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Hala Gorani Tonight

Portugal Accuses the U.K. of "Health Fundamentalism"; U.S. to Donate 80 Million Vaccine Doses Worldwide; EU Bans Belarus Planes from Airports and Airspace; FBI Chief Compares Challenge Of Confronting Ransomware Atttacks To Terrorism Faced After 911; Nicaraguan Opposition Leader Detained; Pollution Causing Deadly "Mucilage" To Form Underwater. Aired 2- 3p EST

Aired June 04, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Europe's continuing COVID worries, some travel restrictions

are staying put. Is it an abundance of caution or are the fears justified?

Then the pressure grows to share more vaccines around the world. I'll speak to the CEO behind Sputnik V about why they are not vaccinating more

Russians first. And a dire warning from the head of the FBI comparing the cyber security situation to the worst terror attack the U.S. has ever seen.

In other words, comparing cyber fears to 9/11. We'll have that story later in the program.

We begin in the United Kingdom where there's alarm from health officials over how quickly the Delta variant is spreading. Public health England says

the variant which was first identified in India shows substantially increased growth and is now the dominant variant in the U.K.

There's also a mutation of that variant itself. Researchers are also saying the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is still likely to protect people against the

Delta variant, but the antibodies are significantly reduced. Meantime, there's fury from several countries including Portugal after the U.K.

removed it from its travel green list of safe countries.

The Portuguese president is accusing Britain of quote, "health fundamentalism". Nina dos Santos is here in London with more. Let's talk

first, Nina, about the health situation, Portugal saying that it's -- the fact that it's back on the amber list as it's called here for our viewers

around the world. There are three tiers, this is the middle tier. It would require passengers coming back from Portugal to quarantine, to pay for

expensive COVID test. They're accusing the U.K. of over reacting, essentially.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN REPORTER: Yes, they absolutely are. And they're also saying that questioning the logic of why it was supposedly acceptable for

Russia's soccer fans to come and watch too this nation's favorite teams in the Champions League final in Porto in the north of Portugal just a few

weeks ago, whereas now obviously for families who are about to embark upon their school holidays who might be heading towards the beaches of the Elgol

where there will be low transmission rates of COVID-19. Suddenly, that is completely out of bounds for many families as you pointed out because of

these restrictions.

The fact that you have to isolate for ten days. If you're in an amber list country like Portugal, will soon be, you're coming back from there, you can

isolate in your home or as red list countries, you actually have to isolate in a government-mandated hotel. But either way, with both of those amber

and red destinations, you also have to incur very heavy costs for many different tests as well before you could be allowed out of that isolation

period. So, all of this is extremely detrimental to people's holiday plans, and a prime season for Portugal.

Remember, this is a nation that was bailed out more than a decade ago, and the big resurgence for the Portuguese economy has been based on tourism. It

is one of the big success stories in Europe. It accounts for 14 percent of this country's GDP and this is the prime season. Many Portuguese officials

have been taking to the airwaves on British radio and TV as well to express their indignation and also their confusion. Essentially, they're saying why

are we being picked on? Here is what one government official had to say, Hala.


RICARDO BAPTISTA LEITE, SPOKESPERSON, PORTUGAL NATIONAL HEALTH: It was an astonishing decision truly because there is no logical reason to have made

the decision of blacklisting Portugal especially when the government is using public health and positivity rates as their main metrics to make this


Because from the positivity rates, we've kept it constantly around 1 percent over the last week since we were green-listed and now that we've

been blacklisted again. And from a public health perspective, we've actually seen all of the hospital bed usage related to COVID-19 just going



DOS SANTOS: So confusion reigns, and then of course, this war on words and war on numbers as well, Hala, the transport secretary said that essentially

justifying this yesterday that he was concerned about the doubling of COVID cases in Portugal. But today is a day when we learn that the rates of COVID

infections across the U.K. is also rising by two-thirds over the last week according to official statistics than was recently released, Hala.

GORANI: All right, and let's talk about that because how is the U.K. justifying this move because essentially what it's saying is, by doing

this, if nothing changes in the next say month, month and a half, it's another lost Summer in terms of the tourism industry.


DOS SANTOS: Yes, that's right. And remember, Portugal will now find itself in familiar territory for countries like Greece, that's another favorite

destination. The U.K. holiday makers have just tried so hard with things like vaccination passports and so on and so forth to attract British

tourists, but actually, it's the British government that is making it hard for British tourists to return after visiting some of these destinations.

Now, speaking of Portugal in particular as we were pointing out before, it's a question of whether or not the numbers really stuck up. Let's have a

look here because the counter argument from Portuguese officials is that the COVID rates in Portugal are akin to what we're seeing in the U.K. at

the moment.

Also, remember, that's been echoed by some tourism bosses like the head of Ryanair who is saying why is the U.K. doing this if it is a vaccine success

story in the U.K.? Surely as people shouldn't have to isolate upon returning from a destination like Portugal. If you look at these type of

charts, yes, Portugal over there on the west of Europe marked in red there, it has seen an uptick in cases, but the U.K. is also red on that map as


The U.K. is also seeing cases starting to pick up. Both of these nations, yes, from a low level, but what they're really worried about is scenes here

in the U.K. is the transformation of this so-called Delta variant that was picked up first in India. We learned yesterday from Public Health England

that, that's responsible for the lion share of cases that are transmitting here in the U.K.

Grant Shapps; the Transport Secretary said he was particularly concerned about a Nepal variant of that Delta variant. But if you look at the latest

reports though, Hala, I have to tell you, Portugal appears to have about 12 cases of that so-called Nepal variant. The U.K. has far more according to

reports. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Nina, thanks very much. It is that Delta variant that was first identified in India, that is a big cause for concern. Now, what

has the country like the U.K. done? Well, Heathrow Airport in London, if you've traveled to London you're familiar with that airport. They've

diverted all the countries that they consider to be very risky, the red countries to another terminal.

But this was the scene that greeted my colleague Salma Abdelaziz at Heathrow Airport after she flew in from Beirut. That line apparently took

hours for people to get through. Because of course, every single passenger has to show that they filled out the locater form, you know, and answered

questions from U.K. border officers about where they were and what other countries they visited.

So, it is a headache to travel. And some people though for reasons beyond their control have to cross borders. They have to fly. They have family.

They have sick relatives. They have very important work that they need to do. And this COVID virus is just not letting go of us. It is still very

much a complicated proposition for people to fly, to take the train or to travel in any -- or to travel via any mode of transportation. So, how

worried should we be about the rise of not just this variant but possibly others?

Because what people are saying is, OK, now it's the Delta variant, but what about the next variant? Are we going to be eternally stuck in this cycle of

having to catch up to new variants of the COVID virus? Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here, first, with the one first identified

in India. What is the concern there?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The concern there, Hala, that it seems to be quite transmissible, it may also make people

sicker, make them more likely to end up in the hospital although they're not sure about that, yet, they're still looking into it. And it seems to

give a little bit of a challenge to the vaccine.

In other words, the vaccine doesn't work as well against this variant as other variants. But the difference is quite small. So, let's take a look at

these numbers because we -- it's very important that people not sort of freak out about this. So, if you take a look for example at the Pfizer

vaccine, it's about 88 percent effective against this variant that was first found in India.

Usually, it's more like 95 percent effective. So, that's a bit of a hit. AstraZeneca, that vaccine is about 60 percent effective against this

variant first found in India, usually, it would be more like 66 percent, and that's for people who have had both doses and were two weeks this past.

That -- it's a little bit of a difference, but look at those numbers, 88, 60. Those are both extremely effective, very effective vaccines especially

Pfizer. And so, you -- for example, when pharmaceutical companies apply to the FDA for permission to put these out on the market, the FDA said we just

want 50 percent effective.

Like that would be enough, and here you've got a 60 and an 88. So, the concern that you were saying before about is this going to go on and on,

the concern is not so much that it is going to go on and on, although obviously nobody wants that. Is there going to be some variant that comes

along where it's not -- Pfizer isn't 88 percent effective.


Where it really takes a hit. That's when we would potentially be in trouble.

GORANI: So, when I look at the numbers globally, whether it's the U.K. or other countries where this variant first identified in India has become a

big issue, the number of deaths compared to the overall cases, that number is still relatively quite small. Is that because a lot of people are now

vaccinated in those countries?

COHEN: Yes, absolutely. The more vaccinated people you have, the better as we just saw how effective they are, still 88 percent and 60 percent

effective. That's going to keep people from getting -- not just from getting infected, but it will also reduce the chances that they will get

very sick.

And remember, if someone gets the vaccine and still gets infected, it's still a win for the vaccine as long as they don't end up in the hospital or

end up dead. So, what we're looking for this vaccine to do is preventing infection is great, but also preventing severe disease that in and of

itself is a great thing too.

GORANI: That's what we were told at the beginning of the pandemic. The objective is not to overwhelm the health service, the hospitals. Right now,

thankfully, it seems as though that is not the case at least in the countries where there's a very high percentage of vaccinated people. Thanks

so much Elizabeth --

COHEN: Thanks --

GORANI: Cohen, our senior medical correspondent. Health officials around the world have welcomed a U.S. plan to share more vaccine shots

internationally. But some caution that the pledge may not be enough. You can see on this map, some regions are dealing with low, very low

vaccination rates. Among them, Africa, where less than 1 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The continent is seeing a spike in

infections, and in just a moment, we'll see how Africa is reacting to that U.S. promise to distribute more vaccine to share the wealth essentially.

First though, the latest on another badly-hit region, Latin America. Stefano Pozzebon has that part of the story.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Tens of thousands of people staged protests across Brazil this weekend, demanding President Jair

Bolsonaro's removal over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Brazil has recorded the third highest number of cases in the world after the U.S.

and India, and he's now facing a possible third wave of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Brazil reported its second highest number of infections in a single day, but the entire region struggling. The Pan-American Health

Organization sounding the alarm as Central America reported last week the highest number of COVID-19 deaths to date and the doubling of new cases in

Belize, El Salvador and Panama.

As Europe and the United States relax international travel restrictions, Latin America is bracing for more cases, and there are now vaccines to go

around. In Central America, countries like Guatemala and Honduras have only fully vaccinated less than 1 percent of their population in sharp contrast

with the millions fully vaccinated up north.

POZZEBON (on camera): What is particularly worrying even with cases numbers rising is that some restrictions are being lifted prematurely. In

some cases, to try to help better the economy. But with more people on the move, experts fear the virus could spread even further.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Colombia's capital, Bogota is set to lift most restrictions next week.

MAYOR CLAUDIA LOPEZ, BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (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. But from a social and economic point of

view with unemployment disproportionately affecting youngsters and women, it's the right thing to do.

POZZEBON: Brazil is now preparing to host a major football tournament, the Copa America which could become another super spreader event in a country

where the situation is far from under control. The only solution experts say is to boost vaccinations. The Biden administration on Thursday

announcing plans to share at least 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses globally, making Latin America a priority.

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Finally, I want to talk a little bit about where we are sharing these first 25 million doses. We're

sharing them in a wide-range of countries within Latin America and the Caribbean, south and southeast Asia and across Africa in coordination with

the African Union. This includes prioritizing our neighbors here in our hemisphere including countries like Guatemala and Colombia, Peru and

Ecuador and many others.

POZZEBON: But with just 6 million doses allocated so far across more than a dozen different countries in the region, even that effort seems just a

drop in the ocean and the cases only destined to keep piling up. Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


GORANI: It's just a dire situation across the board in Latin America. Now, I mentioned Africa a little bit earlier, and that the U.S. intends on

sharing vaccine doses with the continent. It's intended in fact, Africa to be the -- one of the main beneficiaries of the vaccine-sharing plan. As the

World Health Organization warns that rising cases could lead to a third wave on the continent, David McKenzie is live in Johannesburg


And speaking of the W.H.O, it says at least 14 countries in Africa are facing a surge in COVID cases. So, the question is, how quickly would you

have to start vaccinating people in those 14 countries for these vaccines to start making a difference?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not going to happen, Hala, unfortunately because you need the volume to be so large, and the speed to

be so quick, it's not going to have an impact these donated vaccines from the U.S., in fact, not even the vaccine roll-outs in countries like South

Africa will have an impact according to scientists on this third wave.

And where I'm sitting right now, we certainly are in a third wave. But it is an important step, Hala, and it's really a down payment, say the Biden

administration officials because with 5 million or so doses ending up in African countries, it's a start and those individuals who get those doses

will of course, be protected, but a lot more needs to be happening.

And two other aspects of the plan from the U.S. are quite important. One is to ratchet up the manufacturing capacity within the U.S. for doses to go

around the world. And the other is to really act as a pressure point on other rich countries which have also ordered far more vaccines than they

need to follow the U.S. in donating those vaccines to countries in Africa and elsewhere. I think with those three combined aspects, you could

actually see an impact, but in the short-term, you know, it's -- unless you're physically the one getting the donated vaccine, it is kind of a

symbolic move at this stage.

GORANI: What about distribution? Obviously, supply is one thing, but then you have to distribute it over, you know, huge areas in Africa.

MCKENZIE: Well, more than a billion people in Africa and different countries have different levels of capacity. Here in South Africa, there's

a relatively good capacity and they already are distributing the Pfizer vaccine quite successfully here, if not on the scale it needs to be.

But there are other countries, you're right, Hala, like the DRC, like Malawi which recently destroyed vaccines because they were going to be

expiring. The DRC for their part, giving back a million doses to the African Union because they couldn't get them all. So, the physical vaccine

vials is just part of the equation you have to attempt to get countries with weaker health systems up to the capacities to get shots in arms.

That's a -- that's a huge issue. And it's an issue that's not going to be solved overnight. So, potentially, some countries are going to face the

scenario of a third, possibly even a fourth wave of COVID before they get to some kind of herd immunity. And all that time as you were talking

earlier, the possibility of variants is there. But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. And certainly, the U.S. moves to expand vaccine donations is

seen as a very positive move here on the continent and it's a start at least.

GORANI: All right, it is a start. That is -- it's something. Thanks very much David McKenzie. Can you imagine we've been dealing with this since

March of 2020. It's hard to believe. And it really has been that long, and we are still very much in the thick of it.

The Japanese Olympic Committee board member lashed out at Olympic organizers in an opinion piece published Friday, saying that the games have

lost their meaning. Olympic medalist Kaori Yamaguchi says it's clear public opinion has no impact on whether the games will go on as Japan struggles

with a fourth COVID wave. Yamaguchi also criticized Japan's slow vaccine roll out. Right now, Japan has vaccinated less than 3 percent of its


Still to come tonight, critics are slamming what they're calling a coerced interview by a detained Belarusian journalist. Listening -- likening it, I

should say, to a hostage situation. Up ahead, what Roman Protasevich said and how he said it that led to a fast and furious international reaction.

And a top official in Germany's Catholic Church is offering to step down over the church's sexual abuse scandal dating back decades. Why now and how

the pope has responded.



GORANI: The European Union is taking further punitive action against Belarus. Today, it announced a plan to ban Belarus airlines from flying

over EU territory or landing in any of its airports. It's more fallout from that forced landing which European officials called the hijacking of that

Ryanair flight in Minsk last month. The dissident journalist who was on that plane has made another appearance on state-controlled media where

critics say he was clearly under duress. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin. Fred, what can you tell us?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Hala, well, look, that video certainly is very difficult to watch. And we have to

warn our viewers some of the images that we're showing could be quite disturbing. You know, at one point in that interview, Roman Protasevich,

he's talking to the interviewer and he lifts up his hands, and you can see that there's marks on his wrists which seem to come from having had

handcuffs on, obviously, before he would have been led into that interview room.

Now, in the interview itself, he essentially said that he was repenting, he said that he would no longer conduct any political activism. He said that

he was pleading guilty to stoking some of the protests that have obviously been going on in Belarus.

He then essentially also said that he respected Alexander Lukashenko; the Belarusian dictator. Obviously, the Belarusian opposition in large parts of

the international community not buying that at all. You've already had condemnation coming from Germany, that called the interview disgraceful,

from the United Kingdom, they called the interview disturbing.

And the opposition leader, the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, she came out today in Warsaw and she demanded tougher

sanctions against the Belarusian regime. And of course, there are some new sanctions that went into place yesterday with the U.S. sanctioning nine-

state owned Belarusian companies. Well, Belarus is reacting and they are now downsizing the personnel that the U.S. is allowed to have at the

embassy in Minsk, and that includes both technical and diplomatic personnel. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Fred, thanks very much. The head of the Catholic Church in Germany has asked the Pope to accept his resignation over the church's

abuse scandal. Cardinal Reinhard Marx now says he in fact shares responsibility in the crisis. Why? For staying silent, he says and failing

to act. It comes years after a report from Germany's Catholic Church admitted to more than 3,600 cases of child sex abuse by clergy in recent

decades. So why now? Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher has more. Delia?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, this was a surprise. Cardinal Marx is one of the more well-known progressive cardinals in the

Catholic Church. He serves on Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals advising the pope on church reform and unlike other resignations over sexual abuse,

this one doesn't seem to have been prompted by any personal allegations against the cardinal. Cardinal Marx says he is offering his resignation as

Archbishop of Munich to Pope Francis to take his share of responsibility for what he calls the catastrophe of sexual abuse.


He says the Catholic Church is at a dead-end and he hopes that his offer of resignation might be part of a turning point. He said the Pope told him t

remain in the position until he decides whether or not to accept the resignation.

We should point out that the move comes as the cardinal's own arch diocese of Munich is expecting later this year a report on their handling of the

sex abuse crisis. The cardinal made reference to that in his statement to the press today, saying that although there may be things in that report

that he will have to answer for, that is not a reason for his resignation.

So, it seems to be more of a symbolic gesture particularly to help the church in Germany which like in so many countries is still dealing with the

fallout of how church leadership handled sexual abuse cases. We should note that even if Pope Francis does accept his resignation as the archbishop of

Munich, he remains a cardinal and presumably will also continue in his role both at the Vatican and as an influential leader in the Catholic Church in

Germany. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Delia, thanks very much. Demonstrators have gathered in the streets of Hong Kong to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square

Massacre. Many people showed up even though police had banned an annual gathering. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing outside Hong Kong's Victoria Park on a sensitive anniversary. Three hundred to four hundred

police officers have been out in force this day ready to take swift action against any unauthorized protests.

We have learned this early, two people have been arrested including an organizer of the vigil at the Hong Kong Alliance. She was arrested earlier

today for publicizing the unauthorized vigil on her Facebook page. For two years in a row now, the Hong Kong police have banned the once annual

Tiananmen vigil here in Hong Kong citing coronavirus restrictions.

On Thursday, Hong Kong reported only one imported case of the virus. Now, up until the year 2020, of over 30 years, this field here in Victoria Park

would be filled with tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of vigil participants holding candles, and in that candle light, creating this

sea of flickering light. That scene obviously not happening this year.

Last year, the vigil was also banned, police citing coronavirus restrictions, a number of people participated any way. Twenty four pro-

democracy activist, they were arrested in August, among them, high profile activist Joshua Wong. In fact, last month, he was sentenced additional 10

months in prison for his involvement in that vigil.

Many people here despite the ban are still choosing to remember Tiananmen, but in more private, more intimate ways. Attending a vigil at church,

lighting a candle at home or as you've seen earlier this evening, people wearing black shirts and walking around the perimeter of the park holding

white flowers.

GORANI: Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You'll remember this scene from about a year ago. The toppled statue of a man who traded enslaved people is

now on display at an English museum. You'll remember it because it was this statue, Edward Colston, it was pulled down last year by Black Lives Matter

activist who graffitied it and just went ahead and threw it in the river.

After it was recovered, the M Shed Museum in Bristol decided to temporarily put it on display along with protest signs to start a conversation around

that emblem itself, the Edward Colston statue. There it is.

Still to come, the FBI director is issuing a stunning new assessment of the challenges the U.S. is facing as cyber agents step up their attacks. He's

likening it to 9/11. Plus, Russia says it has the safest and most effective vaccine out there. So, why have they not vaccinated more than 10 percent of

their own population?



GORANI: There is growing alarm at the top levels of the U.S. government following a spate of high profile ransomware attacks. In an interview with

The Wall Street Journal FBI Chief, Christopher Wray, made a sobering assessment comparing the challenge of confronting these attacks to the

terrorism faced by the U.S. after 911.

He says, "There are a lot of parallels, there is a lot of importance and a lot of focus by the U.S. on -- by us on disruption and prevention. There's

a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies, but across the private sector. And even the average American. The scale of the problem

is one that I think the country has to come to terms with."

CNN's Alex Marquardt is live in Washington with the very latest. First explain what these ransomware attacks are, how disruptive they are, and who

was was targeted.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on a very basic level, Hala, it's important to remind our viewers what they are. Ransomware attacks are when

criminal gangs will target an organization or a company, and essentially hold its network a ransom or for -- or hostage and demand money -- payments

in return. We have seen that here in the United States with two very prominent attacks recently, the first one on the Colonial Pipeline last

month that resulted in a surge in gas prices and long lines at gas stations. The company ended up paying $4.4 million in ransom.

The second one was just this week, JBS Foods, the biggest food processor in the world, a production company, and their operations were taken offline

for a couple days. So now what you're hearing from Wray, that the comparison that he's making is that he's trying to get Americans to

understand how severe, how significant these types of attacks can be on a country and its critical infrastructure. He knows how harmful they can be,

and in fact that they can hurt people. So he really wants people to understand that.

We have heard increasing urgency from the Biden administration. They are treating this as an urgent national security priority. They issued a pretty

exceptional letter yesterday, calling on companies around the country to harden and modernize their cybersecurity defenses.

And they say that they are going on the offensive, to try to disrupt these ransomware networks that come from overseas, try to track their money,

which is often in cryptocurrency, and to try to band together with other countries with allies to hold countries like Russia to account for

harboring cyber criminals like this.

So, this is certainly something that is going to come up in the summits -- summit between Presidents Putin and Biden in just under two weeks time in

Geneva, because so many of these ransomware attacks come from Russia. So now you see this string of attacks from Russia, both from government

hackers, as well as criminal hackers. And very quickly after the JBS food attack this week, the Biden administration called out, Moscow saying

responsible countries don't harbor attackers like this.


Essentially, the Biden administration is saying that Russia is tacitly approving of attacks like this. So it is certainly something that is going

to come up in Geneva, Hala.

GORANI: Well, we do have Russian reaction, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, Chizhov spoke to CNN today, was asked about the accusation

that Russia is harboring some of these ransomware attackers. This was his response, Alex.


VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: I would not exclude the possibility of certain criminal elements being active in Russia. But I'm

being an optimist, I am sure that they are fewer in numbers than those operating elsewhere, particular in the United States.


GORANI: So the -- Russia is essentially saying, look in your, you know, look in your own backyard, you have criminals holding big corporations to

ransom there.

MARQUARDT: Yes, it's really no surprise, is it? The question is to what extent the Kremlin and the Russian leadership is aware of these criminals.

And when you speak with cybersecurity experts, they say that whether they are or not, they certainly have the capacity to. And when you look at,

again, where these attacks are emanating from, so many of them are coming from Russia while very few of them are being directed at Russia.

I was speaking with a cybersecurity expert yesterday who said that they have monitored cyber criminals who will sense whether a system has Russian

keyboards attached to it and avoid those networks, so it really does tell you something. Chris Wray, the FBI Director, to bring it back to him, he

echoed the statements from the Biden administration saying that Russia really does need to look inwards. And question its harboring of these.

We did hear from the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov who called Wray's comments emotional. He says they have nothing to do with the real state of

affairs, Hala.

GORANI: Yes. Thanks very much, Alex Marquardt. So much conflict going on there in cyberspace now. Thanks.

The gunmen who abducted close to 150 children from a school in Nigeria have reportedly demanded a ransom. The school's head teacher says he was able to

actually speak with the abductors. He says they told him if they didn't receive more than $400,000 by Thursday afternoon local time, they would

start killing the students. There's no word on whether the threat was carried out. Imagine though the parents. Stephanie Busari has this story.


STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cries of anguish speak louder than any words. Once again, a classroom in Nigeria is empty. The children who sat

here are gone, held captive by gunmen who abducted them on Sunday. More than 150 children and teachers are believed missing, some as young as four

years old. Some who narrowly avoided capture are now telling their stories.


SANUSI MUSTAPHA, STUDENT WHO ESCAPED ABDUCTION: Myself and other students run into an office and locked ourselves inside. The people started banging

on the school gate that we have already locked up everywhere and we asked the pupils to lay down on the floor.


BUSARI: Please call the abductors who did this "armed bandits." What they're after is money, ransom. And to get it, they smash their ways with a

small Islamic school in Tagina Town, Niger State. They led the children away into the bush. Eleven were later left behind, deemed too young and

feeble for the arduous journey ahead, the government says. Days later, the attack feels close at heart.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So sorry for what happened. Sorry for what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never expected that. And I don't pray for even my enemy to experience this pain.



BUSARI: The school's headmaster says the abductors have been calling him regularly.


ABUBAKAR NGARBA ALHASSAN, HEAD TEACHER: some of them, even they don't have food to eat. They are giving them this granite cake that is (INAUDIBLE)

that's what they are giving them. They are giving them like one or two. And the toddlers, they are very, very sick.


BUSARI: Kidnapping for ransom is now a familiar tale in Nigeria. Just this year, the authorities say an estimated thousand children have been

abducted. The Niger State government says it's trying to beef up security at schools. Already, the Tagina Town captors have threatened to start

executing children if the ransom is unpaid, and sending bodies back to the head teacher. While parents wait in agony, unsure if they will ever see

their children again. Stephanie Busari, CNN, Nigeria.


GORANI: Just basically pure evil. Still to come tonight, an opposition leader in Nicaragua is under house arrest.


Was she posing too great of a political threat to President Daniel Ortega? That's what some critics are saying. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Nicaragua -- Nicaraguan presidential hopeful, Cristiana Chamorro, is under house arrest, putting her presidential bid into question. She's

been charged with money laundering, which she denies. The opposition leader was likely the only candidate to challenge the president, Daniel Ortega,

who's seeking a fourth term in office. Details from CNN's Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a sudden operation. Police in riot gear violently pushed away journalists covering a rave at the home of an

opposition presidential candidate in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.

At the other end of the block, officers were executing a search warrant at the home of Cristiana Chamorro, an independent presidential candidate who,

at the end of the day, was placed under house arrest. The show of force against the opposition candidate, then the journalists, come only five

months before Nicaragua holds presidential elections.

Nicaragua strong man, Daniel Ortega, is seeking a fourth consecutive term. The 75-year-old former revolutionary leader has governed the Central

American country since 2007. And previously ruled the nation between 1979 and 1990, the last five years, as an elected president.

The opposition claims Ortega, who has a strong hold on all government institutions, is targeting the independent press and trying to silence the

only other alternative candidate so that he has a clear path to reelection. "This is obviously a political act against a candidate who has plenty of

support among the people," this opposition activist says. It seems like they're afraid of what people and democracy have to say.

Chamorro, the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, a journalist murdered in the '70s during the dictatorship

of Anastasio Somoza before Ortega came to power is facing money laundering charges stemming from her role as director of the free press and human

rights foundation named after her mother. But in an interview with CNN, the 67-year-old denied the charges and said it's all one intimidation efforts

straight from Ortega, whom she says leads an atrocious dictatorship.


"What we want is to eradicate the dictatorship to establish democracy and to give freedom to the Nicaraguan people," Chamorro said. U.S. Secretary of

State, Antony Blinken, told CNN in a visit to Costa Rica, Nicaragua's southern neighbor, that Chamorro detention and recent actions by the

government of Nicaragua concern not only the United States, but also its neighbors.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been very disturbed by the steps that Nicaragua has taken backward, not forward, in terms of putting

in place what is necessary for free and fair elections.


ROMO: Meanwhile, Nicaragua's Attorney General's Office is asking that Chamorro be disqualified from running for office and that she remain in

detention, which would almost guarantee that Ortega remains in power. Rafael Romo, CNN.


GORANI: People in Mexico go to the polls Sunday to vote for members of Congress and local officials. This election is seen as a key test of how

Mexicans think President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is doing and it comes at a time when some fear he's taking steps to quash democracy. Matt Rivers

is in Mexico City.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO for short, a man who, depending on who you ask, is either a

demagogue or a deity. Plenty here love him. His consistently high approval ratings built on a folksy image and champion of the poor, bashing Mexico's

elite and promising a redistribution of wealth.

"We said even before taking office that a transformation was needed to reverse Mexico's breakdown," he said. And the way he wants to solve

Mexico's myriad problems is by centralizing power in the presidency. Mexico's democratic institutions are so broken, his argument goes, that

only he and his party can be trusted to fix things. Disagree, and you're the enemy.

Among the independent institutions or groups that AMLO has attacked recently, the judiciary, independent election officials, the central bank,

a government transparency database, opposition candidates, the free press, feminists, and green energy supporters. If that all sounds strikingly

familiar to the playbook of a recent U.S. president, well, it is, and yet the Biden administration has stayed very quiet about AMLO's assaults on

Mexican democracy.

A few hours ahead of a virtual meeting last month with Vice President Kamala Harris, AMLO accused the U.S. of "Promoting coup plotters" because

the U.S. provides some funding for a Mexican anti-corruption group that's been critical of AMLO, at least in public. Harris didn't take the bait.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: This partnership, I believe, couldn't be more important today. Our nations face serious challenges.


RIVERS: Challenges like migration, as hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S. border pose a big problem for the U.S. Some believe

staying quiet on democratic abuses helps ensure AMLO's cooperation in one key area.


JORGE CASTANEDA, FORMER MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER: keeping the Central Americans out, basically doing the United States dirty work for it. I think

that's -- that was Trump's quid pro quo. And for all appearances, its Biden's quid pro quo.


RIVERS: At least for now. The Biden ministration might be waiting to see what happens on June 6th, when Mexico's midterm elections will help decide

if MORENA, AMLO's most political party, wins super majorities in Congress, that could mean pushing through constitutional reforms, and might even

include extending AMLO's time in office.


CASTANEDA: this kind of power grab, this kind of concentration of power in a country like Mexico can only lead to economic collapse, to further

violence, to further corruption.

RIVERS: All of which are things the U.S. does not want on its southern border. Now experts have told me they do expect the U.S. to raise these

concerns publicly and maybe even use economic leverage to push AMLO in a more democratic direction. The big question is if AMLO's party does really

well in these midterm elections, does that make him less willing to listen to what the U.S. has to say? Matt rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

GORANI: A lot more to come. Our CNN correspondent goes underwater to show us a bacterial soup that's killing life there. Why, oh, it doesn't bode

well for humans. And also why we, surprise, surprise, are to blame, again. We'll be right back.



GORANI: A warning, what you see in the next story might not sit well with you if you're having dinner, but what you're about to learn might upset you

even more. CNN's Arwa Damon took a dive under the waters of the Dardanelles Strait in Turkey to show us something called mucilage. It's a slimy soup of

bacteria that's killing coral and sea life. And guess what? We, humans, are to blame. Take a look.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Something is very wrong. An alien-like web of slime is choking off all forms of life in the water here. From above, it

looks like streaks of paint. It's like thinking through what our future will look like if nothing changes, if we continue to pollute our waters and

allow our planet to warm. It's known as sea snot. In science speak. Marine mucilage and it has happened here before but never like this. Getting

sucked into the gills of fish, wrapping itself around corals, suffocating them.

We're in the DARDANELLES STRAIT that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean. Associate Professor, Baris Ozalp, is a coral expert who has been

diving these waters for more than a decade. This coral, it's dead. Another one dying. This one threatened. He points to a healthy sponge. And right

next to it, he wipes the mucilage coating off a dead one.

Back on board, the gravity of what we witnessed sets in. Professor Ozalp says he and other scientists first observed mucilage in these waters in



DAMON: Is this the first year where you've seen mucilage killing coral and sea life?

BARIS OZALP, MARINE BIOLOGIST & CORAL EXPERT: Yes, yes. Of course we feel very bad. Because, you know, during our childhood, this ecosystem is -- was

a rich ecosystem, even one year ago, you know. They're healthy. They were healthy, you know, one year ago. Now it's bad.


DAMON: A year ago, this is what the underwater life looked like here. This is the exact same spot today. Professor Muhammet Turkoglu, a planktologist,

takes a surface sample. He describes mucilage as a dense organic soup, mostly made up of bacteria and phytoplanktons mucus secretions.


DAMON: So what am I looking at right here?


This little guy is just one of the phytoplankton species that Turkogluu says is one ingredient in that deadly nastiness underwater.


"The Sea of Marmara is just like a Coronavirus patient who has been intubated," Professor Turkoglu explains, "Because the oxygen at the greater

depths is almost completely depleted. It's close to zero." Professor Ozalp slides his hand underneath the blanket of thick mucilage on the sea floor.

Not only does this suffocate everything, but it also steals the oxygen at these depths as it decomposes, creating dead zones. But phytoplankton is

one of the linchpins of life on the planet. It's not the villain here.

The imbalance that caused all of this, us, humans, our pollution. It causes an excess of nutrients in the water that acts as a catalyst for massive

blooms, as does the manmade climate crisis that we have failed to prevent or even slow down. Water temperatures here have increased by two degrees in

the last 50 years, says Professor Bayram Ozturk who studies the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity.


DAMON: When you look at this, what do you think?

BAYRAM OZTURK, TURKISH MARINE RESEARCH FOUNDATION: I think its nature spitting in our faces, simply, and this is ecologically catastrophic, but

not only in the Sea of Marmara. this is a transponder issue.


DAMON: Experts say this year's mucilage is all across the waters, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Basin, one of the world's most climate

vulnerable areas. The experts we spoke to fear the currents are not strong enough to dislodge the mucilage. It's too dense. It's not just a turkey

problem. This is symptomatic of the lack of global leadership and consensus when it comes to saving our planet.

The marine life here is asphyxiating. Their habitat is being destroyed, and their fate could well become ours. Arwa Damon CNN, the Dardanelles Strait,



GORANI: All right. Thanks for watching tonight, I'm Hala Gorani. If it's your weekend, have a great one. I'll see you same time, same place on

Monday. Do stay with CNN. A lot more ahead. "Quest Means Business" is coming your way.