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Hala Gorani Tonight

U.S. Announces Diplomatic Boycott Of Beijing Olympics; Hundreds Of Omicron Variant Cases Reported In Europe; Jail Sentence For Aung San Suu Kyi Draws International Outrage; At Least 22 Dead After Mount Semeru Eruption; Three More Hostages Freed, Twelve Others Remain In Captivity In Haiti; Official: China May Soon Overtake U.S. In Space Capabilities." Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 06, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade live from Atlanta. We begin with breaking news out of the White House. The

Biden administration will not send any diplomats or officials to the Beijing Winter Olympic games. The games is set to begin in just 59 days.

And the move is meant to send a message to China about its human rights record. Biden will still allow American athletes to compete in the games.

White House Press Secretary announced the diplomatic boycott just a short while ago.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of

the PRC's egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang. And we simply can't do that. As the president has told President Xi, standing up

for human rights is in the DNA of Americans. We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights, and we feel strongly in our position.

And we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond.


KINKADE: Well, China slammed the move even before it happened, calling it politically manipulative. The warning that Beijing would take resolute

counter-measures. We're joined now by CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan in Washington D.C. as well as CNN's David Culver, who is in Shanghai,


I'll start with you Christine, because it's less than nine weeks before Beijing was set to become the first city in the world to host both a Summer

and Winter Olympics games. And now we have the Biden administration announcing this diplomatic boycott. So, no U.S. officials will attend, but

athletes will still allowed to compete.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: That's correct, Lynda. And I think this is exactly what the Biden administration should be doing, and I don't

think they'll be alone. I'm sure other countries will -- obviously allies will follow suit. This is symbolic. The delegation, I'm sure many people

are saying, what is this delegation? What does this look like? Well, for example, in 2008, the Summer Olympics in Beijing, George W. Bush, the

president, led the delegation. And what it is, is a couple of days of meet and greet, waving the flag, red, white, and blue, meeting the athletes.

You'll remember that President Bush met with Michael Phelps, he was at the swimming venue one day. Other Olympics, it has been a first lady, a vice

president -- it was Vice President Pence back in 2018 leading the delegation. It was Dr. Jill Biden leading the delegation in Tokyo just a

few months ago. It can be presidential children, and it can be the ambassador and maybe some fellow athletes, Olympic athletes from the past.

It is symbolic. And the key thing, of course, here, Lynda and David, is that no athletes are involved.

In other words, the U.S. athletes will be there doing what they do best and also having the chance to speak out about human rights violations as well

as represent the country and of course themselves in sports competition.

KINKADE: David, I want to go to you on the diplomatic reasons for this boycott because it stems from China being accused of systematic oppression

using rape, organ harvesting, the U.S., of course, being the first country to condemn China for genocide in Xinjiang.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, add to that what the U.S. believes to be more than a million Uyghur Muslims to have been detained in that far

western region, a region that we've travelled to, Lynda, and we've covered firsthand the family separations that were also taking place here. So,

there's a range of issues with Xinjiang alone, and an area that now is facing these widespread human rights allegations.

But expand from there, and there are several other issues that are facing right now China in the midst of hosting these games in less than two

months. You've got concern with what's happening in Tibet, with Hong Kong, the crackdown on pro-democracy protests there with Taiwan and the growing

pressure on that self-governing democracy, not to mention concerns over COVID-19 and its origins and early mishandling. And now the most recent,

tennis star Peng Shuai and her disappearance, resurfacing, what's believed to have been maybe coerced and rehearsed.


There's a lot that's facing China in the midst of all of this. As Christine mentioned though, it may be more damaging, this diplomatic boycott though

versus say an entire boycott because you're still going to have U.S. athletes and athletes from all over the world traveling right here to

China's mainland, and when they're here, they're going to potentially speak out on some of these issues.

Now IOC has some regulations to prohibit that for example on the podium, but if they're going to have one-on-one interviews with foreign media, they

can say whatever they want. China cannot control that narrative. And that's really concerning and potentially very damaging to the PRC. So, that's

something that they're going to be watching very closely and to see how they could potentially react ahead of it with this, what they consider to

be counter-measures that are going to be resolute.

Now, what does that look like, Lynda? We don't know. But it's unlikely that they're going to do something that then the U.S. would have to escalate

things and respond to even a stronger stance. One thing, if we look at the symbolism in all of this, as Christine mentioned, it's highly symbolic to

have that delegation ahead of the games. Well, the day after these games end on February 21st, you're looking at what would be the 50th anniversary

of the Nixon-China visit.

So, they were hoping, Chinese officials, that is, that perhaps there would have been some sort of capstone event to maybe even welcome a presidential

visit. Well, this rules out all of that.

KINKADE: Yes, it certainly does. You raised some really good points there. Now, I want to go back to Christine, because Lithuania said on Friday that

it too would boycott the games. Could we see other countries follow suit? Because this isn't the first time Olympic games has sort of faced a boycott

like this.

BRENNAN: Well, that's correct. Certainly, there was a lot of conversation in '08. That is, of course, the most parallel situation, Lynda, to have

some kind of a diplomatic boycott. The president at the time, George Bush, did receive criticism for going to China. And my sense would be other

nations would follow along with the president and the United States. Again, we're talking a diplomatic boycott, not an athlete boycott. The last time

we saw that, it was devastating to the athletes and frankly, it didn't work.

Eighty Olympics Summer games in Moscow where the U.S. led the boycott and then Soviets returned the favor in 1984 and Los Angeles boycotting those

games, and most of the eastern bloc is not there. So, it just hurts the athletes, and the athletes, as David was saying, it can make such an

incredible statement. They've got a platform that they'll never have otherwise.

And there is -- there are questions about could the Chinese do more? Could they say, well, we're not going to let U.S. athletes into the Olympics,

say. No one is saying that, but that is a hypothetical. I've been asked that question in the last couple of hours. The International Olympic

Committee controls the Olympic games. There is no way on earth that the International Olympic Committee does not want the United States and its

television dollars at those Olympic games, not to mention the athletes.

So, China may want to throw something back at the United States, but it's limited because it does not actually control the Olympic games. That is the

International Olympic Committee that has the controlling credentialing, controlling all of the actual events, and they work in concert with China.

But the IOC will have a major say in this. And that's why I'm sure they're very concerned today, but also they are not going to kick out U.S.

athletes. No way, no how.

KINKADE: Yes, I want to ask David a little bit more on that, what potential counter-measures we could see from China. Because China already said that

the U.S. is grand standing, and that it would respond with some sort of counter measure. What could that entail?

CULVER: Yes, perhaps, this would be, for example, if the U.S. were to lead some sort of international event or have some sort of global summit or

meeting. Chinese officials would decline attending that, for example. In the immediacy, it's not clear what they would do because what you don't

want to see happen here -- certainly, the Chinese don't want to see this -- is for example, if they -- if they go after U.S. diplomats here in China

and create heavier restrictions or if they go after journalists, which they've done with our visas before.

That would then enact reciprocity on the part of the U.S., the U.S. would then counter that and would put in those same regulations and restrictions,

and that would put them both really in a very difficult position. So, it is very unlikely that we would see it escalate to that nature. But you can see

something that will perhaps be very symbolic. The other issue that they're facing here, Lynda, is that they don't want to widely publicize this U.S.

boycott diplomatically playing out right now because they have been holding back even on Chinese social media from allowing that to be searched.

They've censored it. They scrubbed it. They blocked it because what happens when you search that? Well, it raises more questions as to the why? Why are

U.S. officials not coming? Then it opens up the concerns of human rights, a dialogue they don't want to happen here.

KINKADE: All right, David Culver, Christine Brennan, this story is not going to go away. We will be discussing it no doubt more in the coming

weeks. Good to have you both with us. Thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

CULVER: Thanks.


KINKADE: Well, new protests, new provisions, and new positive infections. To the impact the Omicron variant is having across the planet. Hundreds of

new cases are being reported in Europe, and Britain is among countries timing restrictions. From tomorrow, inbound travelers will have to take a

COVID test before departing, whatever their vaccination status. And tens of thousands of people protested over the weekend against restrictions in


While at least 20 arrests were made in Brussels when violence broke out at a demonstration. Well, South Africa's president says the Omicron variant

appears to be dominating new infections there, but the hospital where it was detected says most patients are not dependent on extra oxygen. Well,

South Africa is taking no chances. Our Larry Madowo is in Johannesburg while our Ben Wedeman has the picture for us from Rome. Good to have you

both with us. I want to start with you first, Ben.

So, we've got new travel restrictions in several European countries as these cases surge. Tell us about Italy's COVID travel pass.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we have introduced today is the new super green pass, which means that if you have

not been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19, you will not be able to enter bars, restaurants, discos, various other public venues. Now,

this is just short of the sort of vaccine mandate that Austria, for instance, is going to introduce in February, but not much short of it.

In fact, this is intended to make the lives of those who don't want to get vaccinated increasingly complicated and difficult. Now, some people have

tried to get around these increasingly stringent rules in Italy. There's one man, for instance, who tried to get vaccinated in a silicon fake arm.

But obviously, the nurses, the doctors, they're administering hundreds of vaccines a day. They weren't fooled. The Italian police weren't fooled.

This man is now being investigated for fraud. And it reminds us of what Albert Einstein said, "there are two things that are infinite, the universe

and human stupidity."


KINKADE: Very good point, Ben. Larry, I want to go to you because we are getting some more data out, very early days obviously since the discovery

of this new Omicron variant. But what is that new clinical data showing in South Africa where this variant was discovered?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lynda, it seems to confirm what scientists already believe, that this Omicron variant might be more transmissible but

less severe. That is, that it might spread more easily from person-to- person, but it does not necessarily lead to severe cases, so, not hospitalization, and not death.

In Tswana, in -- which is part of this Gauteng Province, the epicenter of the outbreak really. In two hospitals where the variant was first

discovered, they're saying that 70 percent of the patients are not oxygen- dependent and they're staying in hospitals for a shorter period, just 2.8 days on average compared to about 8.5 days 18 months ago.

So, those are both positive signs and a guide for other public health experts around the world. However, cases are still surging in this country.

In the last 24 hours, 26.4 percent of tests turned out positive. And that's compared to two weeks ago where the positivity rate in South Africa was

just 2 percent. So, that's how quickly it has risen. Here's how one expert explained that to CNN.


SALIM ABDOOL KARIM, AFRICAN TASK FORCE FOR CORONAVIRUS: What we have found is that the Omicron variant is at a -- is doubling faster than any of the

three previous waves. What we have is that in Omicron, over the first seven days, the doubling time is 1.5 days. In other words, the epidemic is

getting twice as many cases every day and a half.


MADOWO: And that is why South Africa is encouraging people who are still not vaccinated, who are hesitant, to get vaccinated because that is one way

to protect themselves. And the government is considering a vaccine mandate, making it mandatory to get vaccinated, to get public services, maybe even

to get on public transport. There's no decision on that yet. However, some major South African companies are going ahead and doing exactly that for

their staff.

The latest one is MTN, a major telco here that would require from January all employees to get their vaccination card or they will get fired. Similar

companies of that size have done so, Old Mutual and Standard Bank, Discovery, it's a controversial topic here, but one way to try and drive up

those numbers that are so badly needed to achieve herd immunity here, Lynda.


KINKADE: Yes, certainly a controversial move. But we are seeing those mandates more and more in countries around the world. Larry Madowo and Ben

Wedeman, good to have you both with us, thank you. Well, starting today, anyone flying to the U.S. from abroad will need to test for COVID within

one day of departure. And it doesn't matter your nationality or your vaccination status. The new rule applies to everyone according to the White

House plan.

It's a tighter testing timeline than before, and officials are not ruling out tougher restrictions as they wait to learn more about the Omicron

variant. Well, Pete Muntean is at Washington Dulles Airport and joins us now live. And Pete, so anyone flying into the U.S. no matter their

vaccination status now need a negative COVID test before they can board their flight. Does that apply to all ages?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: All ages, essentially anyone over the age of 2, and it also applies to those who are foreign nationals and

U.S. citizens. You know, these rules just went into effect on the East Coast at midnight, so about 14 hours ago. So, flights that are in the air

right now are among the first that will have to jump through these new hoops. Passengers coming into the United States now need to get tested for

coronavirus one day before their flight.

And the CDC puts the example like this. If your flight is on a Monday, you need to get tested any time on the day before, Sunday. So, it's not a 24-

hour rule. It's a one-day rule. You also need to show proof of that negative coronavirus test to your airline, this is regardless of

vaccination status. And the CDC said it really tightened this timeline. It was a three-day requirement, now a one-day requirement because of those new

fears over the new Omicron variant. Airlines say they are going to comply with this. They are going to be checking those records.

But they really pushed back on the efficacy of new travel restrictions. This is what United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told me.


SCOTT KIRBY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, UNITED AIRLINES: And the reality is Omicron is already out of South Africa. It's already escaped. It's on every

continent. COVID is unique. COVID is endemic. We need to learn to live with it. But we're not going to learn to live with it by simply locking down and

shutting borders. The right answer is to get everyone vaccinated.


MUNTEAN: Another huge change to the federal transportation-wide mask mandate here in the United States was set to expire on January 18th. Now it

has been extended by two months. The new expiration date, March 18th, 2022. That applies on all forms of public transportation, planes, trains, buses,

boats, and also here in airport terminals, Lynda.

KINKADE: Wow, all right, good to get up to speed on all of that. Pete Muntean, thanks very much. Well, still to come tonight, hundreds of homes

destroyed, thousands of people displaced. We're going to get the latest from Indonesia after the devastating eruption of Mount Semeru.



KINKADE: Welcome back. The conviction of Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is drawing international condemnation and outrage today with

critics calling it a blatant violation of human rights and affront of democracy and justice. According to Myanmar's sentence, the noble laureate

and other former officials to years in jail. CNN's Ivan Watson reports.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A military-run court in Myanmar sentenced two democratically-elected leaders, the de facto leader of

Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi and the President Win Myint to four years in prison on charges of incitement and flouting COVID-19 protocols. This came

ten months after both leaders were detained after a military coup swept their government from power. Hours later, the general who proclaimed

himself ruler of the country removed half of their sentence.

The sentencing has been denounced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, by the U.K. Foreign Office, by the United Nations High

Commissioner for Human Rights and by a spokesperson for the Myanmar opposition in exile. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole world knows that there's no rule of law, there's no justice, there's no accountability under the watch of this

murderer-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing and his army in Myanmar. Every day, they are destroying our freedom, our democracy, our hope, and all of

our dreams.

WATSON: Aung San Suu Kyi also faces ten additional criminal charges, and if she is found guilty, these charges range from election fraud to also

allegedly importing illegally and then using walkie-talkies. She is 76 years old and could potentially spend the rest of her life in detention.

Meanwhile, the country continues to descend into what some argue is civil war, with widespread violence between people who are increasingly

mobilizing into armed resistance groups against the security forces, and a very disturbing incident that was caught on camera in the commercial

capital Yangon on Sunday where you had peaceful protesters walking down the streets, and then a vehicle, a truck, normally operated by the security

forces, plowing into these people.

The U.S. Embassy in Yangon, the U.N. office, have condemned this attack where they say five people were killed, and allegedly security forces then

opened fire on the protesters and then detained a number of them. Also the country descending into deeper and deeper economic crisis with the World

Bank projecting that the economy in Myanmar will contract by some 18 percent in 2021. And the number of people living below the poverty line is

expected to more than double. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


KINKADE: My next guest says today's court proceedings should not be confused with an actual trial. He calls it theater of the absurd. Tom

Andrews is the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, former U.S. Congressman is joining us from Virginia. Good to have you with us?

TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MYANMAR: Thank you so much, Lynda, good to be with you.

KINKADE: So, Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years, it was reduced to two years, but she still faces almost a dozen other charges. You say

today's proceedings should not be confused with an actual trial. Just how absurd is all of this?

ANDREWS: Well, it is completely absurd. I mean, for example, it is a crime in Myanmar to say anything critical of the military junta, because

according to them and their penal code, that, by definition, upsets public tranquility. And therefore, you are a criminal and you should be arrested.

There are literally thousands and thousands of people who have been arrested for basic crimes such as exercising their basic humans rights,

journalists for doing their job, healthcare workers for doing their jobs.

So, this is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice that is widespread across the country, not only incarcerating thousands of people who are

charged with these so-called crimes, but also, if they can't find the people who they are charging, they are now locking up their relatives,

mothers, fathers, daughters, sons.


So, even people who they admit are not guilty of any crime or even charged with a crime are in prison right now, are being held hostage by this

illegal regime.

KINKADE: And it's not just people being arrested, we are seeing protesters lose their lives. Just even on the weekend, we saw at least five killed

when a military car plowed into protesters. Certainly, it's pretty dangerous right now for anyone to speak out against the regime.

ANDREWS: No, it's extremely dangerous, which gives you an indication of just how courageous these people are, and just how committed they are to

doing everything that they can to save their country from this illegal junta. It is remarkable. The protests that have been going on since just

about the moment that this nightmare began with the coup in February continues on throughout the country. And there's every indication that

people widespread from every walk of life all over the country will continue to oppose this regime.

KINKADE: Sorry, Tom, what sort of international pressure is needed right now? And how crucial is it to see some sort of unity, especially when you

have countries like China, Myanmar's powerful neighbor, failing to denounce it?

ANDREWS: Well, it's important first of all -- instability is going to impact the entire world, but no group of nations more than the neighbors of

Myanmar. So, it's important for everyone to be joining ranks, if you will, to deal with this crisis for lots and lots of reasons. But the fact is that

those countries who are willing to take steps like impose economic sanctions or stop weapons from going into Myanmar can do so in a much more

focused, strategic, and coordinated way. Right now, there are a number of sanctions, for example, being imposed by a number of countries.

But they're not focused. They don't add up. And they don't target the most serious revenue streams from the junta, namely oil and gas. So, the United

States, U.K., the European Union, Canada, other nations of the world who have -- who are taking steps and who are speaking out against this travesty

can and should be taking coordinated action together to stand up to this monstrous development in Myanmar.

KINKADE: And you talk about some of the sort of sanctions that you would like to see. How soon do you think we'll see that happening? Will these

countries come together, and how soon could those sanctions be implemented?

ANDREWS: Well, it's a very good question, and the frank answer is I don't know. I'm not counting that it's going to happen immediately. I wish it

would. But nations need to recognize that if this kind of coordinated action is not taken, then the kind of travesties that we're seeing unfold

in Myanmar today, including the loss of life of innocent protesters, that is just going to continue to get worse. It's just going to continue to

escalate. And that's going to be a travesty, not only for the people of Myanmar, but for the entire world, and those of us who say that we believe

in human rights and justice.

KINKADE: Right, U.N. special rapporteur Tom Andrews, good to have you with us on the program, we appreciate your time.

ANDREWS: Thanks so much.

KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, at least 22 people are dead after a volcano erupts in Indonesia, I'm going to speak to someone on the

frontlines of that rescue effort. And then freedom for more foreign hostages who were kidnapped in Haiti, but the majority of the missionary

group are apparently still in the hands of a powerful gang.




KINKADE: Welcome back. In Indonesia, at least 22 people have died after Mount Semeru erupted on Saturday. Rescue workers are fighting their way

through debris in search for survivors even as the volcano continues to spew ash. Dozens of people have been hospitalized and thousands remain

displaced CNN's Will Ripley has more.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Terror raining down from 12,000 feet in the shadow of Java Indonesia's tallest volcano. Once bustling villages buried

in ash.


HOSNIYA, LOCAL RESIDENT (through translator): "At first I thought it was a bomb explosion and all of a sudden, it was Mount Semeru erupting and

spewing volcanic ashes. Suddenly it was all dark like it was going to destroy the Earth.


RIPLEY: Mount Shapiro's latest eruption turning a sleepy Saturday into a nightmare. Giant mushroom clouds of ash spewing into the sky. Nearby

villages plunged into darkness. More than 1,700 people forced to flee, running from rivers of scathing hot mud called pyroclastic flows, the

deadliest of all volcano hazards sweeping victims away lost in the dense, fast-moving flow of hardened lava, volcanic ash, and hot gas.


BUNADI, SURVIVOR AND LOCAL RESIDENT (through translator): Locals here thought it was just usual floods. We did not know it was hot mud. All of a

sudden, the sky turned dark as rains and hot smoke came. Thankfully, it was raining so we could breathe.


RIPLEY: Homes, lives, livelihoods gone in a flash.


FADLY TAHA, SURVIVOR AND LOCAL RESIDENT (through translator): It was less than 10 minutes while I was running away. I heard that my phone was buried

with the lava and only the roof was left. I had around 10 livestock that were also buried by lava. But I feel lucky that my family and I are safe

now because the lava can all of a sudden.


RIPLEY: The number of dead rising, many still missing, dozens injured, some covered in Burns. Indonesia's President, Joko Widodo, ordering a rapid

emergency response, money and temporary housing, more manpower to search for survivors.

Rescuers desperately digging, sometimes with bare hands, their search hampered by heavy wind and rain. Damage to a crucial bridge cutting off

some hard hit areas. Panicked relatives waiting at hospitals for good news that rarely comes. Volunteers facing danger keep going.


LISWANTO, HEAD OF MT. SEMERU VOLCANO OBSERVATORY CENTER (through translator): The status of Mount Semeru is still at level two, which means

at this level, the people must be vigilant because the potential threat is still there.


RIPLEY: Indonesia sits on the Ring of Fire. Eruptions are a part of life. But for those in the path of Mount Semeru's fury, this kind of devastation

turns life upside down. Will Ripley, CNN.


KINKADE: Well, on the frontlines, all the rescue effort is my next guest, Jan Gelfand. Good to have you with us.

JAN GELFAND, HEAD, RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES IN INDONESIA: Thank you very much, Lynda. Thanks for having me.

KINKADE: And now Jan, you are, of course, the Head of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Indonesia. You're in Jakarta now, but you've got

volunteer staff working through the night.


Explain the latest on the ground right now.

GELFAND: Well, yes, we work through the Indonesian Red Cross here that has over 100 people that are in the region. They've been working in

coordination with the government, with other organizations. It's a well- coordinated effort to try to find as many people as possible to look for survivors. That's the focus now, but there's still, as your report just

prior to the interview, showed so and explained so well, there's thousands of people that have been displaced.

So right now, we're just trying to make sure that people have health care, which they need, first Aid, the burns are terrible that people are

suffering, that they have shelter, water, food, the Indonesian Red Cross is feeding about 2,000 families every day, we've got all-terrain vehicles,

because it's so hard to get into some areas, water trucks, all the things that you think you would have, but volcanoes are awfully violent as your

images have shown. And so the health issue is very precarious. So, making sure people have masks and all the respiratory illnesses. So it's a grave

situation there.

KINKADE: Yes. I understand nearly 3,000 homes have been impacted, 38 educational facilities, and 1,700 people evacuated to makeshift centers.

You mentioned medical help, food, and shelter. What's most crucial right now? Do you have enough supplies, especially to treat burns victims?

GELFAND: Yes. Well, the -- there's a lot of supplies there to come in. There's been a huge mobilization of different organizations, right from

local, non-governmental organizations, community groups, right to international organizations like ourselves, and the government. The

Indonesian Red Cross has branches all over and they have branches in the districts that were affected and the provinces that were affected. So

things are getting in there.

But infrastructure has been destroyed. And as you said, there's rivers of mud. And it's not easy. It's still dangerous there. It's an active volcano.

There's infrastructure, as I said, bridges are down. COVID is still there, people have to be careful. And so we need to take care of people as the,

you know, the first responders that are going in, but stuff is getting in, communication is being reestablished, but it takes a while to get into some

of the places that are just not accessible still.

KINKADE: Yes. As you mentioned, and as we heard in the report, it's level two, that's a threat right now. So this volcano could start erupting at any

moment, right?

GELFAND: Sure. I mean, you know, I mean, as you said in the report, it's at a high level, people need to be careful. There's a threat of the eruption.

But there's all the other things. I mean, we're in right in the middle of rainy season right now. And that makes the rescue efforts, first of all,

very, very dangerous and hard to get into areas. Because when it rains here, it really rains here. But it also adds the whole, you know,

additional threat of flooding. And so it's a complex situation.

But people are working, people involved in this kind of work don't stop until they, you know, everybody is taken care of as best as they can. And

especially the longer term kind of livelihoods where people lost everything they have, you know.

KINKADE: Yes, exactly. We have been saying vision of rescuers digging through them -- digging through the mud with their bare hands, trying to

find survivors. Just tell us how precarious it is to try and find anyone that might still be missing and do we know how many people are still

unaccounted for?

GELFAND: Well, according to the statistics that we have, there's still 27 People that are unaccounted for. So people are going to keep looking. But I

mean as your images say, where do you even start to look? If people are in mud, I mean, where?

This is -- you saw houses that were completely covered in ash, mud that is, you know, covering cars. So it's so hard to find people. But as I say,

people are not going to stop until, you know, all hope is lost. And that's a hard thing for first responders to admit so that people will keep trying

as hard as they can, including the many volunteers from the Indonesian Red Cross that are from that area themselves.

KINKADE: Very brave people indeed. And, Jan, for people watching that might want to help, what can be done? What can -- how can people help?

GELFAND: Well, I think people can certainly talk to their own Red Cross. I mean, you know, from their national societies of the Red Cross in their own

countries and see if there's ways that they can provide support and certainly those -- their, you know, National Red Crosses know the best kind

of support that can there. But for right now, certainly prayers, and hope, and positive thinking would be, you know, most appreciated, I think, by

everybody that's in that region.


KINKADE: We wish you and all your team out there in the field all the best, Jan Gelfand. Thanks so much for your time.

GELFAND: Thank you kindly.

KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, several more hostages kidnapped by a notorious gang in Haiti have now been released. But concerns are growing

over the fate of those still in captivity. Pope Francis now urging governments to stop ignoring the reality of the migrant crisis. We're going

to hear his call for action.


KINKADE: We are now learning new details about the release of three more hostages in Haiti. A U.S. official telling CNN that two of them are

American, a young child and a mother. They were part of a missionary group abducted back in October by a notorious gang that demanded ransom for their

release. CNN's Matt Rivers has more.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good news out of Haiti Monday morning with Word that three more missionaries kidnapped more than six weeks ago by a

Haitian gang had been released, that includes a mother and her child according to a senior U.S. official. Seventeen people working on behalf of

Christian Aid Ministries were taken at gunpoint back in mid October including sixteen Americans and one Canadian.

In a statement Monday morning, the group said "We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are

safe and seem to be in good spirits. As with the previous release, we are not able to provide the names of the people released, the circumstances of

the release or any other details."

Among the kidnapped were an infant, a 3-year-old, a 6-year-old, and two teenagers. It's unclear which of those children had been released. Two

other hostages, both adults, were released just over two weeks ago, bringing the total to five freed so far. Well, that is undoubtedly good


It also highlights that 12 people remain hostages of the 400 Mawozo gang, the group authorities say is responsible for the kidnapping. One of Haiti's

most powerful, the group has built a reputation recently for violence, using kidnapping as a key way to earn income and terrorize the community it

dominates, a Port-au-Prince suburb called Croix-des-Bouquet.

The gang's leader says "I'm ready to fight with anyone. I don't need many guys with me. Sometimes people kidnap people, take cars and the parents

called me to negotiate. I negotiate and take the money."

Back in October, we spoke to a French priest who'd been kidnapped by that same gang earlier this year who told us about one of the places the gang

held him.


"It was like a dark hole," he says "Like a prison cell, the last place we were in with no windows. At the beginning, they were giving us food once a

day, but by the end, they stopped feeding us. They forced us to go hungry," he said, "Believing it was a negotiation tactic."

This as Haiti's interim government led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been unable to curb swelling gang violence across the country, security

forces at times overmatched by criminal groups. Some have even managed to cut off the flow of fuel into the country in recent months, leading to

critical gasoline shortages nationwide.

A source in Haiti security forces tells CNN that negotiations are ongoing between the gang and Christian Aid Ministries. It's still unclear why five

of the original seventeen were freed, but the hope is that the remaining twelve, still being held hostage, will follow them to freedom soon.


KINKADE: Well, Matt Rivers joins us now live from Mexico City with more. So, Matt, there was so much concern for all these hostages, but especially

the kids because there was an infant, a 3-year-old, a 6-year-old, some teenagers amongst this group. What do we know about the three that have

been released?

RIVERS: Well, as of now, they're keeping those identities very close to the vest, other than saying that it was a mother and a child among the three.

So that is good news. We're not sure if it was the infant, we're not sure if it was the 6-year-old or even one of the teenagers. But we do know that

one of the children has been released.

But that has been one of the overriding concerns from the very beginning, Lynda. I mean, think about those conditions that you just heard the priests

describe there in our piece, and then think about an infant, or a 3-year- old, or a 6-year-old, or even teenagers going through that.

It's hard enough for adults to go through something like that. But that has been the question that we've been asking right from the very beginning. How

are these children holding up? It's an answer we don't have a -- question we don't have an answer to yet. But thankfully, at least one of those

minors have been released.

KINKADE: So at this point in time, 12 out of the 17 remain in captivity, remain hostage. What else are you learning about the negotiations to


RIVERS: Well, we know they're very much ongoing and that they moved a long way from the early days of this, which we were first told that there was a

$1 million per person ransom being talked about by this 400 Mawozo gang.

We know that it has evolved a lot from that with negotiations still involving amounts that, you know, this ministry group would have to pay to

release these hostages. We're not sure exactly if the five that have been freed so far, if any payment was made for their release, and if so how much

that would be, but that's certainly part of these ongoing negotiations.

And Lynda, I might add before we end here, that, you know, this kidnapping issue in Haiti is just horrific. We just got NGO numbers from an NGO-based

out of Port-au-Prince that tracks kidnappings, more than 900 kidnappings have been registered in Haiti from January to the end of November this

year. Only a very small percentage of them are foreigners. And so we -- as we talk about this issue, we should be reminding our viewers that it's

normal, ordinary Haitians that are usually the victims here.

KINKADE: Wow, 900. Incredible figures. We will stay on this story. Matt Rivers, good to have you on and thank you so much.

Well, Pope Francis has returned to Rome after his second trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, a symbol of the migrant crisis in Europe. The pontiff

spoke from a refugee camp there, noticing just how little had changed since his last visit. CNN's Delia Gallagher reports.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With smiles and blessings. Pope Francis greets crowds of refugees on the island of Lesbos, the handshakes and hugs,

a reminder that they are not forgotten. It's the pope's second trip to the island. Greece is one of the main entry points for many migrants from the

Middle East and Africa who are trying to escape violence and poverty.

Hundreds of thousands of people arrived on Lesbos' beaches in 2015 while the number of people here has dropped from about 20,000, last year to under

5,000. Today, the pope continues to call out those countries in Europe and elsewhere, who think this is not their problem.

Speaking in front of a backdrop of containers that refugees call home, the pope called the crisis a shipwreck of civilization, and had especially

stern words for politicians using the plight of the migrants for political purposes.


POPE FRANCIS, HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): It is sad to hear that as a solution, proposals that common funds should be used to

build walls, to build barbed wire. We are in the era of the walls.


GALLAGHER: The Pope's comments come as countries like Poland call for the E.U. to help finance a border wall to stop migrants from the Middle East

from traveling into Poland from Belarus. A political battle playing out across Europe that Pope Francis says ignores the daily struggles of people

in camps like this.


One asylum seeker waiting for a glimpse of the Pope says it's like being stuck in limbo.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are neglected. We have no documents. I gave birth to my baby here. I have a baby who was born here,

but he has no papers.


GALLAGHER: "What future do we want to give to our children?" The Pope asked his hope, and that of many in this camp, is that it will be one of welcome.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Lesbos.


KINKADE: A top U.S. official says China is developing space capabilities much faster than America and could soon take the lead over Washington. The

Vice Chief of Space Operations spoke at a panel of experts moderated by CNN's Kristin Fisher and acknowledged that Washington is competing in a

space race with Beijing. He also had this warning.


GEN. DAVID THOMPSON, VICE CHIEF OF SPACE OPERATIONS, U.S. SPACE FORCE: The fact that in essence, on average, they are building and fielding and

updating their space capabilities at twice the rate we are means that very soon, if we don't start accelerating our development and delivery

capabilities, they will exceed us. They will exceed us and 2030 is not an unreasonable estimate.


KINKADE: We are going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


KINKADE: Well, the waters around the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are home to giants. Manta rays are one of the world's largest fish yet relatively

little is known about them. Anna Stewart has this story. One team trying to change that.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Maldives is an ocean nation. Over a thousand different fish species inhabit this patch of the Indian Ocean

occasionally in significant numbers.


BETH FAULKNER, PROJECT MANAGER, MALDIVIAN MANTA RAY PROJECT: Here in the Maldives, we have the biggest population of manta rays that's ever been

recorded in the world. They've got around 5,100 individuals in the database.


STEWART: Beth Faulkner leads a team of researchers at the Manta Trust, a conservation charity. Six days a week for over half a year, this group

heads out to UNESCO protected Bay in hopes of finding mantas to study. And surprisingly, this weather is the weather they want.


FAULKNER: In the rainy season, you get plankton trapped in the closed end of the beam.


And then the mantas will then come to feed on this plankton that's trapped there. It depends on the currents and the winds so we need them to be

perfect. I don't see any mantas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can see them in the shallows.

FAULKNER: Oh, yes, there are some in the shallows. So we've just arrived Hanifaru Bay. You can see the mantas here on the surface already, so

they're already feeding, which is great for us.


STEWART: As soon as the team spots their subjects, it's time for a closer look.


FAULKNER: Manta rays are really majestic creatures, and they're known as gentle giants so they have no sting, no teeth, nothing they can do to hurt



STEWART: These reef manta rays, which feed on the surrounding particle like plankton, can reach four meters in width and weigh up to 700 kilos. Today,

they're considered a vulnerable species, with the global population decreasing mainly due to habitat degradation.


FAULKNER: I've been working with mantas since 2017. And you get to spend a lot of time with the same mantas. I definitely believe that they all have

different personalities and this is something that hopefully people will look into in the future.


STEWART: For now, Beth's team collects data on their population size, behavioral habits and reproduction.


FAULKNER: Manta rays have only been studied for just over a decade. In scientific terms, that's not that long. So, there's still so many questions

that we don't know the answers to. And you can't persuade people to protect something that they don't know that much about.


STEWART: So far, the team's work has helped lead to legal habitat protection for mantas and their inclusion on the Maldivian national

protected species list.


FAULKNER: If we don't take steps to protect them now, they're not going to be here for much longer in order for other generations to see. And the

encounters that I have, I would love as many people to have those as possible.


KINKADE: Well, tonight we'll end on a bit of Christmas cheer by the way of Spain's sunny Canary Islands. Take a look at these incredible detail

nativity scenes sculpted out of sand. It's part of an event to mark the beginning of Christmas. It took eight weeks, or it took eight people rather

a week to build these scenes and they're going to stay protected by a huge wall of sand until January. Absolutely magnificent.

Well, thanks so much for watching. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Stay with CNN'S QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is next.