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White Helmets Evacuated into Jordan by Israel; One Dead in L.A. Hostage Standoff; Criticism over Putin's Invitation to Washington; Duck Boat Tragedy; Moscow Touts Success of Helsinki Summit; The Worldwide Threat of Plastic Waste; Russia Allegedly Funded Montenegro Coup Plot. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 22, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news in the Syrian conflict. Israel has evacuated members of the White Helmets rescue group from Jordan. We're live in Jerusalem with the story, ahead.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Also this hour, terrifying moments inside a Los Angeles grocery store. A hostage standoff leaving one woman dead. The suspect in custody.

HOWELL (voice-over): And dangerous weather lashing parts of Asia. A typhoon in Vietnam turns deadly and a heat wave scorches Japan.

ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We're coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

ALLEN: Our breaking news is this: you've seen them countless times, running and digging through the rubble to save civilians in the Syrian conflict but now Israel and Jordan have come to the rescue of the White Helmets.

HOWELL: A group of 800 Syrian civilians, including members of the volunteer rescue group, they've been evacuated into Jordan. Israel says its military completed the humanitarian effort at the request of the U.S. and the European countries.

For the very latest on this, let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann, following the story live in Jerusalem.

Oren, these civilians and the White Helmets are now safely out of Syria. Tell us where they are now and where they go from here. OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was an overnight operation that took them from Southern Syria, one of the last areas that hasn't been fully retaken by the Syria regime, through Israel and then into Jordan.

Jordan says through a spokesman for the Jordanian foreign ministry that they're being held in what he terms restricted areas. They'll be there for three months before they are transferred to Western countries, where they will be given safe haven.

Among those countries, Canada, Germany and the U.K. And that gives you an idea of the support the White Helmets have internationally. It also gives you an idea of how sensitive an operation this was. Of course, any operation between Syria and Israel, humanitarian or otherwise, is already sensitive.

Remember that the White Helmets are considered a terrorist organization by the Syrian regime and by the Russians, which means getting them out of Syria becomes that much more delicate and crucial, especially as the Syrian regime, with the help of the Russians, closes in on the last parts of Southern Syria.

We know for a few days now there have been -- there has been an international effort to make sure these White Helmets and these other civilians have a way out. George and Natalie, we just saw how that came through here.

HOWELL: It is interesting at the same time that the United States not really on that list of other nations that you mentioned, as these civilians and the White Helmets have been evacuated from Syria.

LIEBERMANN: Well, the U.S. was part of the effort to put together this operation, to make sure there was a way out. From what we know right now, which is a statement from the Jordanians as well as a statement from the Canadian foreign ministry, it doesn't look like the U.S. will take in any of these White Helmets, even over the course of the last few years since the White Helmets began operating several years ago, the U.S. has contributed millions of dollars to the White Helmets as have other nations.

And that's because of their critical work. This is a volunteer rescue group that, in the fighting of Syria, in the chaos of Syria, has become an incredibly important factor and an incredibly important group for saving lives.

They say there are roughly 4,000 members of the White Helmets, according to the organization, and they say they've saved more than 100,000 lives in the years of fighting in Syria.

HOWELL: Oren, if you could remind our viewers around the world what the White Helmets have done in Syria, over the many years, just the work they did, digging through the rubble and trying to avoid these double taps of these continued bombings from Syrian troops.

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely. And through all of the fighting, through the Syrian civil war, the White Helmets were an unarmed volunteer rescue group that did search and rescue, provided medical aid, would go in shortly after a bombing, in incredibly dangerous areas, and try to help those in need of desperate medical assistance.

And we saw them once again in the front pages of the headlines back in April, when it was the Syrian regime that used chemical weapons in Douma near Damascus. It was the White Helmets who went right in and brought us the images that showed the world what had happened there.

Once again, we were reminded of the work the White Helmets do and why they're so critical as the Syrian civil war continues.

HOWELL: Again, Oren Liebermann, on the breaking news, some 800 civilians, including the group, the White Helmets, evacuated from Syria. Thank you for the reporting, Oren, we'll stay in touch with you.

ALLEN: Another top story we're following here, the gunman who held hostages for hours at a Los Angeles grocery store sits in jail this hour.

HOWELL: We just learned that --


HOWELL: -- the woman who you see here, who was an employee, was caught in the crossfire as a gunman barricaded himself inside a Trader Joe's store and traded gunfire with police. Melyda Corado died at the scene.

ALLEN: The standoff lasted several hours with the suspect making demands to police. It ended when the gunman surrendered peacefully after all of that and left the store with the remaining hostages.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect, at the end, asked for handcuffs, he handcuffed himself and then released himself into the custody of LAPD, as I mentioned, LAFD, our fire department, is under LAPD's careful eye, treating the suspect's wounds.


HOWELL: And the suspect got those wounds while on the run from police, this after shooting his grandmother and another woman. Police chased him to that Trader Joe's store, where he crashed his car. And that's when the standoff started.

During the standoff, some people were able to escape through a back door and a window in the back of the store. A mother of one employee was relieved when she saw her daughter on television, running from the store.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just praying, I was just praying and I was just like in disbelief. But once, you know, she was smart enough to hear what she heard and she ran out through the back.


HOWELL: One can only imagine; in disbelief, she says. CNN Miguel Marquez was on the scene at the incident and filed this report for us.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just an incredibly tense several hours here in Los Angeles. One person dead, others shot and possibly could expire as well. All of this at a Trader Joe's, a popular grocery store in Southern California.

This is the remnants of what was a hostage barricade situation. About 1:30 Pacific time in the afternoon, the individual shot his grandmother several times. He took someone else with him, a young woman with him.

Police later in Los Angeles picked him up and started following him. They were in literally hot pursuit when the young man crashed into a pole outside this Trader Joe's with a gun in hand, starts running in, exchanges gunfire with police. That's when somebody inside the Trader Joe's, a young woman, was hit.

Police followed him in, tried to resuscitate her but she expired at the store. And for then several hours, the individual held up in the store, taking hostages at one point and then letting them all go later in the afternoon, surrendering himself to police, asking for a pair of handcuffs, which he handcuffed himself and then turned himself over to police. It has ended -- Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


ALLEN: As all this was happening, Miguel also spoke with a Trader Joe's employee, who explained how he and other workers were able to escape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn't sure if I had a viable exit on the ground floor, so I proceeded upstairs, where we have an upstairs storage space. I moved through the storage space to a back kind of a break room that we have, where we have an emergency ladder.

Grabbed the emergency ladder, proceeded even further back to a back storage area. I grabbed a couple of my co-workers, brought them back as well. I barricaded the hallway as best I could, grabbed a weapon and put the ladder out the window.

And after getting the attention of a SWAT officer, was able to indicate I wanted to go out the ladder. He gave me the thumbs up and I went down the ladder, held the ladder and was able to get three of my other coworkers to follow me out.

MARQUEZ: And so you were getting people out.

Were you bringing people up with you as well as trying to barricade wherever you guys were?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was one person coming down the stairs that was going up, I grabbed her. There was another person back in the break room, I grabbed her. There were additional people upstairs already. I just tried to figure a way out.


ALLEN: Well, we'll bring you any new developments as we continue to follow this story.

HOWELL: Major story out of California that we'll stay on top of.

Now the U.S. president at one of his golf resorts this weekend but he still found time to blast the Russia investigation on Twitter. Also targeting his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Mr. Trump started his Saturday with this, "Inconceivable that the government would break into a office early in the morning, almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer --


HOWELL: -- "would tape a client, totally unheard of and perhaps illegal."

ALLEN: Of course it was not proven that that was unheard of for the federal investigators to go into his lawyer's office. But Cohen had recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump just before the election, talking about this woman, former "Playboy" model, Karen McDougal. You may remember she alleges she had an affair with Mr. Trump. He denies it.

HOWELL: After that tweet about Michael Cohen, the president turned his anger toward another very familiar topic. Our Ryan Nobles has more on that.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president is spending the weekend at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

And his Twitter feed was busy on Saturday. He specifically took the opportunity to suggest that the investigation into his campaign's potential ties to the Russian government during the 2016 election could end up having an effect in the election in 2018.

The president tweeting, quote, "No collusion, no obstruction but that doesn't matter because the 13 angry Democrats were only after Republicans and totally protecting Democrats. Want this witch hunt to drag out to the November election. Republicans better get smart fast and expose what they're doing."

Now the president's tweet storm comes against the backdrop of increasing criticism for his decision to have this summit with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Helsinki and subsequently his decision to invite President Putin to Washington sometime this fall.

And there's been a lot of talk about the reaction from the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who was at a security summit in Aspen. Coats learned of the president's invitation during an interview with NBC. And Coats seemed to be a little bit shocked.

Well, Coats attempted to clear the record on Saturday night. He put out a statement that said, quote, "Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview. My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or to criticize the actions of the president.

"I and the entire intel community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump's ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearize dangerous regimes and protect our nation and our allies."

You'll note that the Director of National Intelligence makes no mention of whether or not he thinks it is a good idea for President Trump to invite Vladimir Putin to Washington sometime this fall.

But there is certainly one person who thinks that the president's interactions with Russia have not been going very well and that's his former opponent, Hillary Clinton. She had some harsh criticism for President Trump during a festival on Saturday. Take a listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The great mystery is why the president has not spoken up for our country. And we saw that most clearly in this recent meeting with Putin. We don't know what was said in the room with just the two of them.


NOBLES: And there's no doubt that we've grown a bit accustomed to President Trump and Hillary Clinton trading barbs long after the 2016 election has been decided. But it's worth pointing out that this is really out of the norm.

Usually, after an election like this, the two sides go to their respective corners and are respectful of the jobs that they have to do after the fact. That's certainly not the case this time around and just one other example of how the Trump administration is unlike any presidency we've ever seen -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, New Jersey.


ALLEN: Well, in a related development, for the first time in FBI history, the agency has made public its highly classified application for a FISA warrant, FISA standing for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the warrant the FBI to conduct surveillance on a suspect. In this case, this man right here, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. HOWELL: The warrant states that the FBI believes that Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government. It goes on to say the FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government earlier this year.

The 400-page warrant became a political hot potato in Congress. Some Republicans allege it showed the Russian investigation was biased against the U.S. president because the warrant relied on the so-called Steele dossier, which was funded by Mr. Trump's political enemies.

But Democrats say the warrant showed the FBI had a legitimate concern about people in the Trump campaign, which predated the Steele dossier.

ALLEN: Let's talk about this with Steven Erlanger. He's chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times." He joins us from Brussels.

Steven, always good to have you with us. I want to begin with what does this development with the FISA warrant reveal about the FBI's investigation and does it give credence to Republican claims of bias by the FBI?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, first of all, we should note that it came out of a Freedom of Information Act request by many news agencies. So that's --


ERLANGER: -- why we -- that's why we have it. I think it actually undermines the Republican claim that this was all a fraud aimed at helping Hillary Clinton. If you read the papers, which are fairly thick, Carter Page was under suspicion before this famous Steele memo. The FBI sought to surveil him before.

Now it is true he was working for Mr. Trump as a kind of adviser. But that's what set the FBI off. The fact is that he was in contact, according to these documents, which are intended to allow this kind of surveillance on an American citizen.

Judges agreed to do that. But these documents show that Mr. Page was in contact with Russian officials, intelligence officers for quite some time. And this is what bothered the FBI.

I think people who suggest that all of this surveillance was simply a method for the FBI to hurt Donald Trump and help Hillary Clinton, I think this will help show that they're wrong.

ALLEN: Carter Page, one of the avenues of the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump team and Russia, let's talk more about the other development with the president and Russia.

His courting of Vladimir Putin continues to baffle people, Steven, in the United States, even his own administration, which stays after the summit have still not been informed of what was discussed. But the world got a sense of the meeting with the president's remarks at the news conference that followed when he kowtowed to Mr. Putin repeatedly. Let's listen to a few of those remarks.


TRUMP: I think we're doing really well with Russia as of today. I thought we were doing horribly before today. A good competitor he is and I think the word competitor say compliment.

I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


ALLEN: Baffling that the U.S. president continues to praise Vladimir Putin. And this is a president who has insulted our close allies in Europe while embracing Putin.

What do you make of it, Steven?

ERLANGER: Well, Trump, I think, has two things on his mind, really, and they overshadow everything. That is, I won the election so anything that puts a taint on my election victory is horrible and I need to fight it; hence, charges of Russian collusion. So he has to show that he and Putin are fine.

And, two, he is absolutely convinced that he can do a deal with anyone in the world one on one because he's the great negotiator and he doesn't have to listen to advice and he doesn't have to listen to his experts, he doesn't have to listen to Dan Coats, he just has to play golf and get up and go into a meeting and have a conversation. So that's the other thing that is very much on Trump's mind.

And all this is in the context, of course, of the November midterm elections. I think Mr. Trump sees the political danger of charges of collusion and so this is what he wants to beat off.

Also, anything that President Obama has done Mr. Trump regards as bad, weak, bad, sad. So when Obama tried do a reset with Russia, which didn't work very well, now Mr. Trump has to say, well, I did it. I did the reset. Obama couldn't do it, everything was bad and now everything is perfect.

So that's the other thing that's very much in the president's head. And the details of foreign policy, I mean, it's extraordinary to people that he did not stand up and say, look, you know, you -- not meddled; meddled's one of those nice words. You tried to interfere in our election, in our democratic election and it's intolerable.

And he was given a chance to say that and he didn't. He was given a chance to talk about the annexation of Crimea as illegal and he said nothing. It was Putin who said Trump says it's -- I think some ways Putin was trying to give Trump a leg up here to help him. (CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: Yes, he looked a little uncomfortable while Mr. Trump was talking. We'll have to leave it there and we'll discuss more as we -- if, in fact, Steven --


ALLEN: -- we learn more about -- from Mr. Trump about what happened at that meeting. We always appreciate you being with us. Thanks so much.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Natalie.

HOWELL: The story ahead, about a woman who made it through the Missouri tour boat tragedy, now she is trying to make it through and survive a great deal of pain.


TIA COLEMAN, DUCK BOAT SURVIVOR: Lord, if I can't make it there's no use in keeping me here. So I just let go and I started floating.


HOWELL: We'll bring you that terrifying story of a mother who lost her husband and lost three young children.

ALLEN: That's ahead here.

Plus we'll have an update on the torrential rains across parts of Vietnam that have led to deadly flash floods and landslides. Derek Van Dam with that story for us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.





ALLEN: In Missouri, investigators continue to piece together the last moments of the tour boat that sank Thursday during a thunderstorm; 17 people died in that tragedy.

HOWELL: Survivors are left dealing with the emotional wreckage as they wait for answers. One woman, Tia Coleman, lost nine family members, including her husband and --


HOWELL: -- three young children. She told reporters how she made it through the water. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COLEMAN: And I saw there was a great big boat out there, like a river boat. And they were, oh, my God, they were jumping in and saving people. They were throwing life rafts out to everybody.

But I couldn't reach it. I couldn't get there in time. And so somehow I managed to get to the boat. These beautiful people, angels, I don't know who they were, they pulled me up. And when they pulled me up from the boat, I didn't see any of my family. But I believe I survived by God and by good Samaritans.


ALLEN: She's kind of stolen our hearts the past two days. Tia says she's not sure yet if she's happy to be alive without her family. She's struggling to face her next challenge, going home to an empty house.


COLEMAN: Going home, I already know is going to be completely, completely difficult. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I'm -- since I've had a home, it's always been filled. It's always been filled with little feet and laughter. And my husband. I don't know how I'm going to do it.


ALLEN: Goodness.

HOWELL: Well, in the meantime we know that the team from the National Transportation Safety Board, they say that it could take up to a year to complete that investigation.

But divers found a recording device that has video and possibly audio that could show them how it happened. Missouri's attorney general explains what they're looking for.


JOSHUA HAWLEY, MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation's in its early stages. There are actually two parallel investigations going on. The NTSB is conducting an investigation into the sinking of the vessel and the circumstances surrounding that immediate event.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is conducting a broader investigation into the circumstances that led to this tragedy beforehand and whether or not this should be treated as a crime scene.


ALLEN: Investigators also want to know why the boat's driver and captain changed their route the day it sank and when that decision was made.

Coming up here, the pictures don't lie. There were two superpowers at the Helsinki summit. So why we are getting details mainly from one of them?

We'll have a live report from Moscow, coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM.





ALLEN: Welcome back, everyone, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.

ALLEN: First, breaking news out of Syria, volunteers from the White Helmets rescue group have been evacuated into Jordan by Israel. They're among a group of 800 civilians pulled from the conflict. Israel said that its military completed the humanitarian effort at the request of the U.S. and European countries. The White Helmets are volunteers in Syria.


ALLEN: With few exceptions, the White House has been curiously quiet about details of the summit between Presidents Trump and Putin but Moscow has been quick to fill in some of the blanks and praise the outcome. Let's bring in Matthew Chance, live in Moscow for us.

Hello to you, Matthew.

And clearly Russia owning the narrative here, not the United States, with the U.S. president staying kind of mum about the details and Moscow is running with it, aren't they?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they've probably got a bit more from their point of view to shout about because, shortly after the meeting took place, Sergey Lavrov came out and described the talks as magnificent, better than super, which was the phrase he used.

It's sort of very worryingly high praise coming from the normally restrained Russian foreign minister. But in terms of, you know, what was discussed behind closed doors in Helsinki, well, there were some, you know, glimpses of what was discussed mentioned at the joint press conference.

They said they had spoken about talking to each other's officials about various aspects, they talked about cybersecurity. But not much else was given away.

Since then, the White House has been tightlipped. But the Kremlin and the defense ministry and the foreign ministry has been talking about all sorts of aspects of those talks; for instance, the Russian defense ministry spoke about how there is a joint U.S.-Russian discussion about the return of refugees in Syria and reconstruction in Syria during and after the conflict there.

And the defense ministry also spoke about international security arrangements that were being discussed, like the renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the START treaty between the two sides.

The Russian foreign ministry has said that concrete proposals were discussed about Eastern Ukraine. It's been reported in the media here that one of the proposals put on the table is a referendum in Eastern Ukraine to decide the future status of that region.

So there's been all sorts of information trickling through from the Russian side. But you're right, the Americans, unusually, have been absolutely tightlipped about what was discussed. And that's led to all sorts of concerns being expressed over in the U.S.

ALLEN: Because there were only translators in that meeting, no one else. So we'll wait and see if Mr. Trump reveals anything more from his side.

Let's talk more about the conversation between Sergey Lavrov and Mike Pompeo.

Do we know anything more about what they're looking for and whether they talked about a potentially -- potential follow-up meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump in Washington?


CHANCE: That telephone conversation between the U.S. secretary of state and the Russian foreign minister taking place last night here local time. We understand it was initiated by the U.S. side. They called the Russians, in other words.

And unusually, there's been, as far as I'm aware, no redoubt from the State Department on what was discussed. But the Russian foreign ministry has spoken about it. They said that they're talking about improving bilateral relations.

But the key issue that was discussed was this issue of Mariia Butina, who's a young Russian woman who was arrested in the United States the day after the Helsinki summit on allegations of acting as an agent of Russia.

Basically she's been accused of being a spy although she's not formally charged with espionage. Infiltrating right wing conservative political groups like the National Rifle Association, to try to push Russia's agenda.

The Russian foreign minister told Mike Pompeo that the evidence against her was fabricated. Other officials here in Russia said it was a politically motivated arrest in order to discredit that new friendship, that new detente between the U.S. and the Russian president. What I think it really describes is despite the fact there's a detente

on the way between President Trump and President Putin, the other apparatus of the U.S. administration, the Justice Department, the FBI, everyone else, they're still continuing to go about their business of enforcing the law.

And that's something that's going to continue while Russia continues to conduct itself in this way -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Her story is another chapter we'll continue to follow. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Thanks so much.

HOWELL: This story ahead really affects all of us: plastic, choking the world's oceans, threatening wildlife and human food supply. Ahead, we'll speak with someone who has an idea on how to solve the problem, how big it is and efforts to try to do something about it before it gets worse. You'll want to watch this.





HOWELL: Welcome back. Parts of Asia are taking a beating from the weather, some from typhoon rain and others from dangerous heat. It is a big deal for sure.



ALLEN: Some of the world's biggest companies are finally taking a step, one step, to eliminate single-use plastic. Starbucks says it plans to get rid of plastic straws by 2020 and McDonald's is going to switch to paper straws in 2019. It is a start. But there is a long way to go, of course, to eliminate the dangers posed by all of our plastic waste.

HOWELL: At least 8 million tons of plastic go into the ocean every year. This according to the World Economic Forum. That's like dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute.

The United Nations predicts that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Now take a look at what it looks like, up close and personal. There it is.

ALLEN: Yes, how about this. These are waves of garbage, most of it plastic, washing up on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of people have been working to try to clean it all up. But each day brings more and more. And this is the story that got our attention and why we're doing the segment today.

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this with Fiona Nicholls, a campaigner at Greenpeace U.K., joining us from our London bureau.

Let's take a look at that video again just to show people. It is a disturbing video to say the least. But that's the ocean. I mean, can you believe that?

That's the ocean. And I think for a lot of people it's out of sight, out of mind. But it really isn't because it's -- this is happening. We'll talk more about the implications on human health in a moment.

But first help our viewers to understand exactly how big this problem is as it stands right now.

FIONA NICHOLLS, GREENPEACE U.K.: Yes, George, it gets no easier looking at footage like that.


I've been working this for quite a while now and it's still gut- wrenching to see waves of plastic washing up on our beaches. Like you said, every single year, it's estimated that 12.7 million tons of plastic enters our oceans. That's the equivalent of a garbage truck every single minute.

HOWELL: And it's happening as we speak, literally.

NICHOLLS: It's happening as we speak. Yes, you're quite right. So individual items, like the ones that are washing up on that beach, they're often just there for -- we use them for five minutes maximum sometimes.

And yet they pollute our environment for potentially decades to come. Once in the environment, plastic pollution just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, where it poses a real threat to marine wildlife. Birds mistake it for feed. One in three sea turtles have eaten plastic now; 95 percent of sea birds have eaten plastic.

This is a truly global problem and it's our responsibility to protect our oceans from this issue.

HOWELL: OK. Looking ahead, trying to see if there are solutions that are in place, what is being done currently to try to stop the flow of garbage like this into our oceans?

NICHOLLS: There's lots of things happening at the moment. Like you just mentioned, there are companies making small announcements to tackle plastic pollution. Straws are but a drop in the ocean of the issue. There's massive amounts of packaging that we're producing every single year.

In the U.K. alone, supermarkets produce 800,000 tons of plastic every single year, plastic packaging, a million tons of plastic packaging. If you scale that up globally, we're talking a serious amount there.

So that's really great but what we really need to be doing is making sure that we reduce our amount of plastic pollution. Straws are fine, they're a fine place to start, absolutely. But there's so much more that can be done.

And it really is reduction that needs to come in here. It's just essential that we need to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that we're producing.

HOWELL: Are there things that can be done to try to clean up the mess here that mankind has made?

NICHOLLS: Cleanup efforts are a really worthwhile thing to do. I personally do beach cleans as often as I can. But a helpful way to think of it is, if you came home and your house was flooded, you're not going to run and grab the mop. You're going to go upstairs and turn that tap off at the source.

That's what we need to do with plastic pollution. We need to go straight to the source, which is the producers of plastic, and we need to turn off its source. Plastic production is set to double in the next 10 years and quadruple by 2050.

But what's great about this is that actually plastic doesn't make itself; we make it and we can reduce the amount that we're making. And then cleanup efforts, I doubt we'll ever get every single piece of plastic in the ocean.

But cleanup efforts are really a worthwhile way of understanding the issue and really seeing the scale of the impact it's having on our environment.

HOWELL: You think about it, I mean, it affects all of us, you, me. I think about my son, what am I leaving for him?

Makes you think twice really about that straw that you could get and just discard. You see things like that straw in the bellies of aquatic life, you see it in birds, these birds, their bellies filled with plastic.

As these plastics continue to break down and get smaller and smaller and then are ingested into fish, the fish that we eat, what are the implications for you and me, for each of us, all of us?

NICHOLLS: The human health impacts are unknown at this point. It can't be good. As you say, plastic pollution, once it's in the ocean, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. And once these smaller pieces are in the ocean, they attract toxic chemicals fro the water around them.

And then fish eat that and then larger fish eat that. And it's sort of a magnification process. And you're looking at some seriously high levels of toxins that human health impacts aren't fully understood yet.

But we can look just to the wildlife alone, there are remote islands far from anywhere, where humans live, where there are sea birds not making it past infancy because their stomachs are so full of plastic pollution.

HOWELL: We'll have to leave it there. We appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

ALLEN: Thank you.

In our next hour, we're going to talk with the folks that are trying to clean up that mess there in the Dominican Republic. We'll have more on the story. And we'll be right back after this.

HOWELL: Stay with us.






HOWELL: Welcome back.

You may remember earlier this week when the U.S. president said that Montenegro is full of, quote, "very aggressive people," quote, that could lead the U.S. and other allies into World War III.

ALLEN: Where did that come from?

Well, our Nick Paton Walsh went to this small Balkan nation to talk with people about the U.S. president's comments.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the front line and the collapse of the West as we know it, menacing, militant Montenegro.

TRUMP: They're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and, congratulations, you're in the World War III.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what to say. I think that this is really stupid.

WALSH: No, he said -- he said Montenegro was aggressive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe he makes some mistakes. No, I don't know.

Do you look at like I'm an aggressive man?

WALSH: I don't know, you told me. No.


WALSH: Where are you going now?

To start World War III?


WALSH: Where are you going instead?


WALSH: Yes, that's the drums of war you're hearing there. But make no mistake, nobody's giggling here about Russian ambitions to increase its influence in the Balkans and control this deepwater port.

It's even accused of trying to kill the prime minister of orchestrating a coup in October 2016. Two alleged Russian agents sought by Interpol warrants still for the sophisticated plot.

Well, it was here investigators say that dozens of radicals are supposed to gather, spurred on by Russian intelligence, and see some state buildings, including this --


WALSH: -- the parliament, paralyzing the government, ruining the elections and doing their best to make sure that NATO wanted little to do in this chaos with this tiny aspiring member.

But Montenegro joins NATO all the same, just 10 days after Donald Trump got perhaps the closest he ever had to the country. But he pushed this prime minister out of the way at a Brussels NATO summit.

And its minuscule army of 1500, less than one U.S. Army brigade, will soon partially be on the Russian border, part of a NATO exercise on the Baltics.

But now, the U.S. commander in chief has said he won't necessarily come to their defense. They feel safe, still.

Was the fight to get NATO's Article 5 collective security really worth it?

SRDJAN DARMANOVIC, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, MONTENEGRO: We have no intentions whatsoever to start World War III, we are too small for that. But we really believe that Article 5 is unconditional and rock-solid.

WALSH: That is not exactly what the Russians wanted to hear.

DARMANOVIC: Maybe, maybe, it might be music for their ears. But still, I believe that we are not less safe.

WALSH: But here, the most powerful man in the world's offhand musings bring not just laughter but real concrete consequences -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Podgorica, Montenegro.


ALLEN: Our top stories are just ahead here.

HOWELL: CNN NEWSROOM right back after the break.