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Family of Airplane Thief Speaks; White Nationalists Plan Rally on Sunday; California Firefighters Make Progress Containing Holy Fire; NASA Launching Historic Mission to the Sun; Kenya Prison Reform; World Elephant Day. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 12, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There are security concerns in the United States after an airline employee steals a plane, crashes it. We'll hear from the man's family who say they are stunned by what he did.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. capital on edge as white nationalists prepare to rally. We'll look back at last year's ugly display of racism in Virginia and ask what, if anything, has changed since then.

And, just minutes ago...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, zero. Liftoff of the mighty Delta IV heavy rocket.

HOWELL (voice-over): So cool to watch. NASA launches a probe on a mission to high five the sun.

ALLEN (voice-over): So we say, high five, NASA.

HOWELL (voice-over): Totally.

ALLEN (voice-over): Bam.


ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. We're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

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


ALLEN: The man who stole an empty commuter plane from the Seattle airport and then died in a fatal crash about an hour later has been identified as this man here, Richard Russell. His family called him Bebo.

HOWELL: Airport officials say Russell worked for about three years on the ground crew, which included baggage handling and moving aircraft. He also had clearance to be in secure areas at the airport. A spokesman for his family offered this statement.


MIKE MATTHEWS, FRIEND OF RUSSELL FAMILY: We are stunned and heartbroken. It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe but Bebo was a warm, compassionate man. It is impossible to encompass who he was in a press release. He was a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend.

This is a complete shock to us. We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now. As the voice recordings show, Bebo's intent was not to harm anyone. He was right in saying that there are so many people who have loved him.


ALLEN: Russell entered the cockpit of the twin engine turbo prop and made an unauthorized takeoff Friday evening local time. Two military jets scrambled after him a short time later.

HOWELL: Russell executed dangerous aerial stunts several times, like the one you just saw there, running low on fuel. The plane crashed on Ketron Island just about an hour later.

ALLEN: It may take months before investigators piece together exactly how this happened. We get more from CNN's Dan Simon outside of Seattle.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A law enforcement source tells CNN that the 29-year-old Horizon Airline employee has been identified as Richard Russell. We can tell you that Russell is somebody who kept a very active online presence. He recorded YouTube videos, talking about his job.

He also had an online blog where he mentioned that, a few years ago, he and his wife operated a bakery somewhere in Oregon.

He did work in ground support at the Seattle airport, so what does that mean?

We know he loaded and unloaded luggage. He would also tidy up aircraft and it also involved riding a tractor or driving a tractor, where he would put an airplane in the right place for takeoff. That is apparently what he did yesterday before getting in the cockpit, firing up the engines and then having a successful taxi and takeoff.

That is very difficult to do under normal circumstances because of the protocols in place. I want you to listen now to the CEO of Horizon Airlines, who spoke out earlier today.

GARY BECK, CEO, HORIZON AIR: Normally you would request clearance for pushback, from either your own tower or ground control. You'd then speak with ground control all the way out to the runway.

They would turn you over to the tower, who would then clear you for takeoff. And I believe -- in fact, I know that he did communicate on the ground frequency and all of the communications for the entire flight were conducted on that frequency.

You're right, there were some maneuvers that were done, that were incredible maneuvers with the aircraft. To our knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license.

So, to be honest with you, I mean, commercial aircraft are complex machines. They're not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150. So I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did.

SIMON: I spoke to a former co-worker who worked with Russell. He's shocked that he did this. He said he had a very good sense of humor but he wasn't shocked that he had gained the knowledge in terms of how to operate the aircraft, he said, because being on the tow team, you learn certain things that other employees might not know how to do.

When you heard the conversations he was having with --


SIMON: -- air traffic control, what went through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I recognized the voice first. And it was before I could put a face to it. And then, you know, I saw some people posting "Rest in peace, Richard Russell." Then I figured out it was him. And I listened to his voice more carefully during the audio after that.

And it was heartbreaking. You could tell he was in pain, kind of seemed a little delusional. And I was just shocked to see that someone who was so nice, so helpful and caring, actually, he cared about his job, to do such a thing and, you know, end his life. So it was a little sad.

SIMON: Now as far as what is happening now, I can tell you that, over at the island where the crash occurred, there are dozens of investigators there. They're trying to retrieve those black boxes, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

But what evidence those boxes might yield, we don't know. We already have a ton of evidence because of the conversation between Russell and air traffic control.


ALLEN: David Soucie is a CNN safety analyst and former safety inspector for the U.S. Aviation Authority. He joins us now.

David, thanks for being with us. We've had a little over one day to digest this unfortunate feat. Grounds crew airline worker backed up a plane, pointed it toward the runway, started it, took off.

It still seems somewhat surreal, doesn't it?

But it was very real.

Do you have any more insight now into how he pulled this off?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: There's a lot of processes that were overlooked and did not happen that should have happened. I've looked at to see the Seattle processes and procedures for security. And there's no possible way that that guy should have been out there by himself, towing that aircraft for a number of reasons.

One is because they need to have somebody in the aircraft with their feet on the brake, ready to stop the aircraft in case anything happens. But that's just one level. And there are two or three other levels of people that should have noticed he was out there by himself.

ALLEN: So is this not a gap in just typical airport security?

Was this more specific to this airline?

SOUCIE: It is. The airline's responsible for that tarmac, for a bad area where the aircraft is. And the fact that all their employees are trained, everybody knows that you don't go out there on the tarmac by yourself, this should not have happened.

Even if you look at baggage handlers, if you look at everytime there's somebody driving a baggage cart, there's two people with them. That's -- never should be by himself like this. So there's some things that need to be looked at on that airport and at the airline.

ALLEN: So you don't see this as a systemic issue with the industry?

SOUCIE: I really don't. I think that the system, the safety system that's in place, has proven by the fact this doesn't happen very often.

But I think the safety system's in place. But the fact is, there were people at three different levels that didn't do the right thing.

So we first look at performance of the safety mechanisms. And if the performance isn't done properly, then you go back and you look at the individual.

But systemic, as you had mentioned, I don't see a systemic problem here. But if is it isn't an individual, if it was something that could have easily been overlooked, then at that point, the system needs to be looked at as well.

ALLEN: That's very interesting. We'll wait and see what the investigation bears out there. I want to get your insights into the work of the air traffic control to try to get this young man to land that airplane. Let's listen to a bit of that conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD RUSSELL, AIRCRAFT MECHANIC: I've got a lot of people that care about me and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy. Got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.

You think if I land this successfully, Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they'll give you a job doing anything if you can pull this off.

RUSSELL: Yes, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you wanted to land, probably the best bet is that runway just ahead and to your left. That's the McChord field. If you wanted to try, that might be the best way to set up and see if you can land there.

Or just like the pilot suggested, another option would be over Puget Sound into the water.

RUSSELL: Dang, you talk to McChord yet?

Because I don't think I'd be happy with you telling me I could land like that, because I could mess some stuff up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already talked to them and just like me, what we want to see is you not get hurt or anyone else get hurt. So like I said, if you want to land, that's probably the best place to go.

RUSSELL: I want the coordinates of that orca with the -- the mama orca with the baby. I want to go see that guy.

Hey, pilot guy, can this thing do a backflip, you think?

I'm going to try to do a barrel roll and if that goes good, I'll go nose down and call it a night.

Man, have you been to the Olympics?

These guys are gorgeous. Holy smokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.

RUSSELL: All right. Damn it, I don't know, man. I don't know. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it.


ALLEN: It's chilling to listen to but the controller states so measure this what they're training to do.

Is a rogue pilot part of training?

What's your assessment of how they handled the situation?

SOUCIE: It was amazing how they kept their cool during the whole time. They didn't get emotional about it, they didn't even raise their voice. You can tell --


ALLEN: They were very measured --

SOUCIE: -- the training they've had over the years were dealing with this has paid off in this case.


ALLEN: Right. Fighter jets were mobilized, David, they were flanking him. But he flew for one hour. One analyst said at CNN, had he wanted to crash the plane into downtown Seattle, the jets weren't going to be able to stop him.

Why not?

What is their role?

SOUCIE: Well, there's some protocol there. So the air -- the National Air Command is what it's called, the National Air Command will send -- they'll scramble their jets and they got out there amazingly quickly. There were there.

But as far as stopping him, there's two things that happened, the first protocol is to guide. So they're guiding the aircraft, they're making sure it isn't going into a populated area.

The second thing is, if he's headed towards a populated area, then the next step is to move in front of the aircraft and deploy flares. And those flares would divert the aircraft. He'd be trying to avoid flares that are deployed from that jet, is step two.

And then step three is, if it is heading that way, that aircraft can be destroyed in the middle of the air. And whoever said that it couldn't be is incorrect. That -- any aircraft can be stopped with those two fighter jets that are up there. They're well equipped and, luckily, they didn't have to go to those extreme measures.

ALLEN: Absolutely. But that's good to know. We thank you for your information, David Soucie, CNN safety analyst. Thank you, David.

SOUCIE: Thank you, Natalie.

HOWELL: Now to another major story that we are monitoring on the anniversary of the racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalists are planning a rally in the nation's capital in the coming hours right outside the White House. They call it a white civil rights rally.

The U.S. president weighed in on this, posting this tweet on Saturday, Mr. Trump saying he condemns all types of racism and acts of violence. ALLEN: Critics say he should go further and call out white nationalist groups specifically. In Charlottesville Saturday, hundreds of students and left-wing activists paid tribute to Heather Heyer, a young anti-racism activist. She was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters one year ago. CNN's Kaylee Hartung was with the crowds on Saturday.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For about three hours on Saturday night we saw students from the University of Virginia and members of the Charlottesville community marching through the streets. It was an eruption of the anger and outrage that so many of them feel because of the failure they perceive by the institutions that they believe should have supported them a year ago, namely the University of Virginia and law enforcement.

Now this weekend there's a heavy law enforcement presence. You can see an example of that behind me. Some of these people protesting telling me they don't feel any safer this weekend than they did a year ago.

They feel this increased presence, this preparation is essentially an overreaction, a remembering nix recognition of the failures last year, the law enforcement's lack of ability to control the violence and protect them, some going so far as to say they believe law enforcement protected the white supremacists that marched into this town.

As I said, this march through the middle of the streets of Charlottesville but it began on the University of Virginia campus in front of the rotunda, the most iconic building on campus.

But these students say they were given strict security measures that they were supposed to abide by. They did not want to abide by them, by an institution that has failed them.

We're unsure where this leads next as the march conclude as they tried to get near Emancipation Park, the park where General Lee's statue still sits. They said we'll be back tomorrow -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Charlottesville, Virginia.


HOWELL: Kaylee, thank you for the reporting.

Now Steven Erlanger joining us, the chief diplomatic correspondent for "The New York Times," joining us live from Brussels.

Thank you for the time today, Steven. We're not talking about Right and Left here. As a journalist, you don't take a side. We're talking about right and wrong and Nazis who were defeated, the world defeated them decades ago. They are wrong. But they feel reenergized and ready to rally, unapologetically in the nation's capital later today.

As the world looks on, as you see this there from Brussels, what's your view of this? STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, my view is we have a very divided country. That we know. We have a Republican Party that is enthralled with a president that plays on division. That's how he won the election and that's how he's ruling. He is performing for his base.

The uglier part of some of his supporters, you'll see marching today. Some of the people he's energized who are angry about the way he's running the country, you saw marching yesterday and again today, probably in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville is one of those horrible moments, where I think the president didn't say what he should have said. He's tried to say, oh --


ERLANGER: -- there are, you know, good people on both sides.

But as you said, George, sometimes that's not enough. There may be good people all over the place but not on this question and not in this march. At least that's the way many Americans feel.

HOWELL: The issue of race in America, Steven, it is messy, it can be ugly. But the diversity of people, it is a key part of the formula that both unites and divides.

And we now know, according to a Republican representative, Tom Garrett, Tom, who is a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees, that Russia used race to sow division during events in Charlottesville last year. Let's listen.


REP. TOM GARRETT (R), VIRGINIA: Let me give you some breaking news here, though, back to Charlottesville. I sat in a closed session briefing probably two months ago about Charlottesville with the director of the FBI, amongst others, and asked if Russian intermeddling had to do with fomenting the flames of what happened in Charlottesville.

I was told, yes, it did.

I asked, "Is this information classified?"

They said, "No, it's not."

I've waited until today. But this is what happens. The Russian intermeddling is seeking to pit Americans against Americans.


HOWELL: This is a major headline with significant implications, Steven.

ERLANGER: Well, we know Russia was -- has been touching on points of division in American society. It's also doing it in British society and Slovak society and Czech society. It is pushing on democratic sore points. We know that even during the campaign, it was creating fake rallies, creating fake news that got people very excited, very angry.

But you know, they touch on things that are there. They may have enhanced what happened in Charlottesville a bit. But what happened in Charlottesville a year ago is in us. It's part of the United States. It's not the prettiest part. But you don't need Russia to pull it out of us.

HOWELL: The U.S. president weighed in on Twitter, saying that he condemns all types of racism and acts of violence, that tweet posted most recently.

But you'll remember, as you pointed out, that news conference last year, he also added the phrase, "on many sides," suggesting some false equivalence between protesters and Nazis, who were yelling "blood and soil," who were yelling "in the ovens."

We know what that reference is to, disgusting reference.

Did this recent tweet go far enough or did it leave room for this many sides silliness?

ERLANGER: It's the sort of tweet that you don't know whether he actually wrote or whether somebody wrote for him. It's the sort of tweet you expect to come out of the White House.

But, you know, he's also been tweeting about LeBron James and he's been tweeting about NFL players protesting. Most of those people protesting are black. He is playing on racial issues and he is playing to his base before the November elections.

And it's not very pretty, I have to say. It crosses a line most presidents haven't crossed. And to say he's against all sorts of racism, well, that's good. One would like to hear that more often.

HOWELL: Steven Erlanger, live for us in Brussels. Thank you for the perspective today.

ERLANGER: Thanks, George.

ALLEN: It would be nice if he said it, not just tweeted it perhaps. Maybe we'll get there as well. But we'll be covering that rally.


ALLEN (voice-over): Coming up (INAUDIBLE) firefighters are taking on a massive fire in California. You know the state. And it is still on fire. We'll have their progress ahead here.

HOWELL (voice-over): Plus, World Elephant Day is a reminder the clock is ticking to protect this magnificent creature. A little later, we'll speak with an activist about the dangers that elephants face every day. Stay with us. (MUSIC PLAYING)





HOWELL: In the U.S. state of California, residents there are in the middle of a very dangerous and out of control wildfire season. At least 15 fires are burning up and down that state but some progress to report for you.

Firefighters are gaining ground after days of battling the Holy Fire near Los Angeles. In just one day, its containment has jumped to 36 percent. Some of the 21,000 residents forced to leave their homes, well, they can now return.

This was just the scene a few days ago. Look at that. You see flames coming dangerously close to homes while a man tries to hold them off with a garden hose, doing his best there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. OK. Oh, God, please, lord.

ALLEN (voice-over): Oh, my goodness, how terrifying. And the firefighters just standing there, doing their thing. That homeowner watching in fear as you can hear as flames inch so close to her home.

More than 1,000 firefighters are working this one. In many cases, they're using planes and helicopters to drop fire retardant as a last line of defense.

The Holy Fire has consumed more than 22,000 acres or nearly 9,000 hectares. And that isn't even California's largest wildfire. Smoke from all 15 of California's fires has stretched now across the United States all the way to New York City.


HOWELL: That's amazing. Weather, of course, plays a big deal in all of this.



HOWELL: Speaking of that rocket, take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, zero, liftoff of the mighty Delta IV heavy rocket with NASA's --

HOWELL (voice-over): NASA making history once again, launching its first unmanned spacecraft to the sun. We'll have details ahead. Stay with us.





ALLEN (voice-over): Thanks for staying with us and welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It's CNN NEWSROOM from Atlanta and I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.



HOWELL: We'll talk more about this now with John Murray, John, a television journalist and pop culture expert, joining us from Washington, D.C.

Thank you so much for your time today. In the coming hours we are likely to see racists in full bloom outside the nation's capital, protected by the First Amendment to say whatever they want to say but seemingly re-energized, feeling freer to spout hate.

How do you see it?

JOHN MURRAY, TV JOURNALIST AND POP CULTURE EXPERT: You know, George, it's an unfortunate thing because, just last Sunday, I actually had brunch at a restaurant right across from the White House. And so today I won't be going into downtown D.C. because I want to avoid the madness that's taking place down there at all costs.

And, you know, it's appropriate that these hate groups would be marching outside of the White House because there's a lot of hate in this country that originates right there at the White House.

And so maybe Donald Trump and his administration will open the doors up for these people and they'll feel at home, because a lot of their counterparts work there in that very administration.

HOWELL: John, I have a similar story. A couple months ago I was traveling with family from Atlanta, Georgia, to South Alabama to visit my wife's great-aunt. Excited about it, had mother-in-law and my son in the car but came to realize there was a white supremacist rally right in the middle of my route. So no stops for us.

Disappointing, sad, but that's kind of the way things are. MURRAY: But, George, when you think about how some people from this administration and on other networks, they call groups that advocate for civil rights and social justice, like Black Lives Matter, a hate group, a gang, a mob, thugs.

But these actual people who organize around hatred, around bigotry, around rewriting history and their revisionist approach to what America was founded on, they get permits to march in the streets. They create violence.

Someone died in Charlottesville last year and yet they're allowed to come back and do it all over again. It's amazing the double standards and the height of hypocrisy that we view and discuss here in the United States.

HOWELL: But important to point out the First Amendment protects and allows for any speech, all speech in the United States, which is different than many countries around the world.

On this anniversary of Charlottesville, the violence that broke out between Nazis and people protesting Nazis, you remember that. And then in the days later, the U.S. president offered this perspective that seemed to have some people scratching their heads. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They showed up in Charlottesville to protest --


TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. (inaudible) themselves (inaudible). And you have some very bad people in that group. But you also had --


TRUMP: -- people that were very fine people, on both sides.


HOWELL: Remembering some of the statements that were uttered that day in Charlottesville, "blood and soil," "in the ovens," statements like that. So again, those were the comments back then, got backlash when the U.S. president said them.

He went to Twitter most recently, saying that he condemns all types of racism and acts of violence. That's the statement from the U.S. president now.

But here's the question to you, does it go far enough, given what he said last year?

MURRAY: No, because it shouldn't take you 365 days to denounce Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis. And the reality also is that Donald Trump regularly practices racism on a daily basis.

His attack of NFL players, who are advocating for inequality and civil rights; his attack of LeBron James, who's building a school to empower inner city kids; or just CNN's Don Lemon, White House reporter April Ryan, Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson, are black congressional members. He's attacking everybody.

And let's start with the birther campaign. That whole birther movement was centered in racism and he used that campaign to shake America at its core.

So every wannabe Ku Klux Klan member, every neo-Nazi, every bigot who wanted to join Bigots Are Us were able to come out and galvanize and support this man, because they finally had someone who allowed them to take off their hoods, who allowed them to put their racism and their bigotry on Front Street and celebrate these things that they had only talked about in their private quarters for so long.

It is the environment that is in our country. Donald Trump has defiled the core tenets of our democracy and of humanity. These are things that I heard my mother and the elders talk about, recording artists who said they couldn't go into hotels and restaurants. They had to go through the back.

I would hear these stories about their plight during the Civil Rights Movement and I thought we would never go through this. And so to be a young man in America and seeing America almost repeat the pattern because of who's in the White House, it's a frightening thing.

HOWELL: John, it's certainly an ugly display but at the same time it is a display of mixing of different ideas and perspectives that can only happen really in the United States like this. John, thank you so much for your time and perspective.

You're watching NEWSROOM. We'll be right back after the break.





HOWELL: NASA is going where no spacecraft has gone before. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, zero. Liftoff of the mighty Delta IV heavy rocket.


HOWELL: It's headed to the sun. After a 24-hour delay NASA has launched its first unmanned probe to the sun.

ALLEN: George, you would have been there with all the thousands of people watching. The Parker Solar Probe is carrying a sensor that will extend beyond

the heat shield to get samples of our star's atmosphere.

The first downloaded data back to Earth is expected in early December after reaching its first close approach of the sun in November. It's booking it to the sun, in other words.

Retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao joins us now via Skype from Hong Kong.

We always enjoy talking with you about this cool stuff, Leroy. Thank you for joining us.

First of all, what an impressive sight, huh. It was a Delta IV heavy rocket and it sure looked heavy taking off.

LEROY CHIAO, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Absolutely, Delta IV heavy is one of the biggest rockets we have in the arsenal here and having launched a probe like this is certainly an exciting event.

ALLEN: And they had to scrub it yesterday but off it went today. It's remarkable that it's going to get there and start sending back data so soon. And I was reading that, even though it will be some 3 million miles still away from the sun, it will be 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit where this space probe will be.

How are they doing that?

How are they keeping this intact with all that heat?

CHIAO: Right. Well, we're pretty good at building heat shields so that will protect the sensitive electronics inside the vehicle as well as the other components.

But the sensors outside are going to be looking at the corona of the sun, the atmosphere if you will, and making something unprecedented direct measurements of the solar wind.

That's the charged particles streaming away from the sun at supersonic speeds, which was first postulated by Dr. Parker all those years ago. And he was eventually proved right.

So it's neat to see that this probe, which is named after Dr. Parker, who's still alive at the age of 91, exciting to see us learn more about our star, which is about 4 billion years old and about halfway through its life.

HOWELL: And wonderful that he gets to see this happen. Leroy, a question for you.

How fast is this thing going?

CHIAO: It's the fastest spacecraft that we've ever launched. And I believe it's somewhere in the 450 -- gosh, 450 million -- thousand miles an hour, something like that. ALLEN: We'll believe you. Yes. And when it gets there, it will be the fastest moving manmade object ever, going 430,000 miles per hour. I mean, we're talking --


CHIAO: OK, I was close.

HOWELL: Pretty fast.

ALLEN: What big picture things can we learn about star formation?

What will they be looking at?

This mission is going to last several years, too, of data.

CHIAO: Right. Well, we're going to be looking mostly at the corona because that's about as close as we can get without melting the spacecraft. And so, interestingly, the corona is about 300 times hotter than what is defined as the surface of the sun. And so it's kind of a mysterious area.

Generally the farther you get away from an object, the cooler it's going to be. And so hopefully it will be able to pick up some clues as to what it is about the corona that makes it actually hotter than the defined surface of the sun.

So that solar wind, it's going to be making those direct measurements, very exciting stuff. And I'm sure there will be a lot of scientific discoveries that come out of it that we hadn't even anticipated.

ALLEN: That will be so exciting.

HOWELL: Leroy, just briefly, you mentioned solar winds. Remind people around the world the impact of solar winds on the United States, on many countries around the world (INAUDIBLE) important equipment.


CHIAO: Right. Absolutely. So solar wind is charged -- they're charged particles streaming away from the sun at supersonic speeds and, of course, they impact all the planets in our solar system to varying degrees, depending on how far they are away.

In our case, we have the magnetosphere, that is the Earth has the magnetic field lines, we have the Van Allen --


CHIAO: -- belts and those fields capture most of the charged particle radiation coming from the sun, which is why life and our atmosphere is able to flourish on the Earth.

So very important stuff and, you know, it's very exciting that this probe is going to teach us a lot more about those solar particles. ALLEN: It's very, very cool and it's very, you know, go NASA. It's so impressive. And Mr. Parker was there and he was interviewed afterward for the launch.

HOWELL: Very cool.

ALLEN: Leroy, thanks so much for coming on and talking with us. We always appreciate it.

CHIAO: My pleasure. Thank you.

ALLEN: We have this now down on our little planet of Earth. We're going to take you to Kenya, where the prison system there is working to reform people's lives and helping people have an impact when they're in prison and change their lives by focusing on education.

HOWELL: One man even became a lawyer from behind bars. Farai Sevenzo has this report for us.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All around the world, prisons make for grim headlines. And the question, what are prisons for, punishment or rehabilitation, dominates social debates.

For the past 16 years, prisons in Kenya have been trying a different approach. Kenya still has the death penalty. And this man, Peter Ouko, was on death row for murder.

PETER OUKO, FORMER PRISONER: Before I was arrested, I was an interior designer. I was doing my own business. And then I was charged for the offense of murder, which is punishable by death.


OUKO: I was accused of killing my spouse.

SEVENZO (voice-over): Twenty years ago, Peter Ouko was sent to this maximum security prison. He's returning for the first time since his release, thanks to a presidential pardon. Ouko says prison for criminals was a very different place then to what it is now.

OUKO: The prison model was based on the old colonial system, which was focused on punishing inmates. There was a lot of torture. There was a lot of human rights abuses. But from 2003, things changed and the prisons department had a paradigm shift from punishment to correction and rehabilitation.

SEVENZO (voice-over): Moody Awori is widely is seen as the father of prison reform. He thinks the justice system, though, is still unbalanced.

MOODY AWORI, FORMER KENYAN MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: There are many, they're ordinary people, stealing a chicken because they are hungry. They are easily sent to jail. The people who are corrupt, they are never in jail. There is -- the

system is weighted against the small person. And the big people, they get away with it.

SEVENZO (voice-over): Now Kenya's prisons are more like schools, where the focus is on education. The NGO Africa Prisons Project have taken rehabilitation a step further by assisting prisoners to learn the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line, all of us has one common denominator and that's hunger for justice because all of us want to get justice in court.

SEVENZO: The incredible thing is that, in Kenya, institutions like this, which were originally meant for correction, have been turned almost overnight into institutions of learning.

SEVENZO (voice-over): For Ouko, the first Kenyan to earn a law degree with the African Prisons Project, the future is about leaving no one behind bars.

OUKO: Or even if it's the criminal justice system that got them behind bars wrongly, like in my case and in many other cases, they don't have to fight it. They'll fight it legally and then they're hopeful for tomorrow.

SEVENZO (voice-over): Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi, Kenya.







HOWELL: Sunday is World Elephant Day and activists around the world are warning this amazing creature is still not guaranteed.

ALLEN: Not at all. Tens of thousands of elephants are still being killed just for their tusks. Many others are losing their habitat or being mistreated under captivity. To talk more about this, Peter Knights is head of His organization works to end the illegal wildlife trade.

Peter, good to see you and thanks for being with us. I want to begin with this. Elephants are such beloved creatures. Yet tens of thousands are still killed every year just for ivory. There have been breakthroughs in this. We'll talk about that in a moment.

But first let's talk about the poaching of elephants and how cruel it is. Can you share with us what an elephant family goes through when there

is a loss?

PETER KNIGHTS, WILDAID: Well, I don't think there's any animals, next to human beings, that are so closely linked in their families. You see all the females surround a baby if they feel threatened in any way. They're very, very protective.

And, you know, experts are telling us that they mourn, often for months, you know, the family will be in depression after a poaching incident if they lose a family member. So there is an emotional and cultural impact beyond just the loss of the elephant per se.

ALLEN: And your organization, with this cutting edge video campaign, made a major breakthrough back in December with China. Just months ago, the country finally got the message and banned all domestic ivory sales.

How important is that for elephant survival?

KNIGHTS: It's been massive. I think it was probably the single greatest thing that could have helped the elephants. And I'm glad to say that Hong Kong and Taiwan have followed suit.

Recently Taiwan made its announcement. So there' s definitely a trend there. And what we've seen is the poaching has been reduced dramatically.

Even since the announcement of that ban -- I was in Kenya about a month ago now. And Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage, where they have the babies often from the poaching, they haven't had any in for three years.

The poaching has gone down so much in Kenya and it was down to around 60 last year, down from about 320 before. So there's been a major impact. There's still problems in places like Mozambique, where law enforcement is weak. But the situation has definitely gotten better on poaching.

ALLEN: That's wonderful. I watched a documentary on that elephant rescue and cried my eyes out a few years ago. It's just unbelievable what people do.

But there are countries, though, that still allow the sale of ivory.

So where are you targeting now?

KNIGHTS: Well, Japan still allows the sale of ivory and, you know, they use it for hankos or name stamps --


KNIGHTS: -- which they use for business and weddings and things like that.

So we just started a campaign there with some Japanese celebrities to try to persuade them, not stop the trade overnight but just to phase it out so we can lead to a world where there is no longer any demand for ivory and give elephants breathing space.

And after dealing, frankly, with the real long-term issue, which is space for elephants and conflict with human beings and agriculture, which is the long-term challenge as the human populations expand.

Where are the elephants going to live in the future?

ALLEN: It was your video campaigns that made a tremendous impact on China. They ran all across the country and they really changed people's attitudes. They woke people up to what this does to elephants.

And now you have a new campaign, it's quite different. Let's take a look.


PO, KUNG FU PANDA: As the Kung Fu Panda, all I need to defend myself is one awesome skidoo. But not everyone has my skills. Thousands of elephants are poached every year for their ivory, just to make trinkets and statues.

Please tell your friends and relatives never to buy products made from my friends. Master the panda kung fu move of saying, no way, because, when the buying stops, the killing can, too. It's up to us.


ALLEN: All right. Going for the children. I think you might be onto something here.

KNIGHTS: Well, you know, obviously the panda's much loved in China. In fact, thanks to DreamWorks for helping us with this project -- and they've got a Mandarin version, a Cantonese version, Po even speaks some African languages now in this campaign. So that's going all around the world.

We found with previous cases with shark fin that the children can be great influences on their parents, their relatives, their grandparents in particular in how they behave. And so Po's a great spokesperson for this campaign to get people weaned off ivory so that elephants can have a safe future.

ALLEN: We hope it works. Thank you so much for what you do and thanks for joining us. Peter Knights of WildAid. Thanks, Peter.

All right, let's hear it for the elephants, World Elephant Day.

Our top stories are just ahead. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM right back after the break.