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CNN10 2019-09-24

CNN 10

British Travel Company Collapses; Coal Debate Factors into U.N. Summit; Fire Lookout Lives A Life of Solitude in the Montana Wilderness

Aired September 24, 2019 - 04:00:00 聽 ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Carl Azuz for CNN 10. Repatriation is a word you don't hear too often. It's when someone is returned or brought back to his or her home country after being abroad and the government of the United Kingdom has launched the largest peace time repatriation in British history. The reason, a British travel company suddenly went out of business Sunday night and at that time it had about 600,000 customers on vacation including 150,000 people from Britain who were stranded in other nations. The travel company is Thomas Cook. It was named for an English businessman credited with inventing modern tourism in the mid 1800s'. Until this weekend, the company that bore his name was one of the largest travel businesses on the planet.

It said it had tens of millions of customers but it was in financial trouble. An analyst said there were a list of reasons why. Thomas Cook had run out of cash. It was racking up a lot of debt. It had more online competitors who's costs were cheaper than a company with more than 500 retail stores. Some experts say it wasn't managed well. Some say it had been slow to change with the changing market and some believe that uncertainty over Brexit, the British exit from the European Union, had made some Britains less willing to spend as much on travel.

Thomas Cook was trying to make a rescue deal with banks and its largest investor but when that deal fell through over the weekend, the 178 year old company was finished. It's CEO apologized to customers, employees and partners calling this a deeply sad day and the British government launched "Operation Matterhorn", the repatriation effort to bring home travelers who booked their vacations through Thomas Cook and became stuck when the company collapsed.

10 Second Trivia. Anthracite is a relatively rare type of what? Coal, limestone, chalk or marble. Anthracite is a type of hard shiny coal that accounts for 1 percent of the world's coal resources.

The United Nations General Assembly is now in session. It's an annual meeting of representatives from all of the U.N.'s 193 member countries though not all of their leaders are there. Two of the issues discussed at its opening included religious freedom and the global climate. On Monday,

U.S. President Donald Trump hosted an event calling for countries worldwide to stop committing crimes against people of faith and to get rid of laws that restrict the freedom of religion. While that meeting was being held, the U.N.'s Climate Action Summit was going on. It was focused on the issues of global temperatures and carbon emissions. Coal is a part of this. It's the main source of electricity for the world. It's significantly cheaper than most other forms of energy and there's a lot of it.

But environmentalists say it's dirty and that burning coal to produce electricity is doing long term damage to the global environment. The Secretary General, the leader of the United Nations, wants countries to stop building coal plants and to reduce their dependence on the fossil fuel. In some nations like Germany have committed billions of dollars to doing this. But there are representatives at the U.N. Climate Summit who's nations continue to support coal including China the worlds biggest producer and consumer of it.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A massive operation to mine the fossil fuel and then truck it off to be burned for energy. All of this happening in a place where building coal power plants was supposed to stop two years ago as a part of China's commitment to battle climate change.

Construction is well underway and moving at a rapid pace. Coal, this is what the small turn city of Shee Nin Hot (ph), China is now known for. To get to Shee Nin Hot (ph) from the capital city of Beijing, it's about an hour flight north to learn just how committed China is to achieving its cleaner climate goals? We needed to get closer. Standing here just about every angle you're surrounded by a power plant. Some of them fully operational others like this one behind me, nearing the end of construction.

This one even has a fresh coat of paint on it. China is the worlds largest producer and consumer of coal and in recent years the country's made efforts to reduce its heavy reliance on fossil fuels. In 2017, China's National Energy Administration began suspending construction of plants in many provinces among them inner Mongolia. Projects dating from 2016 onward were to be halted but look at these satellite images from 2016, then 2017 and finally this year. You can see several plants outside Ulanhot (ph) sprung up during that time.

Environmental groups fear China's recent economic slowdown coinciding with the U.S. trade war has the central government sliding on its environmental promises putting more focus on GDP and in turn quietly allowing the construction of coal plants to continue. China is pushing forward with other sources of energy, greener ones in fact. Across the inner Mongolian plains, you've got farms like these popping up. Efforts to harness both solar and wind power. We took these mounting environmental fears to China's energy officials. Will China be building more coal fueled power plants?


CULVER: The official stressed that the new plants are more efficient and environmentally cleaner but they stop short at saying they would halt ongoing or future plant construction. With increasing financial uncertainty in China, this might prove that environmental protection has been sidelined in exchange for economic survival. David Culver, CNN, Chilanhot (ph), China.


AZUZ: How you react to our next great big story depends on how you view solitude. If it sounds like unbearable loneliness than you'd probably wouldn't want to work for the U.S. Forest Service as a fire lookout in the wilderness of Montana. If solitude sounds like ultimate peace, than sit back as we join Leif Haugen who's the king of the mountain.


LEIF HAUGEN: There's really no difference between here and home. It's just everything's compacted onto a 14' x 14' room. Once you start staff in your lookout, you're going to be working 10 days on, four days off late June until usually mid-September. It's a pretty quiet existence. This is my 24th season as a fire lookout and really it's just you and the wind and the time just melts away. My name is Leif Haugen and we're at Thoma Lookout. The fire lookout is a structure that sits on top of a mountain or ridge top that has a good view of the surrounding country and the staffer then is tasked with living there for extended periods to watch for fire.

It's funny because I get a lot of questions about the standard day. You wake up with the sun. I mean it's hard to sleep in a room of glass much beyond sunrise. First thing I'll do is make a cup of coffee and usually I'll have that first cup of coffee on the front porch. Sit out there, watch the sun come up. Certainly every morning I go out for a walk. I check in at 10.


HAUGEN: Hey, good morning. I have 67 degrees.

I take the weather every day at 2 and check out at 4:15.


HAUGEN: I think the solitary nature when there's really no fires going, the only thing I might do is check in on the radio twice a day. That might be the only time I really talk unless I'm talking to myself. I think what's so tricky sometimes talking about the lookout experience is you're not talking to anybody about it. So you're more intuited. Your more experience it. I think that's why I always use the term resonance because you just can feel it and sense it. Maybe that's fanciful but it certainly is the way I feel about it. You know, you just find yourself sitting on the porch watching the world go by for hours on end. It's - - it's beautiful. When you look at, you know, the lifestyle of a fire lookout it can be a hard choice at times too, you know. I'm missing a wedding tonight. Over the course (inaudible) some of you might miss a lot of stuff in your life but certainly every summer I keep coming back because living on top of a mountain for days on end, it's just such a beautiful chance at making of it.


AZUZ: Holy history Batman. The third Saturday in September which was last weekend is known as Batman Day and sense it was the 80th such Batman Day marking 80 years since Batman first appeared in a DC comic book, fans who take their fiction seriously got up, dressed up and turned out to see the Bat signal flashed in more than 12 cities world wide. Not sure what else they did but for Batfans, costumes old and new were all part of the fun.

The caped crusader capers are a graphic, novel idea even if they seem kind of "comical" but they're nothing to "Wayne" about. What kind of "Joker" would want to play spoiler to "Batfans" by "Robin" them of "DCing" and "being seen" in the "dark of knight". It's a "two-faced" prospect where no one "penguins". I'm Carl Azuz solving the "Riddler" of puns on CNN.