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Isa Soares Tonight

Ukraine: Kherson Tense As Russia Awaits Counteroffensive; Elon Musk Opens New Era At Twitter By Firing Twitter CEO And Two Other Top Executives; Iran's Security Forces Open Fire On Protesters In Mahabad; Iran's Security Forces Open Fire On Protesters In Mahabad; Voters To Cast Ballots On Sunday In Polarizing Runoff; Gun Control And Religion Are Key Issues For Voters In Brazil. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired October 28, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: We want to break away now from our coverage in the United States to bring you some international stories. Very

well welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa Soares. And we start in Ukraine, because the Russian-occupied city of Kherson is tense.

That is according to Ukrainian officials who say there are now more Russian soldiers on the streets than civilians. They're awaiting the arrival of

Ukrainian forces whose counteroffensive has been slowed a bit due to mud and bad weather. Ukrainian forces are digging trenches and fighting off

Russian attacks as they prepare for a long, heavy battle for Kherson.

Ukrainian officials say Russia sent up 1,000 mobilized troops to the west bank of the Dnipro River to try to defend that city. And I want to get

straight to Nic Robertson who joins us this evening in Kyiv. And Nic, we knew that the bad weather and the mud would be a problem on the frontlines.

It's something you told us roughly this time yesterday. But just how worried are Ukrainian officials about this tense situation in Kherson?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They're particularly worried about the movement of more troops coming into Kherson. Because that

-- as one Ukrainian official said, for every Russian soldier that you have there, even if they're a conscript, even if they are not going to last very

long in the frontline, and that's the view of the Ukrainian officials, they still have a gun.

They still have a finger. They can still pull the trigger, and they can still fire bullets at Ukrainian troops. So, it is a concern, and a 1,000 is

perhaps, you know, not the -- it's perhaps just a tip of the iceberg. We heard the Russian defense minister today meeting with the Russian

President, Vladimir Putin, Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister told Putin that they had now trained 81,000 of these new conscripts, 41,000 of them

are now with battle units inside Ukraine.

So, that's a concern that as the Russians pull civilians out of Kherson -- and we've had varying accounts of that today from different Russian

officials, some of them saying that 70,000 civilians have been pulled out, and that the job is done. And some are saying, well, only about 36,000 have

come out, and we're continuing to pull civilians out. The image that Ukrainians have is very clearly this of reinforcement of troops, less

civilians on the streets.


But there's also been indications today of the successes that Ukraine is having in Kherson. The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov at a memorial for 23

troops killed in what appears to be a single incident, 58 wounded in Kherson, seems to indicate that the Ukrainians are putting some effective

firepower into some troop concentrations there in Kherson. So, an intense battle, but one now with more recruits and potentially even more coming

into it, Isa.

SOARES: Nic Robertson for us this hour in Kyiv, Ukraine. Thanks very much, Nic. And still to come tonight, protests turned deadly in Iran. Families

grief for their loved ones, and counter demonstrators take to the streets. We'll bring you the latest on Iran's unrest. That is just ahead.


SOARES: Now, the world's richest man is now in charge of one of the world's most influential social media platforms. Elon Musk has completed

his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, marking the new era by firing the CEO and two other top executives before the dust had even settled. He tweeted,

"the bird is freed", as you can see there.

Apparent referencing his attempt to dial back some limits on controversial content. Critics fear hate speech and misinformation could surge. But Musk

vows he will not allow Twitter to become a free-for-all hellscape, something he's also said as well. Just hours after Musk declared "the bird

is freed", you saw there, he got a rather sharp reminder from overseas.

A European commissioner tweeted back, as you can see there, "in Europe, the bird will fly by our rules". We're now joined by Nicholas Thompson; CEO of

"The Atlantic" and former editor-in-chief of "Wired". Nicholas, great to have you on the show, thank you very much for taking time to speak to us.

Look, already, it's clear that we're seeing quite upheaval at the headquarters with these staff reductions. What do these top level changes

though mean for the company, and perhaps where Musk wants to take it?

NICHOLAS THOMPSON, CEO, THE ATLANTIC: Well, we always knew he was going to fire the top executives. He'd signaled that. He'd been fighting with the

CEO on Twitter. So poor Parag Agrawal, pretty much knew that he was -- his lifespan was being measured in hours, not days, after Musk took over.


The really interesting question though will be who Musk replaces them with. And we'll learn a lot more then. We'll also learn a lot more on the size of

the reductions that Musk has planned. There have been rumors that he's going to cut as much as 75 percent of Twitter staff. He told the staff,

well, no, it won't be nearly that. So we'll see more on that in relatively short order.

SOARES: Seventy five percent is a staggering amount, if that is the case. Though, you're saying he's now told the staff that that's not going to

happen. But the timing of this, Nicholas, is also important. I mean, we're 11 days or so away from midterms. We have elections in Brazil, a story that

we're going to cover in just a moment.

What's become very divisive where this information really could put democracy at risk. What role do you think does he allow Twitter to take

here in terms of free speech?

THOMPSON: Well, it's very complicated. So everything that Musk has said has been that he is on the side of more speech, which means less

moderation. And you can think that's good because it means more people can say what they want or you can think that's bad, because it means you'll

return to the days of massive disinformation, more insults, information operations, all of that stuff.

What one would love would be if he can be smarter than everybody else who has tackled this problem and find a better way to trade those things off.

If he can figure out a way to allow real people to say things and have healthy conversations while removing the bots, the disinformation campaigns

and all of that.

There's no indication, however, that he has figured out or created a solution that nobody else has. So my instinct is that we're in for a period

of ever more chaos via and on Twitter.

SOARES: Ever more chaos. I mean, he's contradicting -- contradicted himself, I should say, several times. Because early this week, he said he

didn't want the platform, didn't need to become kind of an echo chamber for hate and division. And he said Twitter obviously cannot become a free-

for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.

I mean, does this mean then, Nicholas, the question -- the million-dollar question that everyone is asking, that he will allow Trump to make a


THOMPSON: I think he will allow Trump to make a return. There's some possibility that Trump won't come back. He has a contract that may limit

his postings to Truth Social. It's possible that the two men will have a conflict, right. Trump was the biggest person on Twitter. Now Elon is the

biggest person on Twitter. Two of them had healthy egos. We'll see what happens with that.

My guess though, is, Trump comes back -- also was impressed though with Musk's statement to advertisers. That was exactly the right thing to say.

He recognizes, given what he's paying for, he can't completely tank the business. So, he needs to give some assurances to advertisers.

SOARES: But if Trump does come back, how does that change the experience for users? Do you think that will bring more people in or actually make

people switch off here, Nicholas?

THOMPSON: Net-net. It will probably bring more people in because it will become the place where America's political conversation happens. It will,

however, also change the tone of the platform.


THOMPSON: When Trump was on the platform, it was basically he would tweet and then everybody would denounce him and it would go back and forth. I had

to mute the word Trump as well as the account Trump, so I could actually get some useful information from it. So, I think more people will be there,

but it will be kind of less useful? And advertisers won't want to be there.

SOARES: No, that's -- and that's it, that is key, given what you said. Finally, I want to get your thoughts on what we heard from Thierry Breton;

the European Union's Internal Market Commissioner, who said -- who said, "in Europe, the bird will fly by our rules." What challenges do you foresee

then for Europe?

THOMPSON: I mean, absolutely fascinating. You have to figure out data, the data practicing rules which Musk may not have perfect attention to. You'll

have to figure out rules about competition. There are going to be a whole series of restrictions that come from Europe that Musk will have to adhere


He's a man who's used to breaking rules, to apologizing after he goes through the stop sign. We're going to see an interesting clash here.

SOARES: You're ready for the roller-coaster. Nicholas Thompson, really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you, Nicholas.

THOMPSON: So happy to be here. Thank you.

SOARES: Now, in Iran, yet another protest has been violently dispersed by the country's regime. Four people were killed in the Kurdish city of

Mahabad on Thursday. According to the Hengaw human rights group, special forces stationed on the roofs of government buildings opened fire on

demonstrators in the eastern city of Zahedan.

Videos posted to social media appeared to show protesters encountering gunfire as well as tear gas.




SOARES: Meanwhile, large crowds of government supporters are marching in several Iranian cities. This as the regime calls for nationwide rallies to

condemn Wednesday's deadly shrine attack. CNN's Nada Bashir has the latest for you.



NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The sound of gunfire and buildings in flames. Scenes of chaos in the Kurdish city of Mahabad, as Iran's

security forces intensify an already brutal and deadly crackdown on protesters. Hengaw, a human rights group based in Norway says at least four

people were killed on Thursday after security forces opened fire on protesters.

Thousands gathered at a demonstration ignited by the killing of Ismail Mauludi, a protester who was shot dead by Security Forces, according to

Amnesty International. Now, reports of so-called war weapons being used by Special Forces stationed on rooftops of local government buildings,

prompting an outcry from human rights groups.

Amnesty saying on Thursday Iran's security forces are unlawfully using firearms against thousands in Mahabad. Iran's authorities must immediately

reign in the security forces. The regime, however, says police forces moved in when protesters targeted government buildings after Mauludi's burial

ceremony while state media has claimed without evidence that protesters were acting under the instruction of a separatist terrorist organization.

But the incident follows a weeks-long campaign of state sanctioned violence against peaceful protesters, one which has already claimed the lives of at

least 250 people according to the United Nations.


JAVAID REHMAN, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON IRAN: I denounce the crackdown on protesters, and I urge the Iranian authorities to immediately stop the use

of lethal force in policing peaceful assemblies.


BASHIR: Mahabad is no stranger to unrest. The city has seen periodic riots and protests over the course of the last two decades. But now, the city has

become the latest focal point in a protest movement, which has, this week, been re-galvanized, mourners marking 40 days since the death of Mahsa Jina

Amini and Nika Shakarami. Their lives reportedly claimed by the brutality of the Iranian authorities. Their government officials deny responsibility.

And as protests continue to gain momentum, human rights groups are demanding tougher action by the international community. With Amnesty

warning that global inaction has already come at a tragically high cost.


SOARES: And that was Nada Bashir reporting there. And still to come tonight, we'll go to Brazil where gun control is just one of the many

issues weighing heavy on the minds of voters as this deeply divided country prepares to elect its next president. And it's election season in the U.S.,

too, where one hot mic moment is giving us insights into how Democrats view their prospects.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. In about six hours, Brazil's current president, Jair Bolsonaro, and former two-term President Luiz Inacio Lula

da Silva, will take part in the final televised debate before voters head to the polls on Sunday. The two men are on opposite ends of the political

spectrum, Bolsonaro to the right and Lula to the left. That much I think you know. Brazil's economy is in chaos, though.

And that's just one issue for voters. Paula Newton is monitoring this vote for us in Sao Paulo and joins us now. And Paula, you know, we've got this

debate tonight. The last time I saw them two together, they traded insults, accusations of lying and corruption, it means becoming very ugly, is it


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's become very ugly. And as you just pointed out, voters just don't really know who to listen to anymore. But

then there is the issue as well of the polarization, something that people tell me, look, is unprecedented here in Brazil, in terms of the issues that

have now become so politicized in really such a tense and divisive way. Take a listen.


NEWTON (voice-over): Millions more in Brazil now are armed and ready. Ready to load, aim, and fire. Gun ownership, who can own them, and why people

need them, has become an election issue. And it's the President himself, Jair Bolsonaro, who wants more Brazilians to bear arms, has loosened strict

gun ownership laws and made promises of more gun rights to come. Win or lose, Bolsonaro's armed masses aren't going anywhere.

One of the owners of this gun club tells us Bolsonaro is the best gun salesman he's ever had.


DANIEL PAZZINI, GUN OWNER (through translator): He basically did free advertising, encouraging people to buy guns and defend themselves that way.


NEWTON (voice-over): Daniel Pazzini tells me he believes Bolsonaro's opponent, former President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, may try to crack

down on gun ownership if he wins. Doubts it will work, but like most gun owners, he's not chancing it. He's voting for Bolsonaro.

Many devout evangelicals, too, our faithful to God and Bolsonaro. Pastor Odilon Santos says it is his right to take the stand on politics and

influence others in his battle against abortion, gay rights, drug legalization.


ODILON SANTOS, PASTOR (through translator): Our current president has an agenda aimed at protecting all of that, those principles, which are a rule

of faith in our practice.


NEWTON (voice-over): As for Lula, he doesn't trust him, even though he wrote an open letter to Evangelicals saying he wouldn't touch religious



SANTOS (through translator): His very public stance is that he will regulate not just the church but a lot of things, including the media and

social media.


NEWTON (voice-over): To be clear, Lula has never said he will restrict the media, guns, or religious freedom, which brings us to the issue of

misinformation as presidential supporters at this rally claim Lula will separate Brazilians from their Creator. They accuse judges and bureaucrats

of shutting down free speech with new regulations aimed at stopping the spread of false information. Bolsonaro's son tells us his father is

defending freedom and will fight what he calls censorship.


EDUARDO BOLSONARO, SON OF JAIR BOLSONARO: It's unbelievable. They just say this is fake news. This is anti-democratic acts, and they arrest you.


NEWTON (voice-over): Lula, meantime, campaigns on reversing Bolsonaro's influence on social issues which he says have ruined Brazil. "Believe me,"

he says. "We are going to revive this country." In this tight presidential runoff, it has been a ballot box trifecta, guns, God, and so-called fake

news, where voters stand on each contentious issue will shape this country's future.



NEWTON (on camera): You know, you mentioned it, Isa, right? There is a debate this evening, good luck to the fact checkers and to the voters here.

Many here believe that everyone's already made up their minds. But you know more than most how these kinds of debates can turn, especially that you say

he continues to be as acrimonious as the campaign. Isa.

SOARES: Yes. A long night for the fact checkers as you laid out there, Paula. Thanks very much. Paula Newton for us in Sao Paolo.

Let's dig deeper now into this monumental race with political analyst Brian Winter. Brian is the Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly and the Vice

President policy for the American society and Council of the Americas and he joins us now via Skype from New York. Brian, great to have you on the

show. Look, it looks like it's going to be highly divisive election, as Paula just laid out there, between these two political titans. Do you get a

sense though it'll be a close one? I don't want to look too much at polls because we've been there. We know how wrong they've been many times. But

how do you sense the tightness here of this race?

BRIAN WINTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AMERICAS QUARTERLY: I think everyone senses a very tight, very bitter race. I wouldn't personally bet a whole lot of

money on either candidate winning right now, although Lula does still seem to be the favorite. No one knows what's really in the minds of this very

small percentage of undecided voters at this stage. It might be anywhere between two and maybe ten percent of the electorate that could still change

their mind. That's enough in a close race, but I think it'll come down to maybe this debate, but also what's said in on WhatsApp and on all the

social media platforms, as well as in the pulpits of churches on Sunday.

SOARES: Yes, and you've really dealt there, the churches as the piece is outlined there, as well as what's said on social media, and how much

obviously Facebook and the likes have been using that information. The fear, though, as you -- as we've discussed before, Brian, is, of course,

that Bolsonaro won't accept defeat. I was reading a tweet from his son, Jair Bolsonaro's son, already basically crying fraud before the election,

saying, and I'm going to read it here, that Bolsonaro, his father, is a victim of the greatest electoral fraud ever seen. I mean, this is all very

Trumpian, isn't it? But how real is this?

WINTER: Well, this kind of rhetoric is becoming -- has been coming from the Bolsonaro family for more than a year now, in part because they seem to

sincerely believe that the election in the United States was stolen from their friend and ally, Donald Trump. And they are determined, again, in

their view, to prevent something similar from happening in Brazil. And this rhetoric had faded a bit over the last couple of weeks, as Bolsonaro did

better in the first round than anyone really expected.

But now, as some of the momentum maybe starts to shift back toward Lula, they're sounding worried again. And so this rhetoric of casting doubt on

the electoral system, but also saying that the election is rigged, that they have the judiciary and the media and others so firmly stacked against

them, that they never stood a fair chance, again, all of this in their view, this rhetoric is bubbling up again, the open question is, what kind

of effect will it have will Bolsonaro, if he loses, will he just cry fraud? Or is there some risk that some of the institutions in Brazil like the

military might go with him? I think that risk is low. But it is real. And so many of us are watching Brazil very carefully in part for that reason.

SOARES: Yes, it's a big concern right now the threat to democracy, but also we don't know where the military stands on this and whether he -- if he

loses, whether this will be the end of Bolsonaro. It's many -- very much doubted. Brian Winter, great to have you on the show. Appreciate it. Thank

you very much.

WINTER: Thank you.

SOARES: And still to come tonight, Democrats got a shellacking in the midterms during Barack Obama's presidency. Why they still believe he's the

best person to fire up the base in the final stretch this election season, that is next.



SOARES: Welcome back. Well, just in time for the U.S. midterm elections. Former President Barack Obama hits the campaign trail for a five-state tour

beginning battleground Georgia at about two hours in fact from now. Democrats suffered significant losses in the midterms during Obama's

presidency, if you remember, and he's hoping to fend off a similar shellacking, is his word for obviously -- for President Biden. Well,

Democrats are weighing their prospects as this hot mic moment from the top Senate Democrats have seemed to suggest. Have a listen to this.


CHUCK SCHUMER, MAJORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: The state where we're going downhill is Georgia. It's hard to believe that they will go got

Herschel Walker. It looks like the debate didn't hurt us too much in Pennsylvania, so that's good.


SOARES: So can the former president avert a democratic disaster in Georgia that Senator Schumer described their? CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Atlanta for

us. And Jeff, good to see you. The fact that the Democrats are bringing out kind of the heavy-hitters, as we get closer to the midterms, suggests

perhaps there's some concern or urgency among Democrats. Is there?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There's urgency and concern without question. The headwinds that Democratic candidates are

facing both on the economy and inflation really are palpable. But, you know, it's certainly not unusual to have a former president who's very

popular in his own party, Barack Obama, hitting some of these states. And the point is this, they're trying to really gin up enthusiasm. That's the

whole challenge with midterm elections. Not as many people participate as they do in presidential years. So, that's why Mr. Obama is coming back here

to Georgia here this evening. He's going to try and encourage people to vote.

And there's still one more week of early voting here, even though more than 1.2 million or so people, one in five registered voters here in Georgia

have already voted. But look, there's no question that he's going to make the economic argument. He's going to talk about democracy and really make

the case for Democrats, but he's, of course, not doing this in a vacuum. His successor from President Donald Trump also has been campaigning

considerably, and he'll be out in the coming days as well trying to rally some Republicans.

So, in the White House, Barack Obama was not very good on midterm elections. Sitting presidents always had that challenge, but after his post

presidency, far more popular.

SOARES: Jeff Zeleny for us there in Atlanta, Georgia. Good to see you, Jeff. Thank you very much. And we'll be taking a short break. We'll be back

after a minute or so. See you in a bit.



SOARES: Now if you're a frequent flyer considering your carbon footprint, you'll want to watch today's Eco Solutions. The aviation industry accounts

for three percent of the world's annual CO2 emissions. But the industry is looking for ways to reduce that. One researcher in Abu Dhabi is

investigating a potential solution.


NARRATOR: Located on the Mazda campus in Abu Dhabi, this agriculture farm is converting fish waste to energy. It's called SEAS, a seawater energy and

agriculture system.

DR. ALEJANDRO RIOS GALVAN, DIRECTOR, SUSTAINABLE BIOENERGY RESEARCH CONSORTIUM: What we do is we take seawater and we use it to feed a farm

where we are growing fish. And as they grow, they generate waste and we use it as a liquid fertilizer to irrigate fields of halophyte plants.

These plants produce these pods. OK? And inside each of these pods, they have tiny oil seeds. These oil seeds contain about 30 percent oil and we

can use this oil to produce a sustainable aviation fuel.

NARRATOR: Also named as SAF, it's an example of how energy sources are being diversified. Blending biofuel with jet fuel is a sustainable solution

that could help the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint. Dr. Alejandro Rios Galvan is leading the research here, along with his team at

Khalifa University.

GALVAN: We're trying to grow plants biomass in a place where usually you're not able to do that because there is no freshwater and no arable or fertile

land. So, we are growing halophyte plants. These plants are able to grow with saltwater in desert sand.

NARRATOR: Etihad Airways put this research to the test a few years ago, during its first flight with sustainable aviation fuel. Traveling from Abu

Dhabi to Amsterdam, the airline blended a portion of biofuel with its regular jet fuel to reduce carbon emissions. Etihad is one of several

airlines that has used biofuel.

GALVAN: The research that we're doing here is not being done in any other place around the world. So what is happening is that you're creating

knowledge here in the UAE and that knowledge can actually be exported to other places around the world.

NARRATOR: A homegrown solution hoping to mitigate some of the impacts of climate change.


SOARES: Now he was known for wild songs and shocking scandal, a rock and roll pioneer whose private life all but destroyed his career. Jerry Lee

Lewis whose Titanic hits included Great Balls of Fire! and a whole lot of shaking going on, has died at the age of 87.


Lewis soared to stardom in the 1950's, but his career took a nosedive after it was revealed he had married his 13-year-old third cousin. Decades later,

Lewis found success again and told well into his 80s.

And now we're all going to start seeing something new in our wallets and pockets here in the United Kingdom. The first coins featuring King Charles

III are now being minted. They're expected to enter general circulation by Christmas. The King's portrait will be displayed facing the left side of

the coin, stark change the previous 50 pence coins with the Queen's portrayed facing the right side.

And finally, American music legend Bob Dylan wants his tour live and in person. Well, to be just that. He's putting a stop to people watching his

gigs through a camera lens strolling, of course, scrolling through their social media feeds or just being not being engaged a hundred percent in

what they're seeing and hearing. In pursuit of that aim, from now on, concertgoers' phones will be locked away upon arrival, and this is what he

had to say. "Our eyes open a little and our senses are slightly sharper when we lose the technological crutch we've grown accustomed to."

And that's tonight's pause for thought. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next. Have a

wonderful weekend. I shall see you on Monday. Bye-bye.