's right. Larry Madowo, appreciate your reporting. Thank you.

And for more information about how you can help Libya flood relief efforts, you can go to We'll be right back after this.



WALKER: All this week we are bringing you a series called "Champions for Change". And we're spotlighting everyday people who are making huge differences in the world with new ideas and fresh approaches. This morning, I'm introducing you to my champion. A Minnesota choir master who helps singers with dementia and their caregivers tune in through the power of music. And given that my mother has Alzheimer's, the mission of the Amazing Grace Chorus is very dear to my heart.


WALKER: I love this photo of our family together. This was at my brother's wedding in Brazil. And I would say this is probably the last time that we had a true family trip where my mom was somewhat put together.

My mother has Alzheimer's. She was diagnosed about two years ago officially. My mother's name is Young Sohn. She's 76 years old. My mother was my best friend. Mom had three pillars in her life. First was family, second was God, she was an ordain minister. And third was music. She was a self-taught pianist. She took guitar lesson. She had a beautiful voice. Music has been medicine for my mother. It's been therapeutic.

SHANA MOSES, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AMAZING GRACE CHORUS: Yes, there's power in music. The Amazing Grace Chorus is a gathering. A choir filled with love, joy, peace. Specifically pointed to make navigating memory loss and isolation a better journey as our elders age.

WALKER: I think Shana Moses is a champion for change because she is finding unconventional, more holistic ways to treat dementia patients. And I so appreciate that she's telling us, don't solely rely on medications. Let's use music as well to lift up Alzheimer's patients, but to also lift up those caregivers who have been sacrificing day in and day out.

My father is the one who has been taking care of his wife of nearly 50 years.

KATIE SAMPLE, SINGER, AMAZING GRACE CHORUS: Yes, God is real for I can feel him in my soul.

That was one of George's favorite songs, and he was 90 years old. He passed away. And when I come to the choir, I would feel I'm going to be with George.


MOSES: And I've seen transformation of folks, literally where it looks as if their body comes back responsive. One example I think of is one of our members who almost may seem quiet and docile prior to music starting. But when the beat drops, when the music starts, something happens. And it's a witness by everyone.


WALKER: What would you say to loved ones who are on the verge of giving up?

MOSES: They're still there. They're still there. Sing to them. JOSHUA GRILL, NEUROSCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: Music can really affect the brain in ways that are medicinal. It may be the association with those positive memories, or maybe that it's actually sparking the parts of the brain that release these chemicals that are counter to the symptoms of agitation and aggression. If it works, we should use it.

WALKER: Dad has been the most healing part of this journey, is sitting my mom down on the piano. It helped me remember my mom's tenderness. It helped me see a piece of my mom who loved music and leaned on music during her challenging times. What a challenging time she's going through right now with Alzheimer's. To be able to see my mother, even if it's just 60 seconds lately, it's been so soothing for me because at least I can see that she's still there.



WALKER: Sorry. Sorry, guys.

BLACKWELL: Nothing to apologize for.

WALKER: I want people to know that it's a very isolating and disheartening journey at times, but you're not alone. Don't be afraid to ask for help. The Alzheimer's Association, which has been a Godsend, has been an amazing resource to have some guidance.

One thing I do want to mention without tears that's so important is Dr. Joshua Grill on the piece, he talked to me about a dementia- friendly society. And that is so important because we're so far from the dementia-friendly society. What is dementia-friendly society? It's one that decreases the stigma of Alzheimer's and also intentionally finds ways to include and incorporate people with Alzheimer's so that they're not so marginalized because they still are.

BLACKWELL: Thank you for bringing us that story. And I know it is not easy to discuss a lot of this. We have talked about it off camera.


BLACKWELL: But I think, of course, the choir you highlighted helps a lot of people, but you helped a lot of people today.

WALKER: Thank you. Music really is medicine.



BLACKWELL: Thank you for that.

WALKER: And be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern for "Champions for Change." It's a one-hour special. We'll be right back.