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U.S. President Biden Begins First Foreign Trip Soon; U.S. Vice President Wraps Up Latin American Trip; Europol Praises Global Crackdown on Organized Crime; Japanese Politician Apologizes for Teenage Sex Comment; Israel: Hamas Used Building for Electronic Warfare; Australian Baseball Team Pulls Out of Olympic Qualifiers. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 9, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow live here in Atlanta.

In about four hours' time the U.S. President Joe Biden will begin the first foreign trip of his presidency. He and the leaders of the wealthy G7 countries will meet in the U.K. later on this week to try to solve some of the world's biggest problems. COVID clearly on top of the list. This will be the first in-person summit since the pandemic and after members prioritize vaccinating their own people. They're also casting a wider look at the world. The setting for the summit is Cornwall in the south of England.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, though, is also making a make or break week at home with the president in the U.K. Harris is stepping into a lead role in Washington and it comes on the heels of her first foreign trip as VP and amid increasing criticism from both sides of the aisle. Jeremy Diamond explains why.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Vice President Kamala Harris wrapping up her first foreign trip as Vice President, a three- day swing through Guatemala and Mexico which she declared a success in terms of addressing those root causes of migration which have been her central focus during this trip.

There were tens of millions of dollars of new investments for Central America, an anti-corruption task force to fight corruption in Guatemala as well as an agreement with the Mexican government to address development together with the U.S. in Central America. All of those the Vice President arguing will help at least in the long term to give the people of Central America hope that they can have better lives in their own country.

But this diplomatic test for the vice president certainly quickly turning into political quicksand. And that is because she drew criticism initially from the left when she warned would be migrants in Guatemala not to come to the U.S./Mexico border telling them that they would be turned back. And then there was another issue when she was asked why she hasn't visited the U.S./Mexico border, initially she equivocated comparing it to not having gone to Europe yet as vice president which has frankly neither here nor there.


I asked the vice president again whether she would commit to visiting that border. Here is what she said.

DIAMOND: Can you commit right now that you will indeed visit the U.S.- Mexico border and will you do it soon?

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jeremy, let me tell you something, yes, I will, and I have before.

DIAMOND: And I also asked the vice president about another item in her portfolio, an assignment from the president to tackle this issue of voting rights. The vice president telling me that she is not giving up on this, despite these new comments from Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin that he will not weaken the filibuster, he will not support one of these key pieces of voting rights legislation. And so while the vice president's insisting that this this is a fundamental fight for democracy and she will press on, not being entirely clear on what the how is to get that done.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, traveling with the vice President in Mexico City.


CURNOW: Thanks, Jeremy for that.

So in an effort to stem some of the migration at the U.S. southern border the United States is deploying border authorities to Cancun. Two officials with the Department of Homeland Security say the officers will help spot travelers arriving in the city who are likely heading to the border with the intention of entering the U.S. illegally. Now, one official says the expansion is part of an existing program to position U.S. border officials alongside foreign counterparts in strategically placed locations.

And months after massive electrical outages crippled the state of Texas, it's governor has signed two sweeping bills into law aimed at weatherizing the state's power grid and reforming the leadership of the agency that runs it. Four million Texans were left without electricity for almost a week and at least 151 people died during February's winter storm.

And it really reads like the ending of a Hollywood thriller, only it is true. Global authorities executed a massive sting operation across multiple countries seizing more than 30 tons of drugs, hundreds of weapons and nearly $50 million in global currencies. We're learning more about operation Ironside, the three year affair Europol called one of the most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date. It was made possible by special phones with an app called ANoM. Ivan Watson breaks it all down.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're learning from these indictments is that organized crime don't communicate with iPhone using WhatsApp or iMessage or these other platforms, what they're using are hardened encrypted devices. So a phone that has all of its other devices and apps cut off, they can't make phone calls, they can't send emails, they communicate on a closed loop and that's what this new ANoM, these specially configured phones were doing and the phones are distributed by word-of-mouth between gangs and criminals that trust each other. Who -- according to the FBI indictment -- are willing to pay up to $2,000 for one of these encrypted devices.

What they did not know was that the FBI had planted what they describe as a master key on every message that would go between these devices so that they would then be able to store that information, decrypt it and use it as evidence later. And some of the details are astounding, that suspects were sending photos of drug shipments, cocaine packaged in kilogram sizes with special packaging of Batman logos, for example, or hidden inside hollowed out pineapples or cans of tuna. And open brazen discussion between traffickers about the fees for dropping off a package or how many kilos would be moved at a time. And this is part of what law enforcement agencies have used to conduct hundreds of arrests and seize many tons of illegal drugs and tens of millions of dollars in cash.


CURNOW: Ivan Watson there. Thanks for that Ivan.

And here's what Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigation division told FBI about the operation.


CALVIN SHIVERS, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION: It's creativity, ingenuity and how do we think outside the box? How can we have, you know, use what we have within existing laws to identify some of these individuals. And so, these encrypted platforms, again, the emphasis here is these are closed networks. And so in working some of these investigations we recognize the fact that criminal organizations tend to use these types of encrypted devices to basically ensure that they have covert communications.

And so, I think if anything it was just ingenuity that our agents used in developing these platforms to help us illuminate some of these organizations and identify some of their criminal activity. What we always try to do is stay ahead of the curve. And so, I would imagine that a number of criminals out there are wondering what is law enforcement doing now?


And obviously, I don't want to answer that question but we want them to know that, you know, some of the things as they continue to evolve that we're going to evolve as well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And some major websites around the world are now up and running again. A massive internet outage caused them to go dark for about an hour on Tuesday. This was linked to a widespread failure at the cloud service provider called Fastly. High traffic sites and apps like our very own, Amazon and others were affected.

And a politician in Japan is apologizing for saying it's OK to have sex with a 14-year-old girl. His comments came as Japan is considering changing a century old law that set the age of consent at 13. The lowest among developed nations. Blake Essig is in Tokyo and he joins us now on this story which really does make for uncomfortable listening.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly disturbing comments, Robyn. Now these comments were made by Hiranao Honda, a 56-year-old politician from the Constitutional Democratic party here in Japan and a member of the house of representatives. Now back in May while debating Japan's age of consent and changes to sex crime laws Honda said it would be wrong if someone in their 50s is arrested after having consensual sex with a 14-year-old.

Now a criminal law researcher attending the working party group tweeted that she will never forget hearing Honda yell at her, quote, will I believe caught if I and my 14-year-old agree to have sex? Now she says her answer was yes, in a developed country you will be caught. Now these comments were made as Japan considers changes to its century old law. As you mentioned, Robyn, current the age of consent in Japan is 13 years old.

Now earlier this week Honda apologized for his comments releasing this statement.

He said: On this occasion I want to offer a heartfelt apology for my inappropriate comments that ended up upsetting a lot of people. I understand that it can be considered sexual exploitation if a young person at least up to middle school age and an adult have sex given that they are not equals.

Now since issuing that apology the backlash has been swift with many on social media calling the comments appalling and expressing shock and disappointment that this man still has a job. Now the secretary general of his party said that the facts were investigated and after confirming the comments Honda will be given a strict warning. Robyn, that is all that will come as a result of those comments for this politician.

CURNOW: Yes, meanwhile, the age of consent remains at 13. It's just not OK, is it? Thanks for keeping us posted on this story and any new developments. Pleased to have bring them to us. Blake Essig there in Tokyo. Thank you Blake.

Still to come, what the Associated Press is saying after Israel ordered details on why it targeted a Gaza building housing media offices. [04:45:00]


CURNOW: Researchers working at a dig site have found at least 27 graves of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The experts in Oklahoma say they expect to find more burials as they widen their search. They say they don't know how long the excavation will take because they don't know how many more graves they'll find. The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the worst acts of racial violence in American history. 100 years ago a white mob attacked a black business district killing as many as 300 black residents and burning the neighborhood to the ground.

And police in Arizona are investigating anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on a synagogue there. The swastika and slur were discovered on Monday. The Anti-Defamation League said anti-Semitic incidents have more than doubled from the same time last year following the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas militants. A rock was thrown through the window of another synagogue last month. A state lawmaker who attends that synagogue tweeted that the amount of Jewish hate isn't shocking but the silence about it is.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is vowing to fight far right hate groups after three generations of one Muslim family were killed in what he called a terror attack. The family was waiting at an intersection seen here in the Canadian city of London, when police say a driver deliberately ran them over. They believe the 20-year-old man targeted them because they were Muslim. He's charged with murder. The family's grandmother, two parents and a teenager were killed. A nine- year-old boy survived. Canada's House of Commons paused for a moment of silence before Mr. Trudeau spoke.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Their lives were taken in a brutal cowardly and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred in the heart of one of our communities.


CURNOW: Israel is justifying its air strike on a building that housed media efforts in Gaza. The tower collapsed during last month's conflict. Israel said Hamas militants were using it as an electronic warfare site. But the Associated Press says it hasn't seen evidence to support Israel's claim. Hadas Gold has details from Jerusalem.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Israeli military is giving more details into why they struck and destroyed a building in Gaza that hosted the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera during that 11 day conflict with Hamas led militants last month.

Now, according to the Israeli military, Hamas was using the building known as the Al Jalaa building to develop new capabilities that they said could electronically jam Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. This is the system that intercepts rockets midair before they can land in civilian areas. Now the Israeli air force gave occupants of the building an hours' notice to evacuate before they struck the building, leading to its collapse. And according to the Israeli military they say, the target was of a height military value to Hamas and that the equipment was in the building at the time that it was struck and the building collapsed.

But the move was widely condemned by news organizations and international journalism organizations who called it unacceptable and a threat to freedom of the press. The Israeli Ambassador to the United States Gilad Erdan met on Monday with the A.P. leadership in New York, he said to try to restore the relationship and give this information. And he said that Israel does not think that the Associated Press knew that Hamas was possibly operating out of the building.

The A.P. says that it had no indication that Hamas was operating out of the building and has called repeatedly for an independent investigation so that the facts are fully known.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


CURNOW: And in a statement on Tuesday Associated Press said, Israeli authorities maintain that the building housed our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat. We have yet to receive evidence to support those claims.

Much more on CNN including Brazil's supreme court could soon decide the fate of one of South America's biggest football event. the Copa America Tournament. Those details and more ahead.



CURNOW: Well, if the White House press corps are late in arriving for President Biden's trip to the U.K. they will at least have a pretty good reason. Their charter flight which was due to leave Tuesday night has been delayed by cicadas. Official -- airline officials say the bugs, the beetles had invaded exterior sections of the plane and a new aircraft has been dispatched and they hope to be on their way today.

Now, these insects are causing all sorts of trouble in some parts of the U.S. In Ohio, Cincinnati police reported a single car crash after a cicada flew through the open car window and hit the driver in the face.

Carnival Cruise Line will resume operations in July. The company announced two of its ships will sail once more but only fully vaccinated guests will be permitted on board. Both the ships will set off from the port of Galveston. The company says it also hopes to restart a third ship from Miami.

And Australian baseball team is pulling out of the Olympic qualifiers citing COVID. Baseball Australia's CEO say the logistics of providing a safe environment for the group are just insurmountable.


Meantime, the pandemic is also looming over Brazil's decision to host the upcoming Copa America Football Tournament. Patrick Snell has those details in our minute in sports.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Well we've learned the Brazilian supreme court has scheduled an emergency session for Thursday, this to consider the possible suspension of football's Copa America following two requests arguing the event should be halted due to the possibility it could increase COVID-19 cases and deaths.

On Tuesday Brazil's national team winning 2-0 in Paraguay in South American World Cup qualifying. National team skipper Marquinhos confirming afterwards his players will not refuse to play in the Copa which is scheduled to start on Sunday.

At the French Open in Paris, Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas and Germany's Alexander Zverev, both through to the semis. While unseeded world number 85 Tamara Zidansek has become the first Slovenian woman to reach a grand slam semifinal.

And a historic night in the NBA. As Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic becomes the first player from Serbia to win the league's MVP, or Most Valuable Player. Also the sixth international player to win it as well. Our congrats to him. Back to you -- Robyn.


CURNOW: Thanks so much Patrick.

So the mystery of what causes one of the earth's greatest natural wonders has finally been solved. After centuries of speculation scientists from the University of Iowa have confirmed a decades old theory that the northern lights are produced by powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms. Aren't they beautiful? The extremely simple version of that is that it is space weather. Scientists have been able to recreate these lights in a lab with plasma. They say the next step is predicting the strength of a geomagnetic storms.

Well thank you so much for joining me, I'm Robyn Curnow. And we'll hand you over to the good folks at "EARLY START." They start right now.