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Israeli PM Defends Strike On Building Housing AP, Al Jazeera; Bleacher Collapse Causes Mass Casualty Event At Israeli Synagogue; House To Vote On Forming Independent January 6 Commission This Week; CDC Defends Updated Mask Guidance For Vaccinated Americans; Houston Tiger Found Safe & Headed To New Home; Newly-Released Details U.S. Navy's UFO Encounters. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 14:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. Today has been the deadliest day yet in the worsening conflict around Gaza. Palestinian officials say Israeli air strikes killed 47 people today. Amnesty International is calling for war crime investigations after Israeli strikes on a refugee camp and a high rise building in Gaza housing media outlets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dismissing those calls, specifically defending the air strike on the Associated Press and Al Jazeera building.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The U.S. intelligence we had, it's about Palestinian terrorist -- an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. So it's a perfectly legitimate target.


WHITFIELD: Right now the U.N. Security Council is meeting to discuss the worsening violence as protests condemning the violence break out in major cities around the world.

With us now, Nic Robertson in Ashdod, Israel; Arlette Saenz at the White House; Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill; and Frank Lowenstein, a former U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Glad you could all be with us.

Let's begin with Nic there in Ashdod. Tell us what you have been seeing today. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sirens have been

going off here today, not as frequently as the previous day. So you get the impression not so many rockets flying in this direction. Our cameraman Freddy though did see one rocket land in the sea.

The Iron Dome Intercept System is designed to only intercept those that are a danger to civilian. So that one landing in the sea, but not far out from here at all.

What we have witnessed here is perhaps just people edging back to slightly more normal life, the sea front still deserted, but a few more people out.

What's happening in Gaza today, the highest death toll so far in the past week of conflict, quite significant.

And I think that does seem to indicate what we've heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu say today. He said that the -- that he isn't ready yet to end the conflict. That he hopes that it will be soon, but that -- but it's not done yet and that was his message to the nation here.

So I think the indication is that while the rockets may have diminished, there are still targets, still Hamas targets, a tunnel target -- was targeted in the past couple of hours by the Israeli Defense Forces.

In the past few minutes, we've heard aircraft flying over going in the direction of Gaza. But it does seems from the Israeli perspective that there are still Hamas targets. The Israeli Defense Forces targeted today the Hamas political leader, Yahya Sinwar, targeted his house. He apparently was not in the house.

So at the moment, from our perspective here, slightly quieter. In Gaza, though, it has been a very active day.

WHITFIELD: And then Nic, what more are you learning about that Israeli air strike on the building where the offices of the AP and Al Jazeera were?

ROBERTSON: Well, the Associated Press say they've asked the Israeli government for more details. They have said that they don't know or weren't aware, of any malign activity going on in the building.

But the prime minister today, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli Defense Forces have both said very clearly that there were Hamas military installations in there, military installations belonging to Hamas' military intelligence wing.

And it's not clear precisely whether these were offices or what sort of equipment there was there, but the prime minister seemed to indicate that somehow Hamas was sort of piggy backing and taking advantage of the fact that there were media organizations with data capabilities in that building.

So from an Israeli perspective, the government's been very clear, they gave plenty of warning for the journalists to get out of the building. They say that they tried to avoid civilian casualties in high-rise buildings that they've targeted. They've given warnings to people to get out of those buildings.


ROBERTSON: But this, as the Associated Press have said, is clearly diminishing the world's visibility on what's happening in Gaza. And this coming the day before -- the downing of that building coming the day before what has been the deadliest day so far in Gaza.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much in Ashdod, Israel.

Let's go to Washington, D.C. now, nation's capital, Arlette Saenz and Suzanne Malveaux are there.

Arlette, you first. How is President Biden handling this? He apparently is also coming under some growing pressure to push for a ceasefire.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, the White House is viewing this with a real sense of urgency as there is growing concern about the civilian casualties in the region.

Now, the president is spending today up in Wilmington, Delaware but yesterday here at the White House he spent the day in a flurry of meetings and phone calls to try to get a handle of this situation.

The president spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority -- that being a significant call because it was the first time that President Biden spoke with Abbas since Biden took office.

Now, there has been some very slight change in language in the White House readouts of these calls compared to when the president spoke to Netanyahu earlier in the week.

In the readout of the conversation yesterday, the president -- the White House twice used the word "concern". They said president shared his grave concern about the intercommunal violence across Israel. The president voices concern about violent confrontations in the West Bank.

The president also specifically raised both Israeli and Palestinian civilian deaths that have arisen in this situation. When he spoke with Netanyahu on Wednesday that word Palestinian also was not in the readout of the call.

Now, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield at that meeting for the U.N. Security Council, she said that the U.S. is working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict.

One thing that the Biden administration is doing is trying to engage partners in the region to try to lower some of the tensions that going on there. WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette, thank you so much.

Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill, how are lawmakers responding?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, that word "concern" is one that many lawmakers are using here. Many lawmakers are saying that they stand by Israel, that Israel has a right to defend itself. But what is interesting and what is notable here is that there are more lawmakers who are willing to speak out and forcefully say that they're calling for Palestinian rights.

They're framing this a bit differently than before, they are saying that this is a racial justice issue, that it can be linked to other causes that we see here in the United States that they're fighting for, whether or not that is Black Lives Matter or against police brutality or how immigrants are treated crossing the border.

That these are the kinds of things that they see some similarities when they look at the violence in the area. And this is coming from the progressive branch of the Democratic Party.

And so what we saw on the floor of the House, this was earlier this week, really a robust debate that took place. So you had representatives like Ted Deutsch who were saying I stand by Israel but you also had members of the so-called squad who were saying what about Palestinians' right for survival?

You had Representative Rashida Tlaib who's a Palestinian-American who said that by her mere presence it's disrupting the status quo, that the debate is different.

You had as well Ilhan Omar, a representative saying that in her own experience as an 8-year-old in Somalia when the bombs were dropping, that she could relate to and understand what was happening on the ground with Palestinians. And so you do have that pushback from some lawmakers who are much more vocal about it.

Also as well Congressman Adam Schiff today, the chair of the house intelligence committee, weighing in on this discussion.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And I think we need to do everything possible to bring about a cease-fire. I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, bring about a cease-fire and these hostilities.


MALVEAUX: And Schiff adding that while Israelis have the right to protect themselves and their people, that he does not want to support this policy of evicting Palestinians from their homes -- these communities from their homes.

And so, Fred, you can see there is a much more direct conversation that's taking place, a more nuanced conversation, and more pushback that's happening from lawmakers here on Capitol Hill, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, Arlette Saenz -- both of you in the nation's capital, thank you so much.

Frank Lowenstein closely advised then Secretary of State John Kerry on his many trips to the region during the Obama administration. He was the special envoy during the 2014 Gaza War. And he's joining me right now from Washington. Frank, so good to see you.



WHITFIELD: So I wonder what your reaction is to our reporting there that President Biden, using the word "concern" a couple of times and then also hoping for partnership in the region as it pertains to the U.S. involvement or concerns.

LOWENSTEIN: Yes, I think that's pretty strong language coming from President Biden. I think it's important for everybody to bear in mind that Israel is an incredibly close ally of ours and they're being subjected to attacks by terrorist organization.

That's a difficult context in which to criticize them. So you've got to look to the nuances of the language and strong expressions of concern is a new one. I thought the White House came out pretty strongly after the Israelis bombed the building where the media headquarters were located yesterday.

Again, a little tougher language than you're used to seeing in this kind of context. So I think they're doing what they can in between the lines. I'm sure the conversations that they're having behind the scenes are even tougher with the Israelis but we've got to be a little bit careful at how we talk about this publicly.

WHITFIELD: At the same time you've spent time with Benjamin Netanyahu. What's your impression of the prime minister and how he is responding and his explanation, the justification for targeting that building that did have the media offices?

LOWENSTEIN: Yes, well I always visited with Secretary Kerry with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of the war in 2014 when Ben Gurion Airport was shut down. We met in a secure location, not where you usually meet with the prime minister. And they were very much on wartime footing and they very much had a siege mentality.

And I think what that leads to from the Israelis, certainly from this government, is lack of really concern for what anybody else has to say. They make judgments about what they think they need to do to protect their security and they really don't care what anybody else says.

Now we can work diplomatically with others in the region to try to pressure Hamas to stop on their end of it but we have a very, very limited ability really to impact what the Israelis are going to do on this.

Now, if the war goes on much longer, certainly I think if you see ground troops going in there, then the level of U.S. engagement and the tenor of our rhetoric can get tougher.

But for now, I think we're going to encourage them as strongly as we can behind the scenes to deescalate this and then work with the Qataris, the Egyptians and others to try to pressure on the Hamas end.

WHITFIELD: All right. So it sounds like you're in favor of Biden's approach of reaching out to partners in the region. We know President Biden spoke with Netanyahu and Abbas yesterday, we don't know the readout, you know, of the conversations exactly -- all that was said.

But how would you advise the president for what are likely to be continued talks with both sides?

LOWENSTEIN: Well, what I would be telling them is that I'd be very, very concerned from the United States point of view about the further escalation of this conflict. So you have -- it's like a fire and the longer it goes on the more likely it is to spread.

So right now, you have what's effectively a three font war for Israel, you have the west bank where there's widespread protests and some violence, East Jerusalem as well obviously remains a huge flash point. You have Gaza Strip where they're engaged in obviously a very brutal back and forth with Hamas.

But then the new dynamic here is intercommunal tensions within Israel where you have 20 percent of the population is Arab-Israelis and they've been systematically discriminated against for a very long time.

And what you're seeing now is widespread protests and some vigilante violence there. That should be a great concern to Israel. I think it's probably far more profound in terms of its long-term impact.

And this the fourth war with Gaza in 12 years but the intercommunal violence inside of Israel, those can create scars and take a very, very long time to heal.

I would also just add quickly that Jordan has been undergoing some tumult internally now. There's been protests there against King Abdullah and others protest on the border there.

Also in Lebanon I think we have protests on the border gathering there. So this is the kind of thing that can spin out of control very quickly. So I think probably what this administration is doing rightfully is encouraging the Israelis to end this as soon as possible before it can spin even further out of control.

WHITFIELD: Well, much of the conflicts seem to be familiar to really the world. What we are hearing, that perhaps is a little different right now, is there are louder calls about justice. Particularly when it comes to the inequities, or the differences between the arsenal on each side. How do you suppose that pressure or perhaps those criticisms might in any way influence this conflict?

LOWENSTEIN: Well, I think what you're seeing is more pressure on the Biden administration from the left than we've seen in the past. I'm sure you saw Bernie Sanders did an op-ed in "The New York Times" yesterday in which he explicitly linked the Black Lives Matter movement here to what he called the Palestinian Lives Matter movement over there.

And I think that's again a new dynamic that we really haven't seen before. I think that will result in Biden being pressured in a way politically that they really haven't been in the past.


LOWENSTEIN: But listen, there's a very important point here that everybody's trying to make, which is that this situation is not sustainable, right. You have effectively more Arabs and non-Jews than Jews between the river and the sea and that Israel is the only country with any power there and the result of that is just building tensions.

I mean the plate tectonics of this are that the tensions will continue to increase. So they'll deal with this Gaza War I guess, by next week or so, we'll see it calm down. But none of the underlying issues will have been addressed, either with respect to Gaza strip or with respect to the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank.

And unless and until you really start dealing with those underlying issues, all you're going is putting a band-aid on a wound that's going to keep opening up.

WHITFIELD: Right. It will all be back. All right, Frank Lowenstein, thank you so much, former special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Appreciate your time.

LOWENSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely.

All right. Coming up, investigating the insurrection. Congress strikes a deal on a January 6th commission, but will anything change once the investigation is complete? I'll talk live with an attorney who served on the 9/11 commission.

Plus was coronavirus accidentally released from a lab? A group of prominent scientists are renewing their calls for an investigation.

Then later, a happy ending to the search for that missing tiger in Texas. Find out what's next for the big cat.



WHITFIELD: All right. There's more breaking news from the West Bank. Israeli emergency services are on the scene of what they're calling mass casualty event after bleachers collapsed at an orthodox synagogue.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is there. What do you know, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fredricka, this happened this evening. Now, it's the Shavuot hat (ph) Jewish holiday, so in this synagogue that's currently under construction, in fact we can pan over it to it right now.

This evening just after 7:00 p.m. local time, as worshippers were in there marking this Jewish holiday -- and all of this is captured live on television -- the bleachers collapsed. They were crowded with worshippers.

And of course this is, indeed, a mass casualty event. The Israeli medical services rushed to the scene, of course, and most of the injured have been sent to hospital. We have with us Israel Weingarten from the Israeli Magen David Adom which is the Israeli medical service.

So Israel, what can you tell me? What happened and how many people have been injured in this incident?

ISRAEL WEINGARTEN, ISRAELI MAGEN DAVID ADOM PARAMEDIC: We find 144 people that injured, and in this area, it's an area in the middle of the praying in synagogue in (INAUDIBLE) neighboring Jerusalem.

We got a call about a tribune (ph) and a protraction (ph) that this fall down with a few people. We got a call in our operation room and just -- and the second that we got the call we are -- the person was sending a message to all the paramedic in the area and paramedic and medics, the motorcycle, the first responder and the ambulance of course, to come to this area to treat the patients.

WEDEMAN: And are your personnel rather busy at the moment already because of the situation in the West Bank, in Gaza and elsewhere?

WEINGARTEN: Magen David Adom is medical organized, and we are ready for any call that we have. Of course, we are busy in this moment, in these few months after a few different small war that we have here. But we still can handle with any call and, any different call and any different injuries that we're going to find.

WEDEMAN: All right. Thank you very much.

WEINGARTEN: You're welcome.

WEDEMAN: And Fredricka, one thing to add, of course, that the authorities do say that at least two people were killed in this accident, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. It looks like a horrible situation. All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. We'll check back with you for an update.

All right. And this will be an important week ahead on U.S. Capitol Hill. Four months after that unforgettable attack on the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers are expected to vote on creating an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announcing on Twitter that he would bring the bill to the floor in the coming week. It comes as many Republicans have been publicly denying the violent events of January 6th and the role Trump supporters played in the attack on the Capitol.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney was recently removed from her leadership role in the party for speaking out about the big lie that Trump won the election. Cheney refuses to back down.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that all of this really points to why it's so important that we have a commission, you know, we've done that after Pearl Harbor. We did it after the Kennedy assassination. We did it after 9/11. It's the way that we as a country come together in a non-partisan fashion to understand what happened to get to the bottom of it. It must have subpoena power and to begin to take steps so we can ensure it never happens again.


WHITFIELD: Joining me now, someone very familiar with these types of investigations, attorney Jamie Gorelick. She served on the 9/11 commission. She's also a former deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice and a former general counsel at the Defense Department.

Jamie Gorelick, thank you so much. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So why does there need to be a commission when all of the deadly mayhem was literally caught on video, everyone saw it.


GORELICK: Well, there's going to be -- there will be a lot of questions, Fredricka, that will not be answered by the video or even the massive criminal investigation that's now ongoing.

One of the things that I learned as a 9/11 commissioner is that you can never believe the first story you hear. And peeling back the levels of the onion, if you will, will reveal the truth.

WHITFIELD: So what's the part of the story that still needs to be revealed in your view that this commission would help bring to the surface?

GORELICK: I think everyone wants to know exactly who did what, and what the causes were from the beginning of the effort to get people to come to Washington to what the people who evaded the Capitol did. I mean, there are lots of questions to be answered.

WHITFIELD: So how do you measure success ultimately in the commission's work?

GORELICK: Well, I think you have to have a bipartisan consensus document and that's hard to achieve. The 9/11 commissioners were appointed by the most partisan people in town, the leadership of the House and the Senate. And in the case of the 9/11 commission, the president of the United States. It was very, very contentious.

But we -- we came together to achieve a unanimous report. And I think that to have credibility, you're going to need to have some close to unanimity.

WHITFIELD: So you heard Congresswoman Liz Cheney, she said there needs to be subpoena power. Are the chances good that there would be subpoena power with this commission, you know, unlike say, the 9/11 commission, or unlike, you know, after the Kennedy association -- assassination -- the goal here for many will be to be able to allow the Department of Justice to have more power to prosecute.

GORELICK: Well, the Department of Justice has power to prosecute. I mean, there's an argument going on about whether it needs additional authorities. But it has plenty. And it has the most massive investigation I think the department has ever had in the sheer numbers of people who are under investigation.

The 9/11 commission had subpoena power. And we used it more as a threat than anything else because when we threatened we got what we needed.

This commission has to have that, and in the bill that I've seen, it does have it.

WHITFIELD: Another goal according to those who were in support of this commission, that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would be called to testify over his phone calls with the former president. Do you think that would happen? Because thus far he has said he hasn't completely weighed in on whether there should be a commission.

GORELICK: The commission in order to be credible has to hear from all percipient (ph) witnesses, anyone who was a witness to the event. And this is a really interesting challenge for this commission, if it comes to be, because many members of congress will be -- will have been witnesses to the event, and many will need to be called, in my view.

WHITFIELD: You handpicked Merrick Garland, now the attorney general, you know, to be your aid. You've known him for years. Garland has said that this will be his top priority, getting to the bottom of this insurrection. Do you see him reevaluating how, say, domestic terrorism is handling in this country?

GORELICK: Well, it -- he has testified that this is his highest priority and his biggest nightmare is domestic terrorism threatening the real (ph) underpinnings of our democracy. He saw it up close when we dispatched him to handle the bombing in Oklahoma City.

So I think you're going to see an amazing array of resources applied. That's already happening. And I think we will get a pretty good picture of what happened from those criminal prosecutions. But there will be a lot that will not be covered by those criminal prosecutions that I think a commission needs to address.

One of the delicate points will be how do you interact with the Department of Justice if you're -- if you are this commission? Because you don't want to undermine what the department is doing.

WHITFIELD: At the same time you don't want to create any real conflicts of interest either.

All right, Jamie Gorelick, thank you so much for your expertise. Glad you could be with us.

GORELICK: Happy to be here.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, if you're confused about masks, you're not alone.

And now "Saturday Night Live" is actually poking fun at the new CDC guidance.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome, the CDC players and their first scene, man walks into a bar.



WHITFIELD: All right. The CDC is working to clear up confusion about new guidance for vaccinated Americans, which "Saturday Night Live" captured last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, we're four friends from three different households.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all half vaxxed and traveled by train from Florida to the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of us is old and severely at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And one of us is a baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how many of us should wear masks and in which order?





WHITFIELD: Okay, so all joking aside, the CDC is now saying if you are vaccinated, in most cases, you can stop wearing a mask, and you don't need to socially distance, but there remain too many other what ifs.

Joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Celine Gounder, a CNN medical analyst and infectious disease specialist. She's also the host of "The Epidemic" podcast.

Dr. Gounder, good to see you. So, that "SNL" skit, yeah, it was funny but it also underscores there remains confusion out there. And there's a lot of worry, too, about relying on the honor system.

How should people be approaching this, in your view?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You know, Fred, I think this speaks to the challenge of being a public health official in this moment, how difficult it is to be clear and simple when so often the real answer is, it depends. You know, if you look at -- if you look at the map, and I think your producers have it, of local community transmission rates across the country --

WHITFIELD: Yeah, we have that, let's look at it.

GOUNDER: Yeah, if you look at the yellower parts of the country, that's where your transmission rates are lower, where you have more orange and red parts of the country, those are areas where you have higher transmission and the risk is going to be higher. So I think we need to be looking at where are you, who are you around, do you have households that are mixed with people who cannot get vaccinated. Maybe they're under 12.

And maybe they haven't had the opportunity to get vaccinated. We know, for example, that Latinx communities, there are a lot of people who would really like to get vaccinated that have had barriers to access, could be language barrier, could be simply not able to take time off work. So, you know, I think unfortunately if you give a very simple message without that nuance, you're aiming too restrictive, or you're too lenient.

WHITFIELD: So is the advice here really just use your own discretion, and perhaps, is it the case that the CDC guidelines are really more for local leaders to make decisions about the those public spaces, but they really are hoping that people are just kind of being honest, doing the right thing, if they've been vaccinated, or, you know, use their instincts to determine whether they're in safe quarters or not?

GOUNDER: I think some people will do the right thing. I think, you know, one of the other skits that was on SNL, as part of that segment, was looking at, you know, a guy walks into a bar. Well, if somebody walks into a bar, do we card them, do we check if they're 21 and over or do we go by the honor system? I mean, we do check these things for a reason. Some people will be honest and some won't.

I think really the way this should be interpreted is as guidance to local public health officials who can say, okay, based on our community transmission rates, based on our vaccination rates, are we ready to make this move? And I think it's also important to note that the CDC does still recommend that even if you're vaccinated, in health care facilities, in congregant settings, in travel hubs, and if you're traveling, say, on a subway, or a plane, or bus, you should still wear a mask.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, a group of scientists from some of the world's leading research institutions published a letter in the Journal of Science Friday calling for more investigation into the origins now of coronavirus. They say that the possibility of the virus being accidentally released from a laboratory is still viable.

What's your point of view on their concerns and whether this is helpful?

GOUNDER: So the authors of that are credible scientists, you know, and so I do put stock in that. I think there are still two main hypotheses that deserve much more research, one of which that this is a zoonotic spillover, which means that the virus spilled over from animals like bats into humans. Probably the more likely hypothesis, but also possible is a laboratory accident. The director general of the World Health Organization has called for more investigation into that possibility.

At the same time, I also think we need to be doing a lot more investigation of this possible spillover event. And that would mean doing a lot more testing, tracing of people as well as domestic animals and wildlife in Wuhan, and that region where the virus first emerged from.

WHITFIELD: It's not too late to do that?

GOUNDER: It is not too late. We need to be -- we need to be doing testing to see, you know, are we seeing people who have been exposed, you know, and what are the animals that have been exposed, and further digging into that. So that's a lot of work that still has yet to be done.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Celine Gounder, thanks so much. Good to see you. Stay well.


So, now, an end to the mystery of that missing tiger, India, it's been found, safe, missing for nearly a week. We can't wait to tell you where that tiger turned up, and what happens to it now.


WHITFIELD: So the days-long search for that missing tiger named India in Texas is over. The 9 month old tiger was found last night and today it has a new home. CNN's Rosa Flores has more details of India's whereabouts from


So what happened?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we were just talking about this tiger. It was found yesterday. And right now, it's either on its way or has arrived to Black Beauty Ranch Sanctuary which is in Northeast Texas.

Now, once this tiger gets to this location it will receive a full medical evaluation.


It will have its own private den. And the reason for that is so that this tiger can begin acclimating to living in a bigger space. After a few days, this tiger will then be moved to a half-acre habitat that will have trees and a pool and throughout, of course, he will be getting a nutritious diet. He's a carnivore. So that means that he will be getting meat and bones.

Now, taking care of a tiger like this costs between $10,000 to $20,000 a year. And like Fred just mentioned, this tiger is young. Only about nine months old and the life expectancy of this tiger is about 20 years.

So think about this, Black Beauty Ranch is a nonprofit organization that has committed to taking care of this tiger for its life expectancy. The director of that organization says that upon first looking at this tiger, the tiger looks healthy. And, of course, there will be a full medical evaluation.

Now, we've all seen the pictures of this tiger interacting with human beings, with his owners. They were feeding him, they were petting him. So will this tiger miss his human companions?

Take a listen.


NOELLE ALMRUD, SENIOR DIRECTOR, CLEVELAND AMORY BLACK BEAUTY RANCH: It's amazing how quick they adapt to not being around people. You know, they're wild animals. They go right back to being a wildcat. They do not show any adverse effects from not being around humans. It's more the other way around.


FLORES: It's more the other way around is what she said. Now, as for the humans that owned this cat, Victor Hugo Cuevas and his wife Gia Cuevas, the Houston Police Department says that no charges, and no citations will be issued in this case of a missing, now found, tiger, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Huh. So is anything more being revealed about how it was found? Was it just walking casually in somebody's yard, did it turn up in an unusual place and someone said, you know, I'm calling authorities? I mean, what did they do? Throw it a treat? What happened?

FLORES: You know, just like everything with this story, it's a little complicated. According to police, a concerned citizen called in to police about this tiger.

Now, this concerned citizen happened to know Gia, the wife of Victor Hugo Cuevas, the man who's linked to the missing tiger and the handoff to authorities was yesterday in West Houston. And, Fred, unfortunately, the police do say that the tiger was in a very small cage and it was very (AUDIO GAP) they did release some video of it yesterday. And, of course, today we saw it as it headed to its new home, a sanctuary in Northeast, Texas.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, I'm glad it's a happy ending, so glad that the tiger is okay, and no one was harmed. But everyone has quite the story to tell about all the sightings of a tiger in their Houston neighborhoods.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead --


WHITFIELD: No way, what could that be? Is it proof that we are not alone? For the first time, the Pentagon is actually confirming footage of an unidentified flying object recorded by the Navy. Is it authentic? Well, it also calls for an explanation.



WHITFIELD: All right. Some say finally the U.S. government acknowledging that we are not alone in the universe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! Got it! Whoo hoo!

Look at that thing! It's rotating.


WHITFIELD: Really, what is that stuff?

Well, this is video shot by the U.S. Navy from the U.S. warship Russell off the coast of San Diego in 2019. The Defense Department has confirmed that it is, indeed, an unidentified aerial phenomenon.

In June, the Pentagon will issue a report to Congress on UFOs, thanks to a little known stipulation in the December 2020 COVID stimulus bill signed by former President Donald J. Trump. Gideon Lewis-Kraus is a staff writer for "The New Yorker". He has a

new article out this week titled how the Pentagon started taking UFOs seriously.

Gideon, so good to see you. All right. So, how do you explain the Pentagon sharing this, letting everyone know what they've got and what they're thinking?

GIDEON LEWIS-KRAUS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: That's a really good question. There are probably a lot of different answers to that. The simplest answer is probably that the government has always had people interest in UFOs as a phenomenon either in hobbyist capacity or because they thought there were potential national security implications.

And in this case, what happened is that some of those people back in 2007 intersected with Harry Reid when he was the Senate majority leader and he and the late Senator Stevens and Inouye put together congressional earmark to look into this, to fund an outside contractor study. And then, you know, what was a really small earmark, a rounding error in the Defense Department budget back then eventually caught the eye of a reporter who had done work for a number of publications over 20 years, about UFO phenomenon.


And she brought it to the New York sometimes and with a team of other reporters broke this story in December 2017, which became cultural inflection point.


LEWIS-KRAUS: And my reporting seems to have uncovered that, basically, widespread fascination with the idea that the government was interested in UFOs prompted the government to become more seriously interested in UFOs.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. So, Gideon, I can't keep my eyes off of the video. What were you thinking when you saw these images for the first time?

LEWIS-KRAUS: Well, the videos are sort of hard to parse. There are a lot of people who have made pretty persuasive arguments that what is being seen are just balloons, or planes or drones or other normal, you know, mundane terrestrial phenomenon. It's very hard to evaluate them outside a lot of additional evidence that people at the government claim to have, classified evidence from censor data, satellite data.

So it's really hard to say anything all that definitive based on these videos alone.

WHITFIELD: I don't know, those little things dropping down to the ocean.


WHITFIELD: Okay, well, I want you to listen to what the former head of national intelligence had to say about UFOs recently.


JOHN RATCLIFFE, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: There are a lot more sightings than have been made public. Some of those have been declassified. When we talk about sightings, we're talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain.


WHITFIELD: So what can we expect from this federal report on UFOs now? I saw your expression. Should the public expect confirmation of UFOs or admission from the government? What's potentially next here?

LEWIS-KRAUS: Well, look, I mean, certainly, there's a big basic question of what even are UFOs and, of course, the government looks at it from the very strict diagnostic position, these are unidentified things in our air space.

What everyone has told me is that we really shouldn't expect all that much from this report. Certainly, it's not going to be any evidence that we've been in touch with some galactic committee for decades. It's possible, there's almost certainly going to be a classified annex of this report that might contain information.

But what's interesting about the comments from former Director Ratcliffe is I had heard through any sources there are people in the NRO unhappy with the fact that he went on Fox News and talked about things like satellite data, that, you know, a lot of those methods are protected for good national security reasons and so, you know, it's not clear what to expect.

WHITFIELD: Yet another chapter, the mystery continues.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus, thank you so much for joining us.

LEWIS-KRAUS: Thank you so much for having me.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic.

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