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CNN NEWSROOM

Doctors' Groups Lead Push to Cancel Tokyo Games; Biden to Intel Agencies: Report on COVID Origins in 90 Days; Sri Lanka Works to Contain Expected Oil Spill; Syrian President Assad Expected to Win 4th Term in "Sham Election"; CNN Investigates Atrocities in Tigray Region; U.S. Companies May have Benefited from Forced Labor of Uyghurs; 18,000 Afghans Who Helped U.S. Still Awaiting Visas; A Passport for Your Food; Two ExxonMobil Directors Ousted after Investor Battle. Aired 1- 2a ET

Aired May 27, 2021 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[01:00:28]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live around the world. Hello. I'm John Vause.

And coming up this hour:

Japan's doctors joined the long list calling for the cancellation of Tokyo's Olympics.

Did it come from a bat or was it born in a lab? The ongoing mystery of the origins of COVID-19 now under review by U.S. intelligence by order of the president.

And the no good, very bad, really awful day for big oil. From a courtroom in The Netherlands to meetings of shareholders, three of the world's biggest carbon polluters face a day of reckoning.

(MUSIC)

VAUSE: In 57 days from now, the curtain goes up to what would be the biggest global event during the era of the COVID pandemic. And organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are determined to push on despite growing opposition within Japan and calls to cancel the games and increasing number of health experts and doctors as well of athletes around the world in fear potential super-spreader event.

CNN's Blake Essig is alive again for us this hour in Tokyo.

So, right now, we've had this news conference which has been underway, by a doctors union in Tokyo. What's the latest on that? What do we know?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, just in this past hour, Japan's doctors union held a conference once again calling for the games to be canceled. And while the union only represents a small number of doctors, about 130, the fact that they are speaking out in a country where that rarely happens is significant. The reasoned is a serious concern for the health and safety of the Japanese public, warning of the danger of virus variants that could be brought into Japan, specifically the variant in India, in South Africa and potentially new variants that we're not even familiar with at this point.

And they're saying that if that does happen, that these games will be remembered for the next hundred years and not for the right reasons. Now, at this point, the fourth wave of infections shows no signs of slowing down as COVID-19 cases remain high, fueled by the U.K. variant.

Now, the fact that the number of severe cases has once again hit a record high on Wednesday, that number has continued to set new records pretty much on a daily basis for weeks now.

Now, as a result the hospital beds situation in many areas is near are beyond capacity, leaders in Tokyo and several other prefectures are calling for a second extension to the emergency order ending later this month. Now, under the state of emergency, the government is asking bars and restaurants to close by 8:00 p.m. and not serve alcohol, residents are being told to avoid travel and work from home if possible.

Now, to this point, the state of emergency, which started at the end of April, has had little impact on slowing the spread of the virus here.

Now, despite all that, the organizers remain confident in the antivirus measures that they put in place, saying for months that the games will go ahead this summer safely and on schedule.

But Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert, is willing to give the games a chance. He says the current plan in place isn't good enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: And there's virtually been no planning for how are we going to move people in buses or putting three people to a hotel room, or where do they eat? And what kind of respiratory protection do they have? In fact, they note that each country should bring their own face mask. I think that the approach they're taking right now is virtually a dangerous one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ESSIG: Now, possible extension of the state of emergency order is expected to be announced tomorrow for nine prefectures including Tokyo, it could last until June 20th.

John, that is just about a month before the Olympic Games are set to begin.

VAUSE: That expert, that group of experts, they are less than diplomatic on -- basically the plans that are put in place by the organizing committee when it came to COVID-19, saying that they were not following the best scientific advice. It does beg the question, where did they get their advice from?

And, you know, when you look at that plan that was revealed by this New England Journal of Medicine, it was incredibly lackadaisical, things like temperature checks which aren't effective anymore when it comes to detecting COVID-19 because of the asymptomatic nature of the case.

So, when they talk about this review, how can this group of organizers be trusted to get this right in such a short period of time?

[01:05:05]

I think we've lost Blake, have we?

Well, we have some problem with Blake so we might just move on.

So, in the coming hour, the Australian state of Victoria will once again be under lockdown, health officials in the country's second most populated state ordered a hard lockdown after a fresh cluster of infections were detected in Melbourne. For the next week, everyone is expected to stay home unless they are an essential worker.

U.S. president has ordered his intelligence agency to review the origins of the pandemic. New reporting by CNN and other media organizations has given new life to an old theory that the coronavirus was born in a Chinese lab and released by accident.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden now calling on the U.S. intelligence community to intensify its investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is incredibly important.

COLLINS: Biden demanding a firmer answer within 90 days after officials narrowed in on two likely scenarios. It passed from animals to humans or it was the result of a lab accident.

JEAN-PIERRE: That could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion.

COLLINS: The president has, quote, specific questions for China and told intelligence agencies to keep Congress fully apprised.

The directive is a sharp turn from where officials stood earlier this week when pressed on whether the U.S. should lead an investigation.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we can't do and what I would caution anyone doing is leaping ahead of an actual international process. We don't have enough data and information to draw to a conclusion.

COLLINS: Federal health officials' renewed calls for further investigation after the World Health Organization faced criticism for initially dismissing the possibility that it came from a lab.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTORR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: It is certainly possible that other options might have occurred including a lab leak, we just don't have enough evidence to be able to say what that likelihood is.

COLLINS: One of Biden's top advisers was harshly critical of the WHO's investigation with China.

ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS ADVISER: We need a completely transparent process from China. We need the WHO to assist in that matter. We don't feel like we have that now.

COLLINS: Biden is also taking a shot at his predecessor, saying that the failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation.

The new directive comes after sources told CNN that the Biden team shut down a State Department effort led by former Secretary Pompeo to prove coronavirus had originated in a Chinese lab.

MIKE POMPEO, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am confident that we will find that the evidence that we have seen is consistent with a lab leak and I'm convinced that's what we'll see.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (on camera): And the State Department is disputing the semantics of that story, saying that they did not shut down that investigation. It simply came to an end earlier this year.

But I think the bottom line to take away from President Biden's directive today is they do believe that there could be some credibility to that theory that COVID-19 did come from a lab -- a lab accident, potentially. And that's what he wants the intelligence community to find out within the next three months.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

VAUSE: Live now to Beijing, CNN's Steven Jiang is standing by there.

OK. So, you know, we know what kind of the response will be because what it has been in the past when this stuff has come out new accusations from Beijing that the U.S. is politicizing the origins of the virus and will hamper relations, will not help with the pandemic moving forward. But this is a relationship between Beijing and Washington which is already strained.

With this investigation ongoing, with the review ongoing for the next 90 days, what's likely to be the impact on this relationship because we're already facing some trouble?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, it's not going to help things at all. As you were saying, they've been increasingly in a way they sound like a broken record. But to be fair, the other side as well in terms of where this virus actually comes from and what the Chinese government should do.

Now, they, of course, have been trying very hard to push out this narrative of the so-called multiple origin theory that this virus may have emerged from multiple locations around the world at the same time. And their line right now is we have done everything we can in helping the WHO's origin tracing efforts, and now, it's time to investigate other countries, especially pointing a finger at the U.S. but without any concrete evidence.

So, I think that explains part of their increasing frustration and anger here in terms of why the government and state media really lashed out at anyone who suggested or demanded further investigations, that, of course, now includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was one portrayed as a hero here because of his opposition to Donald Trump's policies and stance on this issue.

But the fact is, a growing number of experts and scientists are saying that at this point, based on the evidence they've seen, they cannot rule out the lab leak theory. They're also saying that they're not ruling out other possibilities, including the zoonotic jump, that's been considered likely by that WHO team that went to Wuhan earlier this year. And these scientists are saying these things are not an either or questioned, they're not necessarily incompatible with each other.

So what they want is to have direct access to raw complete Chinese data and samples because those are the things that the WHO team did not have which is why the conclusion has not been convincing to many people.

[01:10:06]

But as you were saying, as this issue becomes increasingly politicize on both sides of the Pacific, the Chinese government is just unlikely, if it's not an outright impossibility right now for them to open up the lab again, to letting a WHO team -- because it's not only a sovereignty issue for them, it's also a loss of face issues for them, but also, of course, it's a domestic, political issue because of the line they've been feeding their domestic audience in terms of the strong denial, as well as the rhetoric against the U.S. -- John.

VAUSE: And a whole lot more until, right, Steven? Thank you. Steven Jiang, live for us in Beijing, we appreciate it.

Now, back to our top story, the growing calls for Tokyo to cancel the upcoming Olympics because of COVID concerns. Live to New Zealand's capital, Michael Baker is a professor of public health at the University of Otago. He is with us.

So, thank you. Good to see you. Professor, thank you for taking the time.

I want you to listen to one argument in favor of the Games. It's from a "Washington Post" editorial, The world needs an example that life can be normal again. The Summer Olympics are virtually the only event that truly unites the global in friendship. The burst of global confidence that arise from a successful Olympics is incalculable.

OK. But what about the flipside, the impact of a COVID outbreak? Is it possible to COVID-proof the games at this late stage so that you can avoid, you know, that sort of super-spreader event?

MICHAEL BAKER, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO, WELLINGTON: No, I don't think it is. I think holding the Olympics at the moment is a sham, in terms of how this event will need to be modified to make it possible. And, of course, we are not in normal times. The Olympics are a voluntary activity. They can be deferred to a future time when the pandemic is under control at a global level.

Last year, when the pandemic was less severe than it is now, a decision was made to defer the Olympics in the hopes that the pandemic would be under control this year. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening at the moment. The pandemic is much more severe at a global level and certainly in Japan.

So the same rules should apply, it should be deferred. It makes you think about the two aspects of holding the Olympics, involves a lot of international travel and a mass gathering. And, basically, those activities are incompatible with controlling a pandemic.

VAUSE: You know, we talk about 75,000 athletes and officials alone which will be gathering in Tokyo at some point. And for months, Olympic organizers have insisted that whatever is needed to keep the athletes safe is being done. We now learn from that paper that was published in the journal of medicine that there is no plan B, if there is an outbreak, that there was an emphasis on unsuccessful mitigation measures, like temperature checks and often ineffective contact tracing apps.

They basically said BYO face masks, which is incredible by the IOC. As well as insufficient detail on testing frequency.

How can this group of organizers now be trusted to implement any changes to improve safety, let alone have it ready by July?

BAKER: Yeah. Look, I think the article says it all. They have not done enough planning. Japan is not done enough planning. There'll be no quarantine provisions. There will be tens of thousands of people flying in from every corner of the world. Some of them bring the virus with them. Some of them will bring one variants of the virus with them.

This is going to be a huge burden and a very high risk gamble for the people in Japan who clearly don't want this event at the moment. And if you think of the Olympic experience surrounding unity and fairness, none of these ideas are going to be met by this event.

There's huge disunity about having the Olympics. And it's unfair in so many ways, in particular athletes from low and middle income countries who will not be able to compete in the same way. They haven't had the same opportunities to prepare and to attend selection events.

And more so, I think the global inequity is shocking, because we can diverge health resources, vaccines to Olympic teams to support them attending when they are absolutely lifesaving countries around the world. So, I think clearly staging the Olympics at the moment will cost lives around the globe.

VAUSE: One of the greatest Olympians of all times, swimmer Michael Phelps, he had this warning during an interview with CNN. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PHELPS, WON 28 OLYMPIC MEDALS, INCLUDING 23 GOLD: The fact that you're going to put 10,000-plus athletes, plus all the volunteers, plus all the coaches, plus, plus, plus, plus -- it doesn't make sense to me. I just don't see how that could happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That was December, and since then, the calls to cancel these games and the questions about the safety have only been growing louder. Why are the organizers refusing to listen to this?

BAKER: I don't know. I mean, they seem to be tone deaf and I would say there've actually lost their moral compass. This event is totally incompatible with the fact that the world is in a global pandemic. And I think symbolically, this will be appalling to have this event at this time.

[01:15:00]

And I think they should do the responsible thing and defer the Olympics to a future date.

VAUSE: I mean, we just simply sum up it by saying it's a luxury the world cannot afford at this point in time.

BAKER: Well, I think it's much worse than that. It's going to be a disaster at a global level. I think symbolically, it doesn't fit at all with where we should be putting our focus at the moment, during this time at a global crisis.

VAUSE: What is the worst-case outcome if it in facts goes ahead? Which it looks like it will?

BAKER: Well, I think it will intensify the pandemic in Japan, I think there will be outbreaks probably among those attending the events. Parts of the Olympics might need to be canceled as a result. I mean, we've seen this with sporting events, at international sporting events, that museum outlets and sports people would have participated in, they've had to be canceled parkway through because they have not been able to contain the spread of the virus. This was the IPL, the cricket league in India recently.

So, I think that's a problem. But I think more globally, it is just symbolically a really poor event in terms of what it means for global unity when we should be fighting this pandemic. If you think of the previous times the Olympics were canceled, it was during times of war, you know, once during the First World War and twice during the Second World War.

We are to war at the moment in a global war with this virus. I think this is a time to cancel or postpone the Olympics.

VAUSE: Yeah, Michael Baker, there are so many around the world who agree with you. Thank you for being with us there in Wellington. Appreciate your time, sir.

BAKER: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, an environmental disaster could be looming in Sri Lanka when a cargo ship has been burning for a week. It's expected to spill hundreds of tons of oil. More on that in a moment.

Plus, David beats Goliath in the latest fight against climate change. It's a rarity, and there's a lot more than America's oil company is now getting challenged on by a tiny hedge fund.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Officials in Sri Lanka are trying to head off an environmental disaster. A cargo ship carrying chemicals has been burning off the coast of Colombo for a week now and is expected to sink at anytime, possibly spilling more than 300 metric tons of oil.

Let's get the latest now from CNN's Anna Coren standing by live in Hong Kong.

So, Anna, what can you tell us? What's the details?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the fires obviously still burning, apparently not as intensely as it was before but it has now been burning for a week. This Singapore-based ship has come from India. It was loaded up in the port and was making its way to Singapore via Colombo when they seemed to be experiencing problems.

We understand from Sri Lanka's marine environment protection authority that the ship, which I should add, is rather new. It's only a few months old, has tried to dock into Qatar and India complaining of problems with was refused to dock.

[01:20:06]

It then anchored off the coast of Colombo, 9-1/2 nautical miles off the coast of Colombo where there was an explosion last Thursday. They thought they had contained this explosion and then there was an another one on Tuesday, and that is one to members of the 25-man crew were injured. But everybody managed to be evacuated.

Obviously, firefighters are now desperately trying to put out this fire. They've been struggling to get close enough to the blaze because of the intense heat. But, John, you mentioned this environmental disaster that is pending. This ship contains over 1,400 containers, many of them have fallen off, but they contain 25 tons of nitric acid as well as other chemicals. So, if the ship sinks, not only will there be chemicals potentially

lose, if these containers break open. But they could also be a massive oil spill. We know there are 350 tons of oil on board this ship, and Sri Lankan offshore these are working desperately to try to contain the oil spill that is already coming from the ship.

Sri Lanka authorities say they don't have enough oil booms, so they've called the Indian authorities to assist with that, they are sending planes and tugboats. You know, other vessels are trying to prevent what could unfold. But that is the real problem that is facing these authorities.

They don't know when the ship is going to sink, and if they will be an environmental catastrophe as a result of that -- John.

VAUSE: Anna, yeah. We'll keep (INAUDIBLE) the story for us. Bring us the latest when it happens. Anna Coren, live in Hong Kong, thank you.

In Northwest Nigeria, more than 100 people are missing and feared dead after a passenger ship capsized in the Niger River on Wednesday morning. Officials say the ship was overloaded with about 180 passengers on board. At least 20 have been rescued so far. The remains of 4 other victims have been recovered.

Well, the head of Europe's largest airlines says trust was broken and it's an ongoing concern right now when Belarus forced a Russian -- Ryanair, I should say, flight to land in Minsk. That led to the arrest of a passenger on board, the dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. The comments from Lufthansa CEO came one day after the airline announced it was suspending operations in Belarus air space.

The growing international backlash and outrage over the incident has not shaken President Alexander Lukashenko. He remains defiant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUS PRESIDENT: As we predicted, our ill- wishers both outside and inside the country have changed their methods of attacking the Belarusian state. They have crossed a lot of redlines and transgressed the limits of common sense and common morality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Lukashenko went on to claim that the forced diversion of the plane was necessary, as well as legal.

Well, some are calling it an election. Most say it's just another Assad power play. Either way, polls closed in Syria few hours ago after voting was extended because of high turnout. President Bashar al Assad is facing no real competition for another term in office.

Here is CNN's Jomana Karadsheh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's as if the last 10 years never happened. A defiant Bashar al Assad running for in all but guaranteed fourth 7-year term in an election labeled a sham and illegitimate by the U.S. and other countries.

Running against two obscure government-sanctioned candidates, no one is expecting any surprises. After all, Assad claimed 90 percent of the 2014 vote during a civil war that pitted his supporters against those who wanted to overthrow his regime.

JOMANA QADDOUR, HEAD OF SYRIA PORTFOLIO, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: The international community should treat this, as I said, a non-event. It's absolutely not changing. The economic conditions on the ground, it's not changing the political conditions on the ground. Syrians are just as a oppressed, they will be just as oppressed on Thursday as they are today.

KARADSHEH: After a decade of a war like no other the world has seen a generation, most of this broken country with help from allies Russia and Iran is back under Assad control. But Syria today is a shadow of the countries he inherited from his father more than 20 years ago. Syrians are facing a hunger crisis, the majority living in poverty, more than half can't afford a basic meal, according to the U.N. But through it all, Assad continues to cling on.

QADDOUR: The Assad regime and its allies, they just want to continue to confirm that they will not budge an inch, despite everything the country has been through in 10 years, despite the fact that they're struggling to keep the country alive economically, they are still adamant about not changing a single thing.

[01:25:07]

From Bashar Assad's perspective, this is an existential crisis. He will fight to the death. He said this many years ago. His supporters said this. Assad own (INAUDIBLE). Assad said (ph) that we will burn the country.

KARADSHEH: And the country burnt, 12 million displaced, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, more than 120,000 like Ali Mustafa (ph) vanished into the black hole of the regime's prison system. His daughter Wafa counts the days since she last saw her father more than 2800, that's nearly 8 years.

She's been fighting for his freedom and for that of others forcibly disappeared by the regime.

WAFA MUSTAFA, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: I think of my dad obviously and I feel him every day, but now more than ever, it's just heartbreaking. My dad is probably being tortured. Luckily, if he is still alive while Assad is being elected for another term, it makes me feel very (INAUDIBLE), very sad, very disappointed.

I'm feeling helpless. And this at the point where I ask myself, is everything I'm trying to do pointless, just pointless?

KARADSHEH: Well, Wafa describes the election as a silly play, but that doesn't make that it is any less playful or dangerous.

MUSTAFA: This is also a message to all dictatorship and to all war criminals around the globe, that yes, you can commit war crimes. You can use chemical weapons against your own people and you can actually bomb your country and detain millions and displace them and kill them, and you could still get away with it. And you can still be elected for another term, and you can still be called a president.

KARADSHEH: This election, a clear message to the world, Assad has not only survived, he is here to stay.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Syrian officials have repeatedly denied allegations of war against humanity, insisting they are targeting terrorists.

Well, still to come, the allegations of atrocities and a warning from U.S. president. We'll explain what's happening in Ethiopia's war-torn Tigray Region.

Also, the call has shift away from fossil fuels being heard loud and clear at the major oil companies. What that will mean for the future?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

[01:29:49]

The U.S. president is calling for a ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access to Ethiopia's Tigray Region. Joe Biden released a statement saying, "I'm deeply concerned by the escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple part of Ethiopia.

The large scale human rights abuses taking place in Tigray including widespread sexual violence are unacceptable and must end."

The U.S. recently imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials. And witnesses tell CNN in temporary camps, for those who were forced from their homes, hundreds of young men have been rounded up by soldiers reportedly shouting "We'll see if America will save you now".

CNN has investigated a wide range of atrocities being committed in the Tigray region. Here's part of reporting from CNN's Nima Elbagir.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Sudan-Ethiopia border, the last leg in the journal to safety.

In the first weeks of the conflict, thousands of refugees in Ethiopia's Tigray region crossed daily. Now, the figures are dwindling day-by-day. Those that do make it here come bearing scars and testament.

This is Zarai Gabridetchis (ph). He says he fled the city of Shararu (ph) near the Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

He says the Eritrean soldiers beat them with machine guns, lay them on the ground and put weapons in their mouths. He says if you showed fear, they would kill you. But if you are brave, you escaped with your life and the scars on your back.

Sayuri (ph) arrived in Sudan with (INAUDIBLE). Heavily pregnant when Shemaru (ph) was attacked by the Ethiopian army. Sayuri fled through back routes (ph) giving birth in a field.

She tells us only she and her mother-in-law made it to safety.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: That was CNN's Nima Elbagir part of her reporting from earlier this month.

Well, a disturbing revelation about working conditions for minorities in China 's Xinjiang province. The U.S. Congressional Report says global supply chains are at risk of being tainted with products made by Uyghurs and forced labor.

It's accusing some U.S. companies of looking the other way regarding what could be Chinese government atrocities.

CNN's Jake Tapper has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Your shirt, your shoes, even the power in your home right now may all have been brought to you by what activists call modern day slavery.

JULIE MILLSAP, CAMPAIGN FOR UYGHURS: What we have going on is the resurgence of concentration camps in the modern-day age. We have literal slaves picking cotton in fields. We have people that are in factory environments and unable to leave.

TAPPER: The U.S. State Department estimates up to two million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Chinese region of Xinjiang have passed through a sprawling system of detention camps because of their ethnicity and religion.

And some victims say they were tortured, raped, even sterilized. And that's on top of the labor they're forced into, producing everything from clothes to electronics to solar panels.

The Chinese government insists it is combatting religious extremism and its facilities are voluntary training centers teaching residents job skills. The Chinese government vehemently denies widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. According to a congressional report, some American companies are quote, "suspected of directly employing forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that are suspected of using forced labor," unquote.

And in the process, allegedly helping China suppress and abuse Uyghurs in what the U.S. leader government calls genocide.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I think they're complicit with the genocide going on in China.

TAPPER: At least eight U.S. companies may have directly or indirectly sourced materials made in the Xinjiang region including American giants such as Coca-Cola and NIKE who's CEO was invited to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about this issue. And the committee says Nike passed.

MCCAUL: I think Nike realizes buying the cotton that comes out of the Xinjiang province that they are complicit with this act of genocide and they didn't want any spotlight.

TAPPER: Nike pushes back on that in a statement saying, quote, "Our ongoing diligence has not found evidence of employment of Uyghurs or other ethnic minorities from XUAR elsewhere in our supply chain."

The lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are coming together to fight what they call the exploitation of a repressed ethnic minority by the Chinese government. Currently, there are two bills in Congress banning the import of any goods made with forced labor from the Xinjiang region.

MCCAUL: There has to be some corporate responsibility here. I'm all for -- you know, Republican -- I'm all for helping out companies get bigger and hire more employees, but we are talking about genocide.

TAPPER: A similar bill was introduced in last year's legislative session and passed in the House but never made it to the Senate.

[01:34:57]

MILLSAP: We have companies, even companies have distanced themselves as these very woke companies in support of the right causes that are behind closed doors profiting off of literal modern day slavery.

TAPPER: Official lobbying records show Nike and Coca-Cola both spending hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the bill with "The New York Times" reporting those two companies were among multiple massive corporations trying to weaken the legislation.

MCCAUL: They were the very lobbying group that killed the Uyghur forced-labor prevention act last Congress. I assume they are going to try to do the same with this Congress. And also I would assume they may try to bring down my, you know, Uyghur Muslim Genocide Act.

TAPPER: Coca-Cola did not respond to our request for comment, but earlier this year told "The New York Times" it, quote, "strictly prohibits any type of forced labor in our supply chain," unquote. Coca-Cola did not address its lobbying efforts. The drink giant also says it uses third-party auditors to closely monitor its suppliers.

Nike insists it did not lobby against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. But Nike's director of global communications told "The New York Times" the company had, quote, "constructive discussions with congressional staff aides aimed at eliminating forced labor and protecting human rights." Not everyone is buying the U.S. companies' denials.

MCCAUL: I think the evidence is pretty clear that they're not telling the truth.

TAPPER: But even if this new bill passes, experts say it may not go far enough. And U.S. companies have to do better.

MILLSAP: We would venture to say that if they have supply chains in the region, they absolutely do have links to forced labor. They need to extricate themselves from having any links with any suppliers in the region.

TAPPER: Which is why lawmakers and activists are hoping to rally the American people to take a moral stand.

MCCAUL: I think now is a time for the American people to wake up after COVID and stand up to these atrocities and stand up to genocide.

We have a moral choice before us, and the question is whether we are going to stand on the right of human rights or we're going to stand with corporate America on this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Our thanks to Jake Tapper for that report.

Well, a total drawdown of U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan could be complete by early July, well ahead of schedule. And that means increasing urgency to protect Afghan civilians who've worked alongside U.S. troops.

Thousands remain in limbo, waiting for U.S. visas. It's a slow process and in the meantime the U.S. military is in preparations to evacuate them should they be ordered to do so.

CNN Barbara Starr has details from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): During the 20 year war in Afghanistan, they worked as translators, contractors, and in a wide variety of jobs, helping the U.S.

Now some 18,000 Afghan's face the threat of being targeted and killed by the Taliban and retribution as soon as July once U.S. forces are expected to be gone.

While the Biden administration hasn't made a decision to evacuate them, the Pentagon is doing some very preliminary planning to be ready for a potentially huge operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If directed to do something like that we could certainly do it.

STARR: Nobody knows how soon people need to be airlifted out, exactly how many people need help, and where they would be taken. Those already out and away from danger stress the need for protection, telling Jake Tapper --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I left my family and my colleagues.

STARR: This Afghan man fled his country fearing he would be killed after working as an engineer for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I don't regret for my service.

STARR: There is growing bipartisan pressure to act.

The memories of thousands of south Vietnamese who helped the U.S. escape in the final days of the Vietnam War still fresh for many.

MCCAUL: We cannot allow Afghanistan to be another Saigon. This isn't just about the people waiting for these visas in Afghanistan. If our allies and partners don't trust us to keep our word or think they will be abandoned it could cause irreparable damage to our national security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must do our part to aid those Afghan who have aided us.

STARR: Those pleas have not fallen on deaf ears at the Pentagon.

DAVID HELVEY, ACTING ASSISTANT U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have a moral obligation to help those that have helped us over the past 20 years of our presence and work in Afghanistan.

STARR (on camera): This special visa program run by the State Department that would be handing out visas to these Afghan's is already overloaded. Some cases are taking as much as 500 days to resolve, time that these Afghan's may not have.

Barbara Starr, CNN -- the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN newsroom, how a company in Australia is proving, yes, you can have your seafood dinner and protect ocean life at the same time. Eating with an eco-conscious (ph).

[01:39:57]

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VAUSE: "Call to Earth" is a CNN initiative to promote a sustainable future. Now, let's talk dinner. For those who prefer eco-friendly eating, there is now new technology which verifies where that seafood meal actually came from.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARKUS MUTZ, CEO, OPENSC: Only if we fish in a sustainable and ethical way, can we keep fishing and do not deplete our oceans.

DERMOT O'GORMAN, CEO-WWF AUSTRALIA: Unless we solve the problem of feeding eight billion people in a way that's sustainable, we're not going to avert the biodiversity crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patagonian toothfish aren't easy to find at Sydney's fish market. Global demand for the delicacy has led ecologists to warn that without careful management of fisheries, the species could be vulnerable to extinction.

MUTZ: 10 years ago, if you had a green conscious, you wouldn't eat Patagonian toothfish because it was a critically endangered species. It is now possible to eat this fish in a quite sustainable way. If you know that it was actually caught outside of marine protected areas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those protected areas crucial to giving the fish a refuge to reproduce. The problem is --

MUTZ: How can you verify it where a fish was caught in a place that it is meant to be caught, and then track it through the supply chain until it arrives at a consumer plate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To answer that question, the World Wildlife Fund has partnered with Australian technology company OpenSC.

MUTZ: We know a lot about this fish. We know exactly where it was caught and we can verify on the basis of data that it is only being caught in areas where it's sustainable to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using OpenSC tech, each fish gets a digital identity when it's caught. A code that can't be altered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We essentially give a fish a kind of passport that travels with it throughout the whole supply chain.

MUTZ: We use block chain technology in order to create an immutable record of that. So that makes it fraud proof. You can't change your data anymore without leaving a trace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The GPS location of the boat when the fish was caught backed up by a reading of the depth of the sea at that very moment. Information compiled by AI, protected by block chain, and instantly available.

MUTZ: It's achieving information when and where this particular fish was caught. And most importantly, it shows you that the vessel only fished where they were supposed to and not in marine protected areas.

[01:44:55]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to OpenSC, 10 percent of Patagonian toothfish caught around the world are now tracked.

But there is work to be done. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates 85 percent of the world's marine fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished. The OpenSC project is a small start in verifying the eco-credentials of the fish we buy.

But the WWF believes conscious consumers are driving change and not just in seafood.

MUTZ: It's not hard to imagine a world where we see 100 percent of commodities on a type of platform like Open SC. The vision is imagine a world where consumers no matter what they buy, whether it's a fish or a piece of beef, or a product containing palm oil (INAUDIBLE) to confirm the claims around sustainability that is so critical for a sustainable future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until then empowered consumers can lead the way by seeking out products like this track and trace toothfish, or the touch of their smartphone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: We'll continue to showcase inspirational stories like that one as part of the initiative here at CNN. Let us know what you're doing to answer the call with the hashtag Call to Earth.

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VAUSE: Wednesday was a bad day for big oil with big blows for thee petroleum giants, a turning point it could be for climate change.

First, unprecedented setback for America's biggest oil company. Two ExxonMobil directors have been ousted after a battle with an activist investor, Engine Number 1 (ph). The hedge fund has won at least two seats on the board, another two remain too close to call since Exxon is dragging its feet on the climate crisis.

And what some are calling an historic decision, a court in the Netherlands is ordering Shell to cut its carbon emissions more aggressively than planned. Shell is planning to appeal.

And shareholders have also a warning for Chevron. A majority 60 percent voted in favor of a proposal to cut emissions generated by using the company's products.

Bill McKibben is one of the world's leading environmental activists and journalists. He's author of "Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet", founder of 350.org, a global frontier movement with the goal of ending the use of fossil fuels. And in his spare time Bill is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.

Welcome back. It's good to see you.

BILL MCKIBBEN, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: John it's good to be with you.

VAUSE: We often like to talk about turning points or major events that would change the course of history and it's rare to see three of them happening within 24 hours. But in some ways Brian Kahn, the managing editor of the (INAUDIBLE) site Earther, he seemed to sum it up with a tweet.

"Hard to overstate how much big oil is getting its ass kicked today by courts and shareholders alike."

And the reason why that stuck with me it seems to be accurate and a brief description that everything that happened on Wednesday is because for so long these oil companies, they've had deep pockets and lobbyists and lawyers and they seem to be untouchable. They seem to get away with whatever they want in pursuit of profit. Those days seemed to be coming to an end maybe. They are being held accountable. Is that a fair assessment?

[01:49:46]

MCKIBBEN: I think that's right. And you know, on different continents and by different means, but the sheer logic of the science around climate change is finally beginning to overwhelm even the deep pockets and you know, veteran defenses of the oil industry.

At some point there's only so much you can do to defy the mathematics of climate change. And that is starting to run out.

VAUSE: Yes. And it seems Exxon is possibly the biggest loser out of these three in some ways because the companies' all got -- spent millions of dollars campaigning to keep these activist directors from being appointed.

Some have portrayed that as a battle between David and Goliath. But the David in this case, the hedge fund, Engine Number 1, while it was fairly small, it did have some pretty big financial supporters in the U.S.

MCKIBBEN: Yes, you know, activists have been all over the big, you know, investors -- BlackRock and the big banks and things.

We've been causing no end of hell through these last few years. And it's beginning to pay off because these guys who are normally very conservatives have voted to make sure that Exxon got some new directors today.

They knew that they had no choice. And you know, Exxon was 10 years ago the biggest company on planet earth. They've been taken down not one peg, not two pegs but three or four. They still have plenty of political power and they're still desperate to hold on to their business model even at the cost of breaking the planet. But their job got harder today because there's going to be people looking on from the inside now.

VAUSE: Let's talk about the situation in Chevron where there was a demand by investors at Chevron at the annual general meeting for the company reduce greenhouse emissions made not just by chevron but by Chevron's customers as well.

That part is more than 60 percent support. And in some ways, that's not sort of activist investors, if you like, targeting (INAUDIBLE) company. That's sort of Main Street, isn't it, sort of making this demand.

MCKIBBEN: Well look, people are beginning to figure out that they're, you know, that these companies are not looking out for the planet. And they're not looking out for their shareholders.

They keep trying to pour more money into oil and gas because it's the thing they know how to do. But there is no more money to be made in oil and gas and developing it now is an expensive boondoggle.

The International Energy Agency just last week said that it was going to meet the targets we set in Paris when new development of coal, oil and gas (INAUDIBLE) has to stop now. Clearly investors were hearing that signal.

VAUSE: We also have the case of the -- in the Netherlands where a court has ordered Shell to actually speed up its promised reductions in greenhouse emissions. Does that set a legal precedent in some ways to possibly enforce parts of the Paris Accord?

MCKIBBEN: Well, it may well. You know, across Europe anyway. And what's interesting is the court used precisely the same numbers that the intergovernmental panel on climate change, the world's climate scientists used in their last report, 45 percent by 2030. That is the deadline the planet faces. The scientists say if we don't do that then our chances of meeting the targets we set in Paris are nil.

And now a court is saying, well hell, let's sign on to this thing, and you know, we're going to see that it is done. And good on them for doing it.

VAUSE: We're at the point now that sort of here big tobacco was in the 1990s where the evidence was becoming clear, everyone sort of realizing smoking will kill you, it's bad.

You know, these companies will continue on for a time but it really is beginning of the end.

MCKIBBEN: Well, there's a lot -- I mean on the one hand, you know, no one needed tobacco. The people were addicted to it. So in that way, it was easier to go after it.

On the other hand, the other thing that is happening right now is that the engineers are rolling out every day all the things that are making fossil fuels no longer the only game in town.

You know, it was just last week that Ford said, hey our F-150 pick up, the most popular vehicle we've ever built, it's going to be electric now and it is going to be better than it was before.

Those are the kinds of signs that people who invest in oil companies pay attention to, because what do you do with oil, you put it in the tank of a ford F-150.

VAUSE: Yes, it is -- it does, we say it a lot but it does actually seem to be a real moment in history here. Bill thank you for sharing with us. Appreciate it.

MCKIBBEN: Thank you so much, John. Take care.

VAUSE: And as we try and meet the Paris climate change goals, at some of these are major milestones for us along the way.

Let's go to Pedram Javaheri for more on -- I'm sorry, it's Derek. It's not Pedram, sorry.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I don't know why.

VAUSE: It's (INAUDIBLE) how I think I've done. But Derek, so what have you got? Why don't you tell us about this.

VAN DAM: Well, you know, these landmark decisions from Chevron, Exxon and Shell couldn't have come at a moment sooner, especially considering that the global average temperatures edging closer and closer to that agreement in Parish that was set in 2015 which was keeping the world's temperature under one and a half degree above the baseline pre-industrial temperatures.

So what you're looking at now is the global temperature map versus a carbon dioxide, planetary global spread.

[01:54:55]

VAN DAM: Now, I want you to see that white squiggly line there, that is the temperature. Notice it going up. Of course, carbon dioxide in that red line just peaked over 420 parts per million. That is a new record within the past couple of months.

So we're seeing this correlation, carbon dioxide and global temperature, they work hand in hand. The more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere the more our earth warms. And we've all got skin in the game here.

You have to think about how future generations will look back at the decisions we make now, especially with these landmark cases being passed, with Shell, for example to date.

And then also just how much we have to pay for this in terms of our pocketbooks, right. We're talking about billion-dollar disasters on the increase. If you look at the past decade, we had $119 billion plus event that totals over $800 billion in total.

Looking at last year, we had 22 billion-plus disasters, totaling $95 billion. Just here in the United States alone. I mean we talk so much about the record-breaking wildfire season that occurred over the western U.S., specifically into California. We're already in peace to beat that this year, a sign of things to come.

And then we look at the seven warmest years that have occurred since 2014, look at that. You see a trend here, it is the rate of pace of warming that we continue to set our trajectory here on the planet.

And in order to meet this Paris climate accord, the records book will see we need to cut our emissions by 100 percent by the year 2050 to meet our climate goals.

Back to you, John.

VAUSE: Derek, thank you. Well as generations look back out to this one, we're not looking really good, I think.

VAN DAM: Right.

VAUSE: So time to change. Thank you. Thanks, Derek.

Well, imagine hitting the jackpot just for getting a vaccination. Check out the winners and the prices in Ohio.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two likely Ohioans are about to win and I do mean two, it's winners (INAUDIBLE) finally, the wait is over. We are excited to announce the first winner, Abbigail Bugenske from Silverton, congratulations. You just one $1 million in the Vax-a- Million give away and what a night it is for you.

And our lucky Ohio student winner is Joseph Costello from Englewood. Congratulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That last price is a full rights scholarship at a public university, it includes tuition, room and board as well as books. Anyone with a kid at university knows that stuff gets expensive. It's the state's first Vax-a-Million drawing with four more to go.

The governor says this lottery has encouraged a lot more people to go out get Covid-19 vaccinations. So in the end, everyone is a winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with my friend and colleague Rosemary Church after a very short break.

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