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Hala Gorani Tonight

Central America Reporting Highest Death Counts to Date; U.N. Report Warns of Stronger, Emboldened Taliban; Lebanon in Crisis; Queen Elizabeth II to Welcome Bidens on June 13; Sri Lanka Fears Major Oil Spill as Cargo Ship Sinks. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 03, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. The unlikeliest alliance as a wide-ranging coalition comes

together, trying to oust Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu from power. Can it last? Will it work? We'll discuss. Also ahead, Brits dreaming of a Summer

holiday. They can keep dreaming as the list of places they can go without quarantining is not growing. It is actually shrinking.

And this is the reality of the impact of a sinking cargo ship and the reality it has on our planet. Plastic pellets scattered over a local beach,

and fears that an oil spill is next. We'll have that story. Well, the ink had barely dried on the new coalition agreement in Israel when Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started courting defectors trying to wreck it, signaling he will not go down without a fight. Israel is on the cusp of a

new era today after opposition leader Yair Lapid managed to form an unlikely alliance of eight political parties that could oust Mr. Netanyahu

from power.

For the first time in history, a party from Israel's Arab minority has agreed to join a government. Here you see Arab leader Mansour Abbas smiling

alongside Lapid and Naftali Bennett, an ultra-nationalist who could be prime minister for the next two years. But the days ahead will determine

whether this fragile coalition can hold. Parliament still needs to approve it. That gives Mr. Netanyahu time to turn up the heat. Let's bring in Hadas

Gold, she is in Jerusalem. And the longer this drags out, Hadas, I imagine, the more chances Benjamin Netanyahu has to try to throw a wrench in all of

this and try to disrupt this coalition and keep it from materializing.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This confidence vote in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament is expected to take place on or before June 14th, then

that amount of time from now until then is an eternity in Israeli politics a lot can change. There's even actually an effort underway by this

coalition to try and replace the speaker of the parliament as a way to potentially try to push up when this vote will take place because as you

noted, every day that passes gives Netanyahu and his allies opportunities to try and convince individual members of parliament, members of this

coalition to defect and vote against the coalition when it does come to the confidence vote, because that is Netanyahu's last chance at trying to throw

wrench at this, to cause the coalition to crumble and his last sort of lifeline to staying in power.

Whether he will be able to do so is a big question. But he's putting the pressure specifically on individual lawmakers, especially from the right

wing. He has been tweeting all day long, also retweeting his Likud Party tweets targeting specific members. He said in a tweet earlier that all

right-wing Knesset members must oppose what he is calling a dangerous left- wing government. A little bit ironic, considering when you look at the make-up of who will be sitting in this government, it is definitely

covering the wide swath of political parties in Israel from the left-wing Meretz Party, but also including Netanyahu's own former chief of staff

Naftali Bennett who heads the right-wing Yamina Party who on certain issues is even further right than Netanyahu, but it is stunning to see its

definitely historic moment, the most diverse coalition we have ever seen.

It is stunning to see somebody like Naftali Bennett sitting next to somebody like Mansour Abbas; the head of the United Arab List signing this

coalition agreement, that just goes to show you, I think, how I don't know if you could call it desperate, but how much they wanted to get Netanyahu

out. How much they wanted to end this political dysfunction four elections in two years. And they wanted -- I think for many of these political -- for

these leaders here, they didn't think that you could -- that they could move forward in Israel politically without Netanyahu leaving as prime


GORANI: So you have this -- and it would be the first time that an Arab Party would join a governing coalition, right?

GOLD: It would be the first time they would join a governing coalition. Now, Arab parties have supported from the outside in the past, but have not

actually signed on the dotted line as part of a coalition. Now, it's not clear if the United Arab List would actually, potentially have for example,

ministers sitting in the government. But the fact that they have joined the coalition is incredibly noted.


It's considered a very historic moment. And they say that the leader -- Mansour Abbas says that they have negotiated on issues that are important

to them, and they feel like they will now have a voice within this government. But again, what unites all of these different parties right now

is that they want Netanyahu out. Beyond that, it will be very interesting to see how they will govern, what issues they will govern on, and there's a

sense that there's not going to be a lot of necessarily progress made on some of the more pressing issues especially around relations with Arab

Israelis, relations with the Palestinians because of all the different views you're going to have sitting in the same government. And it could be

a very fragile coalition.

And I'm sure that Netanyahu will stay with Likud, will stay as a very vocal leader of the opposition. It's opposition that he's been in before, and

he'll be chomping at the bid to see this very fragile potential coalition fall apart and potential for another round of elections, potential for him

to once again become prime minister.

GORANI: Sure. It covers the entire spectrum of Israeli politics as you mentioned, Hadas, from the ultra-nationalist to the Arab parties to

everything in between. Thanks very much, Hadas Gold is joining us from Jerusalem. Danny Danon is a former ambassador to the United Nations. I want

to bring him in now. Thanks very much for joining us. You presumably don't support this coalition?

DANNY DANON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Well, Hala, I'm a member of the Likud Party. And like many people on the right in Israel

are not happy to see that a government, it might come together with only one thing in common, the desire to oust the Prime Minister Netanyahu of

office will have to wait a week. We'll see if they actually can get the votes for the vote.

GORANI: You want Benjamin Netanyahu to continue to be prime minister despite all the indictments, despite the trials, despite the fact he's been

in office since 2009 and the country might be ready for a new chapter. If so, why?

DANON: Democracy, the choppy system, a messy system. But when you look at the result of the last elections, despite everything you just mentioned,

the majority of Israelis actually gave Prime Minister Netanyahu their support. He received 30 seats in the Knesset, and when you look at the

party that is trying to form a government, they will have only five seats, about 5 percent of the parliament.

GORANI: Thirty seats is not a majority, 30 seats is not a majority. Mr. Netanyahu has not been able to form a coalition. He's had many tries and

he's not succeeded. Is it not time for him to go?

DANON: Well, I think we respect democracy and we respect every democratic decision of the parliament, the Knesset, whether it will be to form a new

government or not. But I think what you are seeing today, the desire to move Netanyahu out brings together to the new coalition versions from the

extreme left and the extreme right. I cannot see them lasting. I think their first and last achievement will be the removal of Prime Minister

Netanyahu out of office. But what will --

GORANI: Yes --

DANON: Happen after in terms of security, economy? It will be very hard for them to govern and it will be paralyzed.

GORANI: And what about the participation of Mansour Abbas of the United Arab List? What's your reaction to that?

DANON: You know, we always take proud of our democracy. We have a Supreme Court justices from the Arab minority, a member of Knesset we administered

in the past. So, I don't think that is the issue. I think that there is nothing that puts together the government in line in terms of ideology

regardless if it's a Jewish party or our party.

GORANI: But what's wrong with having the entire spectrum of Israeli politics. Sure now, they're united by their desire to oust Netanyahu, but

in the end, you have more of a representation of Israeli society at large. Why be opposed to that?

DANON: Because when you vote, you want your values to be represented. And when -- I know I served in the Knesset for many years, and I know the

players very well, and they represent different values, different sets of values. So, when you have people -- when you deal with issues of the

economy, welfare state and the issue of diving into Jordan and Samaria. Almost every week, you would have a vote in the Knesset that the government

will not have a majority. It will be a crippled government and I don't think it will last for long.

GORANI: I'm just struggling to see how it's different from two years without a budget your country hasn't had. Complete political paralysis, we

might see a fifth election. How is that better than at least trying to come up with some sort of governing coalition?

DANON: Well, I think there's still an option to form a different kind of a government. As you mentioned, Prime Minister Netanyahu failed four times.

But I believe that if the Knesset will have the fifth chance to form a coalition, they will do it without going for another elections.

GORANI: Really?

DANON: Yes, according to the --

GORANI: Where do you get that confidence? Where do you get that confidence from?


DANON: Because I know that the majority of the members of Knesset, they don't desire to go for fifth elections. That's why you see them struggling

together with this new coalition. And if they will not be able to make with this coalition, I believe that we -- the conservative parties will be able

to put together a government as well.

GORANI: But Benjamin Netanyahu is trying all the tricks, isn't he? And also, I mean, again under indictment as we said, charges ranging from

breach of trust, bribery, fraud. He's currently on trial. I mean, this is not a prime minister that some Israelis are saying they want to see in

office again. And he's trying other tricks. I mean, the speaker of parliament is a member of your party, the Likud Party, trying to delay as

much as possible this vote of confidence in this new coalition to give the Prime Minister Netanyahu more time to try to wreck it. Isn't that the case?

DANON: First regarding the indictments, we have to remember that the people in Israel when they went to vote, they knew everything about those

indictments, and he's still innocent. We will accept these rights as well and we have to wait for the trials to finish before we jump into

conclusions. Second, regarding postponing, we have the rule of law. We cannot postpone a vote. And I believe that next week, we will have a vote

in the Knesset, and we will respect the majority, whether if we like it or not.

GORANI: All right, Danny Danon, thank you very much for joining us. The former Israeli ambassador to the U.N, it's good having you on the program

on this important day. We'll see if this is the beginning of a new era for your country. Thank you so much. While some Israelis have responded to the

deal with skepticism, others say they're hopeful for the country's future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a historic moment. After four years of struggle, we managed to topple the Netanyahu evil government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We almost lost our hope and we hope that now, after these two very hard years, we will have an amazing new era that will

finally bring our hope back to Israeli.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that Yair Lapid tend to be really there. And I hope the next two weeks will prove that the next government will bring us

to a new place.


GORANI: Well, that's just a little sampling of opinion from the streets of Israel there as the country faces yet another vote of confidence in a

coalition government. Let's take a closer look now at Naftali Bennett, who could become the next prime minister. Naftali Bennett, a divisive figure

and ultra-nationalist. One of the things that he told an Arab member of Knesset a few years ago is "when you were still swinging from trees, we had

a Jewish state here." So, those are the types of pronouncements that have come from Naftali Bennett. So, what can we expect from that man if he

becomes prime minister in this coalition government? Hadas Gold has that report.


GOLD (voice-over): Once a close aide to the prime minister, this may be the man to break Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run as Israel's leader.

Naftali Bennett; a right-wing ambitious self-made tech millionaire eager to stake out a personal mark in Israel's future.

NAFTALI BENNETT, LEADER, YAMINA PARTY (through translator): I am announcing today that I intend to act with all my strength to form a

national unity government together with my friend, Yair Lapid so that, God- willing, together, we will rescue the country from this tailspin and we will get Israel back on track.

GOLD: The 49-year-old was born in Haifa to immigrants from San Francisco. A modern orthodox Jew, Bennett served in an elite unit of the Israel

defense forces for six years in the 1990s. He then became an entrepreneur in the high-tech sector after studying law at Jerusalem's Hebrew

university. Bennett launched a tech start-up in 1999 which he later sold for $145 million. Bennett burst onto the political scene in 2013 leading

the orthodox Jewish home party to seats in the Israeli parliament.

BENNETT: We're more realistic. We think the vis-a-vis, the Palestinian issue, the full peace sort of forming our Palestinian state within Israel

is suicidal. And it turns out that most Israelis view that. But we've put forward a realistic practical plan.

GOLD: At his ideological core is a strong opposition to a Palestinian sovereign state, and his party keen to annex parts of the West Bank.

Bennett's other positions are not without controversy, saying that Palestinian terrorists should be killed rather than released. In the April

2019 election, his party did not get through the electoral threshold and were left in the political wilderness.


After a merger with another party, he rebranded the party Yamina in 2019 and holds seven seats in the Knesset. He eventually returned to the

corridors of power, becoming very close to the prime minister. He served in various Netanyahu governments as defense, education and economic minister.

But despite sharing a similar ideology, Bennett and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship. After four failed elections in two years and the recent

armed conflict with Hamas-led militants in Gaza, Bennett agreed to join forces with centrist Yair Lapid to push out Prime Minister Netanyahu. The

question is, will Bennett and Lapid have the parliamentary votes to unseat the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history? Hadas Gold, CNN,



GORANI: All right, still to come tonight, worrying new data is throwing the U.K.'s reopening plans under further scrutiny. We get the take from a

key figure in the vaccination drive. What it means for this country and what it means for you wherever you live in the world. And later, the COVID-

19 situation in some Central and South American countries is as bad as it's been during the pandemic. We'll have a live report from Bogota, Colombia.


GORANI: Well, they say no news is good news. But there are some exceptions, though. No countries are being added to the British

government's travel green list of quarantine-free nations. In fact, one country is being taken away. Bianca Nobilo is in London with more on what

the British government has announced today regarding the ability to travel for people who live in the U.K. to other parts of the world. Bianca?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed today that no countries will be added to the green list.

As you said, and that Portugal will be moved from the green list to the amber list. So, that means that this incredibly popular tourist destination

for U.K. travelers, they will now have to quarantine for ten days when they return from Portugal and do two tests. And obviously, that's just not

feasible for a lot of people.

Eight countries were also moved to the red list, and those are countries where U.K. citizens are prohibited from going to unless for the most

extreme of circumstances. Now, the Transport Secretary explained this decision with two main reasons. He said first of all, there was a nearly

doubling of positivity rates of COVID cases in Portugal. So, that was a key part of the decision-making, he said.


And second of all, was there's an increasing concern over certain variants, in particular, a mutation to the so-called Indian variant which was first

identified in Nepal. That, that has been identified in Portugal. So, that's another reason why the transport secretary decided to make this decision

today. But this is a huge blow, not just for people who are excited to travel after 18 months of basically being hamstrung in their planning, but

for the U.K.'s very hard-hit travel and airlines industry. Hala, as you can imagine, after the announcement, the reaction was fast and furious from

airlines CEOs who came out and voiced their opposition to this plan, citing concerns about the economy, citing concerns about the fact that there

wasn't consultation or warning from the government.

In fact, I would just like to read you the response from the EasyJet CEO. He said, "when this framework was put together, consumers were promised a

waiting list to allow them to plan. Yet, the government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing people's plans into chaos with

virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the U.K.. This decision essentially cuts the U.K. off from the rest of the world." And

that was a sentiment, Hala, that was echoed by Heathrow's CEO John Holland- Kaye, as he said that when the prime minister probably wants to send a message of global Britain ahead of the G7 Summit next week, he's doing

precisely the opposite, he said, by making this decision, cutting Britain off from its G7 partners and from the rest of the world.

The airline CEOs have been saying that they simply don't understand the logic of this decision when there are so many countries in Europe that have

a fairly low incidence of cases. Even if you look at Portugal for example, yes, it's got a much smaller population than the United Kingdom, but

yesterday, 700 cases were recorded there whereas over 4,000 cases were recorded in the U.K. So, there is a sense of confusion and frustration over

this decision-making. It's been such a long time, and there's very few place that people in the United Kingdom can now go to.

And even places that are on the green list such as Australia or New Zealand are likely not to be allowing citizens from the U.K. to be traveling there

anyway. So, more bad news and symptomatic of this growing concern as to whether or not the U.K. will be able to go ahead with the full relaxation

of all restrictions on the 21st of June. Because, as you know, Hala, over the last week, that seemed less certain than before. The government say

today that imposing more restrictions on travel will be the thing that allows them to protect the path to freedom on the 21st.

GORANI: OK, Bianca Nobilo, thanks very much. Bianca was talking about how people are frustrated, some of them are confused. This just gives you an

idea, this is the headline today. "The Evening Standard", this is the evening paper in London, "Anger mounts at holiday mayhem". That's because a

lot more people had booked holidays to Portugal, which is now not a green country than the south sandwich islands which still is on the green list.

There's been a significant rise in the number of weekly COVID cases in the U.K. Data from NHS testing tray says there was a 22 percent increase on the

previous week, that is the highest figure since April.

As things stand, England is due to lift all lockdown rules in less than three weeks. Adam Finn is a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination

and Immunization and joins me from Bristol. Thanks for being with us. Do you think the science supports these decisions that were announced today to

add or to remove a country like Portugal from the green list and to continue to restrict travel abroad for Britons?

ADAM FINN, MEMBER, U.K. JOINT COMMITTEE ON VACCINATION & IMMUNIZATION: Well, I have to confess, I'm not part of any of the policy around travel.

So I'm an observer just like you. But I suspect that at least, part of this is driven by the experience that we had in the early part of last year when

the first wave of the pandemic started, and very large numbers of English travelers travelled back into the country simultaneously, bringing the

virus and seeding it around the country.

GORANI: Yes --

FINN: I remember recently, we had the same experience with the Delta variant from India. So, I suspect the politicians are feeling a bit bruised

by those two experiences.

GORANI: Yes, but the difference of course now is that a majority of people in this country have received two jabs. Correct?

FINN: Actually, about half of the adult population have had two and about three quarters of the adult population have had one dose. So you --


FINN: Can see that as a sort of glass three-quarters full or a glass still quarter empty, depending on how you choose to look at it.

GORANI: Yes, so, we have the numbers up now, one dose, 75.2 percent, two doses, pretty much 50 percent at 49.5 percent. So why is that not changing

noticeably, the way that we're living now, and that the 21st of June full opening is still up in the air? Why is that?


FINN: Well, I think what's really made everyone hesitate and led to the politicians saying they're not going to make a final decision about ending

restrictions on the 21st until the 14th, relates to the emerging data on this Delta variant, which is now the predominant virus that we're picking

up in England and in fact, across the U.K. And although the numbers are still small, all the trends are going in the wrong direction. So we're

seeing a rise in the proportion of those cases. And today, for the first time, data suggesting that the virus may even be more severe and causing

more hospitalizations proportionately.

GORANI: That was going to be my next question because if the virus and its Delta variant is infecting younger people, is it leading to more

hospitalizations? Because the numbers still dwarf very much the peaks we saw in January.

FINN: Well, I think we can all be confident that the relationship between numbers of cases and numbers of hospitalizations this time around will be

much lower than they were back at the beginning of the year. Simply because so many of the older vulnerable population have had two doses and are well

protected against severe disease. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that we're completely out of the woods, because there are vulnerable people

left. And a more infectious virus could find them and cause them to be ill. And today's figures do suggest that the proportion of cases of this variant

ending up in hospital are around about two to two and a half times what we were seeing with the variant, the alpha variant which has been circulating

in the U.K. up until now.

GORANI: I guess at what point does this end, then? Because it seems like this virus, we've watched its behavior over the last year and a half, and

it seems like variants regularly -- I mean, it mutates regularly, and we see variants come and go, more, you know, variants that are -- that infect

people more easily. So at what point can we say, can we be confident, any country be confident and say, OK, we're ready, we can open up now? We can

travel, we can -- we can go to stadiums, we can go to music festivals, and the rest of it.

FINN: I think the real problem with this is that we actually don't know. We do know that, that time will arrive, but we don't know when. And that's

why people are so furious about the situation because quite understandably, they want some kind of certainty. And it's beginning to be the case that

people like me who simply comment on what I'm observing, you know, bearing the brunt of lots of anger and cross e-mails and things, just because

people really don't want to hear anything more about this.


FINN: But in the end, it's like dropping a rock in a rock pool, the waves will get smaller, but it will take a certain amount of time for the rock

pool to get flat again.

GORANI: I guess those people who want things to open up are also saying there is a huge backlog in hospitals. You know, we need to get the economy

going, people are still out of work. I mean, that the cost of keeping things closed up has become too high a year and a half into this when the

numbers of hospitalizations are still so much lower than the peaks that we saw over the Winter. Is that -- is that a frustration you can understand?

FINN: Oh, I can certainly understand it. But on the other hand, what we -- what we have learned from the last two waves is that if you leave it until

you've got a real problem, you end up with a bigger, longer lockdown which is in fact economically more costly as well as disruptive to everybody's

lives. So it's about opening up at the right speed, and not overdoing it, and then ending up back where you didn't want to be.

GORANI: Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. Thanks so much for joining us live from Bristol. We

appreciate it. Still to come tonight --

FINN: Pleasure --

GORANI: Brazil, Panama, El Salvador, all dealing with a barrage of new COVID cases. We'll go live to Colombia for more on a very troubling trend





GORANI: There are countries where cases of COVID are going down or plateauing. Then there are regions where it is the exact opposite picture.

Cases of COVID-19 in Latin America are hitting record highs still. Officials say after weeks of plateauing, Central America is reporting its

highest level of COVID deaths since the start of the pandemic.

New cases in Panama, Belize and El Salvador doubled over the last week. One third of patients in hospitals there are in ICUs. Brazil reported more than

95,000 new cases on Wednesday alone, the second highest number of infections in a single day to date. Stefano Pozzebon joins me now live from

Bogota in Colombia, where cases have nearly tripled in some regions.

What is behind these alarming rises across Latin America?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, what is behind is, on one side, the spread of new variants that we are seeing. It's happening all

across the world but particularly especially in South America.

Let's remember, Brazil is where the Brazilian variant first originated. More than anything, hala, what is also behind this new surge of the virus

is the fatigue, the tiredness from vast sectors of the population to still comply with regulations and social distancing.

We are talking about millions of people, who mainly work in informal economy across the continent, who have been going through their savings for

the last 1.5 years because of these lockdown measures.

And now even the authorities are aware that they cannot -- they can no longer ask the populations to comply with social distancing, with this

lockdown. And that is what is most worrying the health officials in the Western Hemisphere, Hala, the fact that some restrictions are being lifted


And this is a cause of great concern because it could create new impetum (ph), new spreading for the virus. And one of those cases is, for example,

here, where I am in Bogota, where ICU units are at over 97 percent of their capacity.

Nevertheless, the local mayor announced a total reopening of the city by June 8th. And she was well aware of the critical moment. Let's hear what

she said to justify her decision. Here is Claudia Lopez (ph), the mayor --


CLAUDIA HERNANDEZ, BOGOTA MAYOR (through translator): It sounds completely contradictory and, frankly, from an epidemiologic point of view, it is

completely contradictory to reopen the city when ICUs are at 97 percent and new cases are growing.


HERNANDEZ (through translator): But from a social and economic point of view, with unemployment disproportionately affecting youngsters and women,

it is the right thing to do.


POZZEBON: It's contradictory but it is perhaps the best example of what a double-edged sword the pandemic has been for this region, with the health

emergency on one side and an economic collapse hitting and hitting painfully, Hala, on the other side.

GORANI: All right. Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, thanks very much.

To the other side of the world now, as pressure mounts on Tokyo Olympics officials to stop the games, we're learning about 10,000 volunteers who

have quit. The games CEO told Japanese press that he does not believe that will affect next month's Olympics. But Japan's top COVID-19 vaccine says

holding the event is, quote, "not normal," with the country grappling with a fourth wave. CNN's Selina Wang has more from Tokyo.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pressure is building for the Olympics to be canceled but here on the ground in Tokyo, final preparations

appear to be underway.

With just less than two months to go until the Olympics, the organizers are pushing ahead in the face of public opposition, with the games very much in

operational mode.

So behind me here is the venue being built for BMX racing and skateboarding. This venue can hold potentially thousands of spectators. Now

we know already that foreign spectators are banned from attending the Olympics but organizers have yet to announce how many local spectators, if

any, can attend the games.

Over there are the spectator stands being built for marathon swimming and the triathlon. This is all temporary, just for the Olympic Games. I'm here

in Odaiba Marine Park, which is normally open to the public but now it's been largely boarded off in preparation for the games.

I spoke to one of the construction workers here, who told me he does not think the Olympic Games should move ahead.

WANG (voice-over): "Infections are rising during the pandemic," he tells me. "I wonder if what I'm doing is good for the people, preparing for the

Olympics," he says. "But it's my job to work under the assumption that the games are going ahead."

WANG: Tokyo is planning large Olympic viewing sites across the city, including one here at Yoyogi Park, as this sign indicates.

But amid public opposition, the government now says this will be used as a vaccination site. Japan has fully vaccinated less than 3 percent of its


ROCHELLE KOPP, MANAGING PRINCIPAL, JAPAN INTERCULTURAL CONSULTING: People here are not protected. I don't think we should have it. I think everyone I

know in Tokyo is scared to death of people from all over the world coming.

WANG: But others in Tokyo are more optimistic.

WANG (voice-over): "I'm really looking forward to the Olympics," she says. "People are down because of the pandemic. We need something fun."

WANG: This national stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held, was rebuilt at a cost of more than one billion dollars for these

Olympic Games. In fact, Japan has already spent more than $6 billion on Olympic infrastructures, like venues and temporary buildings.

The economic cost of canceling these games would be enormous but at stake here is not just money and Japan's national pride but people's lives --

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, a weakened Afghan military and an even more powerful Taliban. We will tell you about the U.N.'s dire warning as

Americans prepare to leave Afghanistan.

And then, Lebanon is still very much in crisis. But there is one grassroots effort trying to bring the country back from the abyss. We will tell you

about it.





GORANI: As American soldiers get ready to leave, a U.N. report is warning of a bolder, more powerful Taliban in Afghanistan. It says the group

remains close to Al Qaeda, despite agreements to cut ties with any group that threatens the U.S. Our Nic Robertson filed this report. And a warning

that some of these images are disturbing.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Key points include 2020, the most violent year ever, with assassinations up 28 percent; 2021,

attacks up 61 percent on the same period last year.

And the Taliban's intent appears to be to continue to strengthen its military position, all the while, apparently lying to the U.S.

The report saying the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain closely aligned and shows no sign of breaking ties. This despite signing an agreement with the U.S.

February last year, vowing to cut those connections.

Other points of concern in the report include Afghan troop strength, approximately 308,000 personnel, well below its target strength of 352,000,

where recruitment has continued to decline.

Meanwhile, the U.N.'s member states write, "The Taliban now contest or control 50 percent to 70 percent of Afghan territory outside urban centers

and exert direct control over 57 percent of district administrative centers."

Taliban troop strength estimated at approximately 58,000 to 100,000. The report cites another disturbing development: women, intellectuals,

religious scholars and journalists have become increasing targets of Islamist groups; 85 percent of those executions were assessed to be by the


The report also assesses the Taliban have significant income, estimated from $300 million to $1.6 billion from opium poppy production, extortion,

kidnapping for ransom and mineral exploitation, including control of 280 mining zones, only one less than the government.

Another detail in the report underscores how little has changed during America's longest war. The son of the Taliban's founding leader and

commander during the 9/11 attacks is rising high in its ranks and, the U.N. says, is reported to harbor ambitions to become the group's leader-- Nic

Robertson, CNN, London.


GORANI: Well, the Taliban are rejecting claims made in the U.N. report that they are still close to Al Qaeda. The Taliban said the U.N. report was

based on, quote, "misinformation from the enemy," unquote.

As Lebanon sinks deeper and deeper into crisis, young activists, fed up with government failures, are getting off the sidelines and getting into

politics themselves, determined to rescue their country from the abyss. Salma Abdelaziz is live tonight in Beirut withthis story.

What are they trying to achieve, Salma?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, for months now, the politicians that rule this country have been in gridlock.

They have been unable to form a cabinet, unsable to form a government and unable to rescue their own people from a financial crisis that we discussed

earlier this week is one of the worst crises seen since the 19th century. Things are at a breaking point here.


ABDELAZIZ: But there was a brief moment of hope in 2019, when there were these mass uprisings, these mass demonstrations against the government. And

that energy, that momentum is still an undercurrent here.

And those activists, who were fighting against the government in the streets, now say they want to turn that into political action. That's why I

spent some time with one group called Minteshreen, as they registered as a political party and started to canvass. Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): This group of activists once scrawled their anger on the barricades around this ministry. Now they want to challenge the

government at the ballot box.

HUSSIEN EL ACHI, SECRETARY GENERAL, MINTESHREEN: In 2015 we were here. We were still kids. Most of us were kids. And today we're facing the same

wall. And we're presenting our papers to become a political party.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): They call their political party Minteshreen, which means "to spread out" in Arabic. It was born out of a popular uprising in

the fall of 2019. The pandemic and lack of progress brought an end to the mass demonstrations but rage against the ruling elite, widely seen as

corrupt, festers.

Lebanon is crumbling under one of the most severe economic crises in the world.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): There is momentum here to challenge the establishment. All these small political groups are popping up. Some fizzle

and fade away. Others hold on and try to gain legitimacy. They're led by young people who have little experience and little resources. But activists

say that how changed begin from the grassroots up.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): That's why Minteshreen says they started canvassing outside Beirut, the center of power. We follow them on a day

trip to the tiny village of Batha in the north of the country. The proud mayor, a rare independent politician, welcomed the outsiders.

They are out of place here liberal youth from the capital. But the mayor says they have something in common.

EPHRAM ELIAS SUQAIEM, BAT-HA, LEBANON MAYOR: Regardless of if these political rulers can accomplish anything, we need the youth. We need fresh

faces. He told me, every Lebanese citizen must be a part of the revolution.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Elections scheduled for May 2022 will be the first test for Minteshreen and groups like it. And there is huge mobilization

potential. Turnout was an estimated 50 percent during the last election.

EL ACHI: The first one is of course, working towards the parliamentary election, letting the people of these villages know that there are new

youth-led progressive parties that they can trust for the future.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): But this is like a David and Goliath style battle, what chance do you really stand against the ruling elite?

EL ACHI: You have militias everywhere you have armed factions, you have sectarian political parties. But this David has, you know, has started, you

know --

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But short of myths and miracles, only time can bring down the giants that have ruled these valleys for generations.


ABDELAZIZ: Now you can see these are very nascent attempts, Hala, and Minteschreen is not the only party. There are several groups that popped

up. And the real test for this opposition movement is going to be the parliamentary elections in May of next year. And there has already been

civil society groups calling for those elections to be held even sooner, essentially for the parliament to be dissolved so that this political

gridlock can end.

But the question is, now or next year, will the opposition be ready to challenge the ruling elite at the ballot box?

Can they win seats and hold seats and actually make a change through the system?

And can they mobilize people?

Remember, only 50 percent of people showed up to vote last time. There is very little trust in the system. So you have to gain back the trust and

push people to the ballot box. I think it is important that, when you talk about Lebanon, it is not just about what happens inside this country; it is

about what happens internationally.

These politicians who have ruled this country for decades are backed by the West. They are backed by international allies.

The question is, are those allies willing to continue to prop up this rotting system or will they step back and take the risk of seeing what

could happen if they stop backing these politicians -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. Well, it's a good thing to see young people trying, trying to enter politics, form new parties, become activists, when the

older generation has failed them so much. Thanks very much, Salma Abdelaziz in Beirut.

Still to come, fears that a sunken ship off the coast of Sri Lanka might set off an ecological disaster. It is already devastating birds, fish and

the beach. We'll be right back.





GORANI: Well, it will be her first major meeting with a world leader since Prince Philip's death. Britain's Queen Elizabeth will host Joe and Jill

Biden at Windoor Castle. The meeting will happen -- is scheduled to happen on June 13th. It will happen while Mr. Biden is in the country for the G7

summit, which takes place in Cornwall.

The queen has met every U.S. president over the course of her reign except for -- here's a bit of trivia for you -- except for Lyndon Johnson.

"The Guardian" has uncovered some pretty shocking documents, revealing discrimination at Buckingham Palace that took place a while ago.

They show that the palace had banned, quote, "colored immigrants or foreigners," unquote, from holding some office roles until at least the

late 1960s. An official told another employee at the time that minorities and immigrants were only allowed to work as domestic servants. Here is Anna



ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, this report is really quite disturbing and, of course, it comes just weeks after the royal family had

to deny that they are racist.

Now we asked Buckingham Palace for a response today. They don't deny the account given in the 1960s.

Instead, they said this, "Claims based on a secondhand account of conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer

conclusions about modern-day events or operations.

"The principles of crown application and crown consent are long established and widely known."

Quite aside from the historical context, the fact that there appears to have been systemic racism within the institution of the royal family, at

least in the 1960s, is the fact that, even today, it is exempt from equality laws.

That is what it means by crown application and crown consent. Now the palace say they comply with such laws in spirit and in practice. When

complaints are made, though, they are dealt with in-house. They have a process for that.

Of course, following the revelations from Prince Harry and Meghan, people question whether that process is good enough. The royal family have denied

that they are racist.

But could they do more to protect and promote diversity within the royal household -- Hala.

GORANI: Thank you, Anna.

A cargo ship carrying acid and hundreds of tons of fuel is partly submerged off of Sri Lanka and it has already has had a big impact on the local

environment. It has killed birds and fish. It is blanketing beaches with debris.

And you can see workers there, sweeping pellets off the beach. It had all these plastic pellets on board that are washing up on this pristine beach.

Anna Coren tells us that this, unfortunately, could be just the beginning of the disaster.


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Sri Lankan authorities are bracing themselves for an environmental disaster after the sinking of the

NV X-Press Pearl container ship off the coast of Colombo on Wednesday.


COREN (voice-over): The ship was on fire for almost two weeks after an explosion on board, which the navy believes was caused by leaking nitric


There are now fears the 350 tons of oil on board could seep into the ocean, destroying the pristine marine environment home to coral reefs, an

abundance of species and is a fishing grounds for more than 5000 local fishermen.

Salvage crews tried to move the Singapore based vessel to deeper water and further offshore but had to abandon operations when the rear of the ship

broke away and sank to the seabed.

The Sri Lankan navy and Indian coast guard are monitoring and preparing for any oil spill. Oil slicks can be seen from the air but an oil spill would

take this environmental disaster to a full blown catastrophe.

Environmentalists are already describing this as the country's worst ever marine disaster. Tons of debris, including billions of tiny plastic

pellets, which were in some of the 1,400 containers on board, has been washing up on the shore for days.

They've been found inside fish, turtles and birds that ingested them and have since washed up dead. The ship was also carrying 25 tons of nitric

acid and other hazardous chemicals, many of those containers now on the seabed.

The Marine Research Agency conducting tests on the coastline said initial tests showed no change in the pH levels in the ocean and nearby lagoon;

they're still awaiting results on tests on the seabed and marine species.

The government has suspended fishing along an 80-kilometer stretch of coastline. Many fishermen say their livelihoods have been decimated. There

is growing anger at the Sri Lankan government as to why the ship, which was leaking nitric acid, was allowed into Sri Lankan waters?

The vessel which left India on the 15th of May was later denied entry to another port in India and Qatar due to the leak. The ship's captain and two

engineers have been ordered by the court not to leave Sri Lanka while the investigation continues -- Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: Finally, I want to leave you with this. Researchers at NASA are attempting something that hasn't been tried in over 30 years. They are

planning to send two new missions to Earth's sister planet, Venus.

The goal is to understand how the hot planet evolved so differently from our own planet, even though they share very similar features. One mission

will study the atmosphere of Venus. The other will map out its surface. Not for tomorrow, though. They are scheduled the take off within the next


Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is coming up next.