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Isa Soares Tonight

U.S. Secretary Of State Defends Israel And Says The Charge Of Genocide Against The State Has No Merit; Ukraine Continues To Face Russian Bombardment As U.S. Aid For The Country Dwindles; Trump Lawyers Argue That The Former President Is Immune From Prosecution; Impact Of War On Children In Gaza; Al Aqsa Hospital Received Dozens Of Casualties After Heavy Airstrikes; Interview With Save The Children President And CEO Janti Soeripto; Children In Gaza At Imminent Risk Of Famine; Secretary Austin Treated For Prostate Cancer; Secretary Austin Expected To Make Full Recovery; 2023 Officially The Hottest Year On Record; Pope Blasts The Practice Of Surrogacy; Significant Unrest In Ecuador. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 09, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, the U.S. Secretary of State defends

Israel and says the charge of genocide against the state has no merit, but admits the civilian cost in Gaza is too high. We have the very latest.

And while conflict rages in the Middle East, Ukraine is facing ongoing Russian bombardment with dwindling U.S. aid. So what are Europe's leaders

doing about it? I'll put that to Slovenia's Foreign Minister live with us this hour. Plus, I did absolutely nothing wrong. Donald Trump doubles down

on his claim that he is immune from criminal charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Did the judges buy it though? The latest from the U.S. coming up for us. Tonight, though, America's top diplomat is back in Israel trying to thread

a delicate needle. Voicing firm support for Israel while calling on its military to do everything in its power to protect civilians. Secretary of

State Antony Blinken's spoke in Tel Aviv just a short time ago. Have a listen to this.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We believe the submission against Israel to the International Court of Justice distracts

the world from all of these important efforts. And moreover, the charge of genocide is meritless. It's particularly galling given that those who are

attacking Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis as well as their supporter, Iran, continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass

murder of Jews.

On this trip, I came to Israel after meeting with the leaders of Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia. All of those

leaders share our concern about the spread of conflict. All of them are committed to using their influence, using the ties that they have to

prevent it from escalating, to deter -- from opening.

In addition, all express grave concern about the dire humanitarian situation and the number of civilians killed in Gaza.


SOARES: Well, to that last point, the reality on the ground is increasingly bleak. Wide swaths of Gaza are little more than rubble now, leaving little

in the way of safe shelter as casualties pour into understaffed hospitals. The threat of a wider war still looming as well. Hezbollah hit an Israeli

army base today, it further strike into Israeli territory yet in this latest conflict.

Responding to an Israeli strike killing, if you remember, a senior commander inside Lebanon. With me now, Jeremy Diamond is in Tel Aviv and

Nada Bashir is in Beirut. Jeremy, let me start with you. We have just heard in the last few minutes, in fact, from Secretary Blinken. I wonder if you

could lay it out for us in terms of what he says was achieved with this shuttle diplomacy.

Because I did hear him earlier stressing the need for Israel to take feasible steps to avoid civilian harm in Gaza. But I wonder if there's a

sense of frustration, Jeremy, from the Biden administration that perhaps the Netanyahu government isn't listening?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that the American administration has been concerned with a high civilian death toll

in Gaza, pressuring the Israelis to do more to protect civilian life and certainly frustrated that not enough is being done fast enough to achieve

those goals.

We have heard Secretary Blinken in the past, including while he was here in Israel on previous trips, saying, effectively, that the intent to protect

civilians is not matching the reality on the ground. Those were the words of the National Security adviser Jake Sullivan at one point.

And today, the Secretary of State Tony Blinken saying that, look, it is challenging for Israel to protect civilian life when Hamas embeds itself in

civilian infrastructure. But saying nonetheless that the daily death toll of civilians in Gaza and the impact particularly on children is still far

too high.

But where he effectively drew the line is that these charges of genocide that are going to be raised in the International Court of Justice, the

Secretary of State saying that the charge of genocide is quote, "meritless", and he said that it is particularly galling, given that those

who attacked Israel, like Hamas on October 7th, like Hezbollah, have called for the annihilation of the state of Israel and the death, the mass murder,

he said, of Jews.


Now, there are -- there are a lot of the discussions today were certainly centering on the next phases of this war in Gaza, and also, of course, what

comes next in Gaza, once this war is over. And the United States and Israel have now reached an agreement to allow a United Nations team into northern

Gaza, now that the fighting there has largely subsided to allow that U.N. team to go in and assess what would be needed to rebuild that area and to

allow for Palestinian civilians to return there.

The Secretary of State making very clear that the United States has opposed any kind of mass displacement or resettlement of Palestinians, and saying,

instead, that, unlike the Defense Minister Yoav Gallant here who has suggested the Palestinian civilians not be allowed to return to the north

unless all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are returned to Israel.

Not allowing those civilians to return. The Secretary of State in contrast said that Palestinian civilians should be allowed to return to northern

Gaza as soon as conditions allow.

SOARES: And Jeremy, very -- pick up on you -- just said, do we know when that U.N. team will be allowed to go in? Do we have a sense of date or


DIAMOND: I don't think we have that quite yet. But certainly, we know that Israel has shifted its phase of the war in northern Gaza, and that

potentially that could be allowed fairly soon.

SOARES: And Nada, to you, I mean, Jeremy was mentioning there, Yoav Gallant; the Defense Minister, he did an interview -- had an interview with

the "Wall Street Journal" where he said, I'm going to bring it out, that Israel's priority is not war with Hezbollah, but saying can quote, "copy

paste", he said, Gaza saw -- to Beirut if necessary. "They see what is happening in Gaza, they know we can copy-paste to Beirut; the Lebanese

capital." How those words by Yoav Gallant being received where you are?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, we are seeing rhetoric on both sides intensifying, going increasingly more hostile. But of course, this is a

country that does not want to see war. It is a country that is facing domestic crises on multiple fronts from politics to economics. And of

course, we've been hearing from the Lebanese government saying that they do not want to see a war with Israel, that they want peace on their southern


But of course, as we have seen over the last few weeks and particularly over the last few days, there has been an intensification of crossfire

along the border. And what we are beginning to see, Isa, is really the broadening out of that conflict on the border. We have seen the skirmishes

largely contained from the beginning of the war in Gaza along that borderline.

But we are beginning to see that now expand, and we saw last week a precise strike in Beirut, in the capital. Of course, Israel neither claiming nor

denying responsibility for that strike at the southern suburbs of Beirut which of course, killed a senior Hamas leader. But the U.S. official has

said Israel was behind it.

And then as you mentioned, Isa, we have today, a senior Hezbollah carrying out a strike on an Israeli base in northern Israel. The deepest into Israel

that Hezbollah has carried out from the outset of the war. So, of course, we are seeing that escalation, we are seeing that crossfire really ramping

up along the side of Hezbollah.

It is growing more strategic, it is growing more targeted, focused on military assets belonging to the Israeli military. In turn, of course, we

have, of course, seen the Israeli military carrying out precise strikes along Lebanon's southern border. That has been a daily occurrence now from

the outset of the war. But of course, we are seeing the targeting now of senior members of the Iran-backed group we saw just yesterday with son of

Dahdouh Wael(ph); a senior commander and Hezbollah targeted.

There is a concern, of course, that this could trigger or provoke further action by Hezbollah, and potentially pull Lebanon or at least, Hezbollah

into a more direct confrontation with the Israeli military.

SOARES: Nada Bashir and Jeremy Diamond for us this evening, thank you to you both. Well, as international attention remains focused on the Middle

East, we can't forget there's another war raging. Russia has ramped up attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities in recent weeks as the war approaches

a two-year mark.

The UN's Refugee Agency is now warning more than 40 percent of Ukraine's total population will need humanitarian assistance this year amid, of

course, the constant shelling. Aid is desperately needed to, as you well know. But with U.S. funding currently stalled in Congress, there are

concerns over where this leads Ukraine's fight.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen sat down with Mykhailo Podolyak; an adviser to the Zelenskyy administration, I asked him what will happen if U.S. or the EU

stop support for Ukraine. Have a listen to this.


MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, ADVISER TO VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): The reality of such a scenario is negligible, less than 1 percent probably.

Now, on the territory of Ukraine, it is possible to nullify Russia both in terms of military production and in terms of the army. Why lose or give up

the war when you can win?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How strong do you think Vladimir Putin is and what's his strategy here?

PODOLYAK: Western public opinion makes one fundamental mistake about Putin. You create the illusion that he is strong, he is not.


And that's what you think, that he's strong, but he is weak in fact. War is the only way for Putin to conduct foreign policy, and so, war will be ever-

present in one form or another. He will wage information wars, propaganda wars, terrorist wars, fund terrorism, fund the far-right.

Either we now stop the endless wars that Putin has been waging since December 1999 or he scales these wars, because he has already gone all in.

He has no other option but war for wars sake.


SOARES: And our thanks to Fred Pleitgen for that interview. Well, for more now on this and the war in Gaza, I want to bring in Slovenian Foreign

Minister Tanja Fajon. Tanja, thank you very much, Foreign Minister joining us on the show. Let me start where -- really we just heard there Fred

Pleitgen speaking to an adviser there from Ukraine.

We have seen, as you would have seen Foreign Minister, heavy barrage really of missiles, drones, raining down on several Ukrainian cities for the last

several weeks. Russia's presence clearly being felt there. In the meantime, President Zelenskyy is asking for more ammunition. How can Ukraine get more

aid, more air defenses in order to push Russia further back?

TANJA FAJON, FOREIGN MINISTER, SLOVENIA: I mean, it is clear seeing what's happening day-to-day in Ukraine with this terrible Russian aggression

entering into the third year, that President Putin has no intention to stop this bloody war.

And what is crucial is that we really try to work towards just and lasting peace. And of course, Ukraine is exhausted. We are feeling all the

consequences, but we do stand with Ukraine in its fight for territorial sovereignty, territorial sovereignty and integrity.

And that is why we always help not only militarily, but also humanitarian and material to Ukraine in its endeavors to get peace and stability. It's

terrible to see so many civilians death toll, it's unbearable and also infrastructure destroyed. It's Winter here, it's cold and absolutely the

European Union stands here strongly united.

SOARES: Yes, and the reality is that what they need right now is more military aid, right? From the EU, from the U.S. And I imagined the concern

at least in the corridors of power -- and correct me if I'm wrong here, Foreign Minister, is what to do if the U.S. doesn't provide aid to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba told CNN just only last week in fact that Ukraine doesn't have a plan B, that -- he says, "we're

confident in plan A." Are you confident in plan A? Do you believe the U.S. will have that aid for Ukraine?

FAJON: I have to stay and remain confident for this plan A, as Ukrainians, because we need to support Ukrainian. It's about -- you know, values of

democracy and European values we are fighting for. So, it's not only the war for Ukrainians, but it also stands for our freedom on European


As you said, President Putin doesn't intend to stop this war --

SOARES: Yes --

FAJON: International community has to stand here united. So there are strong expectations also of what the Americans are going to do. I know it's

an electoral year, it's a --

SOARES: Yes --

FAJON: Very challenging year, also with the conflict and the war in the Middle East.

SOARES: But Foreign Minister, if the plan A doesn't work, let's just say if the money doesn't come through from the United States, can Europe fill that

hole? Is there unity here in terms of financial -- for financial support?

FAJON: I mean, this is a question for $1 million. I cannot tell whether the union can stay united on this heavy question. But I think it's our common

responsibility to stand together with Ukraine. And that is why I do expect that the Americans will find here some positive attitude and understanding

of what stands about this Russian aggression in Ukraine.

SOARES: And of course, the concern also is what happens if Russia critically prevails, Foreign Minister, in Ukraine. I saw an interview with

the Latvian Foreign Minister speaking to the FT just in the last few days. And I'll be speaking to the Latvian Foreign Minister in my show on


And he said that Russia will not stop after the war in Ukraine, and that NATO needs a long-term strategy to contain Moscow. Do you agree with that?

What are your concerns?

FAJON: I mean, there are serious fears, of course, that Russia cannot stop with only this war in Ukraine. I mean, we are having here in the

neighborhood of the western Balkans, we can see political interference in certain countries of the western Balkans.


And that is of course very worrisome what we are following also, either in Serbia or Republic of Serbs with that information, with Russian propaganda

and interference. And that is why we need to stop this war. We need to fight for a just and lasting peace for Ukraine, and that is what is our

joint responsibility.

SOARES: Let me turn to the events in the Middle East, our top story this hour, and the diplomatic push to try and stop this war from expanding. We

have seen Secretary Blinken visiting the region, shuttle diplomacy really throughout the region. Today, stressing to the Netanyahu government the

need to take feasible steps, he said, to avoid civilian harm in Gaza.

It's a request, Foreign Minister, that we have heard on numerous occasions from the Biden administration. Do Israel's actions in Gaza suggest that

Netanyahu is listening here?

FAJON: I mean, frankly, what I said several times, what we face in Gaza are violations of international humanitarian law and violations of humanitarian

rights law. So, that is clear. And it's very worrisome, the situation is catastrophic, getting from day-to-day more catastrophic. And there is no

second chance to save Gaza. I would even say that the world has failed on tests of humanity.

We need a permanent ceasefire. We need a permanent ceasefire to help civilians. It needs to have a humanitarian access to help humanitarian

workers. Gaza and the West Bank belong to Palestinians, and we have to support all peaceful endeavors to have a two-state solution for security of

Israel and for security of Palestinians to live side-by-side. I know this is a long-reaching goal, but for that --

SOARES: Yes --

FAJON: Reason, we have to stop the violations of humanitarian law on the territory of Gaza and ensure the permanent ceasefire.

SOARES: On international humanitarian law, I want to play a little clip from the U.K. Foreign Secretary as it ties into your answer here. Have a

listen to this, Foreign Minister.


DAVID CAMERON, FOREIGN SECRETARY, BRITAIN: If you're asking, am I worried that Israel has taken action that might be a breach of international law

because this particular premises has been bombed or -- yes, of course, I'm worried about that. Every day, I look at what's happened and ask questions

about, is this in line with international humanitarian law? Could the Israelis have done better to avoid civilian casualties? Of course, I do



SOARES: So, you heard the Foreign Secretary there saying that he's worried that Israel might have breached international humanitarian law. Has it?

Definitely, has it?

FAJON: I would say -- I would say definitely. If you look at the numbers and the death tolls of civilians, it's absolutely too high, it's

unbearable, and this is the fact. And that the war is ongoing, and there are more and more children, an amazing number of children, thousands of

them and women being killed --

SOARES: Yes --

FAJON: In only a few months from the 7th of October.

SOARES: And I'll be speaking to the CEO of Save the Children in just about 20 minutes or so. Foreign Minister, I appreciate you taking the time to

speak to us here on the show. Thank you very much.

FAJON: Thank you.

SOARES: And later in the week, we'll be speaking to other key international voices. The Latvian Foreign Minister, as I mentioned there, will be live on

the show on Thursday for more on how Latvia is responding to these two major international crises. And on tomorrow's show, the NATO Secretary-

General Jens Stoltenberg, will be joining me to discuss NATO support of Ukraine and fears of a widening conflict in the Middle East.

Don't miss both of those interviews right here. And still to come tonight, it may turn out to be a pivotal moment in the 2024 race for the White

House. Donald Trump asked an Appeals Court to dismiss charges that try to overturn the 2020 election.



SOARES: Is the president above the law? That question was at the center of the monumental hearing in the U.S. Appeals Court today, one that could not

only impact the 2024 election, but of course, the power of all future U.S. Presidents. Donald Trump's attorneys arguing that he has presidential

immunity and the election interference case against him should be thrown out.

Just six days before the Iowa caucus, Trump left the campaign trail to attend the hearing. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel that as a president, you have to have immunity, very simply. And if you don't, as an

example of this case we're lost on immunity, and I did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong. I'm working for the country.

And I worked on -- very hard on voter fraud because we have to have free elections, we have to have strong voters, we have to have free elections.

Those two things almost above all.


SOARES: It's not clear when the three judges might rule the case could very well end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. To discuss just how significant this

hearing was, we're welcoming CNN politics senior reporter Stephen Collinson. Stephen, great to see you. Just talk us through the arguments

being put forward in that courtroom from both sides.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, as you said, the president's lawyers were essentially arguing that he is not liable for

prosecution for his acts in seeking to overturn the 2020 election. Because he was acting in his official capacity as president, and therefore, he

cannot be prosecuted. Because presidents according to them have absolute immunity.

Trump's lawyer said that, if this principle isn't upheld, it would open a Pandora's box whereby presidents would be repeatedly prosecuted by their

successors going forward. The special counsel, Jack Smith, who is holding this case, and his team of lawyers are arguing in court that, essentially,

if Trump's position is allowed to go ahead, that would mean presidents are essentially above the law, they're like the kings that the American

revolution overthrew.

And they are completely without any constraints whatsoever. I think what's especially interesting about this, and with the collision of the Iowa

caucuses and the beginning of the U.S. Presidential race officially next week, is that we're seeing this is Trump's vision of the presidency. He

came out and gave remarks after the case in court today where he said, if you're president, you have to have immunity.

What he's actually saying implicitly with that comment is that a president should be allowed to do exactly as he wants, whether it's criminal or not,

and no one should be able to stop it. Which clearly has real implications if he were to win the presidency again in November.

SOARES: Yes, talk further, then Stephen, to this political backdrop. Because like you said, we're seven days or so from the Iowa caucuses. He

didn't need to be there at this hearing, right? He decided, he chose to be. What is the political calculus here?

COLLINSON: This is a presidential campaign like no other. Right from the beginning, given his legal peril, Trump has argued that he's a victim of

political prosecution, and that America is treating him as though it is a banana republic.


He's been effectively able to sideline a lot of the coverage of his opponents, especially Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South

Carolina Governor Nikki Haley by dominating the airwaves. Another advantage that Trump has been able to get from highlighting his court cases is not

just winning the sympathy of Republican grassroots voters who sort of have very strong relationship with him.

Every time he appears in court, his fundraising goes up. He's not just using that fundraising for -- to pay for his campaign, he's using it in

some cases to defray some of his legal costs. So he has a political and a financial incentive --

SOARES: Incentive, yes --

COLLINSON: To highlight these cases.

SOARES: Stephen Collinson, always great to get your perspective on this. Appreciate it. Happy New Year, by the way.


SOARES: Well, breaking news for you this hour, we are learning that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was being treated for prostate cancer in a

procedure late last month. Austin's health came under scrutiny, if you remember, after it was revealed that he was hospitalized on new year's day,

but that it wasn't known by the White House for several days.

U.S. Defense Secretary treated, as we understand, for prostate cancer. We'll stay on top of this breaking news as more -- as soon as there are

more developments, we'll of course bring that to you. Still to come tonight, the impact of war on the most innocent of victims. We'll speak

with the president of Save the Children, about shocking new statistics about the loss of life and limbs among children in Gaza.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Shrapnel injuries, gunshot wounds, bones crushed from buildings that collapsed. The World Health Organization says

it's seeing a huge number of those types of casualties every day in Gaza, despite Israel saying it has transitioned into a less intensive phase of

the war.

We're about to show you video from a Gaza hospital now. We want to warn you the images are very disturbing. Al Aqsa hospital workers say they received

dozens of casualties after heavy airstrikes overnight. They say 57 people were killed, including at least 10 children. Nearly 70 others were wounded.

One man says his family had evacuated to a shelter in Deir al Balah, only to come under fire as they slept. He says he lost his mother, three

daughters, and three grandchildren in the strikes.

Well, a staggering number of children have been killed in Israel's war on Hamas. More than 10,000 according to Palestinian officials in Ramallah.

Other children who've survived Israeli strikes are left with catastrophic, life altering injuries.

Save the Children says on average 10 children have lost one or both of their legs every day in Gaza since the war began. Let that sink in. It says

many undergo amputations without anesthesia to ease the pain. Save the Children says doctors in Gaza are overwhelmed by the horror of seeing so

many young children mutilated by bombs. It also warns nearly all children in Gaza are at imminent risk of famine.

We're joined now by the president as well as CEO of Save the Children, Janti Soeripto. Janti, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to

us this hour.

It is incredibly hard to try and wrap your mind, wrap your brain around this reality. Unimaginable pain as we just outlined there, Janti, and

suffering for so many children. We heard from a doctor just yesterday who just left Al Aqsa, a surgeon in fact, yesterday, he painted some really

grim pictures. Give us a sense of what you're hearing from your teams.

JANTI SOERIPTO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SAVE THE CHILDREN: Thank you, Isa. And yes, it is almost unimaginably grim what we're hearing. And if you just --

sometimes people get numb from all of these thousands of numbers, 2 million people, a million children in Gaza in distress, 23,000 people killed, over

9,000 children killed, et cetera, et cetera, but just imagine the horror of having one or both of your legs or arms amputated and having to undergo

that surgery without anesthesia.

I mean, it is just -- it beggars belief that this is happening three months in now to this terrible conflict. We still have hostages being held. We

have all these deaths of civilians, mostly children. And now, of course, hunger and famine are looming large already for a number -- a significant

number of people and soon for many, many thousands more.

SOARES: And you are describing as well, young children having to undergo, right, amputation. How are they being treated here, Janti? I mean, how is

the pain even being alleviated with so little coming in in terms of medicine?

SOERIPTO: Well, that's exactly right. I think they really don't have more than the old pain killer here or there. They're doing surgeries by the

light of their icons. You know, we've heard all those stories and they're really true.

The vast majority of hospitals in Gaza is not fully operational. I think 13 of the 36 that were there originally are still, to some extent, operational

Also, let's keep in mind, a lot of health care workers were killed or wounded So, at the moment the, WHO is estimating that only a third of the

prewar medic -- medical core is actually operational. There are simply not enough nurses and medical staff to also treat the wounded.

SOARES: And James Elder, who you would know, no doubt, told me just on the show last year that this is a war on children. What is the war doing to

this young and innocent generation? Besides the physical here.

SOERIPTO: Yes. And we always say every war is essentially a war on children. Children never start wars, and they really bear the brunt. And

nowhere is that more clear than here in Gaza, where already, of course, the population was incredibly young, almost half a million children, and we see

how much they make up of the number of deaths and injured.

And of course, we have the physical wounds. If they don't die of their wounds or immediate blasts, they will die of hunger. Number of diseases

also on the rise. Respiratory disease, rashes, diarrhea, cholera is certainly, you know, in the scenarios there as well, which when that

spreads it is very difficult to actually treat as well.


And again, the trauma that these children are undergoing. We have thousands of children who have lost one or both parents. Our -- my colleague Jason

Lee was there a couple of weeks ago. He was telling me the story of this four-year-old girl that literally wandered around on her own that our staff

found and we're now -- we were trying to help her, trying to actually find her immediate family. I'm not quite sure yet whether that has happened. She

was completely unresponsive. This is a four-year-old who cannot talk anymore because she has seen that level of trauma.

SOARES: It is incredibly hard to comprehend, just imagine that, what you've just described, this four-year-old, Janti.

I read the op-ed piece that you together with six NGOs wrote back in December. That struck me back then and struck my team. And you wrote in

this piece for "The New York Times," you say, so far, American diplomacy in this war has not delivered on the goals President Biden has conveyed,

protection of innocent civilians, adherence to humanitarian law, more aid delivery. It goes on to say, global leaders, and especially the United

States government --

I'm going to have to interrupt, and we'll come back to you because we've got breaking news. I need to the Pentagon, but we'll come back to you,

Janti. Stay with us.


MAJ. GEN. PAT RYDER, U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PRESS SECRETARY: -- December 2023, identified prostate cancer, which required treatment. On December 22,

2023, after consultation with his medical team, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and underwent a minimally invasive

surgical procedure called a prostatectomy to treat and cure prostate cancer. He was under general anesthesia during this procedure.

Secretary Austin recovered uneventfully from his surgery and returned home the next morning. His prostate cancer was detected early and his prognosis

is excellent.

On January 1, 2024, Secretary Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with complications from the December 22nd

procedure, including nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain. Initial evaluation revealed a urinary tract infection.

On January 2, the decision was made to transfer him to the ICU for close monitoring and a higher level of care. Further evaluation revealed

abdominal fluid collections impairing the function of his small intestines. This resulted in the backup of his intestinal contents, which was treated

by placing a tube through his nose to drain his stomach.

The abdominal fluid collections were drained by non-surgical drain placement. He's progressed steadily throughout his stay. His infection is

cleared. He continues to make progress and we anticipate a full recovery, although this can be a slow process.

During the stay, Secretary Austin never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia.

Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer among American men, and it impacts one in every eight men, and one in every six African American

men during their lifetime. Despite the frequency of prostate cancer, discussions about screening, treatment, and support are often deeply

personal and private ones.

Early screening is important for detection and treatment of prostate cancer, and people should talk to their doctors to see what screening is

appropriate for them. End statement.

Secretary Austin continues to recover well and remains in good spirits. He's in contact with his senior staff and has full access to required

secure communications capabilities and continues to monitor DOD's day to day operations worldwide.

At this time, I do not have any information to provide in terms of when he might be released from the hospital, but we'll be sure to keep you updated.

And until then, we will continue to release daily status updates on his condition.

We in the Department of Defense, of course, wish him a speedy recovery.

The Department recognizes the understandable concerns expressed by the public, Congress, and the news media in terms of notification timelines and

DOD transparency. And I want to underscore again that Secretary Austin has taken responsibility for the issues with transparency, and the Department

is taking immediate steps to improve our notification procedures.

Yesterday, the secretary's chief of staff directed the DOD's direction -- director of administration and management to conduct a 30-day review of the

department's notification process for assumption of functions and duties of the secretary of defense.

While the review is underway and effective immediately, the chief of staff also directed several actions to ensure increased situational awareness

about any transfer of authorities from the secretary of defense to include ensuring that the DOD General Council, the chairman and vice chairman of

the joint chiefs of staff, the combatant commanders, the service secretaries, the service chief of staff, the White House situation room and

senior staff of the secretary and deputy secretary of defense are all notified and that the notification for transfer of authorities includes an

explanation of the reason.


We'll keep you updated regarding the results of the review and any additional significant changes to process and procedures as appropriate.

And as I highlighted to many of you yesterday, nothing is more important to the secretary of defense and the Department of Defense than the trust and

confidence of the American people and the public we serve and will continue to work every day, work hard every day to earn and deserve that trust.

Separately, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks is traveling today enroute to U.S. Space Command Headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado.

Tomorrow, she'll preside over the U.S. Space Command change of command at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time between General James Dickinson and Lieutenant

General Steven White.

SOARES: Pat Ryder there, giving us -- Major General Pat Ryder giving us update on what we've heard. We told you in the last, what, five minutes or

so, the U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, been treated for prostate cancer in a procedure late last month. We now know that he was treated for

prostate cancer in early January.

That's when it was -- it was detected early, we know. And the prognosis we heard was excellent. Expected to make a full recovery. As you all know.

Austin's health came under scrutiny after it was revealed that he was hospitalized on New Year's Day, but it wasn't known by the White House

apparently for several days.

We know that he first had hip and leg pain. They believed it was a urinary tract infection, but they went on to say that he's recovering well, is in

good spirits. No time as of yet as to when he will be released. But hinting and talking to the fact that understands the concern from the public. So,

we'll stay on top of this breaking news story, of course.

But just to let -- up to date you, the U.S. defense secretary was treated for prostate cancer in early January, and prognosis, we've been told, is

excellent, continues to make process, but it is, as we just heard a slow process. And of course, we wish him a speedy recovery.

Just before we went to that breaking news you heard me talking there to Save the Children and some really dire staggering, catastrophic, I think,

injuries we have heard on the ground there.

And Janti, you were talking to me and I was interrupted by this breaking news, but just a reminder for our viewers, you wrote a piece, an op-ed

piece together with six NGOs for "The New York Times," right, back sometime in December 11th, and in there you said -- and I'm going to read a chunk of

it because I think this is really important, you said, so far, American diplomacy in this war has not delivered on the goals President Biden has

conveyed, the protection of innocent civilians, adherence to humanitarian law, more aid delivery, global leaders, you go on to say, and especially

the United States government, must understand that we cannot save lives under these conditions. A significant change in approach from the U.S.

government is needed today to pull Gaza back from the abyss.

What is your message to the Biden administration and to Secretary Blinken, who's in country today?

SOERIPTO: Yes, that's right, which hopefully leads to some results that we're all seeking here, Isa.

The message is, as we said in the op-ed piece then, it is past time to try to manage this with some gentle nudges. And yes, some language, strong

language, perhaps privately, some language more publicly, some stronger language more publicly, but without any consequences. And so far, it

doesn't seem to have led to less violence, fewer civilians, fewer children killed or maimed.

The hunger numbers are now -- famine numbers are now staggering and literally really without precedent in the world in terms of the number of

people who are hungry today in Gaza. So, some things need -- it's got to give more consequences, clearer messages that this will not be tolerated,

that this is on the government of Israel if all these thousands -- millions of people continue to be targeted and at risk of death and injury.

So, the strategy followed so far has not led to these results, notwithstanding the expectation. So, then you have to change your strategy,

clearer consequences, stronger language.

SOARES: Janti, I really appreciate you taking the time to stay with us here. And apologies, I had to interrupt once again. But we really

appreciate your analysis and perspective. Thank you very much.

SOERIPTO: Thank you for having me.

SOARES: We are going to take a short break. We'll be back after this.



SOARES: It is confirmed 2023 was the hottest year on record by a big margin, and the worst could be yet to come, that is according to Europe's

Copernicus Climate Agency, which says temperatures are rising perilously close to a critical threshold. Warming in the world's oceans also hit a new

high. Scientists say the increase was due to climate change and exacerbated by something that, you know, we've spoken at length here about El Nino.

Let's talk through all of this. CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir. So, Bill, just talk us through this data because from what I was

looking, it's not just records, but how much they were actually broken.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the previous record from 2016 was obliterated. Just shattered by 2023.

1.48 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels. That's where we hit. Just two one hundredths of a degree away from that 1.5 target that, of course,

almost every country on earth agreed to try to halt the warming at there.

And if you look at the map of the globe here, it's much easier to spot the below average, the blue spots on the map. There's a blob off of Chile and a

little bit of Australia, but the rest of the globe, and this is averages in nighttime, daytime, winter, summer temperatures much hotter than before.

And then, as we go into the global surface temperatures, this bar graph that shows just so how far off the chart we are on 2022, this goes back to

'67, my birth year. So, this is my life in temperatures, Isa, right here.

SOARES: Heating up.

WEIR: SOARES: And this 2023 just shattered the previous record there as well. If you look at the daily global temperatures, we bounced into that

1.5 area. It started in the spring. The line in the middle there is 1.5., we bounced in there in the spring, came back down. hit there in August and

stayed there. There were a couple of days in November that was two degrees above pre-industrial level. So, really redlining it there.

And what this means in terms of dollars and cents in the United States, we just got a dollar figure to go with the European numbers there now, $28

billion disasters. This shatters the record of 22 back in 2020 now, everything from hailstorms to floods to, of course, the Lahaina wildfire in

Maui there proving that a hotter planet is not only more predictable, but much more expensive for infrastructure and people.

And this, of course, doesn't take into account the estimated 3 to 6 million species of plants and animals that could go extinct in the next 50 years.

SOARES: Bill Weir, as always, great to have you on the show. Thanks, Bill.

And still to come tonight, the pope blasts the practice of surrogacy. Why he's calling on the world to take action. That story, after this break.



SOARES: Well, deplorable, that's what Pope Francis is calling surrogacy, advocating for a universal ban. At the Vatican on Monday, the pontiff

described surrogate motherhood as a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child.

The Catholic church has long opposed surrogacy and invitro fertilization, in part because some of the embryos are disposed of. But surrogacy has

enabled many couples, of course, who weren't able to conceive on their own, to become parents.

Our Vatican Correspondent Christopher Lamb, joins me now in London for more. Christopher, great to have you here on the show.

Look, just talk, first of all, to the message from the Vatican, because very strong words here from Pope Francis, and many countries around the

world where it is legal.

CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a very strong message from the pope and it's the first time he's called for a ban in this


He has criticized surrogacy in the past, and I think his concerns are twofold. One is he believes that surrogacy can be exploitative of

particularly of poorer women who may feel they have no choice but to go down this path, but also that the beginning of life, as he sees it, then

becomes subject to a, in his words, commercial contract.

And so, it's the kind of marketization of new life --

SOARES: Commercial.

LAMB: -- which he is also opposed to. But he's come out very strongly here.

SOARES: And the timing of this is interesting too. What kind of reaction have you been seen to this?

LAMB: Well, I think it's very interesting timing because it comes very soon after he had allowed for blessings of same sex couples by priests and also

a Vatican ruling saying that the children of same sex couples including through surrogates can be baptized, welcomed into the church.

So, there may be some who are feeling a bit confused here because the pope on the one hand is calling for a pastoral open church --


LAMB: -- but he has always been someone who has upheld very strongly the church's teaching on beginning of life issues such as surrogacy and

abortion, and has often used very strong language. So, there's that sort of tension there some people might feel, but it's what Francis has done from

the start.

SOARES: Christopher, great to see you. Thank you very much.

LAMB: Thank you.

SOARES: And we have some breaking news. We are getting word of significant unrest in Ecuador, just hours, in fact, after a state of emergency was

declared. We've been hearing reports of explosions, kidnappings of police and incidents in prisons right across the country.

Patrick Oppmann is keeping an eye on this, and he joins me now. Patrick, what are you learning?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really just striking images of a TV station that while was live on the air in Guayaquil, Ecuador, apparently

has been taken over by armed criminal gangs. You see these criminals with their faces covered, carrying guns, taking a TV studio. This is just the

latest development in what's already been 24 hours of violent activity in Ecuador after an alleged gang leader disappeared from prison.

The president, Daniel Noboa, declaring a state of emergency in that country, saying they're going to be taking on these violent gangs that are

so involved in drug trafficking in that country head on.

And now, apparently, we're seeing live images, just striking images of employees of a TV station, Guayaquil, Ecuador, who have been taken hostage,

apparently, by one of these gangs. You see these gang members coming in with their faces covered, holding guns, threatening the employees of this

TV station. So, spiraling out of control.

There's a situation in Ecuador, as the president says, they're going head- to-head with gangs and the gangs are firing back by putting bombs around the country, by taking police officers hostage and now, apparently taking

them to the employees of a TV station, Guayaquil, hostage. So, certainly, a situation that is rapidly spiraling out of control.

SOARES: Yes. And it's developing. I know you'll stay across it for us, but it started with this gang leader, right? Adolfo Fito, seems to have escaped

from prison that led then Daniel Noboa, the president, to declare a state of emergency, right? Add some context here.

OPPMANN: Yes, absolutely. And of course, you remember last year, he said -- it was a presidential candidate who had said that he was going to take on

the gangs head on and he was assassinated, just a brazen assassination, and the assassins themselves were assassinated in prison.

And just to remind viewers, when people go to prison, Ecuador does not -- like prison in many other countries, they are free to continue to run their

criminal activities and the prisons have been taken over by these gangs as Ecuador becomes an increasingly important trans-shipment point for drugs to

Europe and other places.


And while the president, Daniel Noboa, newly installed president, says he'll be taking on the gangs, the gangs very clearly here say that they're

not going down without a fight.

SOARES: We are running out of time, but I'm seeing here that the police are saying on X, our specialized units are activated to locate our colleagues

and proceed with the rest of the perpetrators. None of these events will remain unpunished.

I mean, how large -- how big are these gangs and can the police control this?

OPPMANN: You know, authorities have been unable. You've seen these horrible massacres in Ecuadorian prisons as the gangs battle out -- battle for what

is very, very expensive turf, you know, to have the right to -- the ability to export drugs to Europe and the rest of the world, talking about cocaine.

And so, the authorities have just had their hands tied. And now, you see the situation even escalating further. I mean, you know, you're hard assed

to go out for the employees of this TV station that are apparently now taken hostage.

SOARES: Absolutely. I know you'll stay across it for us. Thank you very much. Patrick Oppmann for us there in Havana with that breaking news.

That does it for us for this hour, but do stay right here. We'll be back with "Quest News Business" in just a few minutes. You are watching CNN.