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Shipwreck off Lampedusa Kills 45; Israeli FinMin Freezes Funds for Arab Programs; American Nurse and Daughter Released after Haiti Kidnapping; Wildfires on Maui, Big Island; Georgia DA's Case Goes to Grand Jury; Mushroom Poisoning Suspected in Three Deaths. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 09, 2023 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): I am Becky Anderson live from London where the time is 3:00 in the afternoon. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Coming up this hour, at least 40 people are dead in a migrant shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa.

Israel's controversial finance minister freezes funds for Palestinian education programs.

Fire ripped through a holiday home for the disabled, killing at least nine.

And another football legend heading to the Middle East.


ANDERSON: We are following a deadly tragedy at sea involving migrants. The Red Cross says 41 people, including several children, died near the Italian

island of Lampedusa. The Red Cross spoke to the ship's four survivors saying it sank within an hour of departing Tunisia after it was hit by a

big wave several days ago.

The survivors were rescued by a private vessel. This incident marks the latest in a string of tragedies near Lampedusa, a major destination for

migrants seeking to enter E.U. countries. For more on this let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman, who is today in Rome.

Ben, what do we know about those who have lost their lives?

What else are authorities saying about what happened?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know exactly how many people are missing and presumed dead. That is because these four

survivors saying they believe there were 45 people on board the ship when it left, this boat, actually, when it left the Tunisian port late last


There have not been any reports of any bodies being fished out of the sea. So this is an approximate number at this point.

Keep in mind, also, that the four survivors, reportedly three man and one woman, are probably fairly traumatized after this experience. They are now

on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a major gathering point for migrants and refugees rescued at sea.

Keep in mind, of course, that this Italian island, Lampedusa, is actually closer to Tunisia than it is to the Italian mainland. The authorities --

obviously, this is an ongoing situation, particularly in the summer when the waters are somewhat calmer in the Mediterranean.

This is when people tend to try to make this very dangerous crossing. At this point, the numbers would indicate we are headed for a record number of

migrants and refugees arriving in Italy. So far this year, as of today, the 9th of August, nearly 94,000 people have reached the shores of Italy.

That is twice the number from last year at this point of the year and three times that number from the year before, Becky.

ANDERSON: Is it clear why at this stage there are so many seeking what is so often a deadly route?

WEDEMAN: You really have to look at the big picture. These people are coming from all sorts of places. They're coming from sub-Saharan Africa,

the Middle East; the third largest number of migrants entering Italy this year are from Egypt.

Egypt is a country obviously suffering from a profound economic crisis. People are coming from as far away as Bangladesh and Pakistan. What we are

seeing is that there is a multiplicity of crises in all of these places, whether it is war, economic hopelessness, corruption, instability.

Basically it is convincing these people that it is worth the risk of dying in the Mediterranean. So far this year more than 2,000 people have

reportedly died -- of course, that is probably a low estimate -- trying to cross the Mediterranean.


WEDEMAN: But obviously that risk is worth, it in the opinion of many of these people -- all of these people -- more so than perhaps dying in a war

in the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa or elsewhere.

So the problem, we focus on migrants leaving Tunisia or Libya and whatnot. But obviously the real, fundamental root problems are much larger. And they

are not being addressed -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. Absolutely. Ben Wedeman with the story. And it continues to develop. Thank you.

Another shocking story, this time out of eastern France. At least nine people died in a fire at a lodging where a group of adults with learning

disabilities was on holiday. A number escaped the flames but authorities say those on the upper floors were trapped. Two are still unaccounted for.

CNN senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann on the story.

Jim, what more do we know at this point?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Becky, we have just seen a visit by the prime minister of France, who went there in person to try to

see what could be done to help out the situation. Really virtually nothing at this stage.

There are 11 people who were originally reported missing. But the fire authorities say there is no doubt that they are all lost. There were 28

people in the building at about 6:30 this morning when the fire broke out.

Fire officials said that in fact it may have been smoldering for some time before it was discovered. It took about 15 minutes. This is in a rural

area, took about 15 minutes for fire companies to get there. By the time they did get there, the building was fully engulfed in flames.

It's a half timber construction. So it is believed that the timbers, probably old, were in fact what fed the fire, making it an intense inferno.

None of those who were still inside the building when the fire authorities arrived survived. About 17 people did manage to get out.

They set up a crisis center to welcome friends and families of the victims. We will see what happens. We just heard from the prosecutor, who will be

looking into this. She said that, in fact, the owner of the building is so shaken up that they cannot interview her at this point.

But there are questions to be asked about the situation itself, whether or not this building was meant to house that many people. It is a renovated

barn. As a consequence, whether it was up to norms and all that stuff, which all of that will be investigated over the next few days to see

exactly what happened here -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Just gone 4:00 in Paris, Jim Bittermann on the story. Jim, thank you.

Let's get you to Russia where we are seeing dramatic images of an explosion at an industrial plant northeast of Moscow. Officials say at least 45

people were injured. Russian media report that the blast came from a pyrotechnics warehouse. The fire was a result of a violation of what they

describe as technological processes.

Meantime, Russia says two Ukrainian drones were shot down near Moscow overnight. There is conflicting information today on what could be a

Ukrainian raid in the Kherson region. Russian media and bloggers say Ukrainian troops crossed the Dnipro River on Tuesday, encountering Russian

forces near a Russian occupied village.

Ukraine is not confirming that. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now acknowledging that the counteroffensive is going slower than many had

hoped. We will take a deep dive into what that means for the war's future and Western aid next hour on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Israel's far-right finance minister is being criticized once again, this time for freezing funds earmarked for Arab municipalities in Israel and

Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Bezalel Smotrich announced on Facebook that he will suspend about $53 million previously allocated, saying that the money could end up in the

hands of criminal organizations.

You may recall earlier this year Smotrich called for the Palestinian town Huwara to be wiped out. Elliott Gotkine is joining us from Jerusalem to

break this down for us.

Let's start with the money. We know how much it was.

What is it being used for?

And what is his justification for stopping it?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, there are two aspects to this. The first as you say is $53 million, 200 million shekels. The best way to

describe it is a kind of leveling-up program, quite well established in Israel.

They try to help poorer municipalities become wealthier or to close the gap, poorer municipalities to close the gap with the wealthier. Ones after

all the sums were done, they saw still quite a significant gap in Arab municipalities.


GOTKINE: So the previous government allocated more funding to these Arab municipalities to the tune of 200 million shekels a year, about $53


This is one aspect that Smotrich is saying is unwarranted. He is saying it is unfair basically that Arab municipalities should be getting extra

funding whereas poorer Jewish municipalities are not.

The other aspect is part of a five-year plan worth hundreds of millions of shekels for East Jerusalemites. It is a part of that program that Smotrich

says he is freezing. This part of the program is designed to help people learn and improve their Hebrew to a level that would then enable them to

study at Hebrew university.

Smotrich says that that is the other part that he wants to freeze. One aspect is he said it's not fair. The other aspects, he said the previous

government only did this because of Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Islamist run party, who is part of the previous coalition government.

This was effectively done to placate him. Smotrich claims that if this money does go to these Arab municipalities, then it could end up in the

hands of criminal and terrorist organizations.

Something that even his fellow members of parliament and the lawmakers who are in the governing coalition and said, look, if you are making these

claims, show us evidence for it -- Becky.

ANDERSON: And he has not done so as of yet. Just remind us who Smotrich is.

GOTKINE: He hasn't done so yet. But I should add, Becky, in about two hours' time, he has announced that he is going to be holding a press

conference. The other aspect that I should add is this is not necessarily a done deal yet. He wrote on the Facebook page yesterday that the government

could overturn it. There could be challenges in court.

As for Smotrich himself, he is, as we have been seeing since the formation of this government, part of this most right-wing and religiously

conservative governing coalition Israel has seen.

He's a champion of the settlers and he has also been very supportive of the judicial overhaul, which has caused so much controversy and led to hundreds

of thousands of Israelis coming out onto the street on a weekly basis.

So quite a controversial character. He doesn't seem to burnish his religious credentials as much as the nationalist credentials, as much as

the others in the coalition, Itamar Ben-Gvir. But certainly, they are an overall part of this national religious movement.

In addition to the reasons that he stated for freezing these funds, I'm sure it will probably play quite well with his base -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Elliott Gotkine, thank you.

Well, to really understand what is at stake here, particularly from an educational standpoint, I will be joined by the director of the Hebrew

University of Jerusalem next hour. That is an important guest for us here on CONNECT THE WORLD. He can really give us some insight into what is going

on. Stay with us for that conversation if you will.

In Niger, a minister of the ousted president's governments, a former rebel leader, has formed an anti-junta resistance council. This new council is

calling on Niger's military to put an end to this coup and to arrest the junta leader without delay.

What appears to be the first sign of an internal resistance to this military rule. In a statement, the council offered its unwavering support

to ECOWAS and other international partners, who are trying to end the coup and reinstate Mohamed Bazoum as president.

In the meantime, Mr. Bazoum himself is sharing alarming new details of his conditions in detention since the takeover. In verified text messages, Mr.

Bazoum said that he and his family have been without electricity since August the 2nd.

They have been deprived of human contact since Friday. He had said that they are not being supplied any food or medicine. They must eat non

perishable items, like rice and pasta.

More heavy fighting reported today near the capital of Sudan, where rival factions have been battling since April. Now people in Khartoum may be

facing an invisible enemy. Save the Children says thousands of bodies have been left to decompose on the streets, raising the risk of cholera and

other diseases.

The group says morgues are at a breaking point and power shortages make it hard to keep remains cool. That is a very grim situation. You can read more

about that and the conflict in Sudan in our newsletter.


ANDERSON: "Meanwhile in the Middle East," that is three times a week with the very latest from the region. And we take a deeper dive into the stories

behind the headlines. It is a jolly good read. If you're interested in the region, Middle East, North Africa, do subscribe.

Scan the QR code on your screen. See that below me here or go to We would love to have you on board.

Well, the World Bank says it will suspend new loans to Uganda and pause project financing over the country's controversial anti LGBTQ law. The bank

says, "Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group's values."

The bank says it will continue to review the situation in the east African nation. The law in Uganda bans gay marriage and punishes same-sex acts with

life imprisonment. It calls for the death penalty for what is described as aggravated homosexuality.

It criminalizes other same-sex conduct, too. In response, Reuters reports that Uganda dismissed the move as unjust and hypocritical.

Voters in the U.S. state of Ohio have delivered a win to abortion rights advocates. Why the outcome of this special election could be a bellwether

for nationwide races next year.




ANDERSON: We are now hearing that an American nurse and her daughter, kidnapped in Haiti, have been released. According to the organization for

which she worked, Alix Dorsainvil and her child were abducted last month.

School children, parents, teachers had taken to the streets demanding that the pair be released. CNN's Rafael Romo has been following this story and

he joins us now live.

If this is the case, this is very good news.

What do we know?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: This is very good news, indeed, Becky. This has been developing over the last hour. We learned about the

release after the Christian humanitarian aid organization she works for released a statement.

Alix Dorsainvil, the wife of El Roi Haiti director, and their child were reportedly abducted on July 27th while serving in their community ministry

on campus near the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

El Roi Haiti sent the following quote.

"It is with a heart of gratitude and immense joy that El Roi Haiti confirmed the safe release of our staff member and friend, Alix Dorsainvil,

and her child, who were held hostage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Today we are praising God for answered prayer."


ROMO: Becky, the organization asked no one contact Dorsainvil or her family. There is still much to process and to heal from in this situation.

The same day they were kidnapped, the U.S. State Department ordered the departure of non emergency government personnel from Haiti as the security

situation in the country deteriorates.

As we have previously reported, Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas have been gripped by a years-long kidnapping for profit epidemic, with hundreds

of Haitians targeted by gangs seeking ransom payments each year.

A late July advisory by the U.S. State Department said, given the recent armed clashes between gangs and the police and the high threat of violent

crime and kidnapping throughout Port-au-Prince, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti as soon as possible via

commercial means.

So this gives you an idea, Becky, of how bad the security situation there has been. But the good news today is that Alix Dorsainvil and her child are

free. Becky, back to you.

ANDERSON: That is good stuff. Thank you very much. Stay on the story for us as you get more details. I'm sure you'll bring them to us.

As politicians in the U.S. gear up for next year's highly consequential elections, there is a new sign that abortion rights could play a huge role.

Voters in Ohio have just rejected a ballot measure that would've made it harder to enshrine abortion rights into the state's constitution.

This is being seen as a blow to the Republican-led anti-abortion movement. With turnout surprisingly high for a summer election, it shows that this is

an issue that is very important to voters.

Jeff Zeleny is joining us from Columbus, Ohio.

This was a highly unusual time of the year to have a vote on a single issue. Certainly, the result tells us something about voters in Ohio. I

wonder if it gives us a wider story here.


This is the latest in a series of state measures that we have seen over the last year. You think back to last summer, when the Supreme CT overturned

Roe v. Wade, Kansas became the first American state to really shock the nation and put abortion rights in their state's constitution to protect

abortion rights.

We have seen a series of states go after that, from Kentucky, Montana, Michigan; so red states and battleground states. Ohio being the latest,

showing an indication yesterday.

Abortion wasn't actually on the ballot but as you said, yesterday was a special election that Republican leaders here called to make it more

difficult to pass the abortion measure in November.

So it's a bit arcane here but if yesterday's issue won, it would've required a 60 percent vote to put abortion rights in the state constitution

to protect it in November. But it failed. Now it only requires a simple majority of 50 percent.

So will be abortion on the ballot in Ohio in November, the only place in the U.S. where that will occur. And other states across the country, from

Arizona to Florida, also looking at Ohio. So this could be a central issue, once again, in next year's presidential race.

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

Jeff, always a pleasure. Thank, you sir.

Ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, wildfires rage on two Hawaiian islands. What is fueling them and why they are particularly difficult to contain. That is

coming up.





ANDERSON (voice-over): It's just before half past four in London. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD this week from London. I'm Becky Anderson. Here

are your headlines.

Forty-one people have died after a migrant boat sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa. Survivors say the boat sank within an hour of

departing Tunisia after it hit a big wave. This tragedy is just the latest in what is a string of shipwrecks occurring off the coast of Lampedusa.

Israel's far-right finance minister is being criticized for freezing funds earmarked for Arab municipalities in Israel and educational programs in

East Jerusalem, impacting Palestinians. Bezalel Smotrich announced online that he will suspend about $53 million.

Searchers are looking after an horrific fire in Eastern France. Nine bodies have been found; two people are still missing. It was hosting a group of

adults with learning disabilities.

Evacuations, rescues and flights to safety all happening as wildfires rage on two Hawaiian islands. In Maui, a dozen people had to jump into the ocean

to escape the fire and smoke.



ANDERSON: Turning now to the legal troubles facing the former U.S. president, Donald Trump. A Georgia prosecutor is expected to present a case

to a grand jury next week. The Atlanta area district attorney will be presenting witnesses to show how Trump and his supporters allegedly tried

to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election in that state.

Meantime, "The New York Times" reporting on a recently revealed memo that laid out Trump's plan to overturn the election. Joining us now from

Washington with the latest on this is Jessica Schneider.

What are we learning about this, Jess?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This memo is written by Coconspirator No. 5 in the indictment. The memo, also referenced in the

indictment, "The New York Times" finally obtained this copy. It is likely to be key part of the case for prosecutors.

It is a six-page memo that lays out that even the man outlining this fake electors plot, Kenneth Chesebro, he knew it was farfetched, knew it was

likely illegal. The courts probably wouldn't approve it. But he kept pushing it.

It is clear that Chesebro really wanted to create confusion about this in the hopes that the fake electors, those who were for Donald Trump and

submitted the fake certificates, he wanted to make sure that they could be substituted for the real electors placed for Biden on January 6th.

The plan was to execute this all through the vice president Mike Pence in his role as president of the Senate. That way Trump's team could steal the


Part of the memo here says, "Letting matters play out this way would guarantee the public attention would be riveted. It would buy the Trump

campaign more time to win here."

This is a crucial part of the prosecution. Prosecutors do have their hands on it. It is mentioned in the indictment as well. This will show that

Kenneth Chesebro knew that it was likely an illegal plot they were executing but they went forward anyway.

All of this is happening at the same time that this 2020 election case is moving rapidly through the court system here in Washington, D.C. We have a

hearing set for 10 o'clock on Friday morning. The judge here is really keeping things very tight on the schedule, moving things along.

And Becky, that is when this hearing really could get fiery. This is when prosecutors are going to argue there should be broad protective order over

any of the evidence they hand over to Donald Trump. They do not want him to disclose any of this.

So there is a lot happening very quickly. It remains to be seen when the trial will actually happen in this case. There is a lot of other legal

issues the former president is battling, especially what we are expecting, an indictment in Georgia next week.

ANDERSON: It is fascinating. You and I spoke about the speed at which this process is going in Washington this time yesterday and yet still more.

Evidence of that today.


SCHNEIDER: -- it's every few minutes.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. And I said yesterday, it's a real pleasure having you on.


ANDERSON: Because I know how busy you are. We did not expect to see as much substance this week. So we really appreciate your time. Thank you very

much, indeed.

Still to come, seven people at a family lunch; three are now dead and one critically ill. Australian authorities want to know if they were served

poisonous mushrooms.

Also ahead this hour, in sports, another football superstar switching locations. The next chapter for a former Barcelona midfielder -- coming up.




ANDERSON: A mystery in Australia now.

What killed three people after a family lunch.

Were they killed on purpose?

A fourth lunch guest, a local reverend, is critically ill. Authorities say the culprit may have been poisonous mushrooms. CNN's Anna Coren takes a

look at how this drama is unfolding.


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Police in Victoria, Australia, are investigating the poisoning deaths of three elderly people after they

were served a meal believed to contain extremely poisonous death cap mushrooms.

Police are trying to determine whether the deaths were homicide. At the end of last month, two elderly couples went to lunch at the home of 48-year old

Erin Patterson in a small township.

She is the former daughter-in-law of one of the couples. Police say she is separated from her husband, who has now lost both his parents from the

poisoning. Police say that evening, the guests began showing signs of food poisoning and were admitted to hospital.

Days later, 70 -year old Gail Patterson and her sister, 66-year old Heather Wilkinson died. A day later, Gail's 70 -year old husband passed away. A

fourth guest, Heather's 68-year-old husband, a reverend in the local community, remains in a critical condition.

Police say that Erin Patterson is a suspect because she cooked the meal and is the only adult at lunch who did not fall ill. She is not being charged

in the deaths. Her two children were also at lunch but did not get sick because they were served different meals.

Let's take a listen to what Victoria police homicide detective, inspector Dean Thomas, had to say.


DI DEAN THOMAS, VICTORIA POLICE HOMICIDE SQUAD: We have to keep an open mind in relation to this. It could be very innocent. But again, we just

don't know. But it is really interesting four people turn up and three of them have passed away and with another one critical. So we just need to

work through this.


COREN: In addressing the local media outside her home, a tearful Patterson denied any wrongdoing, saying that she was devastated and that she loved

them. While the cause of death has yet to be confirmed --


COREN: -- police say these symptoms are consistent with poisoning by death cap mushrooms. Toxins in a death cap mushroom found in the wild cannot be

destroyed by boiling, cooking, freezing or drying. Eating a small portion can lead to death -- Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


ANDERSON: Beachgoers in New York are reporting numerous shark sightings this week. Three possible sharks spotted in Long Island on Tuesday and

another confirmed in Queens. A 65-year-old woman was bitten on the leg by a shark at New York's Rockaway Beach. Officials say it's the first shark

attack at that location in 70 years.

She was taken to the hospital and is now in stable condition. Several beaches were closed to swimmers due to these incidents.

Someone in the U.S. is waking up as a brand-new billionaire. A single ticket sold in Florida matched all six winning numbers in Tuesday's Mega

Millions drawing, worth an estimated $1.58 billion, the game's largest jackpot ever. Others scored big; in California, one worth more than $3

million and two tickets sold in Florida and North Carolina won $2 million.

Less than a month after Lionel Messi moved to Miami, another football legend changing locations. Former Spain and Barcelona midfielder Andres

Iniesta has joined a club based in my home base, the UAE. Patrick Snell joins us.

This is somewhat of a surprise. Saudi has been sweeping up to date in this window over the summer.

What is going on here?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Becky. This is a big coup for football in the UAE. Specifically, the Emirates club getting a storied

icon of a sport like this. There had been lots of speculation over where Iniesta would be headed to next. Of course, most notably he had that

incredible career with Barcelona.

He won everything, pretty much. And, of course, the World Cup with his country, Spain. Twice champion of Europe, as well. Not a lot that he hasn't

won. Nine La Liga titles with Barcelona. Four Champions League titles to be precise.

This is a very interesting signing at 39 years of age. He is still a class act, Becky. He still oozes quality. We have seen exactly what you

mentioned, what Ronaldo has been doing in Saudi Arabia, what Messi continues to do at the age of 36 here in Major League Soccer in the United


Fascinating moves. I will say that Iniesta was most recently playing his club footy in Japan. Just incredible to see what impact he's going to have

over this part of the world where you are right now. Back to you.

ANDERSON: That's right. I'm in London today but I am based there. As you rightly point out, I can tell, you football is huge in the UAE. This will

be a huge boon to so many who support the game. Thank you. You are with "WORLD SPORT" coming up after this short break.

I am back top of the hour with the second hour of CONNECT THE WORLD. Stay tuned.