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Isa Soares Tonight

Separatists To Hold Votes On Joining Russia; U.N. General Assembly Kicks Off Amid "Colossal Global Dysfunction"; Hurricane Fiona Rips Through Powerless Puerto Rico; Most Of Puerto Rico Without Power Or Water; Biden Faces Pushback After Declaring Pandemic "Over"; Judge Vacates Murder Conviction Of Adnan Syed. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 14:00:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: Welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Tonight, a host of referendums on whether to become

Russian. That's what's scheduled to happen in Russian-backed separatist regions inside Ukraine. The impact it could have on the war.

And that move comes as Russia's war in Ukraine dominates discussions at the United Nations General Assembly. What the global body can do about the

crisis. And later, destruction across large parts of the Caribbean, as Hurricane Fiona rips through. We'll look at where the storm is headed next.

Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us. Ukrainian defense officials say Moscow is so afraid of defeat, it's taking a move right out

of Hitler's playbook. As Ukrainian forces push Russian troops out of more territory, several Russian-occupied regions have announced they'll hold

referendums on Russian citizenship starting this Friday.

They have scheduled them in Kherson, also in the areas of Zaporizhzhia under Russian control, and in the self-declared republics of Luhansk and

Donetsk. These regions make up about 15 percent of Ukrainian territory. A land mass about the size of Hungary or Portugal. Russia's foreign minister

says, this is simply democracy.


SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): From the very beginning of the special military operation and before it, we've been

saying that the people of the respective territories should decide their own fate. The whole current situation confirms that they want to be master

of their own fate.


KINKADE: Ukrainian officials are condemning the referendum, saying, they are a sham and will have no legal consequence. U.S. allies agree.


PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This is simply an information operation that's meant to distract from the difficult state that the

Russian military currently finds itself in right now. But no one will view such sham referendum with any credibility, and the U.S. certainly will not

recognize the outcome of any sham elections.


KINKADE: Well, I want to bring in our Ben Wedeman, who joins us from Kharkiv, and Matthew Chance in London. Good to have you both with us. I'll

start with you first, Ben, because as Russia loses significant territory in Ukraine, there are areas still under occupation that will hold these

referendums from this Friday.

Ukraine says, this comes -- this move coming from a fear of defeat. How will this play out and what will it look like if these votes are taken at

face value?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, the voting will begin on the 23rd of September, go to the 27th in these four

different regions. And we've seen this sort of thing before. They held a referendum in Crimea after Russian troops went in, and 97 percent of the

population, according to the Russians, voted in favor of joining Russia. Now, how is this going to change the situation around on the ground?

It could be significant because if they vote in favor, and I don't think anybody doubts that they won't in favor of joining Russia, and the Russians

accept that, and all indications are they will, the areas that are currently battlefields in this war will become part of Russia.

Until now, for instance, the Luhansk and Donetsk People's republics are independent republics only recognized by Russia and Syria. But then it will

be a war on Russian soil. As far as the Russians are concerned -- now, we heard, for instance, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. National Security adviser, say

that the Russians could be moving toward mobilization.

In other words, what until now, has been called by the Russians a special military operation, in which only volunteers can be brought to the front.

This could mean that conscripts could be brought into the battle. Now, Matthew can probably speak more to the complications that might result for


But it certainly would change the tone of this war, and some people believe that if it is officially a war for the Russians, as opposed to a special

military operation, some of the weaponry that we have not seen so far used by the Russians could come out.


KINKADE: Yes, Ben, if you could stand by --


KINKADE: First, I do want to ask Matthew about Russia's depleted forces in Ukraine. Because in recent months, we have seen Russia look to prisons to

recruit people. But now, Russia is looking at punishment for those that I think they're suggesting violate -- for a violation of military service,

like desertion.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the Russian parliament, the Duma, has been discussing a couple of amendments to

the military service laws in Russia, which will do a couple of things. One of them sort of makes it a much more serious criminal offense to avoid

military service.

If you're called that, for instance, as a conscript. I mean, when conscripts are called up, I mean, lots of people do whatever they can to

try and avoid that. If there is an ongoing conflict underway, I expect those efforts not to serve, will be, you know, really redoubled. And so,

they're increasing the prison sentence to 15 years if you avoid military service in that way.

They're also -- I think, you know, changing the legislation to enable foreigners to become Russian citizens via a fast track, by joining the

military. So, they're opening that opportunity as well. There could well be some takers when it comes to people who emigrate to Russia, particularly

from central Asian states that may want to take up that offer of getting Russian citizenship if they serve in the military.

So these are all efforts that they're going to try and boost the number of forces that Russia can bring to the field, as this war continues. But of

course, the big news is the fact, as Ben was saying, that, you know, these four regions have announced that they will be holding referendums.

That's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson as well. They will, if that goes ahead, as it looks like they will, this will

certainly be absorbed very quickly into the Russian state. And that's significant because for two reasons. First of all, it potentially changes

the calculus of Ukraine and of its western backers.

They will no longer be fighting a defensive war, as far as Russia is concerned. But Russia would regard it as, Ben was saying, as a war against

the motherland. And so, it could potentially raise the threat of more escalation or serious weapons, possibly even a nuclear threat could be

raised as well.

But it's also important for Putin domestically as well, because at the moment, Russian law does not allow, for instance, conscripts to be sent

into foreign wars. But it does allow them to be able to fight to defend the motherland. And if these territories are absorbed into the motherland, as

far as Russian law is concerned, that's the opportunity that Putin might need to bolster his forces in the war zone.

KINKADE: Yes, interesting strategic move, Matthew. I want to go back to Ben, to get a sense of the momentum right now on the battlefield. Because

we have seen a number of stripes on Ukrainian infrastructure, including that power plant in the south. What more can you tell us?

WEDEMAN: Well, this seems to be a pattern that's been certainly accelerated since this counteroffensive took place in the Kharkiv region.

And here in Kharkiv, the Russians hit the power system, knocking out electricity for quite some time here. They've hit -- they hit very close,

300 meters, from the south Ukraine nuclear power plant, which is about 900 kilometers to the west of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Which has also been the scene of some fighting. And we've heard President Zelenskyy say time and time again that they need air defense systems to

prevent this sort of thing. But as far as the battle is going in the eastern part of the country, it's a mixed picture. The Ukrainians are now

making slower progress.

They say they've taken the town of Bilohorivka, which is not far from Lysychansk, which was a city taken by the Russians in July. But just 40

kilometers to the southwest, the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut is under intense bombardment by the Russians, who are pushing in the offensive

there. So, it's not all rosy for the Ukrainians at the moment.

And it does appear that they've slowed down this counteroffensive, which is normal. Troops need to rest, equipments need to be repaired and maintained.

But I don't think in the coming weeks, we're going to see the dramatic -- kind of dramatic progress by Ukrainian forces that we saw in the first two

weeks of September. Lynda?

KINKADE: All right, we will be watching closely. Good to have you there on the ground for us, our Ben Wedeman in Kharkiv and Matthew Chance for us in

London. Thanks very much.


Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin says global development is too much enthralled to the United States. And he says, that's unfair to Russia and

to many other countries. In a speech a short time ago, he said, Russia will continue its course in Ukraine and on the world stage, to end what he

described as, the dominance of the West.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): This objective development towards multi-polarity, unfortunately encounters the resistance

of those who want to maintain the world of hegemon in the world affairs, and control everything. Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

It must be said that this hegemon has been doing quite well for quite some time, but it cannot go on like this forever. It is impossible. I am even

talking about this now outside the context of the events that are taking place in Ukraine.


KINKADE: Well, let's get some more perspective on Russia's goals, with Sir Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia. Good to have you with



KINKADE: So, the big question right now is, what will Putin do next? Putin's initial aim to occupy Ukraine failed. Then he turned to the east of

the country, the Donbas region, that hasn't gone to plan. And then Ukraine's counteroffensive is forcing Russian troops to flee. What are

Putin's options right now?

BRENTON: Well, I think he's on the back foot fundamentally. And the war is going very badly for him, to the point where even his much more restricted

objectives are taking Donetsk and Luhansk look unachievable. The option of actually formally declaring war and mobilizing the Armed Forces sounds very

attractive, but actually doesn't solve his problem, since it would take several months for the Armed Forces to be assembled and trained to fight

the war.

And it would add to -- it's not an overwhelming level, but to a growing level of rumbling within the Russian people and Russian elite about what

he's up to. So, I suspect with what we've seen today, these referenda, and likely, well, the referendum will obviously be fixed, and the likelihood

therefore that Russia will annex Donetsk from Luhansk and maybe other bits of Ukraine.

I suspect it's much more directed towards Russian public opinion, showing that we're tough, we're standing firm, we look after people who are

Russians in the face of everything. Now, Zelenskyy, you're absolutely right. OK, Russia can engage in its theater if it wants to. But we,

Ukraine, are slowly continuing to advance.

We expect to win the war and have good reasons to believe that. And that's where the main game is being played.

KINKADE: In August, Putin signed a decree to increase the size of Russia's Armed Forces. But that doesn't come into effect until January 1st. And in

the short term, he's been boosting his ranks, sir, using convicts from prisons to join the forces, and now today, we're hearing the Russian

parliament increasing punishment for those looking to desert on the battlefield.

If it does need to conduct a mobilization, which is what some analysts suggest, Do you think that is something that Putin is willing to do right


BRENTON: Well, he's showing no sign of it, I mean, the noises are moving in that direction, but it has real cost for Putin. As I say, it won't make

any immediate difference on the battlefield. And what it will do is raise the concern among the Russian population, and on the moment so far have

rather supported Putin, and what they believe is a so-called special military operation.

At the moment, their sons are sent off to fight. The danger is, from Putin's point of view, that in that point, they will wake up and say, why

are we in this? Why are we putting up with this? And there's a real worry for him there.

KINKADE: And even when you look on the world stage, you're hearing from allies like China, like India, key Russian allies, expressing concern right

now. We saw India's leader, Modi, meeting with Putin saying, today's era is not an era for war. To which Putin responded, he said, we all want this to

end as soon as possible. What's your reading --


KINKADE: Of that comment?

BRENTON: Well, I mean, two points there. Firstly, I think that Putin would be delighted, actually, to get into a negotiation moving towards some sort

of peace fire. And pretty clear, he said this to his closest foreign confidant on a list, which is President Erdogan of Turkey, which he

repeated it in public.

If he could get a negotiation, then he can get out of the horrible fix that he's gotten himself into. Secondly, I mean, India is important, but India

is getting a lot of cheap oil out of Russia at the moment, and they're not going to sacrifice such advantage. The really interesting case is China.

And Xi met Putin last week, was it?


BRENTON: Met Putin last week, and again, was quietly critical of the war. Now, Xi hates instability.


He hates the disruption to trade and all that, was of course. And he, I think to some extent, critical of Russia for that. Although, to some

extent, he's also critical of the United States and others who are putting Russians in a position where -- in his view, they have no choice. But the

main point is, finally, China has much more to lose by a collapse in Russia, a shift in -- a shift in Russia towards a more pro western state,

than anything else.

And they will -- they're maintaining their distance, they're saying the right things, not supplying Russians with arms, for example. But they will

not shift into an utterly empty Russian position, because finally, in ideological terms, if I can put it that way, they're much more aligned with

Russia than they are with the West.

KINKADE: There are some who believe that Putin will further threaten Ukraine's nuclear power plants. Is that, in your -- from your perspective,

a remote or a real threat?

BRENTON: Well, I mean, the Zaporizhzhia case, which is the one we've all been watching, where Italy for the last few weeks, it's not of course

Russia who have been attacking the plant. Russia is an occupation as a plant. It's Ukraine that's been firing on the plant, and that's not the

point which has emerged very clearly, and western press converge of what's going on there.

In general, Russia has been quite cautious about getting into actions which will really make them international pariahs. No wonder a lot of attention

is focused on them at the moment. It's a question of whether they would use nuclear weapons if things got really bad for them. And my instinct is, you

can't rule it out. It depends how bad things get.

But finally, they recognize the huge costs that, that would have for them if they got into that area. Including not only with the West, obviously,

but also with India and with China.

KINKADE: Ambassador Tony Brenton, great to get your perspective. Thanks so much for your time today.

BRENTON: Thank you.

KINKADE: Western nations are pledging additional support for Ukraine's war effort. New British Prime Minister Liz Truss, says in the next year, she'll

match or exceed the $2.6 billion military aid package that predecessor, Boris Johnson, sent. And the EU has approved a new round of aid, totaling

$5 billion to support Ukraine's recovery.

Well, this year's United General Assembly -- United Nations General Assembly, is underway right now. Ukraine, of course, is at the top of the

agenda. The U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, gave opening remarks outlining the major challenges the world body is facing.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Let's have no illusions. We are in rough seas. A Winter of global discontent is on the

horizon. A cost of living crisis is raging, trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding, and our planet is burning.


KINKADE: About 150 world leaders are expected to take to the podium this week. Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro addressed the General Assembly a short while

ago, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, while criticizing sanctions against Russia.


JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENT, BRAZIL: All of this impact drives us all away from the sustainable development goals. Countries that once presented

themselves as leaders of the low-carbon economy have now turned to dirty sources of energy. This is a serious setback for the environment.

We support all efforts to reduce the economic impacts of this crisis. But we do not believe that the best way is to adopt one-sided or unilateral and

selective sanctions that are inconsistent with international law.


KINKADE: Well, I want to go straight to our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, he joins us now live from New York. Good to have you with us,

Richard. So, Ukraine really the most immediate problem right now. We just heard there from Brazil's president, calling for an end and for some sort

of peace talks to end this war. But he's far from the only leader making that appeal.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: The appeals are coming and going. The French President, Mr. Macron, is speaking now live to the entire

General Assembly. A very lively and confrontational speech at the same time, he is saying to the delegates, there are Russian troops inside

Ukraine, there are no Ukraine troops inside of Russia, that is a fact.

He has also denounced Russia for the invasion, the story of Ukraine has dominated the General Assembly in some ways. Other countries are going

about their business, but the impact of the Ukraine invasion affecting food, food security, and these are big issues. The African countries,

developing countries are not getting the humanitarian aid they need.

A lot of it is going from certain countries into Ukraine. The French president has had a busy day here at the U.N. Lynda?

KINKADE: And Richard, Iran's president and the U.S. President both will be at the U.N. this week. Are there any plans for a meeting between those two

leaders or between members of their delegation?


ROTH: No, White House spokesman today saying, there is no planned meetings. Iran knows what it has to do, as the most of the western

countries work towards a new nuclear agreement. After President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the packed. The French president met with the

Iranian President Raisi here at the U.N. today.

Afterwards speaking in French, Mr. Macron, the French President, said that the ball is now in Iran's court. And that appears to be the mood of the

other countries that have to be dealing with Iran -- that's Iranian president, I believe, walking in hours ago here at the U.N., Lynda?

KINKADE: All right, Richard Roth, we will check in with you as the week goes on. Thanks so much for that update. Well, Speaking of Iran, protests

have been going on in that country for days over the death of a young woman. And now we have reports they've turned deadly. We'll have that story

when we come back.

Also, a fatal bus crash sparked renewed outrage in China. Why critics say the government's zero COVID policy seems deadlier than the virus.


KINKADE: Welcome back, I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us. Well, protests are sweeping Iran after a young woman arrested by the so-called

Morality Police died in custody. A human rights group says, at least, five protesters were killed in Iran's Kurdish region on Monday when security

forces opened fire.

Police claim the 22-year-old woman died of a heart attack, even though her family says, she was in good health. Jomana Karadsheh is following the



JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is so much anger on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities. The

crackdown by authorities has not stopped these defiant Iranians, according to one human rights group, several protesters have been killed and injured

in these country-wide demonstrations sparked by the death of a young woman while in the custody of the country's morality police.

Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian was detained last Tuesday by the force tasked with enforcing the country's strict Islamic dress code, including

the head scarf. She was taken way to so-called re-education center. It was the last time her family says they saw her awake. Later that day, the

authorities say, she fell into a coma. Amini died on Friday.


Her family and rights activists blame her death on the brutality of the notorious police force. Authorities have called her death, an unfortunate

incident. On Friday, they release this edited CCTV video they claim shows Amini at the so-called re-education center. State TV says, she appeared

unwell while speaking to a center expert before she collapsed and was rushed to hospital. Police say, she had a heart attack.

Her family says she was a healthy 22-year old with no pre-existing heart conditions. The Iranian president ordered an investigation into her death

on Friday, and officials say, they've carried out an autopsy and are reviewing it. The streets have responded with more protests, many don't

believe the government would deliver a credible investigation.

And despite the history of ruthlessness in dealing with demonstrations, protests appeared to spread this week. Amini's death has reignited the

debate over the role and the very existence of the morality police, which has been repeatedly accused of using violence in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If they are supposed to be present, there is no need for so much violence and creating fear among

the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am strongly against this because we are talking about a cultural issue. It's not possible to apply a

cultural issue by force.

KARADSHEH: As the Iranian president appears at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week, women are back out on the streets saying, enough is

enough. Some brave enough to remove their head scarves as they chant, death to the dictator. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


KINKADE: Still to come tonight, in the dark and underwater, we'll take you to Puerto Rico, as it attempts to recover from Hurricane Fiona. And later,

a man is set free after more than two decades in prison. How a podcast played a crucial role in this controversial murder case.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Fiona is steaming through the Caribbean, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Much of Puerto Rico is in the dark, as Fiona devastated the

island's power system. At least four people have died from the storm and rescues from floodwaters have been happening all over the island. We get

more now from CNN's Leyla Santiago in San Juan.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurricane Fiona, gaining strength and hammering the Caribbean with strong winds and intense rain.

The storm is heading toward Turks and Caicos today, following landfall in the Dominican Republic Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, Fiona hit Puerto Rico, causing an islandwide power outage.


GOV. PEDRO PIERLUISI, PUERTO RICO: By the time the tail hits Puerto Rico, we will have gotten roughly 35 inches of rain. That's a huge amount of



SANTIAGO (voice-over): The governor says he hopes it will just be a matter of days to get electrical service back to most customers.

PIERLUISI: One thing to keep in mind is that our grid is quite fragile still. It got fixed after Maria but not really improved since Maria.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The storm, coming just as parts of the island were finally recovering from Hurricane Maria's destruction five years ago.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: It's been rough. We've been just working to get back this neighborhood, get it back from Maria, when

everything was destroyed. Restaurants, houses, everything was destroyed.

And we're just not all the way back but we are just halfway back. A lot of people, more than Maria, lost their houses now, lost everything on their

houses because they are floating.

SANTIAGO: This is the backdrop, a neighborhood where the National Guard had to come and rescue people, still a lot of flooding. I think here,

generators, powering the home. And it is still pouring down with rain.

Neighbors looking out, wondering exactly what will come next, as hurricane Fiona, the remnants of, it continue to demolish this area.

(voice-over): The family rescued during the storm, now safely in a shelter.

She says, this was worse than Maria.

She's pointing out that they've already been underwater for 24 hours and the rain is still coming down. So she's concerned about the 2,500 families

that she says are impacted by this here.

(voice-over): At least 1,000 people rescued from floodwaters; more rescue efforts still underway, as emergency responders try to navigate through

difficult to reach areas.

In Odualo (ph), the interior part of the island, 25-year-old (INAUDIBLE) Rodriguez watched this bridge come apart in just minutes and wash down the

river. On the west side of the island, rainfall swelled the Guanajibo River in Hormigueros, surpassing its previous record height at 28.59 feet set

during Hurricane Maria, now gauging to more than 29 feet, the National Weather Service said.

The damage from Hurricane Maria still looms large over the island.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, FORMER SAN JUAN MAYOR: We've wasted five years. So the fear of the Puerto Rican people is that history will repeat itself.


KINKADE: And Leyla Santiago joins us now from Ponce in Puerto Rico.

Good to have you with us, Leyla. So obviously this storm hit five years to the day since Hurricane Maria. Tell us more about the state of Puerto Rico

right now and the cleanup efforts.

SANTIAGO: I am in Ponce right now, as you mentioned. That's a southern part of the island right on the coast. So really the hardest hit area --

and I can show you sort of the mud that has been left behind from the flooding.

This entire area was flooded out from the coast by the rain and the coast water, actually, that kind of came in as well. And we were just speaking to

a neighbor here, who said, it just has not stopped raining. And so, they really have not been able to fully clean up this area.

The other big issue is power. Right now, a very small percentage, about 20 percent, give or take, because it's really not consistent, in terms of the

customers who have power and water.

Earlier today, I went in with the Puerto Rico National Guard into the interior part of the island, a mountainous town called Cayey. And you could

see that there were mudslides blocking access into some communities there.

And when I managed to kind of get around it and walk over to one of the neighbors there, he said, look, I can live without power. I cannot live

without water; 60 percent of water customers on this island do not have water services right now.

All of this, sort of the impact of hurricane Fiona, we could get kind of a little bit of a break in the rain today.


But as you can see, now still coming down in Ponce, where we are right now.

The people are just waiting to get a break from the remnants of hurricane Fiona on this day, five years to the day that Hurricane Maria just

demolished, decimated this island, leaving people, in some cases, without power for 11 months. So a lot of anxiety today and a lot of fear for what

is to come.

KINKADE: All, right Leyla Santiago for us in Ponce, Puerto Rico, thanks very much.

Well, Fiona is now strengthening as the storm hammers the Turks and Caicos and could get even stronger as it moves toward Bermuda.


KINKADE: Well, hundreds of aftershocks are ripping through Mexico after a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck just offshore on Monday. More than 150

houses have been damaged and several roads and bridges were also affected.

It's believed two people died from the strong quake, which hit exactly five years after a devastating and deadly earthquake hit Mexico City.

American actor Angelina Jolie has arrived in Pakistan to visit areas of the country ravaged by historic level flooding. Jolie, who worked alongside

International Rescue Committee, wants to draw attention to the country's unfolding humanitarian crisis. Almost 3.5 million children need urgent

lifesaving support. That's according to UNICEF.

A third of Pakistan has been submerged and an estimated 33 million people have been affected in some way. More than 1 million homes, plus roads,

railways, livestock and crops, have been washed away.

Well, still to come tonight, the end of one era marks the start of another. We will look at what happens with the royal family, now that the queen has

been buried.





KINKADE: Welcome back, I'm Lynda Kinkade.

I want to go to China now. The government's zero COVID policy is still affecting the lives of millions. And now, a deadly crash involving a

quarantine bus has locals speaking out, saying the human cost of this policy is just too high. CNN's Ivan Watson reports from Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A deadly bus crash in southwestern China sparking anger over the country's strict

COVID policies. The vehicle carrying dozens of residents from the city of Guiyang as well as their drivers seen dressed in a hazmat suit to a faraway

quarantine center.

Hours later, the bus overturns killing at least 27 people and injuring at least 20. A worker later seen spraying disinfectant on the wreckage.

The bus departed the southwestern city of Guiyang shortly after midnight on Sunday, with the goal of reaching a quarantine center in remote Libo County

located within three hours' drive away.

Authorities say the vehicle tumbled into a ravine at 2:40 am, raising the question, why it was so important to rush suspected close contacts of

COVID-19 patients such a long distance so late at night, especially in a province where officially there have been only two deaths from COVID since

the start of the pandemic.

The Chinese government is obsessed with eliminating all traces of COVID from the country locking down entire cities for weeks and even months.

Authorities can find nearly 2 million residents of the city of Guiyang in their homes starting on September 2.

Days later trapped residents suffering from food shortages, voice anger and frustration.

"Where's the Communist Party?" one man yells.

"We've trusted the party and the government."

Things are worse in more remote areas. In the Western Xinjiang region, a desperate mother films her children sick with fever and complains COVID

restrictions prevent her from taking them to a hospital.

Recording of another call for help to the authorities in Xinjiang's capital, this from a gastric cancer survivor, who says he's dying from lack

of food. The man, who we won't name for his safety, shows CNN pictures of his empty refrigerator.

He says he needs frequent small meals since doctors removed most of his stomach for cancer treatment and says police detained and beat him after he

went out on the street looking for food.

In the capital of Tibet this month, officials marched residents off to quarantine camps. The Chinese government sends suspected COVID cases en

masse to sprawling makeshift facilities were some complain of wretched conditions.

After Sunday's deadly bus crash, a deputy mayor apologized and promised an investigation into the accident. But even on China's heavily censored

internet critics are chiming in.

"What makes you think we won't be on that late night bus one day?" one person writes.

They have a point. While the rest of the world moves on from the pandemic, in China, there's no end to the campaign to eliminate COVID, no matter the

cost -- Ivan Watson CNN, Hong Kong.


KINKADE: Meanwhile, in the U.S. President Joe Biden says the pandemic is over.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We still are doing a lot of work on it.

But the pandemic is over. If you notice no one is wearing masks, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.



KINKADE: He is facing pushback from Republicans and Democrats alike. GOP leaders in Congress say the president's remarks will make it harder to get

more COVID relief funds approved.

But the administration appears to be downplaying the comments. One official told CNN that the public health emergency is still in place.

Still to come tonight, after spending his entire adult life behind bars, Adnan Syed is free, at least for now. We will explain the new circumstances

that persuaded a judge to let him walk out of prison.




KINKADE: A day after the public state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles is now in Scotland to privately grieve his mother's death. The king

left London from the Royal Air Force base earlier on Tuesday. The queen consort is understood to be by his side. We are still awaiting details on

when the king's coronation will take place.

The funeral itself drew a huge viewership. In the U.K. alone, the Westminster Abbey service was watched on TV by more than 26 million people.

A U.S. judge has dropped a murder conviction of a man who spent more than 23 years in prison. Adnan Syed's case gained national attention when he

became the subject of a popular podcast called "Serial."

He was convicted of killing his then high school girlfriend. Still prosecutors are not saying he is innocent. Alexandra Field has this

astonishing story.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Free from prison after 23 years behind bars, a crowd swarmed Adnan Syed outside a Baltimore circuit

court moments after a judge vacated the murder conviction against him.

Syed didn't stop to speak, whisked away in a car and ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet until the state decides whether to pursue a new

trial against him or drop all charges in the death of Hae Min Lee, his ex- girlfriend, a high school student strangled to death in 1999. Her body was discovered weeks later.

MARILYN MOSBY, STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE CITY, MARYLAND: We're not yet declaring, not yet declaring Adnan Syed is innocent. But we are

declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial.

FIELD (voice-over): Syed has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in 2000.


FIELD (voice-over): Defense attorneys have repeatedly tried to have him exonerated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It felt like they got to the wrong guy.

FIELD (voice-over): A popular HBO series raised new questions about the case against Adnan Syed in 2019.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young lovers from different worlds.

FIELD (voice-over): But it was the hit podcast Serial that brought the case and the possibility there had been a miscarriage of justice to

national attention in 2014. Lee's brother Yung Lee telling the courtroom this isn't a podcast for me. This is real life. And tearfully adding,

whenever I think it's over, it's ended, it always comes back.

But the judge ruled in favor of the motion filed by prosecutors who had asked for Syed's immediate release following a yearlong reinvestigation

into the case against him. That turned up a slew of failures Syed in a 21- page court document.

Among them the unreliability of cell phone data used in the original trial, advances in DNA testing and most critically, newly developed information

about two alternative suspects and the state's failure to disclose critical information about those suspects to the defense at the time of the trial.

MOSBY: Our investigation uncovered that one of the suspects threatened Ms. Lee saying he would make her disappear, he would kill her. We also received

information that provided motive for that same alternative suspects.

FIELD (voice-over): A final decision on whether to actually proceed with a new trial will likely hinge according to prosecutors on the results of

touch DNA testing of some items recovered from the crime scene. A technology that didn't exist at the time of the crime.

Still, for throngs of Syed's supporters, this is the first victory more than two decades in the making. For the family of Hae Min Lee, the start of

another search for answers in the death of their beloved.

STEVE KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR LEE FAMILY: This family is interested in the pursuit of justice. They want to know more than anybody who it was that

killed Hae Min Lee.


KINKADE: CNN's Alexandra Field is in New York with more on this extraordinary story.

It really is such an incredible case, Alexandra, prosecutors not asserting that Syed is innocent but asserting that the process that led to his

conviction have major question marks.

What comes next?

FIELD: They are saying too many failures in the state's case leading to that initial conviction. They are now saying that they reserve the right to

another trial. That decision will have to be made within the next 30 days.

It seems that the tipping point for them will be the results that are still pending from some DNA testing that is happening right now. Until then,

Adnan Syed will remain at home under electronic surveillance but he will not be behind bars.

Whether or not prosecutors decide to pursue another trial, they are saying they are committed to the investigation into Hae Min Lee's death and

answering the question of who was responsible for her murder.

KINKADE: Alexandra, what does this mean for the family of the victim, who potentially have to relive all of this again?

Do they have avenues for appeal or cause for a re-trial?

FIELD: Attorneys are saying they are looking into possibilities of appeals in this decision. But in the immediate aftermath of the decision, that came

very quickly -- a week between when the motion was filed and Adnan Syed was unshackled and left the courtroom -- they say they are simply devastated

and in a state of shock.

For 23 years they believed they had the answer to who killed their daughter. They see this as a reversal. They also feel that they were left

out of this process. They were not given adequate time to really fully participate, to a post motion or even fully understand it.

So it is going to take them some time to grasp what happened here. But in the short term, they feel a real sense of disappointment and they want

answers now.

KINKADE: It is interesting the way that this came about, from a podcast called "Serial." And there was a reaction from that podcast today. Just

going to play some of that sound.


SARAH KOENIG, PODCAST HOST (voice-over): Adnan's case contains just about every chronic problem our system can cough up: police using questionable

interview methods; prosecutors keeping crucial evidence from the defense; slightly junky science; extreme prison sentences; juveniles treated as


How grindingly difficult it is to get your case back in court once you have been convicted.


KINKADE: The host of that podcast certainly said that she did not start this investigation to try and find out if he was innocent or not, just to

look at the integrity of the process.

FIELD: And she does really get to what was found in those court documents that were filed about a week ago.


FIELD: For more than two decades we have seen defense attorneys who have claimed that Syed is innocent, have worked to have him exonerated.

Those efforts have failed. But his release from prison came on the heels of the re-investigation by the prosecution that did not focus on whether he

was innocent or not but focused on the flaws in the initial trial of that case.

KINKADE: Alexandra Field for us in New York, good to have you with us, thank you so much.

Scientists have answered one of the great questions of our planet.

How many ants are there on Earth?

The answer is 20 quadrillion a number they describe as unimaginable. That is 20 with 15 zeroes after it.

Scientists from the University of Hong Kong analyzed more than 400 different studies to come up with that number. They say, if you took all of

the ants and put them on a scale, it would weigh more than all the mammals and birds on the planet combined.

What a lovely thought. Thank you so much for watching. I am Lynda Kinkade. Do stay with CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next.