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U.S.-North Korea Summit; Irish Referendum; Facebook Accused of Violating E.U. Privacy Rules; Harvey Weinstein Charged; Russian Oligarch Questioned over Trump Tower Meeting; Kilauea's Explosive Threat; Desperate Effort to Contain Ebola in Congo; North Korea Claims to Destroy Nuclear Test Site. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired May 26, 2018 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Everybody plays games. That's the word from the U.S. president saying that talks with North Korea might be back on, adding predictably, we'll see what happens.

Also ahead -- the vote counting in Ireland is well under way. The results there could change the country's 35-year-old abortion ban.

And later this hour, a life-and-death battle to stop the spread of Ebola in Congo. We ask an expert about the challenges they're facing.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. The peace summit between North Korea and the United States, the one that President Trump canceled Thursday, it is back on again, maybe.

The Trump administration is apparently working on the assumption that a summit with North Korea may happen after all. This about-face one day after the U.S. president sent a letter to Kim Jong-un, explicitly cancelling their historic meeting in Singapore set for June 12th.

President Trump now tweeting both sides are engaged in productive talks that could revive the meeting. Earlier, he told reporters he was encouraged by the conciliatory tone coming from Korea. We get more from CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump indicating the summit he already canceled with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may, in fact, still happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, is the summit still on? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to see what happens. We're talking to them now. It was a very nice statement they put out. It could even be the 12th. We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We'll see what happens.

BROWN (voice-over): Just one day ago citing North Korea's open hostility toward the U.S., President Trump declared the meeting was off but did leave the door wide open.

TRUMP: If and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting.

BROWN (voice-over): He didn't need to wait long. The president's apparent 180 on the meeting comes after what Trump called a, quote, "warm and productive statement" from North Korea in a tweet.

That statement praising the president, saying President Trump made a brave decision and his efforts to make the summit happen. And the summit is desperately needed for the improvement of the relationship. We reiterate to the U.S. that we are willing to sit face-to-face at any time and in any way.

When asked today if he was worried the North Koreans are playing games, the president said --

TRUMP: Everybody plays games. You know that.

BROWN (voice-over): And secretary of state James Mattis is expressing optimism.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Equal give and take of trying to put together big summits and stuff. So diplomats are still at work. And from our point, here at the Defense Department, that's a fine thing.

BROWN (voice-over): The White House is reiterating that the president is serious about the meeting.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's not just looking to have a meeting. He's not looking for just a cheap political stunt. He wants to get something that's a long lasting and actual real solution.

And if the meeting takes place on June 12th, we'll be ready. If it takes place on July 12th, we'll be ready. We'll do whatever is necessary to prepare for that on that front.

BROWN (voice-over): As uncertainty looms over that potentially historic summit, the president is sowing more confusion over the FBI's use of a confidential human source to better monitor Russian activities, a source who made contact with several Trump campaign advisers.

Trump is once again alleging a massive conspiracy with zero evidence, tweeting, "Can anyone even imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party and absolute power for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain?"

But Republican lawmakers confidently briefed Thursday on the use of that confidential source aren't yet coming to the president's defense or saying much at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you surprised with what you learned?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly surprising but, again, it was classified so there's no real report I can give to you.

BROWN: As for North Korea, I spoke to a senior administration official who says the White House is more optimistic than expected and attributed that to North Korea's conciliatory statement praising the president and saying that it wants to talk any time, any place.

Also the fact that the communications with the North Koreans have reopened contributed to this change in outlook. However, the official cautioned that anything can happen between now and June 12th.


BROWN: Pamela Brown, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Pamela, thank you for the reporting.

Now live in Seoul, South Korea, CNN correspondent Matt Rivers, standing by following developments there.

Matt, just give it a day. I feel like I've got whiplash from the 180 here. Talk to us about the reaction there, this reversal by the U.S. president.

What has been the response from South Korean officials there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, whiplash is a really good way to put it, George. It has been really a back-and-forth 36 to 48 hours here in South Korea. Start with the incredibly deep feelings of disappointment, the major setback felt by the South Korean government after that announcement from President Trump.

It was South Korean president Moon Jae-in that really played the role of middle man between North Korea and the United States. Its biggest proponent, the summit's biggest proponent of happening was the South Korean president. And then the president made that announcement.

That said, ever since that announcement happened, we really had step after step after step that seems to push the likelihood that the summit might happen even again on June 12th higher and higher.

And to that, we got a reaction from South Korea. The spokesperson for the office of the president said in a statement, in part, "It is fortunate that the embers of the North Korea-U.S. dialogue are not going out but are coming back up again. We are watching the development carefully."

George, it's worth noting there that they're not really coming out and saying they're expecting the summit to happen. I think maybe some lessons were learned over the past week or so.

You have the national security adviser here a couple days ago saying he was 99.9 percent sure that the June 12th summit was going to happen and then the President of the United States made that announcement.

So I think there's cautious optimism here in South Korea. But they are keeping a little bit in reserve because, just like the rest of us, the South Korean government is not sure how this is going to play out.

HOWELL: As the president usually says, we'll have to wait and see. Matt Rivers, live for us in Seoul, South Korea. Thank you.

Let's talk more about this now with Peter Matthews. He's a professor of political science at Cypress College joining us from Los Angeles this hour.

Peter, good to have you here again on the show.

Again, this on again, off again approach to this summit. Is this Trumpian theater that we're seeing or some sort of negotiating tactic?

What do you make of what's happening so far?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: It's a very dangerous tactic that could explode at any time in the wrong way because diplomacy needs consistency, it needs a measured approach. And this way no one knows what's going to happen and the people you're negotiating with can't really trust you.

It's very concerning especially with nuclear weapons in the background. We'll have to see where this goes.

HOWELL: It was very interesting to see the president's response, very personalized, using the words "I" and "me" but also the North Korean response very telling, really, the key to opening this possibility again of talks.

What do you read from the North Korean reaction to President Trump's cancellation?

MATTHEWS: I think North Korea is acting sophisticatedly. They're saying let's be calm and cool about it since Trump is not and bring him back to the table so we can show we have the upper hand here in being able to set the agenda even meeting.

If President Trump is walking away like that, we want him to come to the table so we can have a good deal that will help all of us, especially the North Koreans, to have equal footing with the United States across the table and to get these nuclear weapons challenges under control and have a peace treaty signed. They want a peace treaty. HOWELL: Let's talk just a bit more about that because we understand that there are discussions that are happening. We don't know exactly what is being said, who is having those discussions at this point.

But the greater question is this, given what we do know, given what we have seen, who wants this more, Peter, in your view?

Is it North Korea, looking to take a new approach with the possibility of seeing sanctions lifted?

Is it President Trump, who has staked a great deal of his presidency on this being a possible legacy moment, even worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize and those commemorative coins that we have seen?


MATTHEWS: I think those coins are what's motivating Trump. No, actually, the peace prize is something he'd really like to have. President Obama got it and he wants to keep up with President Obama. It's a big prize for him if he can bring across a negotiation that's successful.

But I think North Korea also wants it. Their economy is not doing well with the sanctions that have been plied against them for so long and they're concerned about Trump's unpredictability and he's probably showed them he can do things that have never been imagined before.

But I do believe both sides want this to a large extent. But they have to keep their heads, especially Trump has got to keep a cooler head and not let John Bolton run the show because he's the one who made this last event occur, that North Korea walked -- that Trump walked away because North Korea was upset at Bolton saying that the Libyan model would be used, which meant the destruction of the --


MATTHEWS: -- dictator -- for example, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya -- when he agreed to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for working with the U.S. and having economic aid.

In the end he got overthrown by NATO-backed forces led by the U.S. He never got the economic aid from the U.S. So North Korea doesn't want to suffer the same fate. They are concerned about getting this settled.

That was a very bad comparison that Bolton made by saying the Libya model could be used. And that really blew things up in the latest negotiation.

HOWELL: It seems like things may be getting back on track. But another question within the region, South Korea, a very important U.S. ally. They say that there is no daylight between the United States and South Korea. But clearly that nation has been caught in between very unpredictable parties.

MATTHEWS: Yes, in fact, South Korea was a major player in this. President Moon helped to bring President Trump and Kim to the -- leader Kim to the table. And yet they have the biggest stake in it. So does Japan. Yet Trump treated both Japan and South Korea, our closest allies there, with impunity. He didn't even notify them that he was going to call off this latest meeting.

He made that announcement about calling off the meeting without even letting them know about it. So it's not a very good way to treat your allies. And if you treat your allies that way, what could your opponents think about whether they can trust you or not?

It's a real problem.

HOWELL: The other nation in play here, China.

Where does China factor into all of this, in your view?

MATTHEWS: In a big way. China has a lot of influence with North Korea, if it chose to use it, because 90 percent of North Korean trade is with China. And China has also agreed to put stricter sanctions on North Korea. And that helped to bring them to the table.

But now China has got problems with the United States because Trump has upped the ante about China-U.S. trade. He wants to force China to buy $200 billion worth more of United States goods than what we sell them, what we buy them.

So this is the problem with using trade as a weapon and mixing it up with diplomacy on this most critical of nuclear issues, nuclear weapons issues. I think China has a major role to play. But Trump has to handle them the right way. I think that's what's really required here.

HOWELL: All right. We'll see where this goes in the days ahead. Peter Matthews, thanks so much for your time and perspective.

MATTHEWS: My pleasure. Thank you.

HOWELL: The stories still ahead but live pictures of vote counting under way in Ireland. It could be history in the making and a major victory for supporters of abortion rights. CNN is live in Dublin, Ireland, ahead.

Plus, the E.U. rolling out new data laws and some tech giants are already breaking the rules. We'll explain as CNN NEWSROOM pushes ahead.





HOWELL: Live images in Dublin, Ireland. Terms like "landslide" and "historic" are being bandied there. If exit polls are correct, voters have decided they want to throw out some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the developed world. And it appears the decision was not even close.

Again, they're still counting ballots right now. Our Atika Shubert is watching it all live from Dublin.

Atika, first of all, tell us about how important this is and what more are we learning from these exit polls?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it appears that this will be an historic day. It would be a significant public shift here if these exit poll numbers are correct.

What RTE, the Irish broadcaster, has said in their exit poll numbers is that nearly 70 percent of respondents voted in favor of amending the constitution and legalizing abortion here in Ireland with only 30 percent against. So that's a tremendous change.

Now we're waiting for the vote to continue to be counted, actually tallied here in Dublin Castle. And then we'll get the official results in a few hours. But we're already starting to see reaction from those yes campaigners, abortion rights campaigners. They have been, obviously, very happy with the exit poll numbers that have come out.

We've also been hearing from the other side as well, specifically from the Save the Eighth campaign, spearheaded by John McGurk (ph). He has put out a tweet, the eighth amendment referring to the amendments in Ireland's constitution, which basically recognized the right of the unborn as equal to the right of the mother.

That was the legal basis for banning abortion here. He put out a tweet now just saying once those exit polls came out, quote, "The eighth did not create an unborn child's right to life. It merely acknowledged it. The right exists independent of what a majority says. That said, with the result of that magnitude, clearly there was very little to be done. Thank you to every no voter and campaigner."

So clearly it seems to be a concession there that the no side of this has lost and the yes side of this has won. But, again, still waiting for those official results, which should come in, in the next two hours or so -- George.

HOWELL: Atika, if you could share with our viewers the context here. The legacy of this issue in Ireland, given the deep roots of the Catholic Church there, this would, as you point out, present a major shift in opinions.

SHUBERT: It's a huge shift. It's seismic really. You know, keeping in mind, Ireland has always had some of the toughest laws on abortion in Europe in the Western world and it was codified into the constitution in 1983, with this referendum putting in the eighth amendment.

But now it appears, with these numbers coming in, that has been completely reversed. And I think one of the most significant factors of this was hearing from so many women in Ireland, talking about these harrowing experiences they had in trying to seek abortions.

And we heard from younger women, coming out, talking about how isolated and alone they felt, how frightened they were as teenagers but also from older women, who talked about how difficult it was, even when they had medical complications, such as fatal fetal abnormalities.

So I think it was those personal stories that really made a difference with voters.

HOWELL: Atika Shubert, live for us in Dublin, Ireland. We'll continue to watch the votes being counted and report any information as it's confirmed. Thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

The European Union has just rolled out sweeping new data protection laws. And it's not just affecting people in Europe. You've been getting e-mails, I'm sure, from websites, telling you they've updated their privacy policies. It's all part of the E.U.'s new general data protection regulation, simply called GDPR.

Legal experts say big tech companies like Facebook and Google, that they're already breaking the rules and they could face billions of dollars in fines. The law only affects companies that handle data of E.U. residents. And only E.U. residents can legally enforce it.

But it's already leading some corporations to change how they handle data for all of their customers.

Here's a quick look at the GDPR. Companies must ask in plain language if they can collect your data. And hiding the consent in a small text of general terms and conditions, that doesn't count.

If you ask a company, it must tell you how it uses your data. It must also give you an opportunity to permanently delete that data if you so choose. Businesses will also be required to tell authorities about any data breach within 72 hours of discovering it.

The law affects any organization that stores or uses data on E.U. residents, regardless of where it's based. Let's talk --


HOWELL: -- a bit more about this with Jesse Bockstedt. Jesse is an associate professor of information systems at Emory University.

Jesse, good to have you with us again. Funny thing; my wife has a small business. I opened an e-mail. There's a note from her. All companies small and big have to comply with this, flooding our inboxes. Many people are finding it.

What exactly does this mean for consumers, who have asked for more control over their personal data? JESSE BOCKSTEDT, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think this means we'll be asked for consent a lot more than we are used to. Traditionally, consent means clicking on an end user license agreement when we sign up for an account.

Now these E.U. regulations are requiring companies to get consent on all different ways they'll use, capture and process our data. And so I think these e-mails are just the beginning.

For those of us in the U.S., we're seeing this because companies that operate in the U.S. and in the European Union are kind of taking -- changing their policies across the board to be prepared for this in Europe.

And I think, you know, hopefully, users will take advantage of these new rights they have, rights to access, right to erasure. They may not. Privacy research has shown us that this privacy paradox, where users tend to say they want more privacy and more control over their data online but often act the opposite to that in the things that they do, they way they post, the actions they take on these types of online services. So we'll see how much users take advantage of these.

HOWELL: Very interesting. These regulations apply specifically to Europe, residents in the E.U. But what we're seeing around the world, here in the United States, companies that are taking a blanket approach to this, as you point out, is Europe really setting the stage here for the rest of the world to follow?

BOCKSTEDT: I think so. They do tend to have a much stronger stance on privacy in Europe than we are used to here in the United States. But I think the users all across the world are -- especially in wake of some of the most recent scandals -- how pervasive these technologies have become in our lives, users are wanting more control and privacy.

And the European Union's new regulations are strong. And the fines that go along with them can be severe. So it shows that they are taking a very strong stance on this with companies.

HOWELL: Briefly here and we pointed this out, companies are required to notify users within 72 hours of any breach.

How does a company carry that out?

BOCKSTEDT: It's difficult. I think, technically, they have to notify the governing authority within 72 hours. And then users within a reasonable amount of time after that.

For large companies, this can be very difficult with large amounts of data, complex systems, just understanding the scope of the breach. From what I understand, the regulation is they have to notify the governing body within 72 hours if they've determined there's been some sort of jeopardy to privacy of their users.

Just figuring that out in 72 hours can be difficult for large companies. And small, medium-sized businesses, they may not have even the resources to figure these things out within 72 hours.

So it would be very interesting to see how this is enforced and the types of penalties that come along with it and just in general how much -- how many resources and things are spent by companies in order to be prepared for breaches.

Breaches have become very commonplace. Some recent reports that I've seen have shown there are over 2,000 breaches known just within the last year. So I think we'll see companies communicating a lot more with users about potential breaches. We may get breach notification overload from companies. But I think the stakes are really high.

HOWELL: The pressure clearly on. OK. I want to talk about one person that is certainly on the hot seat, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, for transparency, for security issues. And he was in Europe. He spoke with regulators there. And he spoke about regulation. Let's listen to what he had to say.



MARK ZUCKERBERG, COFOUNDER AND CEO, FACEBOOK: I think the Internet is becoming increasingly important in people's lives. Some sort of regulation is important and inevitable.

And the important thing is to get this right and to make sure that we have regulatory frameworks that help protect people, that are flexible, so that they allow for innovation, that don't inadvertently prevent new technologies like AI from being able to develop.


HOWELL: But critics say that Zuckerberg danced around a lot of their questions, that Facebook is still dancing around, skirting around some of these regulations.

What were the biggest takeaways from your perspective about what he had to say?

BOCKSTEDT: I think regulation is something that's scary for these companies, largely because, with the GDPR, it's moving toward an opt- in type scenario, where users have to opt-in to sharing their data.

These companies have primarily operated on an opt-out type model up to this point, assuming we can use your data unless you opt out. And we know from psychology and behavioral economics that --


BOCKSTEDT: -- users tend to stick with the default. If the default is you can't use my data and I have to opt in, I think a lot fewer users are going to be opting in to share their data, which will have pretty dramatic impacts on revenue for a lot of these businesses. They may have to rethink their business models. So Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook do want their customers to feel safe

on Facebook. But, at the same time, they want to make revenue and regulations that can prevent them from making revenue in the ways they have been, through targeted advertising using personal data. If that goes away, that's a -- that jeopardizes their potential to make money.

HOWELL: Jesse Bockstedt, thank you for your time and perspective. We'll stay in touch with you.

BOCKSTEDT: I appreciate it. Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, CNN takes you on a rare journey through North Korea's countryside. At the end of the line, a secretive place usually only seen from spy satellites.

Plus, the U.S. Gulf Coast preparing for the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season. We'll have the very latest on Alberto. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Live to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.



HOWELL: As part of his bail agreement, Harvey Weinstein is required to wear a GPS tracking device and surrender his passport. His attorney says Weinstein paid the $1 million to make bail on Friday.

In the meantime, he is under investigation for other allegations in Los Angeles and in London.

Actress Rose McGowan was the first -- was one of the first women to come out against him and she told NBC's Megyn Kelly how she responded to the charges. Listen.


ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTOR: This man had hunting grounds all over the world and he had accomplices and a complicity machine. He was the cult leader of Hollywood, I would say, their king.

MEGYN KELLY, MSNBC HOST: If he were watching this today, what would you say to him?

MCGOWAN: We got you. We got you. Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: CNN has learned the President of the United States, his attorney, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian oligarch in January 2017, days before Mr. Trump's inauguration. That according to a source and this video reviewed by CNN.

Special counsel Robert Mueller questioned the Russian oligarch. His name Victor Vekselberg. Mueller asked him about a meeting at Trump Tower. In this video, you can see Vekselberg, wearing the hat, waiting to go up to Cohen's Trump Tower office.

The source says the aim of the meeting was to improve U.S.-Russia relations. A firm connected to Vekselberg paid Cohen more than $500,000 for consulting work. Last month, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the oligarch for election interference.

In this exclusive report, CNN's Matthew Chance tried to ask Victor Vekselberg about his connection to Michael Cohen. But, as you'll see, Vekselberg wasn't exactly forthcoming about it.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Vekselberg, a quick question from CNN, thank you, thank you.

Mr. Vekselberg, why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?


Really appreciate it.

Just later, OK?


VEKSELBERG: I understand. You, you are so aggressive. No, no, no. Please leave. Please leave.

CHANCE: Was it to buy access to the president?

VEKSELBERG: Please leave it.

CHANCE: You know that the -- what did you get for the money?

VEKSELBERG: Please, later.

CHANCE: These are questions, sir. Please answer them.

VEKSELBERG: We'll tell everything. Not now because --

CHANCE: Did you -- what did the FBI question you about?

VEKSELBERG: Thank you very much.


HOWELL: Now to the U.S. state of Hawaii. Kilauea is turning parts of that state's big island into a volcanic wasteland. More people are being forced to leave.

This as molten lava flows onto the streets there. Active fissures are bubbling up, pushing lava up to the surface in one part of the big island and ash flumes are being thrown 10,000 feet, some 3 kilometers into the air. And it takes just minutes for this volcano's destructive fury to engulf homes. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This house, this house, house on that side over there, also gone. This is insane. Lava is advancing about, I don't know, 3 feet per minute, 2 feet per minute. And we have -- we are seeing this river move across this lawn, taking that house in a matter of minutes.


HOWELL: Wow. CNN's Stephanie Elam was near the volcano when lava fountains opened up out of nowhere. Here's her report.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thick waves of fresh lava blaze a path down a mount of --


ELAM (voice-over): -- volcanic rock. This didn't exist just a few days ago.

STEVE GEBBIE, HAWAII RESIDENT: We gambled and maybe didn't win.

ELAM (voice-over): Every day, Steve Gebbie heads into Leilani Estates to check on the house he built by hand. Only one way to his place remains but this road is now scarred with jagged cracks, a byproduct of Kilauea's eruption.

Steve says some folks in the neighborhood patched the road enough to make it passable, at least for now.

When we first met Steve three weeks ago, it was just days after the eruption began. Back then, he thought his home would be gone by now.

GEBBIE: There's three fissures right next to my house. What I'm thinking is that they're going to grab a hold of each other.

ELAM (voice-over): Steve's fear turned to fact. The fissures have banded together into a massive volcanic complex. Kilauea's eruption is callous in its haphazardness, leaving residents who haven't lost their homes with a sick vein of hope each day.

ELAM: So how do you feel being back here right now?

GEBBIE: A little numb. At this point, we're kind of numb. It's been three weeks. The heart breaks slowly. ELAM (voice-over): Just a few hundred feet from his driveway, lava continues to ooze closer. It's already taken out some homes here, swallowed by the unforgiving molten rock, tin roofs at rest in a sea of black.

GEBBIE: It almost looks like it's going to fill in this basin and then I'm -- when that happens is when all hell is going to break loose at the top.

ELAM: We were just standing down here now five minutes ago and there was no lava fountain to be seen. But look at this now. It's like it came out of nowhere. You can hear it. The ash is blowing around. We're told by residents that as early as this morning, this looked deep, deep red.

ELAM (voice-over): As the winds pick up, the heat of the lava field scorches past.

GEBBIE: It's just a matter of time. I don't know what's going to be left of Leilani. I really think it might be wiped out.

ELAM (voice-over): A seemingly endless supply of lava fueling Steve's nightmare that his house will be lost to Kilauea -- Stephanie Elam, CNN, Leilani estates, Hawaii.

HOWELL: What an image. What devastation there.

Now to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season is set to hit -- get this -- just as Americans get ready to celebrate the holiday weekend.


HOWELL: It is a race against time and a virus in Congo. You'll hear from the health officials trying to keep the outbreak of Ebola there from turning into a full-blown epidemic. Details ahead.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

There's a desperate effort under way in the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop an Ebola outbreak from exploding into a full-blown epidemic. The focus right now, the presence of the deadly virus in a crowded trading hub, which leads straight into Congo's capital. Our Zain Asher explains.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Health workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are in a life-or-death battle to stop the spread of an Ebola outbreak first reported in early May. The challenge is magnified by the difficult conditions and the lack of any local health care infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting in vaccines, getting in freezers, having enough fuel so these freezers can function in the area where you don't really have electricity. You need to have vaccination teams to be trained so they know exactly what they need to do.

ASHER (voice-over): In one case, the relatives of three Ebola patients helped them leave a hospital isolation ward. One was about to be discharged but the other two were highly infectious and died within 24 hours.

Health workers are trying to trace anyone who may have been infected after coming into contact with them. They're also trying to educate those at risk about the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is very important that family members of the patient understand the risk of spreading the disease when they keep the sick at home. If people understand that, there will be less chance that they'll want to escape. It is a hospital, not a prison. We cannot lock everything up.

ASHER (voice-over): The World Health Organization says efforts to halt a full-blown epidemic have reached a critical point. There's particular concern about the presence of the virus in Mbandaka, a crowded trading hub on the Congo River with road, water and air links to Congo's capital, Kinshasa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on the epidemiological knife edge of this response. The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we're going to be able to keep it under control.

ASHER (voice-over): Ebola was first discovered in the Congo in the 1970s. It spreads through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person. More than 11,000 people died in an Ebola outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2013 and 2016 -- Zain Asher --


ASHER (voice-over): -- CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Joining me now to talk more about this is Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano, he is the acting UNICEF representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It's good to have you with us, sir, to talk more about this problem. UNICEF, obviously, putting a great deal of emphasis on schools, on children who may be at risk. Tell us more about that approach and how it's being received so far. GIANFRANCO ROTIGLIANO, UNICEF: Well, as you know, children are always vulnerable. And in this kind of epidemic, they are, of course, one of the weakest link of the chain. And we work for children and with children.

And mostly the schools are open, as you know, and, therefore, this is a place where we have communication with them, where we discuss together what should be done and what should not be done in order to face the epidemic.

In each school, there's a washing hands facility, there's thermometers to get the temperature in order to check every child when they come and when they leave so that if there is a case of fever or a child that is not feeling well, we can identify that child, put it in isolation, in a small isolation place, and then take care of that child.

And that is great because the children are, as you know, are open. So they collaborate. They are happy to collaborate. They are really participating. And it's so good to see them, how they get into that business with such enthusiasm.

HOWELL: So obviously, the focus on children receiving the messages and then seeing that play out throughout families. Let's talk more about what we've seen before.

The region during the outbreak between 2014 and 2015, you see here, the math, the number of cases, the number of deaths. This was quite a big outbreak at the time and there was concern, obviously, that the situation could have gotten much worse.

Here's how one health official describes efforts now to get a grip on what's happening. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting in vaccines, getting in freezers, having enough fuel so these freezers can function in the area where you don't really have electricity. You need vaccination teams to be trained so they know exactly what they need to do, how to get the consent, how to define eligibility of a contact and contact of contacts. So all of that has to be done in a very short period.


HOWELL: So Dr. Rotigliano, talk to us more about that. Is there a concern that if measures are not ramped up right now that we could see something similar in size and scope?

ROTIGLIANO: No, I don't think -- well, of course, nobody can say that. Not 100 percent sure but we don't think so. We are in all places, we have a few places where, yes, he is right. It is very difficult to get the vaccines there but the vaccines are getting there.

After tomorrow, Monday, the vaccination will start and then, following that, we will start in the other two places. So I'm confident that we get to handle that kind of challenge. We do the communication side and the logistics, together with the UNESCO and WHO and MSF that is under way.

Now the problem, I mean, the risk is the city of Mbandaka, where so far you only have four cases. If we have more in Mbandaka and in a number that is really huge, then that can be a great risk.

But we are putting the emphasis in responding, in following a track of all the contacts that are in Mbandaka. The whole operation is very well aware that this is a risk. And the vaccination is available. So I think that we shouldn't get there.

HOWELL: And, obviously, pushing very important topics, like safe burials, hand washing, very important. We know that your group is certainly spreading that message. Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano, thank you so much for your time and perspective today. We'll stay in touch with you.

ROTIGLIANO: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

HOWELL: After the break, CNN takes you to witness the earth-shaking destruction of North Korea's nuclear test site.






HOWELL: North Korea put on a dramatic show for journalists Thursday in a place that many Westerners have never seen, destroying a nuclear test site. CNN's Will Ripley was among those invited to witness the event. His trip was tightly controlled, though he filed this reporter's notebook about the extraordinary journey.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment I landed in Wonsan, I knew this story was unlike any other: 18 trips to North Korea and this country still keeps me guessing.

For more than 24 hours, we didn't even know if our trip to the Punggye-ri nuclear site would happen. The rhetoric with the U.S. was really heating up. Only when we boarded the bus did we know it was a go.

We rode for more than 12 hours on a North Korean luxury train. It was surreal, a 10-course banquet with all the blinds closed and strict orders not to film outside. We also couldn't film on the drive to the nuclear site. Arriving at Punggye-ri was surreal. The buildings were log cabins,

almost like a summer camp, it was definitely not what I expected. We had to carry our gear and hike for what felt like ages --


RIPLEY (voice-over): -- up steep ravines to get to observation posts built specifically for us.

We visited tunnel after tunnel, the same tunnels North Korea has used to conduct six nuclear tests since 2006, all of them full of explosives, football-sized bags strung with wires. We even had lunch provided by the North Koreans, ham and cucumber sandwiches, surrounded by buildings that would be blown up just hours later.

The explosions were huge, earth-shaking. They sent rocks and debris flying. We found some of it scattered later hundreds of feet away. I can only imagine what it felt like during those nuclear tests.

It was totally impossible to verify if what we were seeing, if all those dramatic explosions, actually made the nuclear site unusable as the North Koreans claim.

For the nuclear officials onsite, there was almost a sense of sadness, watching more than a decade of hard work go up in smoke -- Will Ripley, CNN, at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, North Korea.


HOWELL: Our reporters covering the world for you. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world "AMANPOUR" is ahead. Thanks for watching CNN, the world's news leader.