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Russia Retaliation; Former Russian Spy and his Daughter Remain in the Hospital After Nerve Agent Attack; Rick Gates Pleads Guilty; Cricket Scandal; Return of Roseanne; United Kingdom's New Program to Cut Down on Plastic Waste; Malala Yousafzai Returns to Pakistan. Aired 3-4a ET.

Aired March 30, 2018 - 03:00   ET


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A diplomatic tit-for-tat, Russia expels dozens of diplomats and forces the United States to close one of its consulates. Plus, the long protest, Palestinians begins a six week demonstration on Gaza's border with Israel. And cricket controversy, three disgraced Australian players return home as their team plays on, just one hour from now. Live, from CNN World headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell, the CNN "Newsroom" starts right now.

Around the world, the dates you (ph), 60 U.S. diplomats expelled by Russia, they now have less than a week to get out of Russia. Its retaliation for 60 Russian diplomats who were told to leave the United States. The Kremlin is also closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg; St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest city. More than 20 countries have joined in, telling Russian diplomats that they have to go home.

The international action comes after a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom was poisoned. The U.K. says Russia was behind it, Moscow though, denies that. Let's now bring in CNN's International diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, following the story live the hour in Jerusalem. Nic, good to have you with us.

This hit certainly close to home in many -- in countries, closing the consulate in St. Petersburg and also having diplomats kicked out on either side. What impact does all this have for the day-to-day efforts in these nations that essentially have functional relations?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMAT EDITOR: Sure, but like any consulate, the one in St. Petersburg looks after issuance of visas for Russian citizens who want to visit the United States and looks after the interests and affairs of the U.S. citizens in St. Petersburg or in that part of Russia. It helps American businessmen team up and do -- with business partners and do business in that part of Russia as well.

It's been there for 46 years it was -- it was closed down for a period during the following the Russian revolution, but it was also the first seat -- the first seat for American diplomats inside Russia 240 years ago. So it has a big history, a big role and a big relevance and therefore it does have an impact, shutting it down, and U.S. officials have said that part of that impact will be -- will have an effect on the Russians who work there, that not everyone will be able to be reemployed in Moscow.

But the actual chilling effect of all of this was perhaps most resonate in the accounting from the Russian Foreign Ministry of the meeting to the deputy foreign minister had with Jon Huntsman the U.S. ambassador, where he said that if you know, the situation went beyond the current tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, closures of consulates across United States, closure of Russian consulate in Seattle, that this could have dire consequences for global stability and would lead to a serious deterioration of the relationship between United States and Russia.

So at the moment, the message from Russia is, we've responded to what you've done, but anything further can have some very chilling, in their words, essentially, consequences, implying a threat to our global stability.

HOWELL: And I want to push forward on that point, Nic. Where do things go from here? I mean, as far as escalation, do you see the possibility of this eye for an eye, back and forth, retaliatory consequences? Could it get to the point where it's now asymmetrical and the stakes have been raised?

ROBERTSON: The stakes at the moment continue to be raised. I mean, United -- Russia's position on the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Britain has remained the same. They say that they weren't involved, that they've had a campaign of denial over this issue, much of the same way that they've denied many things that the world holds them accountable for.

They've seen a very quick forming of an international agreement that they were the most likely responsible and the response has been diplomatic expulsions. Where does it go from here? If you listen to what's being said in Britain which felt this first, of course, that's where the poisoning took place, has been focused on how to have a financial impact on Russia.

President Putin, when he was elected recently for another six years, promised there will be massive investments in infrastructure and in education and the health care system in Russia. This requires money, this requires Russia to be in good financial standing, and what Britain is considering at the moment is, does Britain want to be at the financial hub where Russia is able to sell off some of its debts in the past month or so.


A $4 billion issuance was made for my financial institutions in London. Which essentially allowed Russia to get - you know to bring money back into Russia, the question is should they - should the banking sector in the U.K. be allowed to do that. And also investigations into some of their Russian oligarchs (ph) who've been able to get, sort of what is, tier one investment visa's inside of the U.K., 2008, 2015 about 25 hundred of these tier one investment visa's that you could essentially buy for several million dollars inside the U.K. A quarter of them, 700, were issued to Russian - rich Russian citizens

and Theresa May has been called by MP's on several occasions now to have the British home office investigate those visa's. Now she says that the British home office is investing the system of visa's, however she hasn't said specifically that their investigation - investigating these Russians, these 700 Russians, and their money.

But the implications are where things go from here is pressure on President Putin through financial pools, whatever those may be.

HOWELL: Alright, Nic, thank you so much for the explanation, live for us in Jerusalem following, thank you. We also have an update to share with you on that former Russian spy and his daughter, Sergei Skripal, remains in critical condition, more than three weeks after the attack in Salisbury, England.

But his daughter, 33-year-old Yulia Skripal, is said to be out of critical condition. The hospital says she is responding to treatment and improving rapidly. Now to the Russia investigation, we have some new developments to share with you. CNN has learned that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, learning on former Trump aide, Rick Gates.


HOWELL: (voice over) The man you see there, looking for evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Gates has agreed to plea guilty to conspiracy and to cooperate with the probe. Court filling showed the Mueller's team plans to use information from Gates to try to link former campaign manager, Paul Manafort there directly to a Russian intelligence agency. The U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions will not name a special counsel to investigate alleged misconduct by the FBI. Instead alleged misconduct by the FBI, instead he's asked Federal Prosecutor John Huber, of Utah to look into the claims. Session says that he will decide later if the special counsel is needed. Republicans want a thorough review of the FBI's role in surveillance of a Trump campaign advisor and Hillary Clinton's ties to a Russian nuclear energy agency. President Trump is spinning the Easter weekend at his Mar a Lago resort in Florida but he didn't go quietly. He spent part of the day in Ohio talking about his plan for a border wall with Mexico, his decision to fire the veterans affairs secretary and a host of other topics as our Jim Acosta reports for us.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR(voice over): President Trump was finally spotted saying goodbye to his outgoing communications director, Hope Hicks. After days staying away from the cameras and avoiding the questions dogging his presidency


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you ever just got pardon (ph)?


ACOSTA(voice over): The President broke his silence in Ohio, using what was built as an official speech on infrastructure as something as a campaign rally. Do some repair work of his own.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Now I've proven you've got a friend in the White House.


ACOSTA(VOICE OVER): President defended his record in office, touting the unemployment rate for African-Americans.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Remember I said, what do you have to lose? What do you have to lose?


ACOSTA: (VOICE OVER) Vowing to build the wall on the border with Mexico.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: When we getting that sucker built and you think that's easy?


ACOSTA: (VOICE OVER) And holding up his looming talks with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un as a foreign policy success.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Maybe it'll be good, maybe it won't and if it's no good we're walking -


ACOSTA (VOICE OVER): Though at one point The President seemed to acknowledge that he maybe better suited for the real estate business.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think better than being president, I was maybe good at building, like you people. You're good at building. I think we'll be better at president.


ACOSTA (VOICE OVER): Mr. Trump also talks of his efforts to clean up the nation's system for caring for U.S. Veterans.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's why I've made some changes, because I wasn't happy with the speed with which our veterans were taken care of. (END VIDEO CLIP

ACOSTA (VOICE OVER): One day after he fired David Shulkin as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin believes he was ousted because he opposed privatizing the V.A. responded in a scathing off end. Writing the environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve. The President's replacement White House position Dr. Ronny Jackson is perhaps best well known for his glowing assessment of Mr. Trump's health earlier this year. Jackson's performance one White House official played a part in the president's decision to (tap) the doctor.


DR. RONNY JACKSON: You know I told the president to get a healthier diet of the last 20 years in the 200 years old, I don't know. I mean, he has incredible jeans I just assume -



ACOSTA (VOICE OVER): The President did not mention Russia in his speech, despite his administration's move to expel 60 Russian diplomats this week. Russia responded in kind today, kicking out the same number of U.S. officials, as well as ordering the closing of the consulate in St. Petersburg.

But the president found time to talk about his phone call with Roseanne Barr, whose sitcom is geared towards Trump voters.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at Rosanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings, look at her ratings. They were unbelievable, over 18 million, people and it was about us.


ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.

HOWELL: To talk more about this, let's bring in Larry Sabato. Larry, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, joining us now via Skype, good to have you with us, Larry. Let's talk about the attorney general, what he's doing, appointing a prosecutor to investigate the FBI and Hilary Clinton. Do you see this as political ax grinding, or is this a legitimate investigation in your mind?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS AT UVA: Well as you know, George, the Republican and Trump supporters have been insisting that there be some kind of independent counsel for the FBI and for others in the intelligence community because they're absolutely convinced that somehow these people conspired to bring Trump down and to promote Hilary Clinton.

Its laughable to people who know the FBI and the intelligence community, it's not that there aren't people in there who voted for Hilary Clinton or may have pulled for, but these are conservative organizations. So it seems unlikely but the attorney general is on a very thin ice and it's obvious the president is looking for an opportunity to replace him if he gets the chance. So Sessions has to be very careful and has to do what he thinks the president and White House want him to do.

HOWELL: Also, let's talk about the pushback on President Trump's pick for the secretary of Veterans Affairs. It is the second largest bureaucracy, Larry, in the United States and there is a strong course of critics who say that Ronnie Jackson, the president's personal doctor, that he doesn't have the experience to lead this group.

SABATO: Well he clearly doesn't have the experience, and that's not to say he is an outstanding individual, a number of people from the Obama administration who have worked with I'm when he was the White House doctor then, had praised him highly. So we assume that he's very competent professional and someone who can do many jobs well.

But this is one of the worst cabinet jobs, and both Democrats and Republicans who held it, agree with that. It's a massive bureaucracy and you have to please a very large group of veterans who have legitimate demands upon the government given the service they gave to the country.

There are also conservatives who insist that the medical services within the V.A. should be privatized, there are large groups of veterans -- in fact, a clear majority who don't want that to happen. So the push and pull is going to be tough on even an experienced administrator, and Dr. Ronnie Jackson doesn't meet the bill. There's no way he comes close to being with the V.A. needs.

HOWELL: Also, we know that this is a president who has been very clear he does plan to run for president of the United States again in 2020, but I want to show you this -- a new CNN poll, basically showing that a majority of Americans 54 percent, in fact, think that the president will lose a bid in reelection in 2020. Keeping in mind, Larry, this is a president who disregards polls, he tells his supporters to do the same if those polls are not favorable.

From your perspective, is this poll telling, is it a problem of for Republicans in the coming election?

SABATO: Not really. You noted, George, if there's any president who can ignore the polls, is Donald Trump, because he beat the polls in 2016. But it's more than that. The voters are no better than pundits and pollsters at predicting presidential elections, certainly this far out. I went back and checked and here's what's interesting. During the second year of Ronald Reagan's presidency, a large majority said he would not be reelected. He won in a landslide.

George HW Bush, his successor, the senior Bush, at this point in his term, a large majority of Americans thought he would certainly be reelected; he lost. And finally Bill Clinton in his second year was thought by a large majority of Americans to be very unlikely to win a second term; he won easily.

What's this telling us? And we could take it through other presidencies. It's telling us that these poll numbers, while interesting, it's worth asking, they mean nothing. And it's not going to tell us a thing about 2020, which is a long way away.


HOWELL: You point out; it is a long way away. The midterm elections though certainly will be telling as far as the pulse of Americans' sentiment about the Republican Party and the president left to watch and see. Larry Sabato think you so much for your time and insight today.

SABATO: Thank you so much, George.

HOWELL: Israel and Hamas have been gearing up for Friday's protests and already there are reports of violence along the Israel-Gaza border. Our Ian Lee following the story in northeastern Gaza. Ian, what's situation there is stands now.

IAN LEE, CNN ANCHOR: George earlier this morning there were a couple of casualties we're hearing from the Palestinian Ministry of Health that two farmers were hit, one was killed, one was injured from tank fire. Now, Israel says that these were people who were acting suspiciously but this really is just what we were expecting today, these kind of pensions. Now let me kind of show you were right now I were on the order and if you just down there you can see the tents were people will be staying during this demonstration but further down you can see there are Palestinian protesters pushing towards the border fence. They're meters away from that fence right now and just behind that you can see that dirt berm and that's where we've seen Israeli soldiers positioned and this is the tension really the points where we're expecting to see clashes. We've already seen teargas today and we've already heard warning shots but this is the points where tensions will be the highest. Israel has said that they are not going to let anyone approach the fence and jeopardize their security, we heard from the Minister of Defense earlier this week saying that they have hundreds of snipers positioned along this border to secure -- to secure it. There are 10 cities like this all down the Gaza Strip their multiple of them. Hamas has called for people to come out in the thousands to protest today, land day. And we are seeing people slowly come here slowly trickling, hundreds of people here right now it's still early were expecting thousands but we're also expecting tensions to rise as the day progresses George.

HOWELL: Ian Lee giving us a live look at what's happening there northeastern Gaza. Thank you Ian, we'll continue to stay in touch with you as you keep watching that. Live around the world are watching "Newsroom" and still ahead another cricketer goes down in the Australian cheating scandal. The very latest on the major resignation ahead. Music diplomacy, South Korean performers head to the north for a special four day tour. Will collide the souls, South Korea, for the very latest. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN "Newsroom", a high-level Chinese envoy was supposed to meet right now with the South Korean President Moon Jae- In, that envoy arrived in Seoul Thursday and is all ready met with a number of officials. The main topic of discussion, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un surprise trip to Beijing earlier this week.

It comes ahead of the summit, now planned for April 27 between the leaders of North and South Korea and the Summit expected sometime in May, between Kim and the US President Donald Trump. We rarely hear from the North Korean leader and aside from a few carefully choreographed experiences -- appearances we rarely see him but his trip to Beijing earlier this week may give us some nonverbal clues about this mysterious man and the true relationship between North Korea and China. Our Brian Todd has this one.


BRIAN TODD, CNN ANCHOR: Trumping and fanfare announce the arrival of Kim Jung-Un and his wife Ri Sol-Ju in Beijing. They greet Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, a quick but courteous exchange with seemingly little chat. Tonight intelligence agencies and outside analysts are combing through the new video capturing this crucial meeting. The two leaders have at least one wooden (ph) looking handshake, which a body language expert says is telling -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you look closely though with President Xi, on the right side of his face is pulled up and in. This is contempt, contempt is this little smirk with moral superiority.

TODD: At some moments the video shows Kim and Xi walking and chatting casually, leaning in as they sit and talk, making easy eye contact. But at other times they stand or walk stiffly next to each other not talking while making eye contact. A stark contrast when Kim met with top South Korean officials in Pyongyang a few weeks ago. Looking more confident, holding handshakes longer, chatting even walking with more of a strut. At one moment Xi does not take notes while Kim speaks, Kim takes notes when Xi speaks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he look like a little school kid that got in trouble? Taking notes like I - because he got in trouble from the principal or is he being disrespectful and shutting him down. President Xi, we don't know what the catalyst is. All we know is its change in face line (ph).

TODD: And in one hand shake, Kim clasps Xi's right arm while Xi pats Kim's hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The handshake starts out fine, right? Both thumbs are on the top, until we see this risk grab at this point, it's I'm controlling you, I'm the upper hand, I'm the person of control here. And then we get this softer pat from President Xi. To balance out the power. TODD: CNN is told by a source with knowledge of the situation that Kim had not told Chinese officials in advance about his offer of a face-to-face meeting with President Trump. Analysts say this likely would have angered the Chinese leader in the Kim may well it traveled to Beijing to mollify him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Xi does not particularly like Kim Jong-Un, I don't think it's a surprise but he probably saw some opportunity here. That he's improved relations with Kim Jong-Un will open some leverage for China to have over the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

TODD: Despite the apparent tension between Kim and Xi, analyst believed the Chinese have given Kim Jong-Un a real boost with these meetings and given him potential leverage against President Trump if and when they meet. They say if Kim tries to win concessions for president Trump, tries to get sanction scale back and maybe tries to get Trump to recognize North Korea as an equal power. He can show Trump he's got a powerful ally in Beijing, backing him that is not alone in taking on the United States. Brian Todd CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: The situation between China and North Korea but now to the North's neighbor to the south. For the first time in more than a decade artist from South Korea are set to perform in the North on a four day tour CNN's Alexandra Field is live in Seoul, South Korea following the story. Alexandra, good to have you. First we talked about Olympic diplomacy, now it's music diplomacy that's being used to build bridges.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It really all goes hand-in-hand look for all the talks about talk this weekend is about the music making. The whole world saw this very powerful moments when the North Korean delegation decided to go to South Korea for the Olympics it is in that spirit that you are now seeing this large delegation from South Korea nearly 200 people traveling back over that border this weekend. They are going all the way to Pyongyang, they say this isn't about politics but certainly the artists who are going to be up on that stage they have a message to share with North Koreans and really the rest of the world. North Korea had never seen anything like it. History made in 1985, when South Korean performers headed north, and North Koreans headed south. Starting a sporadic tradition of cultural exchanges across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders. It's been 16 years since Yoon Do Hyun and his legendary South Korean rock group (ph) performed in Pyongyang.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did the audience react to you, to your music?



HYUN: Yes, awkward because they never experienced Korean rock music before, I think.


FIELD: When the band arrived in 2002, heads turned.



FIELD (voiceover): He says our guitarist's hair was yellow. The North Koreans talked about his hair and said "We could not perform." So it wasn't easy from the beginning. But, he believes the performance won hearts.


FIELD (voiceover): Yoon's group the YB band is getting ready to do it again, part of a carefully selected delegation of South Korean performers heading north. Among them, famous singers, a hit K-Pop band, and YB guitarist, Scott Hellowell, one of the foreign nationals on the trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a normal tour stop. How do you feel about going in?

SCOTT HELLOWELL, YB GUITARIST: I talked too my mom the other day. She had a kind of reaction, then she was like wow, you know, that could be such a good experience, it could be pretty amazing, so.


FIELD: Today the tone of the relationship between the Koreas is changing rapidly. Last year's barrage of North Korean missile tests and nuclear developments is (ph) giving away the plans for historic talks between the leaders of North and South Korea and between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump himself.

The (inaudible) tensions started last February when North Korea sent a delegation to the Olympics in South Korea. Performers from both sides shared one stage, a moment that moved the audience. Yoon couldn't hold back the tears the last time he performed in Pyongyang. On his mind, his grandmother whose family is in the north separated from her for decades by war, by that border.


YOON DO HYUN, SOUTH KOREAN MUSICIAN: Before I go, she asked me "Can you find my family?" So I imagined my grandmother, and I can't - I couldn't resist - yes-I cried.


FIELD: And certainly, George, this is personal for so many of the artists that are traveling to Pyongyang this weekend. The YB band says that they'll be playing three different songs. One of those songs is called "1178" It's an original song by them. They say that is the length, in kilometers of the two Koreas combined. It's a song they say that is all about unity. In the spirit of that, South Korean performers will take the stage in Pyongyang on Sunday night, and then on Tuesday night both South and North Korean artists be performing together. George?

HOWELL: All right, certainly an important cultural exchange. Alexandra Field live in Seoul, South Korea, thank you. Still ahead here on "Newsroom" plagued by scandal? Australia faces a final cricket test against South Africa. We have a live report from Johannesburg as "Newsroom" pushes on.



HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers from around the world. You're watching CNN "Newsroom" live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines were following for you. This hour, dozens of U.S. diplomats have just a few days to leave Russia. Moscow kicked them out in retaliation for the U.S. expelling 60 diplomats on Monday. Russia is also closing the US Consulate in St. Petersburg. The U.S. and the U.K. and other nations blame Russia for poisoning a former spy in Britain. A hospital treating the former spy's daughter, Yulia Skripal, say that she is improving rapidly and no longer in critical condition. She and her father, Sergei, were poisoned with a nerve agent earlier this month in Southern England. He remains in critical but stable condition.

Police in Thailand are investigating a deadly bus fire, afire that killed at least 21 migrant workers from Myanmar. They were traveling from the border town to the capital of Bangkok. Twenty-nine people managed to escape, all 53 on board were migrants.

A high level Chinese envoy scheduled to be meeting right now with South Korea's president. They are expected to discuss the upcoming summit between the leaders of North and South Korea and the North Korean leader's surprise trip to Beijing earlier this week.

The show must go on in Johannesburg. The Australian cricket team has been rocked by a cheating scandal. But their fourth and final test against South Africa starts in less than 30 minutes. Australia's coach says that he's resigning after the test, and three cricketers have been suspended.

CNN's David McKenzie is following the storyline live in Johannesburg. David, again just under an hour before the final test, and were talking about a team here that's always been highly regarded among Australians, the scandal having a deep effect.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it is having a deep effect, George. And you've had those three players leave for Australian disgrace, given lengthy bans. As you can imagine, the atmospheric here is pretty electric as we go to this all-important test. I'm here with Simon (ph) with his son and his mates. Simon (ph) what do you feel about this whole scandal?

SIMON (ph): (Inaudible) it was quite interesting. I think it's the first time I've ever seen a team get booed onto the field of Newlin (ph). So hopefully that doesn't happen again today. But, despite that hopefully cricket will be the important thing today. Obviously the kids are quite excited. Big test (ph) match for you today?


MCKENZIE: And Simon (ph), obviously with your son, it's so important in sports, fair play, to see these cricketing grades (ph) being caught cheating. Is it a difficult conversation to have with kids?

SIMON (ph): I don't think so. We actually say it on TV, so we had the conversation at the time. But I think it's a good learning lesson for them to understand what you can and can't do and if you cross the line, you're going to get punished.

MCKENZIE: What do you think will happen in the next few days? I mean are you disappointed in the way that some of Australia's top players will not be getting on the pitch?

SIMON (ph): Yes, I think it's unfortunate. I think we would have liked to have beaten them with a full strength team, but it's going to be quite exciting anyway. Hopefully we can send them to (inaudible) and fall (ph) them out fairly quickly.

MCKENZIE: One more question, so why did you come today?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD, SIMON'S (ph) SON: To watch the crickets.

MCKENZIE: And what do you think about what's going to happen? Do you think South Africa's going to win?


UNIDENFIIED CHILD, SIMON'S(ph) SON: Yes, I think 400 to 20.

MCKENZIE: That's a very ambitious goal. So there you have it, the experts at the side of the field. I'm sure they'll want to go into the game now, and as they are going to be anticipating this test match like everyone else in South Africa and obviously Australia and, George, they really want the cricket to be now the main source of interest and not the scandal. George?


HOWELL: I get it. David, I have to ask a question though, I mean when you talk about the road to redemption, you give spoken with people there. What seems to be the sentiment? What responses are you hearing, given what we've heard from these cricketers? What will it take to earn back the respect that they lost?

MCKENZIE: Well that's right, I mean there is a sense that the cricketers will be -- have been harshly punished. Several people are upset, have been disappointed in a way that they're not playing as you heard from Simon (ph). But there is a sense also from at least one fan and I spoke to, this is a really important precedent to set, that a long ban was important and that many teams, they said, have been doing this behind the scenes in one way or another, and this will send the right message. George?


HOWELL: David McKenzie, live for us, thank you so much.

The United States is sending mixed signals about its military strategy in Syria. On Thursday, the U.S. president told a crowd in the state of Ohio, that the United States will be quote, "be coming out of Syria like, very soon." That comes as a surprise to members of his own administration. One defense official telling CNN it's unclear what the president means by that statement and military commanders agree the challenges in Syria are too complex for a sudden U.S. withdrawal.

The difficulties facing Syria, now in its seventh year of a Civil War are illustrated by vast human suffering, like what we see happening at Afrin. That city, just on the Turkish border, was once a Kurdish stronghold, but since Turkish forces invaded, more than 150,000 people have escaped their homes. In this exclusive report, our Ben Wedeman says they are caught in limbo with no end in sight.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hands stretch out for the most basic of creature (ph) comforts. A mattress, a blanket. These people fled Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies, not in control of Afrin. They're caught between a rock in the Turkish invasion, and the hard place that is the Syrian government checkpoint on the road to nearby Aleppo.

Muhammad's (ph) family sleeps in his bus. He can't go back to Afrin, and even though the road to Aleppo is open, he says, you have to pay 400,000 SYP, nearly $1,900 per person to pass. All their worldly possessions are on his bus. They've lost everything else.

"I wanted to die," cries his mother, Fatima (ph), everything was looted. Others are living in the open, in schools, and in Mosques. At night, bitter cold sets in. But the warmth and the flames isn't enough to ward off illness. "We all sleep on this blanket," says Fidan (ph), "there aren't enough blankets, we just want to leave from here. Our children are sick, this one has bronchitis and we need to him to hospital."

World Health Organization estimates nearly 170,000 people are caught in limbo in this corner of Northwestern Syria, documented in this exclusive video obtained by CNN.

(Inaudible) official insist civilians can return to Afrin, but say there is a danger from explosives and IED's left behind. Ahmed Kahout (ph) is a leader of local counsel and is desperate for outside help. "We can't accommodate all these people," he says. "Most are on the streets, on sidewalks, in parks and open ground. They left Afrin with only the clothing they were wearing." These two small bags contain everything this young father and his family have left. "Our life has been destroyed Syria has been ruined," says Pamda (ph). He and his wife, Klovan (ph), baby son, Ali (ph), have nowhere left to go. Ali (ph) is sick.

"The future of my son is on the ground," says Klovan (ph). "Every time I look at him, I cry. My heart burns." All they can do now is huddle on the street as night falls. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.

HOWELL: Russian officials say that the fight to push rebel groups out of Eastern Ghouta is almost over. They say that Douma is the last town in the region still held by rebel fighters. The U.N. says nearly 100 -- 1,600, rather, people have been killed since the bombing offensive by the Syrian military backed by Russian warplanes began.

Over the past week, thousands of rebel fighters have accepted deals for safe passage, and tens of thousands of civilians have fled that area. The Taliban tried to silence her, but Malala Yousafzai isn't backing down. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate


HOWELL: Accepted deals for safe passage and tens of thousands of civilians have fled that area. The Taliban tried to silence her but Malala Yousafzai isn't backing down. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has returned to Pakistan for the first time since militants tried to kill her in 2012. CNN's Becky Anderson has more now Malala's home trip.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Today I am very happy after 5 1/2 years I've set foot on my soil, my country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An emotional homecoming Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai returns to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in the head by Taliban militants nearly six years ago.

ANDERSON: The 20-year-old education activist arrived in the middle of the night on Thursday under heavy security at Islamabad Airport she was greeted by local media. Traveling with her father and younger brother Yousafzai met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi. She also gave a speech on national television about how much she missed home. Breaking down in tears Yousafzai said the happiest day of her life.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I am so happy I still can't believe that this is actually happening. For the past five years I've always dreamed that I would come home. When I would be in the plane, in the car and I would look at the cities of London or New York I would tell myself imagine it's home, imagine it's a city back home that you're driving in Islamabad imagine it's Karachi. But it never was true and today it is and I'm so happy.

ANDERSON: Prime Minister Abbassi welcomed her back and said that she returned as the most prominent citizen of Pakistan. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I am very happy that our daughter who rose to fame in the world has come back.

ANDERSON: There's been much secrecy around her surprise trip. There's speculation that Yousafzai will travel around the country, possibly even to her childhood home in the swat Valley. Her courage in the wake of the Taliban attack caught the world's attention. And through a wave of support to the cause she's dedicated high life to education for girls. Within Pakistan opinions are split, many see the young woman is hearing what others believe she should be silenced. Beck Anderson, CNN.


HOWELL: The United Kingdom is looking to beef up its recycling with big plans to cut down on plastic waste. We'll explain just ahead plus how a TV sitcom in the United States paints - shines some painful light on American life. It's the return of Roseanne. Stay with us.


HOWELL: The United Kingdom has a new program to cut down on plastic waste, it's following the lead of other countries that will pay you to turn in your bottles. Erin McLaughlin, reports.



ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Buy (ph) plastic bottles. Water bottles, soda bottles, they seem harmless, but experts say, amount to a third of all plastic waste found in the seas. Compounding the problem, it takes longer to degrade in the ocean than on land. There's plastic even found in the bellies of birds.


SHARON GEORGE, ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY, KEELE UNIVERSITY: They're treating it as if they're a -- a disposable commodity and actually, they're not. Plastics are incredibly long lived, but we're using them for single use items and we really need to change that, from a producer and a consumer point of view.

MCLAUGHLIN (voiceover): Now the British Government is trying to do just that. They're looking for feedback on proposal that has worked for other countries. The proposal is simple. You guys say, a bottle a water of from the store, you pay extra for the plastic, you drink the water, then you return the plastic bottle and get the surcharge back. Now they're still deciding on the amount of the surcharge, but countries have charged everywhere from 10 to 50 cents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it good -- a good move, I guess, the only thing is whether people will actually take them back. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two in other countries (ph) and two and Denmark (ph), they do it and you know, it's like, alls a hidden (ph) cost, and you know, you want (inaudible), everything's quite good (ph).

MCLAUGHLIN (voiceover): When it comes to recycling, the U.K. is behind much of the rest of the world.


GEORGE: Most of our plastic has been going to countries like China. Well, the markets are now changing and that is becoming more difficult for the U.K. to do, so we need to radically rethink what we're doing.


MCLAUGHLIN: About 40 countries and 21 U.S. States payback for returned plastic. Norway recycles 97 percent of its plastic bottles. Compare that to the U.K., with a bottle recycling rate of 74 percent.

Program costs hundreds of millions of dollars to implement and even more to maintain, but to environmentalists, for the health of the world's oceans, it's worth it to get the U.K. going in the right direction. Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.


HOWELL: So, a good to solution to try to tackle the problem but now consider this, a huge pile of swirling trash in the Pacific Ocean is growing than expected. The size will disturb you. Let's bring in our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, in the international weather center. Derek, okay, let's take a look.

DEREK VAN DAM, WEATHER ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Well, George, this gigantic pile of trash wandering aimlessly across the Eastern Pacific Ocean, much of it by the way, is microscopic, is so large. 1.6 million square kilometers, that's how much area it actually covers, and it is so large that some environmentalists actually petitioned the United Nations to name this great pacific garbage patch, the Trash of Isles (ph), or Trash Isles (ph), I should say, with its own passport and it's own currency called debris.

This is conservation efforts that, trying (ph) to sample some of ocean, across the Eastern Pacific, where this large garbage patch has been discovered, which was roughly, about two to three decades ago. They know its been there, but it is larger than what they had originally anticipated.

So, how did we get here, how did we get such a large area of trash floating across the Eastern Pacific, well we have gyres. These are large ocean currents that transport warm and cold waters from the equator and the poles, and sometimes this water is also transported by stronger winds.

Well, the trash that you and I dispose of, from the West Coast of North America, to the coastline of Japan, some of that can get accumulated and it also stuck in this large swirling mass which, just coincidentally, has started to form across the Eastern Pacific, and it is so large. It is three times the size of the Country of France, or two times the size of the State of Texas in the U.S.

Unbelievable, to just grasp the sheer size of this particular issue that we deal it, and we talked about the U.K. and its return policy for plastics, well, so much of the giant pacific garbage is actually plastics, in fact, much of it is also fishing nets, old buoys form the fishing industry. The interesting thing that they've found with this survey is that it is 16 times larger than what they had previously thought, so it is a large problem and of course, lots of this is microscopic, so you can't actually see it when you go out in the water, at least, much of it. They're larger pieces of course, but it gets mixed up into the ocean water and of course, you can imagine, this has a major impact on marine life.

So George, as we make decisions, as we try to press for new laws to go into effect, you can start, as in individual, to perhaps, deny that plastic straw at the local restaurant that you frequent, and I use less plastic bags at the at the grocery store, right?


HOWELL: Yes, it really does start with us doesn't it, those individual decisions. Thank you so much Derek and I think we'll all keep that in mind. NASA is set to launch its latest planet hunting satellite next month. TESS, as it is nicknamed as part of NASA's search for exoplanet's or world outside our solar system. NASA hopes to find thousands of those planets by surveying 85% of the sky. Satellites or wide-field cameras are -- will stare at different sectors for days at a time over two years, wow. NASA hopes to find planets that could support life. It says TESS will replace it Kepler spacecraft which is set to end its mission. It's already Good Friday and much of the world as Christians celebrate Easter though when they believe Jesus was crucified on the cross and then arose from the dead.

One town in southern Mexico is famous for its elaborate ceremonies faithful stage of mocks - mock crucifixion I should say of parading a statue of Jesus through the town's Cathedral. Some people walk through the streets whipping themselves as way to share the pain Jesus suffered on the cross. An Italian journalist is in holy hot water with the Vatican. Bejideo Safari is a 93-year-old atheist who struck up a friendship with the Pope but when Safari reported the Pope told him that hell doesn't exist. Well the Vatican pushed back in a statement it said this. "What is reported by the author in today's article is the result of his reconstruction in which the actual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted, no quotation of the aforementioned article should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father." Still ahead the painful truth of comedy for reboot of the beloved TV sitcom Roseanne tells us about American life. Stay with us.


HOWELL: A scene there from the rebooted situation comedy called "Roseanne" here in the United States. The original version of the show was popular in the 1980s and 90s. It's about a blue-collar working-class family in Illinois exploring some of the deep divides in American life. Tom Foreman explains.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): For conservative America the return of Roseanne is a triumphant change in the culture wars. The debut pulling over 18 million viewers to defrump loving lead character.

ROSEANNE BARR, AMERICAN SITCOM CHARACTER: Thank you for making America great again.

JACKIE HARRIS, AMERICAN SITCOM CHARACTER: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?

BARR: He talked about jobs Jackie, he said he'd shake things up. I mean this might come as a complete shock to you but we almost lost our house the way things are going.

HARRIS: Have you looked at the news because now things are worse.

BARR: Not on the real news.

HARRIS: Oh, please.


FOREMAN: The President always watching the numbers.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at Roseanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings. Look at her ratings and it was about us.

BARR: It was just a friendly conversation about working and you know television and ratings.



FOREMAN: But real politics are at work. Republicans have long raged against what they see as a Hollywood bias against conservatives and Christians.


BARR: First, let's say grace. Jackie, would you like to take a knee?


FOREMAN: And the new Roseanne has already spurred some fans to demand the revival of Last Man Standing with Tim Allen.


TIM ALLEN, ACTOR: Trump is like family to me, believe me.



FOREMAN (voiceover): ABC said politics played no role in canceling that popular comedy, but Allen suggested Hollywood was intolerant of his real-life Republican views


ALLEN: You've got to be real careful around here, so you don't get beat up. If you don't believe what everybody believes, it's like 30's Germany.


FOREMAN (voiceover): Roseanne is also a real Trump supporter and has hammered Democrats, including Hilary Clinton.


JIMMY FALLON: I think you accused her of being a murderer on Twitter, didn't you?

BARR: I did not.


BARR: Yes.

FALLON: Then you know I'm going to find that tweet that...

BARR: I deleted it, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you (ph).


FOREMAN(voiceover): And while others may have their say on her show...


BARR: So what's up with the girl's clothes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This just feels like me. I like colors that pop, it's more creative.


FOREMAN(voiceover): The star on the right gets the last word.


HARRIS: I should try to understand why you voted the crazy way that you did. BARR: And I should have understood that you know, you want the government to give everybody free healthcare because you're a good hearted person who can't do simple math.


FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: People go on photos safaris in Africa to get close to close to nature. But not this closes.

OK, a curious cheetah stuck in the back seat of a vehicle in the Serengeti while the tourists inside were wee watching other wildlife. The visitor follow their guide's advice avoided contact as the cheetah sniffed around -- oh my goodness -- even nibbled on the headrest there. One passenger said it was pretty scary, though not to worry, the cat finally left, apparently finding nothing to eat. Thankfully he did realize thee was nothing to eat in there.

Thanks for being with us; I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues with (inaudible) Jones (ph) live in London. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.