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Shelling Interrupts Five-Hour Cease-Fire; Russia Investigation; Trump White House; Nigeria Releases Names of 110 Missing Schoolgirls; Family and Friends Pay Respects to Sridevi; Freedom House: Democracy Under Assault Globally; Activists Warn Against Abolishing China's Term Limit; Diesel Ban Approved for German Cities to Out Pollution; Some Retailers Fight the World's Plastic Binge. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired February 28, 2018 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN live from Los Angeles.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour: the Syrian regime ignores a U.N. cease-fire and continues its military assault on one of the last held -- rebel-held areas.
At the same time we're learning the Assad regime may have been helped by North Korea to rebuild its stockpile of chemical weapons.
SESAY (voice-over): Plus the Russia investigation could be crossing Donald Trump's own red line. The U.S. president's business activities before the campaign.
VAUSE (voice-over): And while "Black Panther" has broken box office records, a new study shows diversity is more the exception than the norm in Hollywood and it could be costing the studios what they love more than anything else: revenue.
SESAY (voice-over): Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE (voice-over): I'm John Vause. Great to have you with us for this second hour of NEWSROOM L.A.
VAUSE: North Korea may be supplying the Syrian regime with the ingredients needed to build chemical weapons. A U.N. Security Council diplomat has told CNN the North Koreans sent nerve agent supplies to Syria.
SESAY: And according to a confidential U.N. report, North Korean ballistic missile experts have been seen at Syrian military facilities. This as the shelling continues and continues to batter the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta Tuesday, despite a daily five- hour humanitarian pause ordered by Russia. VAUSE: 400,000 people are trapped in one of the last rebel-held strongholds. More than 500 have been killed since this offensive began earlier this month. A U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire has had little impact on the violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a question of life and death. If there ever was any question of life and death, this is it. We need 30 days cessation of hostilities throughout Syria as the Security Council resolution demands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: CNN (INAUDIBLE) is retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona joins us from La Quinta, California.
Col. Francona, good to see you once again. We're going get to conditions on the ground in just a moment. But to start with, the reporting that North Korea has been aiding Bashar al-Assad and possibly sending the supplies that he could use for chemical weapons, that essentially is a win-win for Syria and North Korea and just shows the powerlessness of the international community.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. These are two pariah nations and the Syrians want and need the technology that the North Koreans have.
The North Koreans need the money that the Syrians are willing to pay. So you know it's a good relationship for them and we've seen this relationship going back decades. So it doesn't surprise me that the North Koreans are continuing to evade sanctions and supply the Syrians.
SESAY: The fact that the humanitarian pause by Russia has effectively floundered, are you surprised by that?
FRANCONA: No, I mean, we we've had the cease-fires going on now since the civil war started and none of them have really had any lasting effect. It's just one right after the other.
And we see what happens during these cease-fires and this five-hour humanitarian pause called by the Russians is very, very -- it's kind of suspicious because that gives them five hours every day to rearm, refuel and to restock their weapons supplies.
It doesn't -- it doesn't change the situation on the ground. Now they say they're going to open up humanitarian corridors, they are going to let aid in, they're going to let medical evacuees out, they're going to let civilians out if they want.
But none of this happens. So it's just a five-hour lull where everybody just takes a break and then they start fighting again.
SESAY: There's no doubt that Russia in effectively sidelining the U.N. cease-fire deal and basically installing their own five-hour humanitarian pause, Vladimir Putin is essentially saying that, you know, they will be the arbiter what happens on the ground in Syria.
FRANCONA: Well, and we've seen that happening over the last several months, over the last year. The Russians are really calling the shots now. They are the power broker in Syria. Bashar al-Assad really has to do what Putin says because he is beholden to Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin is the only reason that Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Syria. So he pretty much has to toe the Russian line. And the Russians, they are capitalizing on that. And they're not really wedded to Bashar al-Assad. They're wedded to the Syrian regime.
They want a friendly regime in Damascus and they have it and they're going to exploit that as best they can.
SESAY: I think the point was made I think by Virgil (ph) on Capitol Hill, the U.S. commander of Middle East troops, amazingly he said in a Russian interest in Syria are not Syria's interests. They are Russian interests.
The question is what is the end game?
And I don't know that that has ever been totally clear.
FRANCONA: Well, we want the end game to be one way and it was going that way.
FRANCONA: 2012, the Syrians were on the ropes; 2015 on the ropes again and in come the Russians. The Russians have changed the equation on the ground. They pretty much guaranteed Bashar al-Assad's survival.
Like I said, he is very beholden to them. And they are the powerbrokers there.
What do the Russians get they get?
They get those two military bases that they want. This gives the Russians an opportunity to reintroduce themselves to the Mediterranean; after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they really were marginalized in the area.
Now we see them on the ascent again. They're looking at Syria, they're looking at Libya and, of course, the prize of all will be Egypt. And we see Russian activities in all of these countries aimed at reestablishing themselves.
Syria is just the first step.
SESAY: They're not exactly subtle about it. It is pretty clear that they are calling the shots. They want to call the shots and they will stand in the way of any other international agreements to change conditions on the ground.
The question then becomes what is the U.S. strategy to outmaneuver Putin or have they just given up the game?
FRANCONA: Well, that's a problem and subtlety of the Russians, yes. No, the United States is trying to keep the presence in Syria. We've said we're not leaving anytime soon but then the president says we're only there to fight ISIS and then we're going home.
So ISIS is still there so we're still there. Unfortunately we have no real long-term strategy to stay there nor do we have a long-term legal capability to do that. The Syrians don't want us there. They say we're there illegally and our only access to Syria is via Iraq.
If the Iranians put enough pressure on Baghdad, the Iraqis may ask us to leave. If they ask us to leave Iraq, we're going to have to leave Syria. And the Russians win. They get they get the prize and we are once again marginalized out of Syria.
SESAY: Col. Francona, the situation is certainly bleak. We appreciate it. Thank you.
VAUSE: Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation appears to be extending beyond meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Did Donald Trump's business dealings before he was even a candidate?
Sources tell CNN some witnesses have been asked about the timing of Donald Trump's decision to run, why his plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through and whether the Russians had compromising information they could use to influence the president.
Well, for more, joining me now, CNN political commentators Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas.
OK, this new reporting by CNN indicates the Mueller probe is looking at ways Russia may have tried to -- sought influence over Trump just when he was considering this White House run.
Gloria Borger was among a team of CNN reporters who broke the story. This is some of her reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: These are very lengthy, wide-ranging interviews. But we've been told from sources who have been interviewed by Mueller that they were asking, among other things, when exactly Donald Trump decided to run for the presidency, how the Miss Universe pageant was financed and also why two potential deals to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Dave, in the big picture of the Mueller investigation, how does all this fit in as far as you see it?
DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's clear that we know nothing and that the --
(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: And Mueller knows a lot.
JACOBSON: -- and Mueller knows a lot and the scope of this investigation is far-reaching and expansive. We're learning new information every day. I think most folks last week didn't know that Bob Mueller was going to charge 13 individuals related to the Russia investigation.
So there is a whole lot that we don't know. And I think we are starting to see a shift, John, in public opinion, right. Like previously you've seen a split with Democrats and Republicans but now we're starting to see a tick-up in terms of voters across the country who trust Bob Mueller more than Donald Trump.
"USA Today" is out with a brand new poll that shows 58 percent of Americans trust Bob Mueller; 57 percent don't trust Donald Trump.
JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You might be right, I don't know how many Americans care about this. In fact --
JACOBSON: It's good that they do. Those are gigantic numbers.
THOMAS: -- in fact Mueller should go back to the early 1990s, when Donald Trump was talking to Oprah about considering a run for the president and maybe compare that motivation with Russian collusion.
The scope of where this investigation is going knows no bounds. We were here to talk about Russia -- Mueller was tasked to find Russia collusion. And he is going back to -- understand if there might be some reasoning of why he ran for president in the first place because of financial --
VAUSE: -- there could be some connection, John. And this is just -- well, obviously, as Dave said, we know nothing.
But it doesn't seem logical to you that Donald Trump, who'd done a lot of business with Russia, had a lot of his business financed by Russian banks when he couldn't get financing anywhere else in the U.S., what he was doing in Russia, why he made all these trips to Russia when no business dealings were made, why -- what -- doesn't it seem logical that maybe there could be some connection there between what happened just a few years before he ran for the campaign and what happened during the campaign?
You don't think these two things are --
VAUSE: -- could be possibly connected in some way?
THOMAS: The idea that he would run a campaign that I don't think even he believed that he could win -- it was -- (CROSSTALK)
THOMAS: -- all so that he could have some debt forgiven by Russia influences --
VAUSE: -- but also adding to this, John, the fact that Donald Trump says mean things about everybody on the planet except Vladimir Putin. He never even criticizes Russia over anything.
I mean, you start putting all these pieces together and you can (INAUDIBLE) any way you want. But there seems to be a fairly logical way that there does seem to be some kind of Russian thing going on that we don't know about.
And there seems to be a logical assumption that maybe there's some sort of connection to his dealings before he was president.
THOMAS: Well, I think the idea that Trump thought that he'd get through an 18-way juggernaut primary to beat what everybody thought was this unstoppable Hillary Clinton machine, also that he had this mastermind plan with Russian business people to forgive debt, it just seems a little --
JACOBSON: I'm just saying that there hasn't been any evidence to prove that there wasn't collusion. Maybe he went into the campaign perhaps with the knowledge that the Russians were going to help him out.
THOMAS: The problem with the scope of this is Donald Trump's going -- if he believes that he is innocent, which I think he does, he's thinking I don't want Mueller turning my entire life upside down back 20-plus years ago because they may nail me on something completely tangential to Russia collusion.
JACOBSON: -- if you break the law, you break the law. It is what it is.
THOMAS: But this -- the initial purpose of this investigation was Russia collusion and when you keep going back and back and back, it drifts further away from that.
VAUSE: OK, well no Russia problems on Tuesday for Jared Kushner. Just issues with China, Israel, Mexico and the UAE because "The Washington Post" is reporting that officials from those countries were privately heard discussing ways they could (INAUDIBLE) the White House advisor and presidential son-in-law.
This sounds like innocence, right, that they got this information from?
Kushner's private company is carrying a lot of debt on a Manhattan office tower, $1.2 billion. And Kushner's private meetings with these foreign officials caught the attention of the national security adviser, H.R McMaster.
"The Post" reporting this, "White House officials said McMaster was taken aback by some of Kushner's foreign contacts. 'When he learned about it, it surprised him,' one official said. 'He thought that was weird. It was an unusual thing. I don't know that any White House has done it this way before.'"
Dave, Kushner is someone who's had to redo his security form multiple times. Last year he disclosed more than 100 contracts with foreign names. It seems eventually the, "Oh, he is just naive and he's new to Washington" excuse isn't going to wash.
JACOBSON: No, I think it's clear that at this point, like Jared has to go. He's got to get fired at this point. And if that story is true by "The Washington Post," at the end of the day that foreign entities are trying to manipulate a senior White House official, who is privy to all of these high-profile, top-secret documents, that is a major danger for our national security.
Like it's a major issue and he needs to get kicked out of the front door of the White House. And so I'm glad to see that General Kelly today demoted him, withdrawing his high-profile security clearance.
But it's not enough. I think we need to move the ball forward and I think he needs to be completely ejected from the White House.
VAUSE: Kushner was among dozens of White House officers who were demoted down to secret clearance, which is one step above the White House groundsman, I think, in terms of what you get to see.
But apparently John Kelly, the chief of staff, still has faith that Kushner can perform his job. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has full confidence in Jared Kushner's ability to do his job, address the issues of Israeli-Palestinian peace, to also address the issue of U.S.-Mexico relations.
So he is doing a great job on behalf of the president and he is going to continue in his role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Let's go back to that list, John, because -- of countries which have had officials talk about trying to manipulate Kushner.
Kushner is overseeing Middle East peace and there we have Israel. There we have the UAE. The UAE often works on behalf of the Palestinians.
How can Kushner do this job now?
THOMAS: He can't. He can't be in the daily briefings in the morning because there could be top secret information that could be exchanged there. He can't. (CROSSTALK)
VAUSE: -- who reads the presidential daily brief because the president's not reading it.
THOMAS: Good question. I don't know how that would all -- probably General Kelly. But the fact is when -- with the demotion today and the security clearance, you know that General Kelly, even though they say it was at his discretion to make that call, that it went through President Trump, that President Trump green-lit that demotion.
So I think by the end of the week Kushner is packing his bags and going to head back to New York.
JACOBSON: The questions like how long can he sustain this dynamic, right, because if you're in the Oval Office, you're Jared Kushner, you're President Trump, all of a sudden, the secretary of state walks in. You've got the national security advisor and they want to have a very candid conversation about something that's high-profile, he's got walk out of the room.
And that creates a very awkward dynamic.
VAUSE: OK. Here's how a proud Donald Trump --
VAUSE: -- spoke about his son-in-law during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Jared is a very, very successful real estate man in New York. I'm proud of Jared.
Jared is a very successful real estate person but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate.
Her husband, Jared, very, very smart, good guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK, John, it would seem Donald Trump was wrong on both counts. Jared Kushner is not very good at real estate because he bought that building at the height of the market and it's carrying a huge debt on it.
And I don't think he likes politics right now but the right-hand man just got kicked out and there's a big warning sign that he may not be having a prominent role in the reelection campaign in 2020.
THOMAS: Well, it's not that he had a significant role in the original elect --
(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: He's a genius. He was the --
THOMAS: -- I don't know if he deserves that much credit but certainly he was in the room and involved. But the demotion is not just speaking of competency, it's just speaking more to conflict more than anything.
VAUSE: Dave, should it speak to competency as well?
JACOBSON: I think it underscores both. I just don't understand how real estate applies to national security or being the kingmaker when it comes to peace deals with --
JACOBSON: -- real estate deal is like putting peace in the Middle East --
JACOBSON: -- real estate tycoon to the White House. But that doesn't make Jared Kushner qualified for the roles that --
VAUSE: OK. On Tuesday, Admiral Mike Rogers, who's director of National Security Agency, he's commander of U.S. Cyber Command, seemed to confirm what has been long assumed.
The Trump administration is not doing a whole lot to deter Russian interference in future elections. Here he was before the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REED (D), RANKING MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The mission teams, particularly at the origin of these attacks, have the authority to do so.
ADM. MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: If granted the authority and I don't have the day-to-day authority to do that. If granted the authority.
REED: So you would need basically to be directed by the president through the Secretary of Defense?
ROGERS: Yes, sir, as in fact I mentioned that in my statement.
REED: Have you been directed to do so, given the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?
ROGERS: No, I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are charges Cyber Command.
Why not give him the authority?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nobody is denying him the authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK, and that was Sarah Sanders at the end, kind of spinning the story.
But, basically, John, that the second time in two weeks now that a senior intelligence chief has testified on the Hill that basically they have given no directive from the president to try and stop Russian meddling.
So why isn't the administration interested in protecting American democracy as this point, especially with the midterms coming up in November?
THOMAS: They should and not just against Russia, against China and other countries --
VAUSE: Russia is the main one right now.
THOMAS: -- yes, and it should be a focus and I hope this sunlight causes the administration to green light that. I think Sarah Sanders nuanced the issue. Trump has not said to stand down on it. He just needs to make it a priority.
THOMAS: Hopefully they will.
JACOBSON: And I think John's right. Like there was bipartisan support in Congress to propel the sanctions on Russia through the Congress to the Oval Office. Donald Trump signed the legislation into law. He still hasn't executed on that legislation. And this is why in that same "USA" poll that came -- that I referenced earlier, 76 percent of Americans believe that the Russians are going to continue meddling in our elections.
And six in 10 Americans believe that the Trump administration isn't doing enough to combat it. That's a glaring issue as we're looking toward 2018.
VAUSE: And Dave, (INAUDIBLE) to the sanctions, Rogers did follow up there. He said essentially by not enacting those sanctions, it's giving Putin a green light. It is busy saying there is no pay to play. There is no consequences for doing what he has been doing.
THOMAS: Yes, I think they need to step it up. I'm not going to carry water on this issue. No, it is definitely something the Trump administration should do and I think they will as pressure mounts.
VAUSE: OK, also before lawmakers on Tuesday, communications director Hope Hicks, she refused to answer questions regarding the Trump administration and Russia but she did reveal a few details.
We selected this headline in "The New York Times." "Hope Hicks Acknowledges She Sometimes Tells White Lies for Trump."
Dave, Hicks went on to insist that she did not lie about anything of substance involving Russian links to the Trump campaign.
But you know what, you know what Robert Mueller calls white lies?
Lies. And maybe perjury. So this is -- is this an extension of (INAUDIBLE) for Hope Hicks?
JACOBSON: I think it is. This is the problem that the Trump administration has when it comes to these so-called alternative facts, also known as white lies. And this is an issue that we have seen throughout the course of the campaign but also throughout the course of the presidency.
And I think this is an issue -- look, you've got multiple people who have lied to the FBI, who are now being prosecuted for such lies. And Hope Hicks has to be very careful how she sort of threads that needle.
We know that she's had conversations with Mueller's team. So the question is, does she tell those white lies to them, too?
Because if so, we might see charges on that front.
VAUSE: OK, there's also this issue here of White House staff or former staff refusing to answer questions before Congress. Here is Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat a little earlier on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (R): Let's hope we'll get to all the answers.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Has there been a subpoena issued for her?
RAJU: Should there be?
RAJU: Why is that?
QUIGLEY: As with anyone who doesn't answer questions, they ought to be subpoenaed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: John, should a staff member be subpoenaed and made to answer questions from congressional lawmakers?
THOMAS: I imagine it will get to that point. I mean the idea that she tells white lies is called being a political operative. I don't know anybody at the bipartisan issue is called -- (CROSSTALK)
JACOBSON: Maybe a flack.
THOMAS: -- she was the press secretary for a presidential candidate. The press secretary isn't saying white lies, they should be fired.
VAUSE: OK, last word, Dave.
JACOBSON: I'm just saying back to the Trump Tower meeting, when Donald Trump and Hope Hicks, on Air Force One, crafted the response, saying that it was about Russian babies at the Trump Tower meeting --
JACOBSON: -- that's a pretty glaring white lie.
VAUSE: That's a big one. That's what you call a whopper.
VAUSE: Thank you, John.
Thank you both.
SESAY: Quick break here. Next on NEWSROOM L.A., new details on the mass kidnapping in Nigeria and what the government is doing to bring back more than 100 missing girls.
VAUSE: And Mumbai says farewell to a Bollywood legend. The tributes to actor Sridevi still to come.
SESAY: The Nigerian government has released the names of 110 girls, all 11 to 19 years old, who were kidnapped from their school last week.
VAUSE: And the head of Nigeria's air force is now supervising an aerial search for the girls. More details now from David McKenzie.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Harrowing stories are now emerging on this awful situation in Nigeria, where more than 100 young girls and young women were taken by what is believed to be Boko Haram militants around a week ago.
In the village of Dapchi, they stormed in the evening hours the school. At first there was confusion whether the girls had escaped, whether they were there to abduct them at all. But now it turns out the government says they have been abducted and is it eerily familiar to the nightmare Nigeria lived through four years ago in Chibok. A hundred of those girls are still missing.
We spoke to one young girl, a 13-year old, Hafsana (ph). She said that the militants were beckoning to her. They were in military uniforms, told her to come, that she would be safe.
But she ran away. Her 11-year-old sister, in her hand, she hurt her ankle and the sister went away and they don't know where she is. Now parents are anguished. They want action and they're wondering why this could all happen yet again -- David McKenzie in Kano, Nigeria.
SESAY: An unbelievable situation.
The family and fans of Sridevi are saying goodbye to a Bollywood legend.
VAUSE: Hundreds have gathered on the streets of Mumbai, waiting for a chance to pay their respects.
SESAY: The 54-year-old actor accidentally drowned last week in a hotel bathtub during a visit to Dubai.
VAUSE: Reporter Liz Neisloss joins us now live from Mumbai.
So, Liz, set the scene for us there as --
VAUSE: -- fans and admirers get this opportunity to say goodbye to Sridevi.
LIZ NEISLOSS, JOURNALIST: That's right, John. People are standing for hours in order to have a chance to pay their final respects. This actor was someone that many people feel they grew up with.
She started making films at the age of 4 and then she continued. By the end of her life she had made nearly 300 films. But her appeal, John, was not only that she was considered an extremely versatile actress and a beauty in a place where there are many beautiful and talented actresses, she stood out, according to her fans -- John.
VAUSE: Yes and obviously there's been some controversy over the cause of death and what actually happened there in Dubai. But we now have word that from a coroner that it was an accidental drowning in that bathtub.
And now people are just waiting for this final journey home to Sridevi. So, Liz, thank you. We'll check in with you a bit later. Appreciate it.
As democracy comes under threat around the world, activists warn that Chinese President Xi Jinping could cause untold damage when he is allowed to rule for life.
(MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:
VAUSE: The Trump administration has announced a cut to economic and military aid for Cambodia over concerns the government is backsliding on democratic reforms and moving to crush political dissent.
On Monday the ruling party claimed victory in every seat in senate elections, which were held over the weekend. Little surprise after the main opposition party was dissolved last year and its leader charged with treason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The elections that happened earlier this month failed to represent the genuine will of the Cambodian people. That gave us great cause for concern. These setbacks compel the United States to review that assistance.
Based on the review, the government will suspend or curtail several assistance programs intended to support the Cambodian government. I don't have anything further at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled for three decades, he recently ordered a crackdown on press freedom and declared sharing criticism of his government on social media was a crime and he's of the early authoritarian leader in Asia tightening his grip according to a recent report by the freedom House.
Where present regimes in Asia continue to consolidate their power in 2017 or marginalized communities face dire new threat in places like Myanmar and the military's brutal crackdown on the Rohinga minority. Although Philippines, the authoritarian ruler Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs. And in China where the communist party remove presidential term limits clearing the way for Xi Jinping to rule for life.
Clayton Dube of the U.S.-China institute of the University of Southern California, he joins us now for more. Clayton, thank you for coming in, I know you're a little under the weather so I appreciate it more than usual.
CLAYTON DUBE, DIR. U.S.-CHINA INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Still (INAUDIBLE)
VAUSE: OK. Xi Jinping isn't the only leader around the world right now setting himself out for life as Putin in Russia, there's Erdogan in Turkey but simply because of China's growing inputs, its sear size, its economy, everything else, this seems potentially the most consequential.
DUBE: It is without question. This simple move to say there will be no term limits for the state chair, for the state president is not by itself a giant thing. They could have done this at any time.
The fact that he's choosing to do it now right after he's been confirmed as the general secretary, he's at the height of his power, he's locking this in, he doesn't care who knows, this is the direction he's headed.
VAUSE: Doesn't care who knows because it -- there has also been this deafening silence from the U.S., a lot of other countries but especially the United States. And when the United States doesn't call something out, it almost seems to be a green light for Xi and other leaders are doing a similar tactic.
DUBE: Well as you know, the Trump Administration's policy is what you do at home is you are fair and we're not going to comment on that, you should not comment on our affairs. And, of course, with the Chinese, this is a wonderful thing because they preached the same thing for a long time.
VAUSE: Yes. Because in the past, the leader in China are trying to (INAUDIBLE) be outraged but ironically or bizarrely or (INAUDIBLE) there has actually been criticism from within China. Li Datong who is a former editor of "Freezing Point" which is a supplement of the "China Youth Daily."
He wrote an open letter personally on WeChat about the decision by the party to end term limits. Here's part of it, "This was the highest and most effective legal restriction preventing personal dictatorship and personal domination of the party and the government. Removing term limitations on national leaders will subject us to the ridicule of the civilizations of the world. It means moving backward into history and planning to see once again of chaos in China causing untold damage." He doesn't specify the chaos and the untold damage. So what do you think he's talking about?
DUBE: Well he -- first of all, I think he's guilty of some exaggeration. Disaster is not just right around the corner but he's accurate in suggesting that the overconcentration of power has led to disaster in China. And you only have to look at the greatly forward, at the cultural revolution to establish that.
It was after those disasters that the party elders led by Deng Xiaoping came up with a divided leadership structure and set in motion the situation where no one individual would have so much authority. Xi Jinping's washed that away.
VAUSE: What we have now is that under Xi Jinping we had this situation where if you look at previous leaders of China they didn't call the military, they (INAUDIBLE) it was all so popular way. And so now, he's put all that together, he's removed the term limits and he truly is setting himself up as the next Mao.
DUBE: Well what he is setting himself up to be is even bigger than Mao in a sense because Mao, the last 20 years of his rule, he was not president of China, he was not the state chair. They had taken that away from him.
DUBE: Because of the mismanagement of the great leap forward. And so it's very clear that Xi Jinping likes all the trappings associated with the ceremonies that the president carries out and that he wants to be the face of China's present and it's future.
VAUSE: You know, China wasn't exactly this passion of liberty and freedom up until this point. But there was always this expectation especially the west that slowly, very, very, very slowly, there would be some kind of democratic reforms.
It may not end up looking like a western liberal democracy but it would be kind of a democracy to kind of phrase big Chinese characteristics. Is that naive that thought now looking what's happening with Xi Jinping?
DUBE: Well it was always naive to think that China would be like us. And most leaders didn't believe that. They thought that China's traditions and the reality of 1.4 billion people would make that sort of governing system impossible for China.
But, as you said, there was some expectation that China would move towards more institutional rule as oppose to this highly authoritarian, highly personalized governance that Xi Jinping has brought in.
VAUSE: Yes, it does seem to be a huge dip backwards and it comes at a very interesting time with U.S. politics and everything else. Clayton, as always, thank you so much.
DUBE: My pleasure.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We're seeing quarter landmark ruling, Germany's top quarters Dusseldorf and Stuttgart have the right to ban diesel vehicles from their streets. The two cities have some of the most polluted air in Europe. Environmental activists are applauding Tuesday's decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are certainly happy and satisfied. As of today, we have diesel bans in Germany and we have achieve that in both of the places that we were fighting for in Dusseldorf and Stuttgart. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Germany automakers don't like it, they say the ruling could create a lot of confusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHIAS WISSMAN, PRESIDENT, GERMAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION (through translator): Their decisions problem is that different cities could have deferring regulations. This concerns us because a patchwork of different regulations will obviously confuse drivers. That's why we hope for a reasonable nationwide regulation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well this decision in Germany could actually lead to similar diesel restrictions across Europe.
SESAY: Well Slovakia has been shaken by the murder of an investigative journalist and his partner. Report say organized crime may be linked to the execution-style death of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova. Local media say Kuciak was about to publish a story connecting the Italian mafia to high level political corruption.
The Slovak Prime Minister is offering a reward of more than Euro 1 million for the information which helped solve the case. The murders have led to a wave of anger across Slovakia. The opposition is calling for a demonstration Wednesday against corruption and the government.
SESAY: Well, widespread snow and freezing temperatures swept across France but that didn't stop these kids from having some fun. Forecasters say some areas of France will experience -10 degrees Celsius.
VAUSE: Whoa, it's cold. OK. In Spain, snow, rain and low temperatures were reported across Madrid and Barcelona on Tuesday. Perhaps other reminder that winter is not quite over, at least not yet. Not here in LA either.
VAUSE: It's not that quite cold but it's cold.
SESAY: Yes, it's cold. Let's get the forecast from meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, we are not happy with these temperatures.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I don't think you're alone in that. I think there's a lot of people that are thinking the same thing especially when we take a look at these temperatures.
Yes, it's winter, you expect things to be cold. But you have to understand how well below average a lot of these cities are. Take for example Moscow yesterday had a morning low temperature of -22. Their average is -7. So, again, that just goes to show you how much colder they are dealing with than they normally would. Berlin, very similar scenario. A temperature of yesterday morning of -15 but their average this time of year would be about -1. The thing you have to understand, it's not just the cold temperatures, the wind is also a factor. You take a look at Paris for example, the temperature right now, -8 but the wind chill is -15. Copenhagen -9 but it feels like it's -19.
Now, not only is that wind causing problems just for the temperature, but it's also allowing for sea effect snow for much of the U.K. And keep in mind, some of those bands are producing incredibly heavy snowfall for a lot of these coastal regions. But the interesting thing is, for Ireland, you're going to be looking at two different sectors that are bringing in snow. You've got the sea effect on the eastern side but this other system, we have a low pressure system that will be coming up from the Iberian Peninsula, that will be bringing additional snowfall on top of the sea effect.
So when we look at the overall totals for snow, you're talking widespread amounts of 15, even 20 centimeters of snow and this is on top of what some of those areas have already seen. It's not the only place getting snow, that same system down in the Iberian Peninsula now producing some snow into areas of France. We also have our other system over in the portions of southeastern Europe that's also producing snow.
And a lot of these areas are getting it because of how frigid those temperatures are. Now, when we take a look at the long-term forecast for London, OK? Look at this, you do notice a warming trend that will come back. This is a good thing. The thing is, even though it's warming per se, this really just brings those temperatures back up to normal or where they should be this time of year, not necessarily because it's going to be that warm.
But let's take a look at something really interesting, OK? Because when you think of cold locations, you think of places like Iceland, Greenland, those are the really cold places. The odd part is, right now, that's not actually the case. When you take a look at the forecast temperature for today, it's going to be six in (INAUDIBLE) but much colder and not just Nice, France but also Venice, Italy is going to see a temperature colder than Iceland will.
And it's been this way yesterday, it may continue this way for a couple of days as well because even though the overall trend does show that arctic air finally beginning to retreat back, as we mentioned earlier John and Isha, it's really just going to bring temperatures back to where they should be this time of year.
VAUSE: It's almost as if the climate is changing in some way.
SESAY: Almost. VAUSE: Allison, thank you.
SESAY: Allison, thank you.
VAUSE: And that map look awful with the wet, cold, and frigging stuff.
SESAY: Yes, with the stuff.
SESAY: Let's take a quick break shall we? A new study finds movie audiences want to see diversity in films. So why is Hollywood behind? We'll tackle a lot of question just ahead.
VAUSE: OK, we will.
VAUSE: Well those long (INAUDIBLE) believe for a perception that diversity in Hollywood just doesn't really sell tickets but the new Black Panther film with (INAUDIBLE) all black cars --
SESAY: Have you seen it yet?
VAUSE: No. I've seen every other Oscar movie, OK? In a weekend, I've watched like eight Oscar movies.
SESAY: You love the Oscars with you.
VAUSE: I know. But I've been watching other things.
SESAY: OK, you go.
VAUSE: Anyway, Black Panther is shuttering box office record earning more than $700 million worldwide in just its first two weeks.
SESAY: The film's success lend credence to a new UCLA study written before Black Panther was released which found audiences want to see diversity on screen. I don't know how many times we have to say this.
VAUSE: A lot.
SESAY: Both TV and movie producers continue, they continue to fall short in casting more women and minorities. Joining me now is Rebecca Sun (INAUDIBLE) Senior Reporter with the Hollywood Reporter, she's going to be our UCLA diversity report whisperer.
What's going on? I mean, it would seem that it is absolutely obvious by now that people want to see a representation of society that they live in. They want more diversity on screen and that when they do it, it does well. So how come this report is still showing one step forward, two steps back?
REBECCA SUN, SENIOR REPORTER, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: I mean, I think one reason is because of the amount of time it takes to make a film. And so the end result that you'll see on screen is the result -- those decisions were made two years prior.
And that diversity report from UCLA, because they want to be really comprehensive, their sampling is they were looking at films that came out in 2016 and films from --
SESAY: That's right.
SUN: -- and TV shows from the 2015-2016 season. And so there's a little bit of a delay and a lag.
SESAY: And a lag.
SUN: Exactly. But also it's because decision makers in Hollywood, although they look at the numbers but if you are not very diverse up in the C-suite, and you're sort of personal social circle and your personal spear of understanding is then somewhat of an echo chamber. It's very hard for you to then understand what young African Americans are talking about on the weekends and what they're seeing if you're not organically plugged in --
SESAY: Yes, absolutely.
SUN: -- and online.
SESAY: Yes. I mean, it's through your prism, right? You're kind of making decisions through your prism. Let's look at specifically minority representation and we have a little bit of a graphic to try and capture it because there were a lot of categories here.
But they basically saw that people of color posted games relative to their white counterparts in eight of eleven industry employment arenas and I don't want to go through all of them because I don't want everyone to fall asleep. But film directors, film writers, broadcast, scripted leads, cable scripted leads, broadcast reality and other leads, and so on. Cable reality, digital script leads.
What does it say that these are the areas? I mean, you've looked at the eight, what does it say that these are the areas where gains were made?
SUN: Yes. I mean, certainly when you're talking about film directors and television show creators, those respective positions are really -- they're the captains those types of projects. And so that's really significant because they affect the hiring both behind the camera as well as onscreen of every single individual on that project, and so that is significant.
The other thing though is that when we're talking about gains and the UCLA report gets very, very specific, it's very, very detailed but you're still talking about a relatively small sample size. And so there's fluctuation year-to-year but in some cases when you're talking about some ethnic categories, it's literally the difference of a handful of individuals. SESAY: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And you could break that down further when they say people of color. I mean, if you break it down where you'll see that some in that demographic have made no progress, right, compared to if you say African-American. I mean, you could splice it even further.
When you look at whether you lost ground people of color, it's in the area of broadcast script to show creators and they only sustain representation as film lead and cable scripted show creators. And I'm wondering what that says about broadcast and cable and what -- I wonder if whether there's something endemic about the ecosystem.
SUN: I think that the most significant difference is simply that there are -- the number of broadcast scripted shows being made really stayed fixed because you have the five networks with their set primetime hours whereas cable is virtual un -- it's much more broader in scope, digital is unlimited.
SESAY: And that's where you see lots of change, right, in the digital space?
SUN: Exactly. So you only have so many slots. There's only so many show creators who can have shows on broadcasts. There are some significant areas of presence for them. I mean, obviously Shonda Rhimes and her sort of empire on "ABC," she's moving to "Netflix" though.
Kenya Barris doing "Black-ish" and his "Spinoff" went to cable. And so it's not to say that there aren't any show runners of color on broadcast. It's just that -- it's just such a limited pool of available timeslot.
SESAY: Yes, there's a small pie. When we look at women, FEMA representation, we have a graphic there which also shows that women gained and all the evaluated employment arenas except for film directors, broadcast scripter, show leads, cable scripted show creators and broadcast scripted show creators. So, again, we're coming back to the fixed number, right, the fixed number of shows and the ecosystem itself.
SUN: Right. And I will say that in television, you're going to see that fluctuate year-to-year and so -- and getting -- dissecting it too much, the difference between cable scripted, digital scripted, that's going to change, that's going to be fluid.
To me, what's most significant is film directors because in film, the director is king or queen as the case rarely is and that number has really stayed flat for years. I mean, I think if you look at over the whole decade, women are still about four percent.
SESAY: Why? Why? Why do we see a willingness to give young and untested directors part of the Star Wars franchise, part of Jurassic Park franchise but we don't see women getting those opportunities?
SUN: I'll tell you why and I learned this from Director Kimberly Peirce. She told me that men are evaluated on their potential, women are evaluated on their experience. And so, for a woman, if you want to be considered for a big action blockbuster with $100 million budget, you have to have name in action blockbuster where the $100 million.
Whereas we just have an unconscious bias where if we look at a promising male director who made this charming indie film we think, "You know what, he reminds me of my -- when I -- me, when I was making my first movie. I'm going to take him under my wing and we're going to make Jurassic World" together. So it's a lot of unconscious bias and realizing that women and men are not evaluated on the same resume, potential versus experience.
SESAY: How do you change that?
SUN: I think being aware of it is the first step. You really have to see -- you have to examine your unconscious bias, be aware of it and then consciously say, "Am I holding this woman to a different standard that affects.
SESAY: Well let me emphasize, maybe a decade, right? I mean, when you look at the numbers, I mean, it's not like this information is hidden away in a safe somewhere and people need a code to crack it. It is known.
SUN: Yes. And I think that you need to develop the pipeline. And so I think you are seeing more women going into film school and staying in the system. I think #MeToo is significant because a lot of what came out of those stories is young promising female directors encountered systemic harassment turned out and left the industry.
SESAY: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SUN: And so as we weed out some of that sort of -- that rot to be honest, then you'll see more people be able to stay, more women, agents, studio executives, producers who are more broad-minded, just take a chance on those women and mentor, so, it's a multilevel approach.
SESAY: And you kind of underestimate the influence of (INAUDIBLE), Ava DuVernay and all of these people building their empires, taking other women under things and nurturing them, you just can't underestimate that.
SUN: Yes. Ava DuVernay's show "Queen Sugar," all female directors, every single episode.
SESAY: Yes, that's right. Rebecca Sun, a pleasure. Thank you. And look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
SUN: I'm looking forward to it as well.
SESAY: Thank you. Because Sunday, we will all be here, Rebecca (INAUDIBLE)
VAUSE: Sunday. Sunday.
SESAY: Sunday. Sunday. Rebecca, John Vause and I will be here for special coverage of the Academy Awards.
VAUSE: It's Hollywood's biggest night.
SESAY: Please don't make him turn off. We reveal the latest stars that in reaction to Hollywood's biggest night, that's a Monday immediately following the Oscar telecast at 1:00p.m. in Hong Kong, 5:00a.m. in London right here. John Vause is going tob e wearing a tuxedo.
VAUSE: Yes, I've got a new one.
VAUSE: It's very flash.
VAUSE: Very fancy. Going to be all those stuff. But now, we'll take a break. And when we come back, trying to stop the world's plastic binge one supermarket aisle at a time. Small changes which make a big difference and we'll explain in just a moment.
SESAY: Well as Europe endures the Siberian cold snap, it's a different story in the Arctic where temperatures have soared well above freezing this week.
VAUSE: OK. As Allison was saying a little earlier, take a look at this graphic. The Central Arctic is about 15 degrees Celsius or 27 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than usual. Climate (INAUDIBLE) has say the arctic heat wave is partly due to warmer sea water.
SESAY: A little chaos.
VAUSE: It's -- yes.
VAUSE: It's really cold here.
SESAY: Yes. And now we both have colds.
VAUSE: Yes, I'm getting one.
SESAY: Well the United Nations has sounded the alarm on plastic waste calling it a planetary crisis. But some retailers are taking action against the package products.
VAUSE: That includes a supermarket in Europe from the metal and gold wooden shelves and cardboard labels to buy a material used packaging, there's other piece of plastic to be found in at least one aisle. CNN's Isa Soares reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Plastic, a constant presence in the convenience of our daily lives. But the planet is paying a high price for our throwaway culture.
From coffee cups to water bottles, some eight million tons of plastic trash leak into the ocean each year. And of the estimated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever produced, only nine percent has ever been recycled. But the war against the world's plastic binge is gaining momentum.
With governments and big retailers under growing pressure to reduce waste, and thing more sustainably about disposal packaging. Ekoplaza Supermarket in the Netherlands is hoping it can bring about change and aisle at a time.
This I the world's first plastic-free supermarket aisle, organic and a little lane of hope where customers can buy a wide selection of groceries, all a hundred percent plastic free. As a co-founder of the campaign group, "A Plastic Planet," Sian Sutherland is hoping to take this global.
This she tells me is a game changer.
SIAN SLUTHERLANDS, CO-FOUNDER A PLASTIC PLANET: Right now, you will go into your supermarket, you have no choice but to take home that shed load of plastic that you don't want.
So all we wanted to say, "In a day where you can buy gluten free, fat free, dairy free, all of these free, just give us one aisle. And that aisle is a cause of symbol. It's a symbol of what change can be in the future. It's a symbol of what the future of food retailing will be.
RICHARD ECKERLEY, CO-FOUNDER, Earth, Food, Love: Great. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.
SOARES: Also at the vanguard of the growing anti-waste movement is an unlikely eco warrior. Richard Eckersley is a former Manchester United footballer who recently set up the U.K.'s first zero waste shop: Earth, Food, Love. In (INAUDIBLE) in the southwest of England.
ECKERELY: So I wanted something to contribute. I wanted to contribute and I wanted to use the resources that I've gained in football supporting to something. And this would seem like a perfect fit. It's just trying to provide people with everything that normal comes with plastic, without plastic basically.
SOARES: Here, customers are encouraged to bring their containers and fill them up with as many as 200 organic products from dry foods to washing up liquid, and it seems its catching on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've just wandered in here for the first time, so I just bought a few herbs in paper bags. But I will definitely be back with all of my containers because I think it's such a terrific idea.
SOARES: Sian says the momentum is here to stay and that most sustainable materials we can use to replace plastic already out there.
SLUTHERLANDS: Paper, card, wood pulp, grass, glass, tin, not plastic lines, aluminum. Now, there's so many other materials. There won't be one thing that directly replaces plastic, it will be a platter of things, many different things.
SOARES: Outside the box thinking, he majors help break of plastic habit. Isa Soares, CNN Totnes in the Southwest of England.
VAUSE: I hate plastics.
VAUSE: All those plastic bottles --
VAUSE: -- refill.
VAUSE: Refill people, refill.
SESAY: You heard it here from John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause, we'll be back after this.
VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles --