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Biden to Address Ransomware Hacks with Putin; State TV Interview with Jailed Activist in Belarus Sparks Condemnation; Fauci: We Must Not Declare Victory Prematurely; Airlines Scramble to Get U.K. Travelers Home from Portugal; Biden Rejects Counteroffer from Republicans on Infrastructure Bill; U.S. Job Market Moves into Higher Gear; Mexican Election Seen as Referendum on Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador; U.S. States Boost Vaccination Numbers with Incentives; Biden to Reverse Trump Endangered Species Rollbacks; Sri Lanka Keeps Eye on Sunken Cargo Ship; Experts Alarmed at Mucilage Growth in Turkish Waters. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired June 5, 2021 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to everyone watching here, in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, we have been warned.

The FBI director, saying recent ransomware attacks are posing a 9/11- like challenge to the nation. How the pipeline and meat-packing company hack attacks, just the beginning.

Risk versus reward.

Could a guaranteed Krispy Kreme doughnut be more effective than a chance at free college tuition?

We'll look at how people are responding to COVID-19 vaccine incentives.

And also.

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ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Something is very wrong. An alien-like web of slime is choking off all forms of life in the water here.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): CNN's Arwa Damon dives into Turkey's sea slime crisis, one that was created by humans.

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BRUNHUBER: The U.S. government is warning that just about every facet of America's infrastructure is, now, directly, threatened by an epidemic of ransomware attacks. And as we saw with Colonial Pipeline, in April, a successful attack can, quickly, throw daily life into turmoil.

An investigation found hackers accessed Colonial's system, with a compromised password. It was that simple. Cyber experts believe hackers are targeting American entities, dozens of times, each day.

The Biden White House is urging all of them, to beef up their online security, before they become the next victim. We get more from CNN's Alex Marquardt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The cyber threats against the United States have grown so much, it's like dealing with terrorism after 9-11.

That urgent message from the head of the FBI, Chris Wray, today adding his voice to the alarm being sounded by the Biden administration over the growing ransomware attacks here and around the world.

There are a lot of parallels, Wray told "The Wall Street Journal." The scale of this problem is one, that I think the country has to come to terms with.

JOHN HULTQUIST, VP, MANDIANT THREAT INTELLIGENCE, FIREEYE: Before long, we are worried that some people will get hurt, especially when we consider all these incidents that are affecting healthcare.

MARQUARDT: Healthcare, schools and most recently, the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods, which is the biggest meat producer in the world. Those two recent attacks caused gas shortages and beef plants to shut down.

MICHAEL LEITER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: I think this is going to be an ongoing struggle of increasing threat, increasing defenses. And to the extent, again, that this counterterrorism analogy works, that is another way in which this will be a long-term fight.

MARQUARDT: The Justice Department announced, Thursday, it will implement practices used for terrorism cases. Telling prosecutors, to share more information and coordinate efforts on ransomware attacks, which is when hackers take control of a network and hold it hostage, demanding money.

The attacks and the amounts paid have skyrocketed. The Justice Department says ransom payments, often in cryptocurrency, last year, went up 300 percent.

The White House, on Thursday, released a rare-open letter, pleading with companies to strengthen their online defenses, saying they can't fight the threat, alone. But experts say, the government, also, needs to find a better way to take down the attackers and deter them from even trying.

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE: It really requires the government to take additional actions. They've got to work, collaboratively, with foreign law enforcement agencies to take these people off the field, to use law-enforcement efforts, intelligence agency efforts, economic sanctions, to disrupt and deter these actors.

MARQUARDT: Most of the recent, major attacks have come from Russia. Government hackers, in the case of a breach like SolarWinds and criminal hackers striking the pipeline and food companies.

Today's comparison of cyberattacks to other terrorist threats is one that has been made for years, including, in 2018, by the country's head of intelligence.

DAN COATS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I am here to say the warning lights are blinking red. Again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is, literally, under attack.

MARQUARDT: Those warning lights are, now, doing more than blinking. They are on.

[04:05:00]

MARQUARDT: I'm told this is going to be a significant part of President Biden's upcoming trip to Europe. Both, at the G7. And then, in that one-on-one summit with President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

President Biden will make clear that Russia has to take action to crack down on these groups. And tell Putin that they are fundamentally destabilizing to the relationship. Biden has repeatedly said that he wants a stable and predictable relationship with Russia -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

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BRUNHUBER: And Russia's leader is brushing off the U.S. allegations that the most recent ransomware attacks came from Russian hackers. CNN's Matthew Chance has that part of the story.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Vladimir Putin sharply rejecting allegations that Russia is in any way implicated in the recent ransomware cyberattacks in the United States, describing them as nonsense, ridiculous and just hilarious.

U.S. officials say two recent attacks on a crucial U.S. fuel pipeline and on a major meatpacking company were carried out by cyber criminals based in Russia. They've called on the Kremlin to crack down.

The suggestion being that the Russian authorities are currently allowing the cyber gangs to operate with impunity. President Putin made his remarks at an interview with Russian state television on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): It is just ridiculous to blame Russia for this. I think that the relevant U.S. services should find out who the scammers are. Not Russia, for sure.

For us to extort money from some company.

We are not dealing with some chicken meat or beef. It is just hilarious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE (voice-over): Strong words from the Russian leader and they come less than 2 weeks before he is scheduled to meet the U.S. President Joe Biden in a face-to-face summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

Hacking and cyber warfare just one of the fraught issues on the agenda, which is also likely to include sanctions, Russia's treatment of Kremlin critics and military threats against its neighbors.

President Putin says he's hoping the meeting will be held in a positive manner, but he doesn't expect any breakthrough in Russian- American relations -- Matthew Chance, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: The very first U.S. Director of National Intelligence is, also, sounding the alarm that ransomware poses a serious threat to the country.

Among other positions, John Negroponte served as DNI under President George W. Bush starting in 2005. And he told our Jake Tapper that cyberattacks can have an impact, just as significant as more conventional forms of terrorism.

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JOHN NEGROPONTE, BIDEN ADMINISTRATION DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Absolutely, no. And I certainly don't want to, in any way, minimize the -- the tremendous cost that we suffered back on 9/11, in 2001.

But just like you mentioned, an attack on a health care system, a network of hospitals, for example or, you know, other such facilities, shutting down the energy supply, let's say, of the entire East Coast of the United States, you know, what could be the health impacts of something like that?

They could be enormous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: My colleague, Michael Holmes, discussed the threat posed by ransomware, earlier, with an expert. Robert Lee was a U.S. Air Force cyber warfare operations officer and now he is CEO of the cybersecurity company, Dragos. Here is part of their conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT LEE, DRAGOS: So far, everything has been criminal in nature, both, from non-state actors and state actors taking advantage of these things. But it does expose the weakness everybody is concerned about, where you could do disruptive attacks.

We've seen these types of attacks before, not with ransomware but with cyberattacks on infrastructure, including Ukraine 2015 and the Ukraine in 2016, when cyberattacks took down portions of their electric power system.

HOLMES: Yes. Absolutely.

And what worries you, most, in terms of potential impacts?

I mean, you mentioned health care organizations being hit. One -- one imagines, at some point, lives are going to be at risk or -- or -- or even lost.

LEE: Absolutely. So, I think, we have to, first, focus on human life. That is, obviously, what we need to protect the most.

Beyond that, it also is just a significant economic impact. A lot of these companies, especially when you look at industrial companies, they are portions of our supply chain for food, fuel, energy, water.

When you disrupt those, it can have a real impact on our day-to-day lives. And when you start looking at manufacturing, some of those companies are just-in-time manufacturing.

So, disruption to them is very difficult to catch up for, especially if you are in the middle of a global pandemic. It's not exactly easy and that can lead to significant impacts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: Belarus is facing a new wave of sanctions. The European Union is banning Belarusian airlines from flying over the bloc's airspace or landing at its airports.

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BRUNHUBER: This comes, after the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk last month which led to the arrest of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. The activist was shown on state media, Thursday, where his family and supporters say he was, clearly, under duress. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the details.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: International condemnation is rolling in after that so-called interview that Roman Protasevich, the journalist and activist, who's locked up in Belarus, gave to Belarusian state TV.

The United Kingdom is calling it disturbing. The German government has been calling it disgraceful. The interview itself is quite difficult to watch. You do see that Roman Protasevich, at times, you can see that he has marks on his wrists which could obviously come from having had handcuffs on before being led into the interview room.

That interview itself, Protasevich is essentially saying he's repenting, said he pleads guilty to organizing some of those protests that took place in Belarus. He also says he doesn't want to conduct political activism anymore. In the future, he essentially says, he respects the dictator, Alexander Lukashenko.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Belarusian opposition, of course, is not buying any of it. In fact, the opposition leader in Warsaw called for tougher sanctions against the Belarusian regime.

There are indeed some new sanctions that have come into effect. The U.S. is sanctioning 9 state-run Belarusian companies. Minsk is reacting to that.

They're now saying they are going to limit the amount of personnel that the U.S. is allowed to have at the U.S. embassy in Minsk, that includes both technical as well as diplomatic personnel -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: Coming up, the U.S. is still fighting to get 70 percent of adults at least one coronavirus shot, by July 4th. We'll talk about why it's so tricky, next.

Plus, why Britons vacationing in Portugal are racing to get home by Tuesday. We'll explain, just ahead. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the U.S. president's target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4th is an achievable goal, even though we did see vaccination rates, temporarily, slow down over the past week.

Meanwhile, a new study shows that an increase of COVID hospitalizations in adolescents shows the importance of prevention measures against the virus. Now states are focusing on getting young people their shots. Erica Hill has the latest.

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ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shots of hope at a New York City playground.

AALIYAH JENNINGS, VACCINE RECIPIENT: If it benefits me in a good way, in a safe way, then why not get it?

HILL (voice-over): An attitude the administration is hoping more young people will adopt as a new-CDC study shows a recent, troubling rise in COVID hospitalizations among 12- to 17-year-olds.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: These findings that force us to redouble our motivation to get our adolescents and young adults vaccinated.

HILL (voice-over): This morning, mobile vaccine clinics were ready outside schools.

MEISHA PORTER, CHANCELLOR, NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: Our families trust their principals, they trust their schools. And so, if they can come to what is almost their second home and get it done. It just makes a big difference.

HILL (voice-over): Tonight, they park at bars and nightclubs.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: We're going to go where young New Yorkers are.

HILL (voice-over): Meantime, Massachusetts announcing plans to close all its mass- vaccination sites, in the coming weeks. Two-thirds of the state's adults are now fully vaccinated. New Jersey, not far behind, just dropped all indoor capacity limits.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vaccinations are up. Jobs are up. Wages are up. America is, finally, on the move, again.

HILL: The president focusing on the positive amid signs his July 4th goal of at least one shot for 70 percent of adults may be an uphill climb. The country is close but average daily vaccinations are moving in the wrong direction, dipping below 1 million, for the first time, since January.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think we can make it. But it's going to take a push.

HILL: A dozen states have, already, met or exceeded that goal. But --

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: I'd remind people, just because a state has hit 70 percent, we still see pockets in those states, where they are well below 50 percent protection.

HILL (voice-over): It's not just those pockets raising concern. Six states have, yet, to get a single shot in more than half their adult population.

F. COLLINS: I worry about the ones that are way below that. And they are sitting ducks for the next outbreak of COVID-19.

HILL (voice-over): The good news?

Average daily cases now just above 15,000 and average reported deaths are at levels not seen since March of last year.

HILL: New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signing an executive order on Friday which ends that state's public health emergency nearly 15 months after it began. Currently 62 percent of adults in New Jersey are fully vaccinated. Nearly three-quarters have had at left one shot -- in New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.

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BRUNHUBER: The U.K.'s drug regulator has authorized the use of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID vaccine for kids as young as 12. The agency says it's carefully reviewed the data in children aged 12 to 15 and has found the vaccine is safe and the benefits outweigh any risk.

It's now up to the country's vaccine committee to give the final go- ahead. Now this comes as concern grows over the spread of the COVID variant first identified in India. Public Health England says it's showing, quote, "substantially increased growth," and is now the dominant form in the U.K.

Concern about the spread of variants is prompting British authorities to enforce new quarantine measures for people traveling from Portugal. So for more on that, let's bring in CNN's Nina dos Santos, who joins us from London.

Nina, the scramble is on to get back in time.

What kind of chaos is that causing?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Well, that's right. The airline companies have had to lay on many, many new flights. Some of them have had to borrow bigger planes to get all these Britons back before that deadline of Tuesday, after which they will have to face, as you pointed out, those quarantine restrictions.

Now Portugal's been added to the amber list, meaning people have to quarantine from home.

[04:20:00]

DOS SANTOS: You have to quarantine from a government-mandated hotel if you are traveling from a red list country. The lion's share of many destinations around the world now for British tourists is actually either amber or red, meaning that they'll have to quarantine and test either way.

Portugal was the one ray of sunshine that they were looking for, many Britons reached out for that to book their holidays or to go there very, very quickly after Portugal was put on the green list just three weeks ago.

But now, all that has changed and cue big disappointment and as you said, some travel chaos over the next few days, Kim. Here is a snapshot of that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): From green to amber, the traffic light system in the U.K. just hit the brakes on the travel plans of many U.K. citizens visiting Portugal. The U.K. downgraded the popular holiday spot on Thursday, surprising

many British travelers already in the country, with new restrictions, saying they must quarantine when returning to the U.K., the changes going into effect on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The change is the day we go back. So, 4 hours difference. If we had come back 4 hours earlier, we wouldn't have to. And if we come back four hours later, we do have to do it. I don't see (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we have to work from home in 7-10 days.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The U.K. just reopened some international travel about 3 weeks ago. Portugal was initially on the green list, meaning there was no need to quarantine.

But the U.K. announced it was changing this status, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases there and concerns over a mutation of the variant first detected in India. Many U.K. tourists say that decision casts a cloud over their sun-soaked beach holiday, already in progress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had tests to get here, tests to go home, tests when we get home. I just don't understand. I really don't understand why we are now on the amber list.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Many businesses in Portugal, which rely on British tourists for income, fear would-be customers will not come now with the new restrictions, a blow for Portugal's tourism sector and a disappointment for the vacationers, who are ready to spend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know a few -- a couple of weeks ago, they're opening up. They are re-employing people. They are getting the hotels open, the shops open. Again, they're going to have to step backwards.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Airlines are adding extra flights to accommodate the scramble of U.K. tourists trying to get home before the change. For some, a holiday cut short is better than being forced to stay at home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOS SANTOS: Well, this decision has taken Lisbon by surprise. It's prompted a war of words between Portuguese politicians and the British government, which is on the back foot to try and explain why, just three weeks ago, Portugal was greenlighted as a safe destination.

Now things have changed quite radically. The Portuguese say, well, the COVID numbers aren't that different over there. The rate of infection is rising in the U.K. just as it is in Portugal.

And that so-called Nepal mutation of the Delta variant, first seen in India, that you referred to there, Kim, earlier in your introduction, that, yes, it's present in -- in Portugal. But it has also been spotted here in the U.K. as well. Now the U.K.

authorities say the reason they are doing all of this is to try and protect the domestic reopening of this economy at the end of this month.

At the moment, the target is for COVID restrictions to be lifted across the U.K. on the 21st of June. For the moment, the governments say they're still on target for that and that is what they're trying to protect -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Thanks so much. Nina dos Santos, in London.

Organizers for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix have cancelled the event for the second year in a row because of COVID-19. The event's deputy chairman says the decision was, quote, "incredibly difficult" but was necessary because of safety concerns.

The race was scheduled for October 3rd. Organizers say they are working with officials in Singapore to determine the future of the race.

All right. Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. President is working to keep infrastructure negotiations bipartisan. But he's facing pressure from his party to keep things simple if Republicans won't play ball. That's next.

Plus, Sunday is Election Day in Mexico. And it could help cement president Obrador's grip on the country. Why the Biden administration is grappling with how to handle it and what the vote might mean for Mexico's relations with the U.S. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here, in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

President Biden rejected a Republican counteroffer on infrastructure spending Friday. He says their proposal doesn't meet his policy goals. But a group of Republicans and Democrats are still working on a proposal to bridge their differences. Kaitlan Collins looks at how Friday's talks began and ended.

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KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden, tightlipped ahead of his second talk with the top Republican negotiator.

BIDEN: I'm going to be happy to talk this afternoon, I will be able to report to you after that.

K. COLLINS (voice-over): Biden on the phone with senator Shelley Moore Capito, moments ago, as he pushes for a $1 trillion infrastructure deal.

K. COLLINS: Is the president expecting a counteroffer during this conversation with Senator Capito today?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president's expecting they're going to have a discussion.

K. COLLINS (voice-over): Biden dropped his demand to immediately raise the corporate tax rate in hopes of getting the GOP onboard. But with Republicans voicing opposition to $1 trillion in new spending, it remains to be seen whether a deal will be reached.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So my advice to the president and the administration, let's reach an agreement on infrastructure. That's smaller but still, significant and fully paid for.

K. COLLINS (voice-over): As Washington waits to see if bipartisan broadband is in its future, the president is taking credit for the new jobs report.

BIDEN: America is finally on the move, again.

K. COLLINS (voice-over): The country is picking up steam but not as fast as some economists had hoped. The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs, in May, short of the 650,000 that economists had predicted.

BIDEN: As we continue this recovery, we're going to hit some bumps along the way. Of course, that'll happen.

K. COLLINS (voice-over): The unemployment rate, also, dropped to 5.8 percent. But there are, still, 7.5 million fewer people employed than they were in February 2020.

Biden says his policies deserve credit for the jobs gains.

BIDEN: More jobs than ever been created in the first-four months in any presidency in modern history, triple the rate of my predecessor, eight times the rate of President Reagan.

[04:30:00]

K. COLLINS (voice-over): The new numbers also giving fodder to the Republican argument that higher jobless benefits are encouraging workers to stay home. Half of states have now pulled out of the federal program.

And there was a notable shift at the White House, today, after Biden said, clearly, last month, he believed the benefits had no effect on people seeking jobs.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The president believes that the temporary unemployment benefits and the temporary boost to those benefits has provided a critical lifeline, that that lifeline was designed to be temporary and to expire in about 90 days.

K. COLLINS: And in the White House readout of that call with senator Capito, they said that she offered to put about $50 billion in new funding toward the Republican counteroffer to President Biden's offer.

But, they say, President Biden, essentially, told her, thanks but no thanks, saying that he expressed gratitude for her goodwill here but said, essentially, that was not going to be enough to meet his standards for what this infrastructure package should look like.

So essentially, rejecting what the top Republican negotiator has put forward but saying that they will speak again on Monday -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: Former U.S. president Donald Trump is set to speak at the North Carolina GOP convention late Saturday evening. This will be his first public appearance in three months.

It comes, as Trump continues to rehash debunked claims that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud. This also follows Facebook's announcement, Friday, that Trump's suspension from the platform will last at least two years, until January, 2023.

Trump called that decision an insult to the people who voted for him and said Facebook shouldn't be allowed to get away with, quote, "censoring and silencing."

Mexican voters go to the polls, Sunday, to elect members of congress and local officials. This election is seen as a key test of how Mexicans think president Andres Lopez Obrador is doing. Matt Rivers has a preview from Mexico City.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO for short, a man who depending who you ask is either a demagogue or a deity.

Plenty here love him. His consistently high approval ratings built on a folksy image, champion of the poor, bashing Mexico's elite and promising a redistribution of wealth. We said even before taking office that a transformation was needed to reverse Mexico's breakdown, he said.

And the way he wants to solve Mexico's myriad problems is by centralizing power in the presidency. Mexico's democratic institutions are so broken his argument goes that only he and his party can be trusted to fix things. Disagree and you're the enemy.

Among the independent institutions or groups that AMLO has attacked recently, the judiciary, independent election officials, central bank, a government transparency data base, opposition candidates, the free press, feminists and green energy supporters. If that all sounds strikingly familiar to the playbook of a recent

U.S. president, well, it is. Yet the Biden administration has stayed very quiet about AMLO's assaults on Mexican democracy.

A few hours ahead after virtual meeting last month with Vice President Kamala Harris, AMLO accused the U.S. of, quote, "promoting coup plotters" because the U.S. provides funding for a Mexican anticorruption group that's been critical of AMLO. At least in public, Harris didn't take the bait.

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: This partnership I believe couldn't be more important today. Our nations face serious challenges.

RIVERS (voice-over): Challenges like migration as hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S. border pose a big problem for the U.S. Some believe staying quiet on democratic abuses helps ensure AMLO's cooperation in one key area.

JORGE CASTANEDA, FORMER MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Keeping the central Americans out, basically doing the United States' dirty work for it. I think that was Trump's quid pro quo and, for all appearances, it's Biden's quid pro quo.

RIVERS (voice-over): At least for now, the Biden administration might be waiting to see what happens on June 6th when Mexico's mid-term elections will help decide if Morena, AMLO's political party wins super majorities in Congress. That could mean pushing through constitutional reforms that might even include extending AMLO's time in office.

CASTANEDA: This kind of power grab, this kind of concentration of power, in a country like Mexico, can only lead to economic collapse, to further violence, to further corruption.

RIVERS: All of which are things the U.S. does not want on its southern border. Now experts have told me they do expect the U.S. to raise these concerns publicly and maybe even use economic leverage to push AMLO in a more democratic direction.

The big question is, if AMLO's party does really well in these midterm elections, does that make him less willing to listen to what the U.S. has to say?

[04:35:00]

RIVERS: -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: All right. Much more, still, to come on CNN, including a discussion about the incentives being used to encourage people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: The pace of vaccinations is, still, slowing across the U.S. So to reach those who aren't eager to get the vaccine, headlines are full of stories about incentives, from free beer to free child care.

Meanwhile, a recent study indicates that full FDA approval of a vaccine could influence the vaccine hesitant. It found 32 percent of unvaccinated adults surveyed would be more likely to get a vaccine if it were fully approved; 21 percent said paid time off would make it more likely; 10 percent said financial incentives, like a $20 coupon for food or drink, would motivate them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: Lynn Vavreck is a professor of American politics and public policy at UCLA and she joins me, now, from Los Angeles.

Thanks so much for being here. We -- we're seeing more and more creative incentives to get the -- the COVID vaccine, lotteries, college tuition, gift cards. Your research has looked into whether certain types of incentives, giving people cash, essentially, can encourage people to get vaccinated.

Does that work?

LYNN VAVRECK, UCLA: Well, what we've found by asking tens of thousands of people, what would increase their willingness to get vaccinated is that the kinds of things you are talking about, actually, do increase people's willingness to go out and get a shot.

BRUNHUBER: OK. But -- so, as I understand it, you looked at whether people -- you know, giving people cash, 50 bucks, 100 bucks, would work.

But is there a difference between the direct type of remuneration of, get a shot, get 100 bucks and then, something like a lottery, which we are seeing a lot of now, in which the payoff is basically just -- just random?

[04:40:00]

VAVRECK: So we tested a bunch of different things. The lottery was not one of them. But even something that has nothing to do with money, like reminding people that they won't have to wear a mask or social distance in public, increased people's willingness to get vaccinated by a significant amount.

So all of those kinds of things -- money, goods that you might give people, changes to material condition -- are more than likely going to increase people's willingness to go out and get that vaccine.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. OK.

So by how much?

Let's say -- let's -- let's take the cash portion, if you are offering that type of incentive.

How -- how much of a swing did you see?

VAVRECK: So the first thing to keep in mind is that, because we're doing this in a survey, this is always going to be people's reports about whether they'd be more likely to go do this. And we saw changes to the -- sort of in a -- in the neighborhood of 25 percent to 35 percent more people saying that they're likely to go get a shot.

BRUNHUBER: So that's pretty significant. You -- you touched on this, the idea that, you know, if you gave people more liberties, for example, they were more likely to get a shot.

There was an interesting partisan divide there. Where Democrats were more likely to -- to, let's say, go out and do it for money, Republicans more so, if, you know, they'd get vaccinated if it meant that they wouldn't have to wear a mask or social distance in public.

But the rules, now, have been relaxed for everyone at least, in practice, because there is no way to tell who's got the shot and who hasn't. And things like vaccine passports, which would allow you to, you know, to -- to look at who's been vaccinated and who hasn't, have basically been -- been outlawed, especially in Republican states.

So where does that leave us with the population that's least likely to want to get a shot?

VAVRECK: So there were some differences, across populations, as you were describing. But overall, the average effects of these kinds of incentives worked for all kinds of people.

And I think that, once you move through this next set that you're describing, people who may have been on the fence and were a little unsure about getting vaccinated, once you move through that set of people, whether it's by reminding them that they don't have to wear a mask or social distance or giving them $50 or entering them in a lottery, you will get to a more vaccine hesitant or resistant group.

And for that last group, there may be nothing that works to convince them to go out and get vaccinated.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Unfortunately.

Then -- then, there's the flip side, right?

First of all, there is some research suggesting it could decrease motivation. And then, I -- I've talked to some experts, who have said that, you know, maybe, it might nudge the percentage up a little bit this time around.

But if you get people conditioned to getting paid to get shots, this could have implications, you know, not just for -- for the next pandemic but with much more mundane but still important campaigns, like the flu shot.

Any worries there? VAVRECK: Well, there would, definitely, be people who told us they were less likely to go get vaccinated if the government was going to pay them. The idea that, well, gee, I was already a little worried about this and now, they have to pay people to do it?

But on balance, it increased people's willingness more than it decreased. Now, in terms of long-term effects for other kinds of public health scenarios, I'm not sure what to say about that.

We'll -- we'll have to wait and see if there are downstream implications for, as you are suggesting, a flu vaccine or for the next public health crisis. But hopefully, these kinds of incentives will help to get us through this public health crisis.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. There's definitely a need to do that, a last push to get to herd immunity. Sounds like a lot of the -- the governors and companies are on the right track, if your research is correct. So thank you so much for telling us all about it, Lynn Vavreck, really appreciate it.

VAVRECK: Sure, my pleasure.

BRUNHUBER: Mother Nature wasn't on their side, as emergency crews fought a raging fire on a cargo ship off Sri Lanka. Coming up, how winds got in the way, as emergency workers struggled to put out these flames. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: Today, June 5th, is World Environment Day. And the Biden administration is marking the moment by announcing plans to revise Trump-era regulations that critics feared undermined the Endangered Species Act.

It plans to review and revise a handful of regulations the Trump administration pushed through that rolled back protections for endangered plants and animals. The White House also plans to look at Trump rules that allowed for more oil and gas drilling, regardless of the impact on the climate.

Sri Lanka now says that weather played a role in efforts to save a cargo ship that sank near its coast. According to Sri Lanka's port authority chairman, heavy winds shut down the port of Colombo for 39 hours while a ship was on fire last month.

Sri Lankan navy divers inspected the ship on Friday to check for oil and chemical leaks but the navy later said visibility was too low to see if anything is spilling into the ocean. So even without a leak, the incident has created one of the worst ecological disasters Sri Lanka has ever seen. But if there's a spill, well, things could get a lot worse. Sam Kiley

joins us, now, live, from Delhi.

Sam, what's the latest?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, as you say, the environmental damage, such as it is -- and it is substantial -- has, already, been partly done, not least, with the leak of many billions of tiny plastic beads that were used in the manufacture of a wide range of plastic products that have -- have come off this ship, leaked from containers, into the seas of Sri Lanka.

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KILEY: And of course, as we know from the reporting of the plastics pollution across our global oceans, particularly, plastic beads are very, very damaging indeed from everything from very small creatures right up to the big mammals.

And this is an environment that is regularly visited by dolphin and whales. But above all, there is immediate economic impact on the fishing communities of that coastline, 50 miles of that coastline has been closed to fishermen.

There are many thousands and thousands of fishermen, artisanal fishermen, in the modern sense of the word, who would -- who go out and fish every day for their families but also to feed the market. They have been banned from entering the seas.

And then, you come to the idea of the potential spill. Now there's some doubt as to whether the substantial chemical cargo, notably, some large amounts of acid but also another -- another -- chemicals used in the manufacture of, particularly, of plastics, may have leaked or burned.

And this is the key issue. It will be less damaging to the sea, at least, if they've burned off. The Sri Lankan authorities don't quite know, yet, which is why they sent those divers, Kim, out to try and inspect.

And then you have got many hundreds of tons of fuel inside. Again, they are not sure whether that burned off or was properly sealed. Now the company that owns the X-Press Pearl have apologized for this catastrophe and also said that they believe the crew did everything they should have done, in order to try to seal off the fuel tanks before they abandoned ship.

But ultimately, perhaps, very much, down the line, this fuel will probably leak. And above all, this is a fish stop (ph) breeding area, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We will keep following this sad story out there. Sam Kiley in Delhi. Appreciate it.

Now to another ecological threat, have you ever heard of marine mucilage? That's a type of slime that's attacking all forms of life in the waters around Turkey. Now it has appeared before. But as Arwa Damon reports, never this much nor for this long.

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DAMON (voice-over): Something is very wrong. An alien like web of slime is choking off all forms of life in the water here.

From above, it looks like streaks of paint. It's like sinking through what our future will look like if nothing changes if we continue to pollute our waters and allow our planet to warm.

It's known as sea snot; in science-speak, marine mucilage. And it has happened here before but never like this, getting sucked into the gills of fish wrapping itself around corals suffocating them.

We're in the Dardanelle Strait that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean. Associate Professor Baris Ozalp is a coral expert, who has been diving these waters for more than a decade.

This coral, it's dead another one dying. This one threatened. He points to a healthy sponge. And right next to it he wipes the mucilage coating off a dead one. Back on board the gravity of what we witnessed sets in. Professor Ozalp says he and other scientists first observed mucilage in these waters in 2007.

DAMON: Is this the first year where you've seen mucilage killing coral and sea life?

BARIS OZALP, MARINE BIOLOGIST AND CORAL EXPERT, CANAKKALE ONSEKIZ MART UNIVERSE: Yes. Yes, of course, we feel very bad. Because, you know during our childhood, this ecosystem is -- was a rich ecosystem, even one year ago. They're healthy. They were healthy, you know, one year ago but now it's bad.

DAMON (voice-over): A year ago this is what the underwater life looked like here. This is the exact same spot today. Professor Muhammet Turkoglu, a planktologist, takes a surface sample. He describes mucilage as a dense organic soup, mostly made up of bacteria and phytoplankton's mucous secretions.

DAMON: So what am I looking at right here?

DAMON (voice-over): This little guy is just one of the phytoplankton species that Turkoglu says is one ingredient in that deadly nastiness underwater.

The Sea of Marmara is just like a coronavirus patient who has been intubated, Professor Turkoglu explains, because the oxygen at the greater depths is almost completely depleted. It's close to zero.

Professor Ozalp slides his hand underneath the blanket of thick mucilage on the sea floor.

[04:55:00] DAMON (voice-over): Not only does this suffocate everything but it also steals the oxygen at these depths as it decomposes, creating dead zones.

But phytoplankton is one of the linchpins of life on the planet. It's not the villain here. The imbalance that caused all of these us, humans are pollution, it causes an excess of nutrients in the water that acts as a catalyst for massive blooms, as does the manmade climate crisis that we have failed to prevent or even slow down.

Water temperatures here have increased by two degrees in the last 50 years, says Professor Bayram Ozturk who studies the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity.

DAMON: When you look at this, what do you think?

BAYRAM OZTURK, TURKISH MARINE RESEARCH FOUNDATION, ISTANBUL UNIVERSITY: I think it's nature's spitting in our faces, simply and this is ecological catastrophe. But not only in the Sea of Marmara and this is transponder issue.

DAMON (voice-over): Experts say this year's mucilage is all across the waters from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Basin, one of the world's most climate vulnerable areas. The experts we spoke to fear the currents are not strong enough to dislodge the mucilage it's too dense.

It's not just a Turkey problem. This is symptomatic of the lack of global leadership and consensus when it comes to saving our planet. The marine life here is fixating, their habitat is being destroyed and their fate could well become ours -- Arwa Damon, CNN, the Dardanelles Strait, Turkey.

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BRUNHUBER: Well, that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber and I will back in just a moment with more news. Please, do stay with us.