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CNN NEWSROOM

Experts Urge Reset as U.S. Tops 150K Deaths; Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert Tests Positive; Trump Embraces False Drug Claims, Ignores His Own Experts; Google, Apple Leaders Push Back on Antitrust Claims; Heartbreak in Texas as Virus Surges; Families of COVID-19 Victims Mourn Loss of Loved Ones; Trump Slashing U.S. Troop Levels in Germany; Hong Kong Arrests 4 Student Activists for 'Secession'; John Lewis' Voting Rights Legacy Gaining New Momentum; Zimbabwe Signs $3.5 Billion Deal to Repay White Farmers; Biologist Develops More Environmental Dye. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, more than 150,000 dead in the U.S. and health experts call for a nationwide reset, warning hundreds of thousands more could die.

They've been talking by phone once every 2 weeks for months. But yet not once has Donald Trump called out the Russian president for allegedly paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops.

And the end of an era for the civil rights movement. In the coming hours, the burial of Congressman John Lewis.

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VAUSE: With more than 150,000 dead and the outbreak yet to peak in the U.S., health experts say a total reset is needed to control the pandemic. A report from Johns Hopkins University is calling for a mask mandate, new stay-at-home orders and for the federal government to take a leadership role to improve the speed and accuracy of testing.

Meantime, Dr. Anthony Fauci from the White House Coronavirus Task Force says states in the Midwest will be the next to see surging numbers of new cases, possibly within three weeks. Local leaders, he says, must review their plans for reopening.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When the southern states that have already been hit, the Florida, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, and California, when you look back, you saw an increase in the percent positives of the tests that were done.

That's a sure-fire indication that you are in a process where you are heading towards a resurgence. We are starting to see that in some of the states now -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and other big -- Indiana, and other of those states.

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VAUSE: California, Florida, Texas all set new records for the most number of dead in a single day on Wednesday; 29 states are worse off this week compared to last.

Meantime, Mexico is reporting almost 500 deaths on Wednesday, putting the country's toll past 45,000. Only U.S., Brazil and the U.K. have seen a higher death toll.

Texas now has more coronavirus cases than New York, the original U.S. epicenter. California and Florida lead the country, according to Johns Hopkins University. CNN's Nick Watt has more from across the U.S.

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NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. just suffered the deadliest day of the summer so far, 1,244 lives reported lost to COVID-19 Tuesday.

DR. DAVID SKORTON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: And if we don't do something to change our course, we will have multiple hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country.

WATT: The Association of American Medical Colleges wants decisive, coordinated action, releasing a detailed road map calling for increased testing, enforcement of reopening criteria, as well as informing and educating the public.

Meanwhile, the president and his acolytes are still pushing a widely and scientifically discredited drug, hydroxychloroquine.

PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: I'm pleading with you and the American people to look this drug again, because I literally have tens of millions of tablets sitting in the Strategic National Stockpile.

WATT: Maybe you do, but:

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease.

WATT: In all these states, concern is climbing, as cases climb. They are dubbed red zone and yellow zone states by the CDC. Only Vermont is green, no deaths in nearly six weeks.

But even Vermont just pushed reopening schools back a couple of weeks. A new study suggests that states that closed schools early in the spring saw significant declines in COVID cases and deaths. The Trump administration wants schools open again ASAP.

FAUCI: We don't know the answer to all of those questions.

WATT: Such as, do kids transmit the virus like adults?

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WATT (voice-over): Dr. Fauci recommends teachers wear goggles and masks or face shields in the classroom.

FAUCI: This may sound a little scary and harsh, I don't mean it to be that way, is that you're going to be actually part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know.

WATT: Defying the governor, Miami-Dade County just announced schools will start later than usual and online only.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And I would absolutely have my kids in school, because I do think that it is safe to do so. I believe that this is something that is very low risk for kids, fortunately.

WATT: Governor DeSantis noted he does not have school-aged children.

Meanwhile, Texas is about to overtake that early epicenter, New York, for total case count. California and Florida already did, case counts right now high, but stabilizing in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're encouraged in New York. And they have kept it down. Flattening the curve is certainly important, but when you flatten it at a very high level, we are still going to see significant hospitalizations and deaths several weeks down the road.

WATT: The state of California just reported 197 deaths from COVID-19 in a single day. The governor called it a somber milestone. Now it is probably inflated by a reporting backlog from here in Los Angeles. But that's kind of irrelevant.

Right now, we are averaging over 100 people dying every day in the state and that is higher than it has ever been -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

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VAUSE: And to Los Angeles now, Dr. Anne Rimoin is professor of epidemiology at the University of California and director of the Center for Global and Immigrant Health.

Doctor, thank you for being with us. We saw the 6 month loan (ph), we are past that and there's a lot more we need to know about the coronavirus and COVID-19. Whether masks protect both wearer and others, the coronavirus can linger in the air inside for possibly hours.

Children are not immune, compared to what it was first thought. Surface transmission not insignificant compared to the early studies. Post COVID-19 prognosis can be troubling for those who survive. Hydroxychloroquine, injecting bleach, using an internal bright light

all not recommended for treatment. But it seems what we now know about face masks seems to be the biggest shift of all, very quickly, here is the head of the CDC. Listen to this.

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DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We have the most powerful weapon in our hands right now. I mean, it's an enormously powerful weapon. It's just a simple, flimsy mask. This virus can be defeated if people just wear a mask.

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VAUSE: A wise man never says "what if" but what if there hadn't been this early confusion over wearing a mask, how effective it was, what it could do.

If there hadn't been this controversy over it, how much of a difference would that have made?

ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UCLA FIELDING SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, that's impossible to quantify. But there have been some modeling that would be able to give us some estimates.

And the truth is, masks make a difference and we probably would have averted a lot of heartache and suffering if we got on the same page early on and everyone would wear a mask.

And we now have lots of data that show us masks work but we don't see the whole United States adopting this. And we know that if, this point, if everyone wore a mask and we had really good buy-in from the very top, you know, we would probably see a major reduction in cases here in the United States.

VAUSE: And there was the original sin from the beginning, which was the PPE stockpile was not built up ahead of the pandemic outbreak, which should have been. There is a shortage of masks. That's why there's this recommendation for people not to go out and get masks, because they were needed for health care workers, so that didn't help.

RIMOIN: Absolutely. You are right. The early information on masks and whether or not we should wear them was based on 2 things.

First of all, we did know that we had a shortage of masks that were desperately needed for health care workers, who are right there on the front lines. So if anyone should be wearing a mask, health care workers really needed to be wearing them.

But I think one of the shortcomings in science that we dealt with here is that we are all, you know, we hadn't done that research on how well masks work. It turns out they work out so well that we are seeing reductions in places like New Zealand and Australia and in the Southern Hemisphere in general in cases of influenza.

So you know, we are learning a lot about how useful masks are, not just for COVID but for everything else. Listen, we are going to go very, very far with this new information that we have now.

VAUSE: Well, when it comes to masks, there's one problem. Mask denier Republican congressman Louie Gohmert, who has tested positive for COVID-19, he's from Texas. A report from "Politico," says that he was contacted by staffers from Gohmert's office with this.

"You might want to ask how often were people berated for wearing masks, for wearing masks in his office."

That just seems beyond stupidity, even for Gohmert.

RIMOIN: Well --

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RIMOIN: -- you know, here's the deal.

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RIMOIN: You should wear a mask. You know, big secret, wear a mask.

It really, honestly, everybody at this point needs to know, the data tell us where we need to go. We need to follow the data, follow the science, stop listening to politics.. The politics are not helping. Its ideology trumping science and we need to do the opposite now.

If we want to get ahead of this and if we want to reopen the economy, if we want to get our kids back to school, people need to do what is right. Politicizing wearing a mask is just ridiculous.

Are we going to politicize handwashing next?

We need to really just follow the science and do what we need to do: wear a mask.

VAUSE: If we follow the science we now know that there are no second chances when it comes to containing the outbreak. Here is the WHO.

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DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This virus requires sustained pressure to reduce transmission and requires sustained commitment to reduce exposure. I think they are the two things we need to do.

The government and the authorities need to do work to suppress transmission, stop cases, detect cases, test cases, quarantine contacts, do all of that work, right, and communities and individuals need to do everything they can to reduce their exposure to the virus.

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VAUSE: And that has become evident time and time again all around the world.

RIMOIN: The advice is the same for everybody: follow the science. The science will lead us out of this. No one is out of the woods. If you have been able to get in front of the virus and reduce transmission, you still have to be vigilant.

So the bottom line is that the whole world has a long road ahead of us and the only way to get ahead of it is to follow the science and to use these basic public health measures, which are all we have right now.

VAUSE: We can keep pushing and hoping for a vaccine but that is a long way off by anyone's estimate.

Doctor, good to see you.

RIMOIN: My pleasure.

VAUSE: Well, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has issued a new rule. Mask up or stay out. Nancy Pelosi says this rule will apply to members and staff on the House floor and all House office buildings.

Lawmakers will be allowed to remove their masks briefly while talking or eating. The new rule comes hours after a Congress man, Louie Gohmert, who has been an outspoken refusenik when it comes to wearing a mask tested positive. We get more now from CNN's Jeremy Diamond.

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REP. LOUIE GOHMERT JR. (R-TX): Well, Mr. Speaker --

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Republican congressman who has repeatedly refused to wear a mask now testing positive for coronavirus, hours before he was scheduled to join President Trump on Air Force One.

GOHMERT: I didn't have any of the symptoms that you see listed for the coronavirus.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Texas congressman, Louie Gohmert, spotted on Capitol Hill just yesterday maskless, walking near attorney general Bill Barr, getting his diagnosis at the White House this morning.

But Gohmert didn't immediately isolate himself. Instead, he returned to his congressional office to tell his staff in person.

Some members of Gohmert's staff telling "Politico," the congressman would berate them for wearing masks and wanted every member of his staff in the office to show what re-opening looked like.

Democrats slamming his conduct.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): I'm concerned about the irresponsible behavior of many of the Republicans, who have chosen to consistently flout well-established public health guidance.

DIAMOND: Gohmert isn't owning up to the role his defiance of CDC guidelines may have played in him contracting the virus. Instead, he's blaming mask wearing without any evidence.

GOHMERT: In the last week or two, I have worn a mask more than I have in the last four months. I can't help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place that if I might've put some germs, some virus -- some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in. I don't know.

DIAMOND: As for President Trump, he's inched away from his anti-mask stance recently. But he is still focused on promoting a drug scientists overwhelmingly agree is an ineffective coronavirus treatment.

DR. STELLA IMMANUEL, PEDIATRICIAN AND PREACHER: This virus has a cure. It is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Zithromax.

DIAMOND: After re-tweeting a video of a fringe doctor making bogus claims about hydroxychloroquine, Trump is sticking by his praise.

TRUMP: There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.

DIAMOND: Even after she was exposed for making bizarre claims about alien DNA and sex with demons.

TRUMP: I think she made sense but I know nothing about. I just saw her on -- you know, making a statement with very respected doctors.

DIAMOND: And the president isn't just watching the videos.

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DIAMOND (voice-over): Vice president Mike Pence meeting with the group the doctor belongs to, branded as America's front line doctors and propped up by the Tea Party, at the White House just yesterday to discuss hydroxychloroquine.

There's no evidence those doctors are treating patients on the front lines of the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci once again reminding the public hydroxychloroquine does not work.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: But right now today, the cumulative scientific data that has been put together and done over a number of different studies has shown no efficacy.

DIAMOND: Now the White House's robust protocols didn't just prevent congressman Louie Gohmert from being on Air Force One and in close contact with the president, I fact there was a second person who tested positive because they got a test because they were supposed meet the president of the United States and that was Wesley Hunt, a Republican congressional candidate in Texas' 7th District.

He was slated to meet the president at the airport and, before doing so, he got a test, he tested positive. And, of course, it is ironic because the president has repeatedly complained about the testing system in the United States, not because he believes, like most experts do, that there isn't enough testing but because he believes that there's been too, much, arguing that more testing creates more cases, even suggesting that testing should be slowed down. But of course, it's the president now who is benefiting from perhaps the most robust testing system in the United States -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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VAUSE: Brazil has ended a 4 month long travel ban, ,reopening the country to foreign visitors arriving by plane, despite another record spike in new coronavirus cases. The country reported almost 70,000 new infections on Wednesday, along with 1,500 fatalities.

With more than 2.5 million cases, it is by far the worst affected country in Latin America and the Caribbean. As cases rise in the region, so, too, is food insecurity. The U.N. World Food Programme says the economic fallout from the pandemic is leading to widespread hunger and could lead to further unrest in the future.

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DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WFP: Just in the areas where WFP, in this region alone, we've seen a substantial increase in over 11 million people marching toward the brink of starvation. So it's devastating. It's why we must act and we must act now so that we can bring some hope to people.

Otherwise, we will have political destabilization, mass migration, economic deterioration, supply chain disruption and many people starving in addition to COVID itself.

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VAUSE: Mexico has the second worst outbreak in Latin America. The crisis there is showing little signs of improving, the death toll has risen past 45,000 on Wednesday after hundreds more people die. CNN's Matt Rivers has details.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Mexico there continues to be really nothing bad news when it comes to this pandemic. It was Wednesday night that health officials reported nearly 500 newly confirmed deaths. That pushes the country's overall death total to more than 45,000 for the first time.

And with that, it is very likely that in the next few days, we are going to see Mexico's death toll overtake the United Kingdom and when that happens, Mexico's death toll will be third highest in the world, trailing only the United States and Brazil.

And the reason why that death toll keeps going up is because the number of newly reported deaths each day is not going down. And if you look at the numbers throughout the entire month of July, it's hovered right around 600 deaths per day and with each week that goes by, we're just not seeing that number get any lower.

But it's not just human life that is being affected by this outbreak. We've also done a lot of reporting on domestic violence and the effect of the economic shut down here that it has had on the country's women. And today we got some data to back up our reporting, which has shown that a lot of women who are in abusive situations, things were getting worse for them as a result of the country's lockdown, because they were trapped with their abusers.

It was today that Mexico's government reported that 911 calls related to violence against women increased by nearly 46 percent during the first half of this year as compared to the same time period from January to June back in 2019.

And that gives you some evidence there, that this outbreak has had a brutal effect on victims of domestic violence as evidenced by those numbers. So this outbreak is just having such an effect on all aspects of society here in Mexico -- Matt Rivers, CNN, in Tijuana, Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, big tech in the congressional firing line, lawmakers spent hours grilling CEOs over market manipulation and their dominance of the tech economy.

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VAUSE: The chief executives of four of the most powerful tech companies in the world faced some pointed questions from U.S. lawmakers about their competitive practices.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Sundar Pichai and Apple's Tim Cook all appeared at a high profile antitrust hearing on Wednesday. Democrats repeatedly asked about each company using their data to unfairly compete.

Without having more than anecdotal evidence, though, Republicans accused the tech companies of a bias against conservatives. Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest of the CEOs who was there but he has the most recent experience on Capitol Hill. That was apparent as he deflected accusations he had broken competition laws when he bought Instagram.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, COFOUNDER AND CEO, FACEBOOK: I think with hindsight it probably looks like, obvious that Instagram would have reached the scale that it has today but at the time, it was far from obvious. It was not a guarantee that Instagram was going to succeed.

The acquisition has done wildly well, largely because, not just of the founders' talent but because we invested.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Few companies have prospered like Amazon during this pandemic, helping to solidify CEO Jeff Bezos as the world's richest man, $160 billion, apparently. But, he argued, his company is not the dominant power it seems to be (INAUDIBLE) company policy on using third-party data, Bezos had this heated exchange.

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JEFF BEZOS, AMAZON FOUNDER: It's a voluntary policy, as far as I'm aware no other retailer --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So there is no actual enforcement of that policy?

So it's voluntary and there's no actual enforcement?

So maybe that answers my --

BEZOS: Sorry, no, I think I may have misspoke. I'm trying to say that Amazon's -- the fact that we have such a policy is voluntary. I think no other retailer even has such a policy.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's --

BEZOS: Our enforcement of that policy, we would treat that like any internal policy and if we found that someone violated it, we would take action against them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Google, like Facebook, dominates a significant portion of the online ad market as well as searches. CEO Sundar Pichai was asked whether Google is misusing that position on the Web from a privacy perspective.

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REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI), MEMBER, JUDICIARY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEES: Did Google ever use its surveillance over Web traffic to identify competitive threats?

SUNDAR PICHAI, GOOGLE CEO: Congressman, just like other businesses, we try to understand trends from, you know, data which we can see and we use it to improve our products for our users.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Apple, meantime, was accused of abusing the power it has over its app store by charging some developers commissions up to 30 percent. CEO Tim cook said Apple does not have any monopoly in any market -- except maybe perhaps the app store.

Well, ahead, serious concerns about President Trump's attitude towards Moscow and whether anything can motivate him to stand up to Russia's president.

Also, this.

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PRISCILLA MARIE GARCIA, DAUGHTER: You never want to die alone. You want to die with your family around you. There is no one there to support you in your last moments.

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VAUSE: Plus the nightmarish heartbreak some American families are having to endure in the midst of this surging pandemic.

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VAUSE: The U.S. president traveled to Texas on Wednesday. The state is dealing with a staggering number of coronavirus infections. This was the same day it passed New York in total coronavirus cases.

It's also the same day one of his Texas allies in Congress who was meant to travel with him on Air Force One tested positive for COVID- 19. But Donald Trump wasn't in Texas because of the pandemic, he was there for politics.

He attended an event at oil rig, talked up U.S. energy and then held a campaign fundraiser where tickets went for $100,000 each. You got a photo with the president for that much.

Look at the crowd waiting for him to greet one of them. Not many there wearing a mask, not much social distancing, either.

South Texas has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus. In the Rio Grande Valley area, nearly 600 people have died from the virus, the vast majority dying this month alone. CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke with two women mourning the sudden loss of their loved ones.

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ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rolando and Yolanda Garcia met his kids in South Texas, became high school sweethearts and the rest is history. They reveled in life sweet moments: Rolando's birthday; Yolanda cutting her granddaughter's hair.

But in late June, the coronavirus caught the couple by surprise. Their daughter, Priscilla, believes they got infected at the grocery store. As they got sicker, the 70-year-old grandparents were taken to different hospitals on the same day. It would be the last time they saw each other.

GARCIA: It's heartbreaking because you never want to die alone. You want to die with your family around you. There is no one there to support you in your last moment.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Rolando died on July 4th.

GARCIA: My dad passed away and we didn't tell her. She ended up having a heart attack on her own. And the last time that I spoke with her, I just told her that Dad was waiting for her.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Garcias died four days apart.

Priscilla also has COVID-19, she's quarantined in her parents' home. A small shrine fills the living room. It's a place to reflect on her family's ordeal.

GARCIA: They didn't have to die. They still had another good 10 or 15 years. They were very bright, vibrant.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): What's it like in South Texas right now?

GARCIA: It's hell on Earth. Everyone's scared, everyone's anxious.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): About 600 people have died of COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley. The vast majority of those have died this month.

DR. MARTIN SCHWARCZ, PULMONARY INTENSIVIST: It's like living in a constant hurricane of patients coming into the hospital.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): Endless.

SCHWARCZ: It's overwhelming. It's endless and overwhelming.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Dr. Martin Schwarcz lives on the pandemic frontlines working intensive care units filled with COVID patients. He says medical teams are struggling to stay ahead of the fast-spreading virus.

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DR. MARTIN SCHWARCZ, PULMONARY INTENSIVIST, RIO GRANDE VALLEY: We are always on the edge of, Am I going to have enough ventilators today? Am I going to have enough central lines, enough chest tubes?

LAVANDERA (on camera): It seems that this is really taking its toll on a lot of you guys that are on the front line.

SCHWARCZ: We're seeing entire families in our community being ravaged by the virus.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Salvador and Imelda Munoz (ph) celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June. The family says their in-home nurse unknowingly infected the elderly couple. But Marie Silva felt her mother was going to pull through. MARIE SILVA, MOTHER DIED OF COVID-19: She suffered a heart attack

while waiting, and there was not enough staff to attend to her, and so shouldn't make it.

LAVANDERA: After that, Marie says her father felt his job was done. There was time, though, for one last video call.

(on camera): What will you remember most about that final conversation with your dad?

SILVA: All my brothers and sisters telling him how good of a father he was, and how he could go rest if he needed to. Letting him know that he did a good job, and we love him, and we'll never forget him.

LAVANDERA: And what did he say?

SILVA: He just nodded. He didn't cry. He never cried. He was just a strong man. But I could see the pain in his eyes. I could.

LAVANDERA: On July 10, Marie Silva says her father's eyes finally closed during his wife's funeral service. Three days later, Salvador and Imelda Munoz (ph) were buried together.

(on camera): President Trump visited Midland, Texas, on Wednesday for a fundraiser in a speech to supporters where he touted that the coronavirus numbers were beginning to stabilize.

However, the number of deaths being reported every day and hospitalizations still remains really high in many parts of the state, and it also comes on the same day that John Hopkins University is reporting that Texas has now surpassed New York in the number of overall coronavirus cases.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Midland, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The legacy Ronald Reagan might be another victim of the Trump presidency. When it came to dealing with Moscow, Reagan famously said, "Trust, but verify."

Donald Trump in the past has just taken Vladimir Putin at his word, and now he doesn't even seem to want to ask. During a recent interview with Axios, Trump said he never discussed U.S. intelligence with the Russian president, which accused Moscow of offering bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

President Trump and Putin spoke by phone just last week.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS REPORTER: John Nicholson, former head of forces in Afghanistan, said -- and this is when he was working with you -- that Russia is supplying weapons to the Taliban. Isn't that enough to challenge Putin over the killings of U.S. soldiers?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we sold them weapons when they were fighting Russia, too. SWAN: You surely heard that, right? I mean, it's well-known in the

intelligence community that they're arming the Taliban. Russia.

TRUMP: I don't know -- when you say arming, is the Taliban paying or are they --

SWAN: Russia is supplying weapons and money to the Taliban.

TRUMP: I have heard that, but it's never -- again, it's never reached my desk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The president has also now decided to withdraw nearly 12,000 U.S. forces from Germany. A Republican senator calls the move, quote, "a gift to Putin," Christmas in July. President Trump insists he's removing the troops because Germany is not paying all its NATO dues, but the move has sparked widespread disapproval from experts who say it won't just benefit Russia. It will also cost taxpayers -- U.S. taxpayers billions and degrade U.S. national security.

Asha Rangappa is a CNN legal and national security analyst, a former FBI special agent and lecturer at Yale University. What you do in your spare time. Good to see you, Asha. Thanks for being with us.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Just looking back at the past three and half years, the actions President Trump has taken, which just coincidentally benefit Russia, from weakening NATO on down, we're now 96 days, also, out from the election, which according to most every pool Donald Trump looks set to lose. The White House confirmed almost 12,000 U.S. troops in Germany will be coming home or redeployed. Could you be excused for thinking that Donald Trump is just finishing up Putin's "honey do list" at this point?

RANGAPPA: I think you could be excused for -- for thinking that. This has been a consistent pardon pattern with Donald Trump of not pushing back on Vladimir Putin and, in fact, taking steps to further many of Putin's geopolitical goals.

In the case of removing troops from Germany, this gives a strategic advantage to Putin and serves his goal of weakening NATO. So, you know, we see this happening again and again, that he's unwilling to stand up to Putin, to take aggressive measures against him when that's not really in his character. He doesn't seem to have a problem doing that anywhere else.

And I think that Trump is a very transactional person. So one question that we do have to ask is what is the benefit that Trump perceives from taking these courses of action? Or what is he afraid of if he were to do that?

[00:35:16] VAUSE: Yes. The editorial board for the conservative "Wall Street Journal" said pulling U.S. troops out of Germany would "weaken America's military posture, and the U.S. will get nothing in return."

So explain why this decision -- you touched on it -- but why is this like Christmas in July right now for Putin?

RANGAPPA: Well, Putin wants to elevate Russia's influence. And given that he can't compete in many other areas -- economically, technologically, militarily -- his only option is sort of the poor man's diplomacy, which is to weaken the west. And one of the biggest obstacles that he has are these western alliances.

So when he can pursue a divide-and-conquer strategy, he in fact, elevates Russia's geopolitical influence. So this furthers his ultimate goal, and we've seen Trump, you know, doing, basically, these things that further his goals.

Trump has actually characterized this as some kind of, you know, financially-based issue. And as I mentioned before, it could be because he's just very transactional based, and may not understand how things operate in terms of balance of power.

I find that very surprising, because he has many military advisers, his National Security Council, who would be telling him that this is not a good move, and in fact, this has actually received bipartisan opposition from the United States.

VAUSE: You know, it appears that President Trump has been speaking with Vladimir Putin, what, every two weeks this year on average. At least eight times, since there was intelligence in his daily brief about Russia allegedly paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Not once did Trump raise the issue with Putin. And here he is confirming that in an interview with Axios.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Frankly, that's an issue that many people said was fake news.

SWAN: Who said it was fake news?

TRUMP: We discussed numerous things. We did not discuss that. No.

SWAN: And you've never discussed it with him?

TRUMP: I have never discussed it with him, no. I would. I have no problem with it. But you know, it never --

SWAN: You don't believe the intelligence? Because you don't believe the intelligence? That's why?

TRUMP: Everything -- you know, it's interesting. Nobody ever brings up China. They always bring Russia, Russia, Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: You know, it's important to know that the National Security Agency differed with the CIA over the Russian bounties, so the intelligence, to be fair, may not have been entirely clear-cut. But it rarely is. That's the nature of intelligence.

RANGAPPA: That's right. You don't have, you know, absolute certainty when it comes to intelligence. And what's troubling here, John, is that there's no indication that Trump is even trying to get to the bottom of it. He's not saying I am, you know, asking my intelligence community to, you know, verify this. He's basically discounted it offhand.

And I think what's important to understand here in the big picture is that President Vladimir Putin is what I would call a boundary creeper. He tests boundaries. He is going to take risks and escalate until he meets some kind of resistance.

And the bounties on U.S. troops, which is a direct threat to our national security, if that in fact, is what is occurring, is only one of many ways that he is, you know, pursuing aggressive steps against the United States. There's also election interference. There is the hacking of the research and development on a COVID vaccine.

So when Trump doesn't push back or even address this issue directly with Vladimir Putin on the Russian bounty issue, he's effectively giving a green light on everything else, and basically telling Putin that it's just the wild west and he can do what he likes. And I think as we approach the 2020 election, that's incredibly troubling, given that we know that his election interference efforts are actively underway here.

VAUSE: Yes, it goes to a much, much bigger picture. Was it Nancy Pelosi said all roads lead to Putin or Moscow when it comes to Donald Trump? Anyway, we'll see how this all plays out, as with everything else.

Asha, thank you. Good to see you.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

VAUSE: Four student activists in Hong Kong have been arrested and charged with inciting secession in what appears to be the first known police operation under the new national security law.

The students are aged from 16 to 21, and their supporters say they've all been denied bail. CNN's Anna Coren is live in Hong Kong, so Anna, there have been arrests before under this new law, for banners and slogans at protests. This seems to go a significant step beyond that.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. These four students got a knock on the door last night by the Hong Kong police. It wasn't the Chinese state security, which obviously set up office here some weeks ago, but the Hong Kong police.

[00:40:04] They have been arrested. They have been refused bail. They're yet to be charged. But according to police, they are members of a pro- independence group. They wouldn't mean the group. They wouldn't name the students.

But the activist group Studentlocalism said that one of its members, Tony Chung, was arrested last night. Now police say that they have breached the national security law, articles 20 and 21, because they posted online about the formation of a new party that would advocate for Hong Kong independence.

Now, under the new national security law, that is the definition of secession: any behavior that advocates for -- for Hong Kong separating from -- from mainland China.

Now these students are potentially facing years behind bars, if not life behind bars. That, of course, is the maximum sentence for the national security law. Secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces, terrorism. They are now all criminal offenses under the national security law here in Hong Kong.

Let's take a listen to what the Hong Kong police spokesman said at that press conference last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LI KWAI-WAH, SENIOR SUPERINTENDENT, NATIONAL SECURITY DEPARTMENT: According to what is -- we find for these syndicates, and because we have information and have investigated into this, we've found that this organization posts in social media about the establishment of -- of a new parties, that would be promoting the independence of Hong Kong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Yes. Police went on to say that, just because you post this on social media doesn't mean that you are protected. You can commit these crimes on cyberspace, and we will come after you.

Now, just before I go, John, the high-profile activist Nathan Law, who fled Hong Kong to the U.K. before this national security law was enacted, he tweeted, "So students are arrested because of a social media post. How vulnerable a country is to be afraid of a post by a group of teenagers" -- John.

VAUSE: That's a good point. Anna, thank you. Anna Coren there, live for us in Hong Kong.

Well, still to come Zimbabwe has agreed to pay billions of dollars in compensation to white farmers, forced off their land 20 years ago. A look at the deal and who can actually afford to pay it. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Former President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at the funeral for Congressman John Lewis. He awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Lewis once said during his decades of work for racial equality, he'd never dreamed an African-American would be elected president.

Sources say former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will also be there for Thursday's service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. A spokesman for Jimmy Carter says he will not be attending.

[00:45:05]

At the heart of John Lewis's work was his lifelong effort to ensure everyone had the right to vote. For millions of Americans, that right still faces challenges. But as Abby Phillip tells us, Lewis's legacy is providing a powerful new push for voting rights in this pivotal election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was the work of his life, and now it may be his final call to action.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.

PHILLIP: The death of civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis is jumpstarting a new push to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a key part of which was largely invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

The court invalidated a key section of the act, which required these states and counties with histories of discrimination to seek permission from the federal government to make election changes, like eliminating or moving polling places.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I think that we ought to dedicate this election year to John Lewis.

PHILLIP: This year, the stakes are higher than ever, Democrats and civil rights activists say.

KRISTEN CLARKE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: We started 2020 seeing intense levels of voter suppression and voting discrimination. And that picture has been compounded by the pandemic.

PHILLIP: Across the country, Republican officials led by President Trump are resisting efforts to expand mail-in voting.

TRUMP: I'm very worried about mail-in voting, because I think it's subject to tremendous fraud and being rigged.

PHILLIP: With long lines for primary voters in states like Georgia and Wisconsin, where polling places have been moved or consolidated because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Congress is frozen, largely along partisan lines, on additional election funding for states during the pandemic and on the Voting Rights Act. But it wasn't always this way.

CLARKE: Every renewal of the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by a Republican.

PHILLIP: Today 12 Senate Republicans who voted to extend the Voting Rights Act in 2006 are still in office. In the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, the justices told Congress that they had the power to fix it. The Democratic-led House voted to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act in December, with Lewis presiding. That bill was renamed this week for the late congressman, but the Senate refuses to take it up.

Since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, a study conducted by a civil rights group found 1,688 pulling place closures from 2012 to 2018 in the states and counties that had previously been covered by the Voting Rights Act.

CLARKE: We can't underscore enough how much backsliding we have faced in the country since the 2013 ruling.

PHILLIP: The stakes are high politically, too. With the Voting Rights Act largely gutted, battleground states like Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina are no longer closely monitored.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Lewis this week, he dismisses voter suppression as a factor in the upcoming election, telling "The Wall Street Journal" there's very little tangible evidence of this whole voter suppression nonsense that the Democrats are promoting.

Former Vice President Joe Biden calling on Republicans to back their words with action.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Back the effusive praise we heard praise since he passed, especially from many of our Republican friends, back it with some action. Protect that second right to vote that he's willing to die for.

PHILLIP (on camera): In his eulogy of John Lewis, Mitch McConnell didn't even mention the issue of voting, which was Lewis's life's work. So yes, there has been bipartisan praise of John Lewis and his legacy, but not a single Republican has come forward to say they are willing to address the issue of the Voting Rights Act any time soon.

Abby Phillip, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Two decades after their land was seized by Zimbabwe's government, white farmers have reached a deal for compensation, totaling $3.5 billion paid out over five years, because right now the country doesn't have $3.5 billion and will issue long-term bonds and ask for financial assistance from donors.

CNN's Eleni Giokos joins us now live from Johannesburg. So there's a number of issues here. Where are these white farmers right now, because many left the country? Many have died. So will it go to their heirs? Will it go to their families? How are these details worked out?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN BUSINESS AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you mentioned such good points.

We know that the white farmers have been working very hard to find some kind of resolution here, and compensation has been on the table since Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power after Robert Mugabe was forcibly removed in 2017, and it definitely has been one of the big points of this new administration.

What's interesting here is that the country plans to accumulate debt to pay the $3.5 billion compensation. I also want to put this number into perspective for you. In 2019, the Zimbabwe national budget, the total budget for the year was just over $8 billion.

[00:50:07]

Now, because the Zimbabwe bond note has come under so much pressure, that number was then revised down, in U.S. dollar terms, to 2 billion. So it just gives you a sense of the magnitude of this compensation. So why now? Why during a pandemic?

I caught up with the finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, who said to me this is about attracting investment. This is about making good on a 20-year-old problem, and it's really vital.

I guess the big question is here for many critics, you've got a health sector that is under so much pressure. You have doctors and nurses striking. You also have harrowing stories about stillborn babies because of staffing shortages in hospitals. So I guess the question is, why now?

I want you to take a listen to what the finance minister said to me a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MTHULI NCUBE, ZIMBABWE FINANCE MINISTER: We are going to spend easily 8 billion Zimbabwe dollars on health. That's the target.

GIOKOS: Eight billion Zimbabwe dollars on health. I mean, if -- I don't know which exchange rate to look at, but if -- if you look at the official rate, that is definitely, many would say, not enough.

NCUBE: The dollars -- the way to look at it is not the way of the way of expanding (ph) in terms of exchange rate but in terms of percentage of the -- of the government budget. Because we spend from what we have.

So in terms of timing, there's no issue about timing here. What we've done with the farmers conversation, this is a constitutional requirement. We have to fulfill that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIOKOS: I just want to bring into focus the 8 billion Zimbabwean dollars spent on health care this year. That equates to around 22 million U.S. dollars.

Now that's if you use the official rate, John. You've also got to think about the parallel market, the black market, where the Zimbabwean dollar is under so much pressure, and you've got inflation hitting close to 1,000 percent.

The realities for many Zimbabweans on the ground, that you're seeing price changes coming to the fore. Concerns about food shortages, fuel shortages, interrupted power supply. The problems are really vast.

And the big argument here is that a lot of the money that is going to be given to the farmers, we don't know whether that's going to be in the form of cash. We know that's going to be access to bonds, for example. Whether that's going to filter through to the real economy, the finance minister says that it will falter through to the real economy.

And also, it's an important message to the international community. The timing is quite vital. At the same time, just a few weeks ago, we had the arrest of a prominent journalist in Zimbabwe, who would be very vocal about corruption in the country.

I also asked the prime minister about the -- the openness of Zimbabwe to listen to criticism. He says that's so in play, but this is just about making good on a problem that has been plaguing the country for a few decades.

VAUSE: Yes. Well, we'll see where this goes. Eleni, thank you for that. Eleni Giokos there in Johannesburg.

Well, those dyed blue jeans don't come without an environmental cost. All that fabric dye polluting waterways. A biologist has now developed a friendlier way to get those vibrant hues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Being fashionable always comes with a price. And it seems one of those prices is a problem with water.

The textile dyeing industry is the world's second largest polluter of water, according to the World Economic Forum. A synthetic biologist in England has come up with a way, though, to dye clothes guided by nature's own methods. Yes, it's all natural.

Cyril Vanier shows us it could make a big difference in an industry and make it a whole lot greener.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[00:55:05]

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR (voice-over): The art of applying color to fabric goes back over 4,500 years. And since the invention of synthetic dyes in 1856, we've had an ever-growing palette of brilliant colors at our fingertips. But creating synthetic pinks, reds and yellows comes at a cost to the

world's water supply, as 35-year-old synthetic biologist Orr Yarkoni (ph) discovered while researching water pollution in Nepal.

ORR YARKONI, CEO, COLORIFIX: About 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textiles. Nature puts colors into lots of things, and rivers still run clean. So there must be a biological way to do this that doesn't come at such a high cost.

VANIER: In 2016, Yarkoni cofounded Colorifix here in the U.K. --

YARKONI: This is our color development line.

VANIER: -- to develop a non-toxic way to dye fabric. The technology taps into some of the most vibrant hues found in wildlife by replicating the color code found in its DNA.

YARKONI: So what we can do is take a feather off a parrot, scrape a few cells off the tail end of the feather, and in those cells look for the DNA message, "Make red." We can then put that same message into our microorganism that will make the same red the parrot makes, the same way that the parrot makes it.

VANIER: While French start-up PILI also engineer microorganisms to grow sustainable dyes, Yarkoni says Colorifix is the only one to transform the dyeing process.

YARKONI: We can use the same equipment, the same dye, the same recipe, even, to die all of these different materials. The savings range from 50 to 90 percent less water, between 20 and 40 percent less energy. But in all cases, we don't use anything hazardous in the process.

VANIER: Swedish fashion giant H&M is an early backer of the company. Producing hundreds of millions of garments each year, H&M is among a number of fast fashion brands facing growing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint, experts say.

FRANCOIS SOUCHET, ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION: More and more investors are starting to look at the environmental and social performance of organizations they invest in. There's more expectations from the customer for better solutions and a cleaner fashion industry.

VANIER; Yarkoni says one vial of color-packed microbes can generate 50 tons of dye solution a day, a small start to grow a more sustainable industry.

Cyril Vanier, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. A lot more CNN NEWSROOM when we come back after a very short break. We've got two more hours. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END