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U.S. State Department Revokes 1,000+ Chinese Nationals' Visas; Whistleblower: Appointees Ordered Halt on Russia Intel; Seniors in Retirement Community Become Online Tutors; Fighting Plastic Waste with Mealworms. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 10, 2020 - 01:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Kim Brunhuber. Live from studio seven at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour. U.S. President Donald Trump admits to concealing the true threat of the coronavirus.

Massive wildfires in the Western United States turn deadly, incinerating entire towns.

Plus the Academy of Motion Picture Arts unveils new inclusion standards for best picture nominees but some question whether they'll actually lead to more diverse films.

Donald Trump knew in early February just how contagious and deadly the coronavirus was. But for months the U.S. president intentionally downplayed the danger.

That's the bombshell headline from a new book by veteran journalist, Bob Woodward. These revelations come as global deaths from coronavirus pass the 900,000 mark and here the United States more than 190,000 have died.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump's lengthy record of false statements on the coronavirus may well be catching up with him.

In writing his new book about the Trump Presidency, "Rage," journalist Bob Woodward recorded the president admitting on tape that he intentionally downplayed the severity of the virus.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

ROBERT WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Yes, sir. TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Mr. President --

ACOSTA: Responding to the book, the president insisted he only wanted to keep people from panicking.


TRUMP: I'm a cheerleader for this country, I love our country. And I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic.

We want to show confidence, we want to show strength.


ACOSTA: Mr. Trump then argued that he's not responsible for the approximately 190,000 Americans who've died from the virus.


TRUMP: I think if we didn't do what we did we would have had millions of people die.


ACOSTA: In a sign the White House was initially caught by surprise by the recordings, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnaney tried to deny what is clearly caught on tape and lied to reporters.


KAYLEIGH MCENANEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president never downplayed the virus, Once again, the president expressed calm.


ACOSTA: In perhaps the most stunning revelation from Woodward's conversation with the president, Mr. Trump acknowledges in early February that COVID-19 is more deadly than the seasonal flu.


Trump (Voice Over): "It goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you touch, you don't have to touch things, right?

But the air, you just breathe the air. That's how it's passed.

And so that's a very tricky one, that's a very delicate one.

It's also more deadly than your -- even your strenuous flus." (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And yet on March 9th, the president tweeted COVID-19 is not as dangerous as the flu.


CROWD: (Applause)


ACOSTA: As he held packed rallies in the early months of the pandemic, the president told the public that the coronavirus would disappear.


TRUMP: It's going to disappear. One day -- it's like a miracle, it will disappear.



TRUMP: It will go away. You know it is going away.


ACOSTA: But listen to what the president told Woodward on March 19th. That the virus poses a danger to Americans young and old.


TRUMP (Voice over): "Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob. But just today and yesterday some startling facts came out. It's not just old -- older people.

WOODWARD: Yes, exactly.

TRUMP (Voice Over): It's plenty of young people.


ACOSTA: In the months that followed, the president argued it was safe for children to go back to school.


TRUMP (Voice Over): "If you look at children, children are almost -- and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune to this disease. So few -- they've got stronger, hard to believe, I don't know how you feel about it but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this.

And they do it, they don't have a problem."


ACOSTA: Woodward reports top officials around Mr. Trump raised questions about his leadership.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is said to have described the president's attention span is "like a minus number. His sole purpose is to get reelected."

Fauci responded to that on "FOX."


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't really want to get involved in that kind of stuff. That is very distracting to the kind of things that I'm trying to do and that we're all trying to do with this outbreak.

JOHN ROBERTS, HOST, "FOX NEWS:" So you would question that account then?

FAUCI: Yes, yes.



ACOSTA: Woodward writes Former Defense Secretary James Mattis believed that Mr. Trump was "dangerous" and "unfit."

An aide to Mattis, Woodward says, overheard Mr. Trump say "my f-ing generals are a bunch of (p*ss) expletive."


CROWD: Black lives matter. Black lives matter.


ACOSTA: On the Black Lives Matter movement the president blows off Woodward's question about whether Mr. Trump is blinded by white privilege.


WOODWARD: Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent -- as it put me and I think lots of white privilege people in a cave -- and that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain particularly black people feel in this country? Do you see --

TRUMP: No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you, wow. No, I don't feel that at all.


ACOSTA: White House officials are now pointing fingers over who's to blame for allowing the president to talk to Bob Woodward. Multiple sources tell us the president and his son-in-law Jared Kushner signed off on the interviews but the president appears to only have himself to blame. As we are told he went around his own press office to speak with a legendary journalist.

Jim Acosta. CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Well, Democratic presidential hopeful, Joe Biden wasted no time in responding to the revelations.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper he called the president's actions, "disgusting."


JOE BIDEN, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT AND DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This caused people to die. And what did he do the whole time?

He acknowledged that you breathe it, it's in the air and he won't put on a mask.

He's talking about it's ridiculous to put on a mask, what do you need social distancing for? Why have any of these rules?

It was all about making sure the stock market didn't come down, that his wealthy friends didn't lose any money and that he could say that in fact anything that happened had nothing to do with him.

He waved a white flag. He walked away, he didn't do a damn thing. Think about it.

Think about what he did not do. And it's almost criminal.


BRUNHUBER: Senior political reporter for "The Guardian," Daniel Strauss joins me now from Washington and also joining me is Scott Jennings, CNN political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and he joins me from Louisville, Kentucky.

So, gentlemen, the key question, will this matter?

Scott, first, to you. Will Trump supporters care that he's been lying to them all this time about COVID?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Trump's most committed supporters aren't likely to break off of him.

I think if you're looking at it from a pure political science or campaign strategy matter, what percentage of the electorate is still undecided -- it's a small portion.

And then do you have people sort of on the margins that supported Trump in '16, maybe drifted towards Democrats in '18, and Trump's trying to reel them in.

So I think the core Trump supporter doesn't care about what Bob Woodward said. But again, this is a close election so it's those folks on the margins that really matter.

And I guess we'll have to see how they take the news over the next few days.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, Daniel, is that right? Sort of looking beyond his support base, will this resonate in swing states among the two undecided people in the country?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SNR. POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN:" At this point, it's hard to tell. I think in addition to what Scott said you just have to keep in mind that polls have been pretty static so far.

And really, at this point, the Trump campaign is counting on some kind of unforeseen factor that polling and the other metrics we usually follow aren't picking up.

At the same time though, I just can't help thinking of that comment Trump made years ago when he said he could go out onto Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any support.

BRUNHUBER: That's --

STRAUSS: His hard-core base is not going to move. But --

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's exactly it. I want to ask Scott that. Why would he tell a reporter that he's been essentially lying to his own supporters? Is it that Fifth Avenue line?

Is it that he knows his supporters won't leave him, they won't hear about it or they'll explain it away or they just will care about other identity issues that are more central? Why would he do this?

JENNINGS: Well, I'd like to -- obviously, I haven't seen the book, So I haven't seen the larger context for the comments that he made. So I couldn't really tell you the answer to that.

I would add, though, something to Daniel's comment, which is how are people going to react?

I think the cohort of voters that I am looking to see how they react are senior citizens. There's some evidence in the polling right now, the president's a little softer with seniors than he was in '16 and some pollsters attribute that to his job approval on coronavirus today.

And that's before the Woodward revelations.

And so the thing I'll be tracking most closely are senior citizens in states like Florida, Arizona with high senior populations. And if he gets softer with seniors then you might be able to draw a line between this and that.

But we're a few days away from knowing that.


BRUNHUBER: Daniel, what does this say about the White House leadership, those around the president that he was allowed to give this interview?

STRAUSS: It says that Trump is very much the boss. And as his aides are pointing out right now when the president of the United States, this president, decides to do something, it is very, very hard to change his mind.

In this case, he thought, unlike Woodward's last book, if he gave Woodward a lot of time and access, he could charm his a way out of a negative sort of product.

And at least right now, that doesn't seem to be what happened.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Well, staying with you. Yet another potential scandal.

A whistleblower says appointees in the Department of Homeland Security told officials to modify intelligence assessments to downplay Russia's efforts to interfere in the U.S., as well as downplay the threat posed by white supremacists.

Now DHS has denied the claim. But what do you make of this?

STRAUSS: Listen, this adds to the list of questions that I think critics of the Trump Administration have to ask about how the cabinet secretaries are running their agencies.

But there's a lot we don't know right now, and I think we need to see more.

BRUNHUBER: Scott, maybe another example of the administration politicizing intelligence? Republicans are trying to smear the whistleblower's character but is that the defense here, that he's not reliable?

JENNINGS: Well, I agree with Daniel. I think we don't know very much about this. Obviously, we have some anonymous sourcing here. There's not a lot of meat on these bones.

As it relates to Russia, generally, I think the battle lines on this are drawn. Republicans think the whole Russia storyline is a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats and the Democrats think Russia is running the country.

I'm not certain this sort of subtext to this is going to change those dynamics this close to the election.

BRUNHUBER: Sticking with you. Joe Biden, Republicans have been accusing him of basically staying in his basement. What does he need to do now?

Does he have to get out there more, in front of the public or is his best strategy just like Trump, do what you're doing?

JENNINGS: Well, their strategy so far is to try to let Trump sort of drill himself to the ground. And they're ahead.

If you look, objectively speaking, you look at the national polls they've got a lead. You look at the swing state polls he has a lead, it's a smaller lead than the national spread but it still looks like Biden is ahead.

I don't think he can totally sit out the next 50 days. Obviously, he has to go to a few debates and do some things.

But right now, their goal, I would think, at the Biden Campaign, is to make this thing a total referendum on Trump and to try to present Biden as just a nicer person with some empathy abilities.

And that's what they're doing. And Trump's objective is to draw Biden out.

I do think Biden going out and campaigning in some of the swing states is a nod to the fact that the campaign may have tightened a bit in the swing states, especially in the upper Midwest.

But right now, I think the president's playing from behind and it's largely because Biden is succeeding in making the campaign a referendum on Trump. And Trump needs to make it a choice between policies that the Republicans prefer and policies that the liberal Democrats would implement.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We'll have to leave it there.

Thank you so much for joining us, Daniel Strauss and Scott Jennings. We both -- we appreciate you both coming on.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

STRAUSS: Thanks.

BRUNHUBER: At least 900,000 people around the world have now died from COVID-19.

About a third of those deaths come from Latin America and the Caribbean, the hardest hit region in the world.

It comes as a major vaccine study has been put on hold because of an unexplained illness in one of the participants.

Drug maker, AstraZeneca says it's the second time they've had to pause their trials to conduct a safety review. The first time was in July when a volunteer developed a disease that ended up being unrelated to the vaccine.

Health experts say the decision to halt the study is actually a good thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FAUCI: In some respects, it shows that the system works. In other words, the checks and balances that you have when you do a trial that is a large number of people that's carefully watched and carefully controlled.

So this is the kind of thing you'd like to see that when there is a serious adverse event mechanisms are put into place to stop everything, no more enrollment until you could figure out what is going on.


BRUNHUBER: (AUDIO GAP) -- health minister is reportedly saying the third phase of clinical trials for his coronavirus vaccine are underway.

U.S. public health officials are slamming Moscow saying it shouldn't have approved the vaccine this early to begin with. Some even calling it Russian roulette.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.



CHANCE: This is what Russia hopes will be the vaccine that beats the global pandemic.

We've been given access to the start of crucial phase three trials. And to volunteers like Andre (ph).

To discover whether "Sputnik V," as it's called really can save lives.


ANDREY OLSHEVSKY, TRIAL VOLUNTEER (Through translator): I've been looking forward to this third stage of trials. I want this vaccine to come into wide circulation as soon as possible so that all citizens of our big country can be safe.


CHANCE: Russia has good reason to want this battle won against COVID-19. With over a million confirmed infections, it's one of the world's worst affected countries.

But Moscow has been accused of cutting corners. Using spies to steal western research, which it denies, and after positive early results, approving its vaccine even before third phase trials had begun.


RICHARD HORTON, "THE LANCET:" What we can say is that this new Russian vaccine, the results are encouraging. But it would be premature, highly premature, to think that this is the basis for a successful vaccine for public use.


CHANCE: But at city hospital number two in Moscow where we witnessed the first of an expected 40,000 trial volunteers being injected, doctors told me they're optimistic that these important trials will help establish the Russian vaccine.

It's why Yekaterina (ph), a nursery school teacher, said she volunteered to take part, despite the risks.

"It's necessary," she told me. "Not just for herself, but for everyone else."

Matthew Chance. CNN, Moscow.


BRUNHUBER: Next on CNN NEWSROOM. Europe's largest migrant camp now in ashes.

It's because of a seemingly deliberate fire that's left some of the world's most vulnerable people homeless yet again.

And wildfires force tens of thousands of millions of people across the Western U.S. to flee their homes including a mayor and his family in Oregon.

We'll speak live with him after the break. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: The largest refugee camp in Europe has been completely destroyed by fire. And Greece's minister for migration says it was apparently done on purpose.

He says it likely happened because of an argument over coronavirus quarantine rules.

The Moria refugee camp is on the Greek island of Lesbos and has been a temporary home for about 13,000 migrants. Many are now without shelter because of the fire.

CNN's Phil Black shows us the nightmare people there are going through.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's almost nothing left of Moria, mostly ash, some charred ruins, fences buckled by the flames.


The destruction is so complete it's almost hard to picture what was here. A vast settlement of makeshift tents and shacks. More like a slum

than a camp spreading out through the surrounding hills and olive groves.

We saw it back in March. Perhaps the most surprising thing is simply the scale of it. It is extraordinary in size.

The conditions were appalling. Little food, fresh water or sanitation. A facility built to care for a touch over 2,000 people overwhelmed by a population then of around 18,000.

People from many countries. Many families with children, some just weeks old.

There's an awareness at the highest levels of the Greek government that this place is abhorrent and shameful and it can't be allowed to go on.

Its plan is to build a new purpose built facility.

But the government's efforts were blocked by angry Greeks who say they just want their island back. Because on Lesbos, Europe's migrant crisis never ended.

For five years boats continued crossing from Turkey with numbers spiking again in late 2019.

The migrants, desperately dreaming of Europe were blocked from traveling further and forced to live in Moria's squalor.

Temperatures were rising on Lesbos long before flames tore through the camp.

Its population had recently dropped to 13,000 because of efforts to speed up asylum applications.

But with so many still living with filth and hopelessness, aid workers had predicted the pressure was going to blow.

The final trigger? A COVID-19 lockdown.

A small number in the camp tested positive and no one was allowed to leave.

Witnesses say anger spread and fires were lit. Ultimately destroying a site long considered a symbol of Europe's collective failure to help some of the world's most desperate people.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: The latest wildfires tormenting the Western U.S. aren't just dangerous and destructive, they've now turned deadly.

At least six people have been found dead in just the past few hours. In Marion County, Oregon, two bodies were discovered during a search

and rescue mission. The area is under a state of emergency.

Three people have been killed by the fast moving North Complex fire in Northern California. It's than 40 percent contained.

And in Washington State a wildfire claimed the life of a child. Two relatives of that child, a man and a woman, are in critical condition.

In Oregon, thousands are evacuating their homes as raging fires show no signs of slowing.

This video here shot south of Portland was taken in the middle of the afternoon but appears nearly dark as fires and smoke tinted the sky a deep red.

One family that had been camping in the area had to escape the flames as the fire quickly closed in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to be okay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) turn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to be great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) go right through it.


BRUNHUBER: Flames can be seen on both sides of the road there as the couple fled the area with their young daughter.

And that fire called the Beach Creek fire is among at least 14 large fires currently raging in Oregon. They're scorching more than 93 thousand hectares of land including any structures in its path.

Well, now with us on the phone from Mill City, Oregon, is Mayor Tim Kirsch. Thank you very much for joining us in what must be an amazingly stressful time for you.

I'd like you to start with your personal experience.

You and your family, I understand, had to evacuate. Tell us what happened.

MAYOR TIM KIRSCH, MILL CITY, OREGON (On the Phone): Thank you for telling our story.

And yes, Monday I would say alerts were out that there was potential for this hazard because the winds were whipping up, unusually strong winds, for this time of year.

And there was the Beach Creek fire that's a number of miles away from Mill City but the strong winds made it a potential danger. And late in the evening, I would say, a friend of mine called and let

me know that the fire was on the mountainside just to the east of Mill City and the winds were blowing it this way.

So my wife and I said we probably ought to take this really seriously and pack up whatever we thought we might want to save for sure and go. And I sent my wife and my grandson who was staying with us, they went ahead and left town.

And I stayed and then went and talked and helped with some other people here in town to pack up and leave.


And at the whole time this was happening, there was a level three evacuation.

So myself, and the communities beyond Mill City were all evacuating.

Now there's one highway that runs through the North Santiam Canyon and it was the main evacuation route.

I had no idea how really bad the situation was, as many people did not. Some of those that I'd called didn't know anything, that there even was a evacuation order in progress yet.

So later in the evening though, the emergency services were out going door to door, knocking on doors, telling people just to get out and go now, don't take time to pack. Because it got that dire.

And as people left town just to the west of town which is the way everybody had to evacuate, the forest caught on fire both sides of the highway.

And it went on for four or five miles that people had to drive through to get out of town. It was a pretty surreal experience.

I myself didn't leave until about 2:30 in the morning. Traffic was slowing down by then, most people had already gone.

But the fires, the intense heat coming from both sides, it was a pretty desperate situation. I would say very scary, myself (inaudible).

BRUNHUBER: Yes. I know. Having covered the fires how scary it can be with flames on both sides. You really think that you can be in life and death trouble at any minute.

I just want to look at the bigger picture. The Oregon governor, Kate Brown, called these fires unprecedented.

She said, quote: "The wildfires could lead to the greatest loss of property and human lives in state history."

What do you make of the sheer scale of what's happening there?

KIRSCH: Yes. Well, Eastern Oregon has wildfires blaze through a lot. And they are very prepared and they do it a lot.

Here on the west side of the Cascades, not so much. So emergency services plan for this and they practice for it and, I tell you, without them involved the way -- the level and their response times, it would have been very dire.

But they were here. They were able to keep the flow of traffic moving, just keeping trees that would fall, they would get them cleared immediately, things like that. And keep traffic moving.

So it's thanks to emergency services that -- people out there on the front lines have really saved human life. The loss of life is actually very small in our area.

So we feel pretty grateful to all those people that helped.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Well, you were helping yourself as well, so thank you for that.

And hopefully you are able to keep everyone safe in your area.

We appreciate you coming on to talk to us. Mill City mayor, Tim Kirsch. We appreciate it.

KIRSCH: Oh, thanks for having me.

BRUNHUBER: Still ahead. Engaging with the outside world after months in isolation.

We'll tell you about a virtual program that connects seniors with students.

You want to see this. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: The U.S. State Department is revoking more than 1,000 visas for Chinese students and researchers in the U.S. claiming they have ties to Beijing's military. A spokesperson says, "We continue to welcome legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party's goals of military dominance."

All right. Well, let's bring in CNN's Selina Wang, who's live in Hong Kong with the details.

Selina, this is the latest in an ongoing tit-for-tat between the U.S. and China. So take us through these latest developments.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, well, the Trump administration says that this move is to safeguard American national security. It is part of the Trump's administration's move to block students from coming in that they believe have ties to the Chinese military.

Now this latest move was made under a proclamation Trump had made in May claiming that Chinese students, mostly post graduate researchers, post doctorate students were potentially being used as vehicles by Beijing to acquire sensitive U.S. technologies.

We are now, Kim, learning that more than 1,000 Chinese nationals have had their visas revoked under this proclamation since it was implemented in June.

So take a listen here to what the Acting Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security had to say about this.


CHAD WOLF, ACTING SECRETARY OF U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY: We are blocking visas for certain Chinese graduate student and researchers with ties to China's military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research.


WANG: Wolf's comments also follow several arrests by the U.S. of Chinese researchers that allegedly were hiding their ties to the Chinese military. Now the State Department has said that this latest visa expulsion only affects a small subset of Chinese students in America.

Chinese students are incredibly important to American universities. For a decade now they have comprised the largest group of international students in America. There are more than 360,000 Chinese students studying in America and attending American schools. And reportedly contributing some $14 billion to annual economic activity.

Kim, the backdrop here, of course, deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China in virtually every area of that bilateral relationship. And some experts have criticized the Trump administration's decision to specifically target Chinese students saying that they should mend the last bits of the strained relationship by bolster bolstering people to people communication and exchange.

In fact there were a group of experts that recently spoke at a congressional hearing. Dexter Roberts, a fellow at The Atlantic Council said this in specific. "While being mindful of the real danger of technology theft, the U.S. should stop singling out Chinese students with visa restrictions once again make America the global choice for all international students.

Beijing has yet to react to this most recent announcement but they have earlier said that they strongly condemn the politicization and segmentization (ph) of normal academic activity, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Selina Wang in Hong Kong. We appreciate it.

A whistleblower is accusing Trump appointees in the Homeland Security Department of repeatedly ordering officials to alter intelligence assessments to make sure they matched up with misleading comments from the U.S. president. A source familiar with Brian Murphy's claim say two top officials tried to change a report to downplay the threat posed by white supremacists and instead emphasize the role of leftist groups.

Now, one of those officials is acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Ken Cuccinelli. The whistleblower also claims the acting Secretary of the department Chad Wolf told officials earlier this year to stop providing intel on threats of Russian interference and instead focus on gathering information on China and Iran.

Whistleblower Brian Murphy's lawyer spoke to CNN earlier.



MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY FOR DHS WHISTLEBLOWER BRIAN MURPHY: They were coming up with intelligence analysis that was not favorable to President Trump or at least not favorable to what spin the administration wanted to put out there. And Mr. Murphy was specifically told to change some of the dynamics of it and he declined to do so.


BRUNHUBER: A spokesperson for the Homeland Security Department says, "We flatly deny the allegations."

Now, what a difference a day makes. The U.S. Financial markets bounced back in a big way on Wednesday Monday with tech stocks Apple, Amazon and Microsoft leading the charge. The Dow gained 1.6 percent. The Nasdaq saw its quickest correction ever with a 2.7 percent surge.

Meanwhile, Yum China is making its debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company operates about 10,000 restaurants in mainland China including KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.

There's more trouble for the oil markets. Prices of Brent and West Texas intermediate crude are slipping due in part to rising stockpiles caused by the coronavirus. And that's fueling worries about demand. The collapse of this industry is impacting a lot of livelihoods.

So let's bring in CNN's John Defterios who is live this hour from Abu Dhabi. John, you know, we have had a price recovery to $40 a barrel but does that work for the U.S. shale producers?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, you know what Kim, it's so volatile, it's hard to predict where we're going here, right. you're up 2-3 percent one day, down 6 percent the next, down 2-3 percent today. It's a pretty difficult times. And you are right we have seen a price recovery since the bad days of COVID in April when we went negative.

So let's take a look at the chart here. We started at $60 a barrel for the WTI which is the U.S. benchmark. That's a blue there. Went negative in April and then climbed back up primarily because OPEC player cut the production buy up to 10 million barrels a day. But $40 or below doesn't work for the shale patch. Here in the Middle East, they produce them for $2 to $6 a barrel. That's not the case in West Texas.

Let's take a close look.


DEFTERIOS: Midland, Texas -- the beating heart of U.S. shale production. In this part of America they know all too well what boom and bust feels like. Oil service company CEO Bobby Bounds was all smiles during the boom. He and a dozen employees did industrial painting on storage tanks, pipes, bows (ph) -- anything related to oil and gas in the giant Permian Basin.

Then COVID-19 hit, striking first on Wall Street, and in no time Main Street Midland felt the pain.

BOBBY BOUNDS, OWNER, HEAVY DUTY INDUSTRIAL: I woke up I think it was on a Monday and the Dow Jones had dropped 2,300 or something. And it wasn't 12 hours later I'm getting phone calls from my big customers telling me to stop all work.

DEFTERIOS: An oil price war then broke out between Saudi Arabia and Russia and prices went below zero for the first time in history. And so too did Bobby's business. All told he lost a half million dollars of work

BOUNDS: I'm the entrepreneur risk-taker. I put resources at risk in hopes of a gain. And if I get some gain and but then it goes bad well that's bad for me. But I it it's almost a gamble.

DEFTERIOS: And in this high stakes game of oil he was forced to fold his hand, pack his bags for New Mexico where he started a new business. The economic fate of the Permian is closely linked to what's called the active oil rig count.

Last on (ph) and when I was on the ground in Midland it was listed on a sign downtown -- 860 nationally, 414 locally. Today as of early September it's 256 nationwide and only 125 in the Permian.

Even the big boys feel the pain. As an independent player, Pioneer Natural Resources sits on region's the largest shale assets.

RICH DEALY, CFO, PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES: The world doesn't need a million (INAUDIBLE) a day of growth coming from the U.S. You know, we'll have to adjust our staffing levels down to right-size it to our activity level. And so we're in the middle of that process right now.

DEFTERIOS: That's reflected in the local unemployment rate rising nearly fivefold in a year from just over 2 percent to 9.4 percent. Next door in Odessa, it's highest in Texas.

Other oil producers and service companies did not survive. With three downturns and five years, 492 of them have gone bankrupt with debt of nearly $300 billion. Have you batten down the hatches for what length of time.

DEALY: It's really unknown at this point, it's really dependent on when we get a vaccine and see what happens to demand. I would say, you know, it's kind of early too second half of 21, but it could roll into 22, 23. Time to really see demand for oil and get back over 100 million barrels a day.

DEFTERIOS: Meaning the shale shakeout for players big and small is far from over.



DEFTERIOS: Pretty incredible what we have seen. In fact in 2020 alone, Kim -- one hundred thousand jobs since the COVID crisis hit in the oil fields alone. And in this process this year, the U.S. has lost -- 3 million barrels a day of production. It was number one in the first quarter and then it's been a downward slide ever since. Pretty tough times in the oil patch.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thank you so much for that. It's an interesting look. John Defterios in Abu Dhabi appreciate it.

Well, after months of being cooped up during the pandemic, some seniors in the U.S. now have a way to stay engaged with the outside world. A retirement community in Virginia has started a program that lets qualified seniors tutor students online.


NEOLA WALLER, FORMER TEACHER: Hi Natalie, I'm Neola Waller.

BRUNHUBER: A former high school math teacher for more than 30- years, Neola Waller now has a new pupil for the first time in a long time.

WALLER: I love to teach. So having a student will be a nice change for me, and if I can help here, then I will feel I was a success.

BRUNHUBER: During months of lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic Mrs. Waller is one of the seniors at her retirement community in Virginia Beach who has become a virtual tutor.

She will be helping 8th grader Lily Yale, with geometry as Lily begins the semester like many students across the U.S. going to school online.

ALEXANDRA YALE, MOTHER OF LILY: I was concerned because at the end of last year Lilly did have some trouble like getting used the virtual learning program. It just eases my mind knowing that she has a support and guidance from Miss Waller.

LILY YALE, STUDENT: Instead of me having to raise my hand while being in a room with like over 30 other classmates, I can like actually ask my questions. BRUNHUBER: Lily and Mrs. Waller were paired as part of an initiative

developed by the Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community. It's the first to offer residents a specialized tablet named "The Bird Song" with content aimed at improving cognitive health and keeping seniors connected.

WALLER: This looks like a wonderful opportunity to engage with a student, to have fun and to give me something to do.

BRUNHUBER: Still in its trial stages, the program focuses on retired former educators, leveraging decades of experience and topics ranging for math to history.

Like Robert Felty. He'll be tutoring his grandson who's a freshman in high school a few states away.

ROBERT FELTY, VIRTUAL: TUTOR: I will help him via the tablet, personal tablet to do history and tell a little of where I've been and my father being in the World War II in the Army Force. I look forward to it. And I get to see him. It's nice to be involved.

BRUNHUBER: After years working in military intelligence Mr. Felty says he trained more than 10,000 Navy police teaching up to three classes a day before he retired. Like Mrs. Waller he's been in lockdown since March.

FELTY: Westminster gave me a chance to reach out and do something for the community and I like young people, God bless them. We need them.

BRUNHUBER: Mr. Felty plans to tutor his grandson at least once a week to start, and Mrs. Waller intends to meet with Lily two or three times weekly for now.

FELTY: I might even get better after this (INAUDIBLE). It was an opportunity, a big chance to make me feel relevant and needed.

WALLER: It would be nice if they would do this across the nation. It would be good for the tutors and the tutorees, or whatever you call them.


BRUNHUBER: You can't argue with her.

Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, how scientists are using worms in the fight against plastic waste. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Call to Earth is a call to action for the environment, to share solutions to critical issues like global warming, deforestation or plastic waste.

It's a long term priority for all of us here at CNN to work with you, our audience to drive awareness and inspire change so we can engineer a sustainable future.

In this week's report how an insect could be our answer to combatting plastic pollution in the future.


ANJA BRANDON, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: A thousand mealworms can eat about two grams of plastic a week. so it would take 3,000 or 4,000 mealworms to eat this Styrofoam cup about a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's Anja Brandon (ph), the scientist at Stanford University. She studies how these eat this and yet can still be used to feed these.

BRANDON: We all know that plastics are a huge issue facing the environment especially in the marine environment. We're all looking for good ways on how to deal with all this plastic waste that we have. When we found that mealworms -- these tiny, innocuous insects found pretty much everywhere can eat and degrade a few different types of plastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mealworms are basically the larvae of a type of darkling beetle. They do have a commercial use. As food for livestock like pigs and chicken. The Fena (ph) was discovered in 2015, that these little grubs could eat polypyrene and a whole new line of research opened up, one that Brandon has pursued.

BRANDON: So why (INAUDIBLE) mealworm are able to eat plastics, it's still an open question which we're still trying do research that. There's other insects out there that you predominantly (INAUDIBLE) which is also full of long chain polymers. And it looks like somehow evolutionarily, these insects that are used for eating and break down these naturally existing big polymers are fortuitously able to break down some of these plastics that we're putting into the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brandon's first discovery was that it wasn't just polypyrene that mealworms chomp down on. They eat polyethylene too.

BRANDON: That's really cool because one issue that we have for plastic waste is that it's really hard to recycle multiple types of plastic together use.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how ty do it. Plastic has no nutrients in it. So if the energy from breaking down the plastics polymer bond, that's what mealworms are after. They do this using a powerful bacterium in their gut which breaks down a majority of plastic and nothing for hydrogen and carbon.

But there are other ingredients in plastics that are not quite so easy to break down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's all sorts of crazy chemicals used in plastic manufacturing from stabilizers to plasticizers to flame retardants. And that is a problem because we know that some of these chemicals can be toxic. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Brandon looked into this, she found that

some degraded plastics did come out the other end of the mealworm and flushed out with them came all the chemicals that could do harm further up the food chain.

BRANDON: So they're not bio accumulating. That means that this mealworm is still a valuable feed source, which is great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not the feed industry Brandon is interested in for her research. For her it's a question of scaling up. And to do that she needed to understand how a mealworm does what it does.

BRANDON: So we are looking and trying to isolate the bacteria from the mealworm's gut to be able to scale those out in these big vats that we call bio reactors that are just chock full of bacteria. You can throw your plastic in and hopefully it will all break down.


BRUNHUBER: We will continue showcasing inspirational stories like this as part of the initiative at CNN. And let us know what you are doing to answer the call with the CallToEarth.

We'll be back with more.



BRUNHUBER: After years of being criticized for a lack of diversity, the Oscars are introducing new inclusion standards. Starting in 2024 to be eligible for the top prize of best picture, films must meet several diversity benchmarks. The academy says it's aiming to encourage representation both on and off screen.

Clive Nwonka (ph) joins me from Copenhagen, Denmark. He's a research fellow in film studies at the London School of Economics. Thank you so much for coming to talk about this for us.

So according to some experts the new guidelines aren't as strict as they might seem which is a familiar theme given what you've seen in Britain before.

So before I get into that I just want to get your reaction to the announcement of this initiative. A step in the right direction or barely a step?

CJ NWONKA, FELLOW IN FILM STUDIES LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I think it is a very clear and obvious reaction to a deeply-entrenched problem regarding underrepresentation and inequality in the U.S. film industry.

I think there are very, very clear and acceptable reasons why one would think that it's not a particularly impactful model. Many people on social media have been saying that these numbers seem to lower bar. They don't have any tangible impact on the existing forms of underrepresentation in the industry.

However --

BRUNHUBER: Can I jump in there because on that note I just want to give you some statistics here. According to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, for basically the main on screen standard, 95 of the top 100 films last year would meet the standard and in the sort of behind the scenes standard, 71 of the top 100 films would meet it. So that suggest -- it doesn't go far enough.

Now, the British film industry enacted diversity standards of its own a few years ago. You looked into what effect this had. So what did you find there?

NWONKA: Yes. We looked at 235 films that have been made between 2016 and '19. They've all adhered to the diversity standards. And what we have found is that it seems a healthy representation ratio and that's the difference on screen. Have more films actually represented race and ethnicity in some capacity on screen. We found a few disparities off screen.

A black person for instance, collective minority was three times less likely to be hired a key role off screen than other people as well. So we have seen a big difference in the onscreen and offscreen representation of ethnic and racial difference.

BRUNHUBER: That's interesting and, you know, I don't know if the parallel is exact but the argument that a writer made in "The New York Times" was saying that even though most studios could pretty much do nothing and still have most of their films qualify, according to this new standard. It's still possible that this move will still spur change just by existing. Does that hold water to you?

NWONKA: There's a grain of truth -- and you know (INAUDIBLE). It's the standard will influence an attitudinal change. It may make the rest of the (INAUDIBLE) rethink their entrenched notions of who can play what role and in what capacity across films.

Now, in our research we found that particularly (INAUDIBLE) have a tendency to represent people in different ways. So what we have seen is diversity can't be seen as a universal principle. It's actually impacted by industrial variables such as genre and set expectations people have when it comes to the screen.

BRUNHUBER: What genre were particularly sort of bad?


NWONKA: Well, the most successful genre in the base was drama which comprised of when (INAUDIBLE) films and (INAUDIBLE) period. But what we found is active analysis were often found in secondary roles. That is supporting roles, often not the main role itself and storylines were often geared to looking into the ethnic minority experience. So even though there's representation of these minorities on screen their positions were very, very different than others. BRUNHUBER: All right. We only have a minute left but this is an

important question. What should be done? What do you think could help?

NWONKA: I think the key issue here is evaluation. We're going to need mechanisms to evaluate the success of the standards in the U.S. system every single year if you make the adjustments and changes based upon trends.

What kind of metrics are being use? Will it be intersectional? How will women of color (INAUDIBLE) be understood within the cavalries (ph) of an agenda. These are key things that need to be put in place to ensure that there is some kind of assessment of success, year on year.

BRUNHUBER: All right.

Well, listen, we greatly appreciate you coming on to talk about this. Thank you so much Clive Nwonka.

NWONKA: Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: All right.

Well, finally this hour, speaking of film and entertainment, the death of "The Walking Dead". The popular TV series about a zombie apocalypse, it's coming to an end with a 24 episode 11th season that will air over the next two years.

Now, you may remember it debuted in 2010 and it was once the most watched show in the U.S. But fear not, if you're a dead fan, there are still spin offs, a web series and big screen films in the works.

For me I just cannot handle the stress of zombies in these tough times these days. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

CNN NEWSROOM continues in a moment with the ever-outstanding Robyn Curnow. Please do stay with us.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Downplaying the coronavirus, President Trump in his own words admitting he deliberately misled the American people. But what was the cost?


CURNOW: Also burned to the ground. Europe's largest refugee camp is now in ashes, as you can see here. My guest is the head of one of the eight organizations on the ground and he's demanding the permanent evacuation of the camp.