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Connect the World

First Look at Ukrainian Town Battered by Russia; Putin on China, Relations "Reaching New Milestones"; Rare Daytime Raid by Israel Kills 11 Palestinians; Turkiye-Syria Earthquake Death Toll Surpasses 49,000; Ohio Toxic Train Aftermath; New Hope for Alzheimer's Patients with Gene Editing. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 23, 2023 - 10:00   ET





ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The Russians are absolutely pummeling this town. You can see all around me, these are

Soviet-era apartment blocks, now largely empty. The residents have fled.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Inside a Ukrainian city, under siege by Russian forces for weeks. CNN is on the ground with an exclusive




ANDERSON (voice-over): Rising tensions after a raid by Israeli forces leave 11 Palestinians dead and dozens injured. We are live in Jerusalem

with the latest. Plus --



JIM STEWART, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I'm angry. I'm angry about this. I lived in East Palestine for 65 years now. I don't feel safe in this town

now. You took it away from me.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Nearly three weeks after a toxic train wreck in Ohio, mounting anger and frustration as residents plead for answers.



ANDERSON: 7:00 here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson, hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

We begin with a big picture look at 12 months that have changed world history and in some form, touched all of our lives. Russia's a full scale

invasion of Ukraine will be a year old in less than 24 hours.


ANDERSON (voice-over): These are some of the images from the early days of that war. Today, as Ukraine braces for an expected surge in attacks from

Russian forces, it's putting more muscle into security measures across the country.


ANDERSON: Well, the brutality of this war is a daily tragedy, turning the names of Ukrainian towns and cities like Bucha, Mariupol and Bakhmut, which

might not have been that familiar to many of you a year ago, and to reminders of devastation and suffering.

Vuhledar has joined that list, CNN's Alex Marquardt is on the ground with an exclusive look inside what is a strategic town in southeastern Ukraine.

This is his report.


MARQUARDT: This fight for Vuhledar right now is one of the most important and difficult in the country. While the fight for Bakhmut is largely

symbolic, this is a very strategic fight for both sides.

Vuhledar is unique and that it sits at the intersection of two main active fronts in Ukraine, the southern and the eastern front. That is why Russia

wants to try to push through here to launch an offense into Donbas.

It is believed that this is one of their shaping operations, the beginning of a larger offensive to come in the next few weeks.

But they are struggling very badly right now. They have lost a huge amount of men and armored vehicles as they try to cross fields, including

minefields, where the Ukrainians have been able to inflict a huge amount of damage on their troops.

At the same time, the Russians are absolutely pummeling this town. You can see all around me, these are soviet-era apartment blocks now largely empty,

the residents have fled and almost every single one destroyed in varying degrees. All of the windows have been blown out. Craters here in the ground

where children used to play.

Ukrainians have the benefit of the higher ground here and these buildings to use in the fighting. But as with so many of the battles here in Eastern

Ukraine, it is a fight of attrition, who can hold out the longest.

The Ukrainian side saying they need more ammunition to be able to keep the Russians at bay, to keep them from advancing -- Alex Marquardt, CNN,

Vuhledar, in Eastern Ukraine.


ANDERSON: We'll bring you to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where CNN's chief special anchor, Christiane Amanpour joins us live.

And Alex's reporting there, Christiane, reminding us that this war grinds on and civilians continue to lose their lives. Towns destroyed a year ago.

There were doubts that Ukraine would be able to resist Russia's invasion but it has. It has defied the odds and still stands today. So let's just

start with one year on.


ANDERSON: How significant a milestone is this?

Well, it's huge, Becky. Of course, the picture is vastly different from the east and the southern area, where Alex just reported from, and from here

because this city, this capital was one of the first targets.

If you remember a year ago, when Russia sent in tanks and armored personnel carriers and troops from the north via Belarus, when it landed paratroopers

in an airport not so far from Kyiv, when it really believed that it would capture this capital and decapitate the leadership, none of that happened.

The Ukrainian forces pushed and forced the Russian forces back from here. But as we all described back then, then the Russians were regrouping and

putting all their attention onto the east. That is where this war has mostly been grinding on for the last 11 months at least.

And that is what everyone now is focused on in terms of whether there will be this highly vaunted, much touted Russian offensive. So far, there is no

evidence of a full-scale, new Russian spring offensive.

But as Alex said and others have, whether it's Bakhmut or Vuhledar, there is this ongoing war of attrition. It's almost World War I style. There are,

as you know, trench warfare going on in some of this area. It's really, really basic. It's really difficult, it's really hard.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians have been killed or wounded, according to the U.S.; about half of that on the Ukrainian side. Huge amounts of

artillery and ammunition being used that NATO, anyway, is rushing to try to replenish and resupply the Ukrainians for the second year of war.

But I will say this. The spirit of the Ukrainian people remains as strong, if not stronger. When asked, these few days and throughout this past year,

whether there was any chance of surrender or bowing to the Russian pressure, including the illegal missile strikes on civilian energy and

other missile structure, they say no.

And they are optimistic. They just hope the West has the staying power, their friends have the staying power to outlast whatever Putin has in mind

-- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, the impact of this war of course has not just been on Ukraine although the losses there, the destruction, the loss of life

swingeing, of course.

But on Russia and indeed the rest of the world, you make a very good point. As long as its Western allies stay together, Ukraine believes it can get

through this with the support that it is getting.

So that begs the question, will they continue to get the support that they have had over the last year?

And Joe Biden, adding a leg to his European trip last week, of course, making a surprise stop in Kyiv. The optics of that were clearly good and

very supportive, as far as Ukraine is concerned.

But you've been in amongst key stakeholders this past 1.5 weeks or so. You've been talking to those stakeholders throughout this last year.

What is the narrative at present?

Is this -- are these allies that are absolutely determined that they will stick together come hell or high water at this point?

AMANPOUR: Well, that's what they say, Becky. And the Ukrainians are pleased about that. Even, of course, the most powerful allies are in the

United States, militarily, diplomatically, financially.

But the E.U. as well is giving a huge amount, certainly financially, practically matching the United States.

But what was very, very important, to answer the question that you just posed, was President Biden's visit here, early this week, on Monday.

It wasn't just a dip, a toe dipping into Ukraine. It was the President of the United States, who represents the free world. He's the leader of the

free world, coming to this country one year later and saying, we are in this for as long as it takes.

Now that might sound like a cliche and what is as long as it takes. But the president has said we and our democracies will stand strong. We will not

give into the Russian narrative, Putin and even the Chinese narrative, that maybe democracies are soft, maybe they're not in it for the long haul.

He believes, the president, that the democratic world has showed that it can actually be stronger than the autocratic world. So it's on them now.

Are they going to stay in it?

And are they going to speed up the production of ammunition, which we know from the secretary general of NATO, is pretty much a perilous point right


They really need to ramp that up.

And will they keep getting the weapons systems that they have been getting after a lot of pleading over this last year, nevertheless getting them, but

will they get them in time?

The next big question is, to answer President Zelenskyy's question, can you not speed this up, so that we, your foot soldiers, can do for you what you

say you want?


AMANPOUR: That is a victory in Ukraine, to end not just the war but all the other things that Russia threatens -- food insecurity, energy prices,

inflation, cost of living, all of that stuff.

So that's what they hope that this next year will bring, is speeding up -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Christiane Amanpour is on the ground in Kyiv, in Ukraine. Christiane, thank you.

Well, the CNN visuals team and international news have put together an interactive timeline for you, giving you a month by month look at how

Russia's war on Ukraine unfolded over the past year.

Have a look at this. It is put together very well. You'll find it on your CNN app or at, a real sense of just what Ukraine has been through

over this past year and the impact that this war has had outside of Ukraine.

Well, to Moscow and apparent tensions between a mercenary leader and the military. A warning; we are about to show you a graphic image but one that

we believe is crucial to this story.


ANDERSON (voice-over): On Wednesday, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, posted this picture showing dozens of dead

Wagner fighters. He blamed what he called shell starvation, saying ammunition was not provided to them by the Russian military. He described

that as treason.


ANDERSON: Well, since then, he says a shipment of ammunition has been dispatched. CNN has not been able to independently verify Prigozhin's

claims about ammunition shortages. Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow.

This is, well, this is quite an unusual story, given Prigozhin's erstwhile closeness, let's call it that, to President Putin. Talk us through exactly

through what happened here as we understand it.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, first of all, Becky, you're absolutely right, it's unusual. It's certainly something

that really, we've been monitoring for the last couple of months.

There has been, I'm not sure if you should call it a power struggle but there has been a rivalry going on between Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner

private military company and the Russian defense ministry.

We've seen that over the past couple of months, as the defense ministry, for instance, where the Russian military was struggling in the south, in

the Kherson region.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose forces are more active in the Bakhmut area, in the eastern part of the country, he would come out and say, look, I don't know

how things are going in Kherson.

But in Bakhmut everything is fine. So he has long essentially sold himself to Vladimir Putin as the guy who can produce results for Vladimir Putin.

That is certainly something that the defense ministry didn't like.

Now what's been going on since then is that, around the Bakhmut area, the defense ministry has also joined the fight. This was supposed to be the

place that the Russian forces were going to win before the one year anniversary.

Now we know that so far hasn't happened but that appears to have been the plan. So you sort of have these two dueling forces in that area, the Wagner

private military company and the actual Russian military, who are both fighting on the same side, while their leaders seem to be feuding in the


And so Yevgeny Prigozhin at some point said that he simply wasn't getting any ammunition anymore from the Russian defense ministry. And he posted

that picture; he accused them of being treasonous, as you said.

The Russian defense ministry actually refuted that, saying, look, there are still very much assault operations going on, on the Russian side, in the

Bakhmut area. And so therefore anyone claiming that there is not enough ammunition available there, simply isn't telling the truth.

So that was something that was really boiling up here in Russia, certainly very much on social media in that sphere. Today, Yevgeny Prigozhin said

that ammunition was on its way. In fact, there was a measure that he released from the battlefield today, greeting everybody on Defenders of the

Fatherland Day for Russia, Becky.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. I just wonder what the wider implications of these apparent tensions and whether or not there is a past (ph) on the most

recent events in a way or not -- but what the implications are when it comes to what's actually happening on the ground in Ukraine.

PLEITGEN: Well, I think that the implications are potentially huge. If you look at an area like Bakhmut, for instance, it's no secret that it was a

very important place for the Russian military, that they wanted to take that area before the first anniversary, that that was going to be one of

the big victories that Vladimir Putin could've presented on the first anniversary.

Now obviously, that's not happening. In general, of course, it's not a good look when you have the head of the biggest private military company and

leadership of Russia's defense ministry seemingly at odds with one another as they're obviously trying to achieve results on the battlefield.

Of course, all this is going on, Becky, around the one year anniversary, around the time today, as Defenders of the Fatherland Day here in Russia,

when Vladimir Putin is trying to rally the Russian nation to make sure that they stay behind what he calls his "special military operation." I want to

have a look at what's going on here in Russia.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Russian).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russian leader Vladimir Putin rallying his nation for a tough battle. At a massive event in Moscow, Putin's message to the

crowd Russian troops in Ukraine are fighting for Russia's survival.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There is a battle going on for our historical borders, for our people. It is led by the same

courageous fighters who are standing here. They fight heroically, courageously, bravely. We are proud of them. Three cheers in their honor.

PLEITGEN: The concert in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on the eve of the one- year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, with Putin himself leading the rallying call.

For those attending, patriotism is the main message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I adore Vladimir Vladimirovich. I'm prepared to support him with everything I've got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The whole of Europe and the west is helping Ukraine, so,, of course, it's taking a long time but we will

demilitarize Europe and U.S., too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My understanding is we are fighting for our interests there. Regrettably, it is not us who decide what

those interests are.

PLEITGEN: Russian forces have made little progress on the battlefield in recent months, with both Russia and Ukraine sustaining heavy losses. As the

U.S. believes, Russia might be turning to China for military supplies. Putin reaffirming his commitment to relations with Beijing in a meeting

with China's top diplomat, Wang Yi.

PUTIN (through translator): Russian Chinese relations are developing just as we planned in previous years. Everything is moving forward, developing

and we are reaching new milestones.

PLEITGEN: China has brushed off the U.S.'s concerns that Beijing might be contemplating supplying arms to the Kremlin's war effort taking a swipe at

the Biden administration.

WANG YI, SENIOR CHINESE DIPLOMAT (through translator): We would like to emphasize once again that the comprehensive strategic partnership between

Russia and China has never been directed against a third party and is certainly not subject to interference and provocation by any third party.

PLEITGEN: While Beijing says it wants a political solution, Vladimir Putin is drumming up support for his military operation, trying hard to keep the

Russian population motivated for a battle he deems existential.


PLEITGEN: And certainly one he seems to understand could on for a very long time. Vladimir Putin coming out last night with another video message.

You certainly see watching that message that Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, in no mood to back down anytime soon, Becky.

ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen on the story for you. Thank you, Fred.

The U.S. Treasury Department is joining the Pentagon in warning that China -- warning China against providing materiel support to Russia's war effort

in Ukraine. Russian president, Vladimir Putin, met with China's top diplomat in Moscow on Wednesday and he declared relations with China are

reaching new milestones.

In his words, "Everything is moving forward and developing."

Well, the U.S. is watching this warily.


SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Now we haven't seen them give lethal aid to Russia at this time for the war but they haven't also

taken that off the table.

And so we have been consistent from here. And I believe Secretary Blinken also met with his counterpart in Germany just last week. We reinforced

there that, again, there will be consequences for China should this partnership with Russia further deepen.


ANDERSON: CNN's Marc Stewart joins us now.

Marc, U.S. has no evidence to suggest that China is, you know, planning on providing materiel lethal weapons to Russia. You've been watching this

unfold for the last few days.

I just wonder, what is the view from Beijing?

And what is the message these two giants in the world are trying to send at this point?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's first talk about the meeting, Becky, between Wang Yi and Vladimir Putin. To be honest

with you, we may never know the full extent of the conversation that was had between the two men.

But it certainly was rich with symbolism, the two men, sitting at the table together, especially at a time when we have seen NATO and the E.U. really

flex their muscles. So there is this big symbolic takeaway. I was talking to an analyst not too long ago, who pointed out, this photo between

Vladimir Putin and Wang Yi.


M. STEWART: It's something that Vladimir Putin sorely needed. He has been pretty much isolated from the world stage.

And then, the significance of China meeting with Russia, especially after the Munich conference, it's a way for it to exert its weight (ph). So if

we're keeping this scorecard of optics, which is very important for both of these nations, perhaps a picture of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would be

the ultimate of all photo ops.

And that is how these nations are selling their perspectives to their people, so to speak.

ANDERSON: Yes, you have the optics and you have what is clearly and can be described as a political relationship.

I wonder whether this isn't so much more than that, though?

Marc, just drill down a little bit for us.

M. STEWART: Well, Becky, I cannot count the times we've talked about political relationships, diplomatic relationships, without talking about

business and economics. These are two nations that have had a history together.

I mean, if we look during the time of the Ukraine war, who has been buying Russian energy?

You will know, from your spot in the Middle East, China has been a big customer of Russian oil and gas.

And then, because Western companies have been locked out of Russia, China has been able to sell phones. It's been able to sell cars in Russia. So

there are certainly economic interests.

And earlier in the program, you were talking about potential punishment to China, depending on how it behaves. Well, economic consequences are

something that it certainly has to keep in mind, especially when its economy has been struggling.

ANDERSON: Yes, it's fascinating, isn't it?

We are a year on from the start of this invasion. Marc, good to have you. Thank you very much indeed.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. More on the -- I don't want to called it an anniversary; let's mark this as a year on from

the start of this invasion, coming up later in the show.

Also coming, up appeals for calm after one of the deadliest Israeli raids in the West Bank in years. Why Israel says it happened in broad daylight.

Plus, millions of people are now homeless in Turkiye and Syria after this month's 7.8 magnitude quake. They are struggling to find food, water and

heat as the cold settles in.





ANDERSON: Well, Israel calls it messy. Palestinians call it a massacre; 11 Palestinians killed in a rare daytime Israeli military raid on Wednesday in

the West Bank.

The IDF says the raid targeted suspected militants in Nablus, including one accused of killing an Israeli soldier. Earlier today, Israel launched

airstrikes in Gaza following a rocket attack. Israel's military said the Hamas weapons manufacturing site and military compound were hit. Hadas Gold

is with us from Jerusalem.

You had certainly speculated that things could escalate and they have. The U.N.'s Middle East envoy reportedly went to Gaza to try to ease tensions.

And he has been speaking out about the raid, the Israeli raid on Nablus on Wednesday. Just explain what he has been saying.

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, listen, Tor Wennesland, the U.N. envoy for the Middle East, has been warning about the

worsening situation in this region for months.

And he said yesterday after the raid that he is deeply disturbed by the continuing cycle of violence and the appalling loss of civilian life. He

said he's continuing his engagement with all of the parties involved.

This statement came out before we heard about his trip to Gaza. We're still looking at the details. But it appears as though he was there for a few

hours. Most likely, he was meeting with the top echelon there of Hamas after those rockets were fired last night.

We were very much expecting some sort of response from Gaza because, among the militants killed during the operation in Nablus was a member of Hamas

as well as two commanders from Islamic Jihad.

And the militant factions in Gaza did say essentially that there was going to be a response. But I do have to say that, so far, it didn't spiral into

something potentially bigger than it could have; just six rockets.

The Israeli military responding with airstrikes on what it said was a weapons manufacturing depot belonging to Hamas. But no injuries or

casualties on either side.

Much of the attention here is still very much on Nablus and what happened there yesterday because we just look at the sheer numbers, the timing of

all of this: 11 killed; among those, militants but also there is likely to be unarmed civilians, bystanders, who were killed as a result.

And some 500 injuries, 100 of them at least by live ammunition, according to Palestinian officials. We're looking at some images from the aftermath.

You know, we have a team there right now, who is saying that it just looks like a war zone in parts.

Bullet holes riddling storefronts, doors; this raid took place in the Old City of Nablus. This is a very -- alleys, winding streets; everything is

tightly packed together. And it took place mid morning right around 10 am.

So many people were out in the streets. A lot of concern now, of course, about what will potentially come next. Benjamin Netanyahu putting out a

statement, praising the Israeli military, essentially saying that Israel will settle the score with anybody who threatens or has already harmed

Israeli civilians or Israeli soldiers -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Very worrying. Hadas, thank you. Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem.

We're taking a very short break, back after this.





ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson. You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Authorities in Turkiye now say the death toll from this month's massive earthquake has surpassed 43,000 people. Combined with those killed in

Syria, the total number of lives lost from the quake now tops a staggering 49,000. Many of those who survived have nowhere to call home.

The Turkish president has promised to rebuild housing within a year. But the U.N.'s relief chief says he's expecting the shelter situation to get

worse. Nada Bashir has been speaking with survivors in the southern part of Turkiye. She joins me from there now.

President Erdogan promised, saying that houses will be built. But there are hundreds of thousands who are homeless at this point. And it is cold.

What do they do until these new homes are constructed?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is certainly cold in the evenings, Becky. We've seen families, we've met with families who are still, more

than two weeks on since the earthquake, living on the streets. They've lost absolutely everything.

They've registered themselves to be given a tent. But at this stage, there's so many families who are sleeping on the streets, completely

homeless. There are some 900,000 people currently living in tents across southeastern Turkiye.

We're in the city of Iskander; in fact, we're at the port of Iskander and, right now, where another noble form of providing shelter for those who've

been displaced has been developed with volunteers here, working around the clock.

On this ship, this is the Gemini, currently housing a number of those who have been displaced in this region. More than 1,000 people currently on

board. There are more than 400 cabins.

This, of course, is an important new development. There will be another ship coming on soon to help house people. But look, this is just one way of

helping these people. This is a temporary measure.

What we've heard, of course, from the Turkish government is that they're planning to send more tents and containers and more permanent structures

for families to stay in. But this is only a temporary measure.

In fact, this is also a temporary measure. Once these families are able to leave, the ship, once they're assigned a tent or a container, they will

then leave. And that is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

But of course, there is a significant amount of pressure on the Turkish government to find a long term solution. They've committed, so far, to

rebuilding parts of the affected areas across 11 provinces in southeast Turkiye within one year.

The construction of about 30,000 apartments is set to begin in March. But this is going to be a long, long process. And for those who are left

homeless, many of them, of course, also Syrians, already displaced as a result of the war.

For those people, it is, these shelters could not come soon enough. And this is going to be a hugely difficult few weeks, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Two weeks in, yes, that story, it just gets worse. Thank you.

Well, the American Transportation Secretary is in East Palestine, Ohio. He's seeing firsthand the damage done by what was a toxic train crash

earlier this month. This comes hours after angry residents confronted the rail company CEO at a CNN town hall. Jason Carroll reports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for being here.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional two- hour CNN town hall. An opportunity for East Palestine residents to share their fears, concerns and anger with those they hold responsible for a

toxic train crash and the fallout.

J. STEWART: I'm angry. I'm angry about this. And it is disgusting that we're just -- lost it. I don't feel safe in this town now. You took it away

from me. You took this away from us. Your company stinks.

ALAN SHAW, CEO, NORFOLK SOUTHERN: I hear you. I'm terribly sorry that this has happened to this community.

CARROLL (voice-over): From payments to residents, to cleanup operations, along with testing air, water and soil, Norfolk Southern president and CEO,

Alan Shaw, listed short-term and long-term commitments to East Palestine.


CARROLL (voice-over): But that did not stop the barrage of criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We could have been warned and thank God that there were no casualties, no loss of life, no loss of buildings.

SHAW: I understand the anger and I -- I've experienced it.

What I can do and what Norfolk Southern can do to help the recovery of this community.

CARROLL (voice-over): community seemingly traumatized.

J. STEWART: It's Norfolk's disaster, not a train derailment.

CARROLL (voice-over): And unwilling to hide their feelings of unsafety.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you do not feel safe living in East Palestine, raise your hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has the potential to really decimate a small town like us.

CARROLL (voice-over): But the EPA administrator said there are guardrails in place to prevent that from happening.

MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: The orders are that the company will comply with our order, which compels them to take full responsibility, full

accountability, for the trauma they have inflicted on this community and the damage they have caused.

TAPPER: Are you going to follow that order, sir?

SHAW: Yes, the -- Administrator Regan and I are aligned on this.

CARROLL (voice-over): However, the skepticism was palpable as those most affected filed back at Norfolk Southern and state officials, in search of

more reassuring answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever things are said like "maybe," "potentially," "might be." This is a really serious issue. And words like that should have

no part in this.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): I've tried to be as -- as honest and as straight as I -- as I could. We told you when we had tested the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the soil?

DEWINE: We posted the results of that.

CARROLL (voice-over): On the issue of soil testing, the Ohio EPA director had this to say.

ANNE VOGEL, DIRECTOR, OHIO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: The process is to excavate everything that we know is contaminated. And then we test it so

see how contaminated it is and where it needs to be lawfully disposed.

CARROLL (voice-over): The concerns now heightened as residents continue to report some health conditions, such as bleeding noses, rashes and dizziness

affecting both adults and children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm having the skin issues. His is bloody noses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I blew my nose, just the amount of blood that came out was alarming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all sick now.

CARROLL (voice-over): And many facing a desperate reality for their home town.

J. STEWART: I'm 66 years old, a diabetic, a-fib heart, heart disease, everything.

Did you shorten my life now?

I want to retire and enjoy it.

How are we going to enjoy it?

You burned me.


ANDERSON: That was Jason Carroll reporting from East Palestine in Ohio.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Still to come, editing genes. I know it sounds like science fiction.

But what if we could modify the codes and eradicate genetic diseases?

More on that after this.





ANDERSON: Well, the Human Genome Project is called one of the greatest scientific feats in history. Launched in the late 1990s, it set out to

study and map our DNA, to help us understand ourselves effectively.

Almost 30 years later, scientists are pushing at the barriers of gene editing, as it is known. This could hold the cure to diseases like leukemia

and Alzheimer's, as my colleague, Anna Stewart, found out.



ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I've sent my DNA here to find out all about my genome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is why we do the first quality control step.

A. STEWART (voice-over): I'm hoping my sample wasn't disqualified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Oh, it was perfect.

A. STEWART (voice-over): I did it right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): You did it right.

A. STEWART (voice-over): A couple decades ago, labs like this did not exist. It was impossible for people to get information about their genome.

That all changed in the early 2000s.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome.

Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind.

A. STEWART (voice-over): The Human Genome Project, as it was called, brought together the best and brightest scientists from around the world.

Their mission: to map every gene in the human body.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: All of us working on the Human Genome Project realized this was historic. This was

something we would only do once as a human species, to read our own instruction book. And we were doing it.

A. STEWART (voice-over): Dr. Francis Collins and his team spent 13 years and $2.7 billion to complete the task. The Human Genome Project gave us the

tools to read and decipher our genetic code. It was a good start but what came next changed everything.

In 2020, Emmanuelle Charpentier and her colleague, Jennifer Doudna, won the Nobel prize in chemistry for their breakthrough discovery while researching

a naturally occurring protein in bacteria called CRISPR/Cas9.

EMMANUELLE CHARPENTIER, DIRECTOR, MAX PLANCK UNIT FOR THE SCIENCE OF PATHOGENS: It works like molecular scissors in a way that can cleave the

DNA. Another explanation could be like a software that allows you to rewrite a text.

The genome is a labyrinth of words and letters. It has a code and CRISPR/Cas is programmable and one can use CRISPR/Cas to change the genetic

code at will.

A. STEWART (voice-over): The discovery opened up a world of possibilities, giving us the tools to potentially cure genetic diseases and disorders,

from Alzheimer's to leukemia.

Do you member what you thought at the time?

COLLINS: I was absolutely blown away. This was the kind of game-changer that doesn't come along more than maybe once every decade or maybe more.

And if we could figure out how to harness it, this might give hope to those people who suffer from thousands of diseases, where we know the DNA mistake

but we don't have a treatment.

All of those rare genetic disorders maybe now would be approachable in a new and powerful way.

A. STEWART (voice-over): -- Anna Stewart, CNN, Dubai.