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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Sally Brings More Rain; Israel, UAE and Bahrain Sign Agreements; Authorities Brace for More Fire Deaths; Donald Trump Less Trusted than Xi, Putin, on Virus; France's COVID-19 Resurgence; Japanese Lawmakers Electing New Prime Minister; U.S. Image Plummets Over Pandemic Response. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 16, 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, a disaster in slow motion. Hurricane Sally creeping towards the U.S. Gulf Coast, officials warning of extreme, life-threatening flash flooding.

At the White House, Israel officially normalizes relations between two Arab countries. A significant and historic day for the region; a dark day, say the Palestinians.

And meet Japan's new prime minister, a man described as almost a carbon copy of the old prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

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VAUSE: At this hour, a giant rainmaker, Hurricane Sally, is barely moving, taking aim at the United States, in what's already one of the busiest seasons ever in the Atlantic. An average year would see 6 hurricanes. Sally is number 7 and we are now only reaching the peak of the season. There are still 2 and a half months to go.

Hurricane Sally is creeping towards the U.S. Gulf Coast, moving slower than the average person walks. Experts fear that slow movement could mean historic inland flooding. Some areas seeing months of rain in just days. Some roads are already underwater in parts of Alabama. Florida has activated its National Guard to prepare for search and rescues.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is monitoring the situation for us from the World Weather Center but first let's go to Polo Sandoval in Mobile, Alabama.

They are trying to work out how and when and where this storm will make landfall, it's pretty tricky.

What's it like where you are? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, simply put, this is a stubborn storm. We have been dealing with this for hours already today and the meteorologists here in Mobile are making it clear that we are in it for the long haul.

This is described as a marathon. This rain that we continue to see because of the storm's slow creeping northward toward where we are, we're looking over the Mobile River, just beyond this railing here.

If you keep going about a mile south from where we are standing, this empties out into the Mobile Bay. There is a concern that the rain, combined with the storm surge, could lead to that catastrophic flooding that you mentioned a little bit ago.

As for the wind, it does kick up. Everything that you might expect, you've stood in these before, everything that you would expect with a category one storm. But it's the rain that is really concerning for officials here through the night and into tomorrow as far as power outages.

The storm hasn't even made landfall yet and we are already experiencing at least 20,000 people throughout the state of Alabama that are left in the dark.

Finally, I should mention that storm surge forecast, the prediction put out about an hour ago, it's going to lead back to about a meter and a half, at least here in Alabama. But it certainly is doing little to calm any concerns of city officials, not just here in Alabama but in neighboring Mississippi and in neighboring Florida, specifically the Florida Panhandle, where they have already recorded at least 7 inches of rain or so. Those numbers are rising tonight. Back to you, John.

VAUSE: While we have you, looking around you at the preparations and what everyone's doing there, how are they preparing for a climate crisis like this?

SANDOVAL: They've been here before already this storm season so they are certainly not taking it lightly. We drove around Mobile, Alabama, the last couple of days and you see businesses boarded up.

The beaches here, the governor closed those off, both public and private beaches, so those are going to be at restricted access for the next day or so. For the most, part people are heeding the warnings, John. We're not seeing people driving around as you often see, or people taking photos.

We are moving toward midnight, so it's going to be interesting to see whether people continue to stay indoors once they break. But we will be out here tonight monitoring the situation and we're making it very clear the worst is still to come.

VAUSE: OK, Polo.

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VAUSE: The Trump administration calls it the dawn of a new Middle East. That would be hyperbolic. The agreement normalizing relations between Israel and two Arab Gulf countries, the UAE and Bahrain, is historic and significant but in practice it seems to formalize what was already informally in place, as well as presenting a united security front to Iran.

What is does not achieve is any movement toward ending the generations-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more, reporting from Jerusalem.

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OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A day that is no doubt historic unfolding on the White House lawn as president Donald Trump hosted prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to sign normalization agreements, bringing relationships that had been behind the scenes for years and perhaps decades out into the open.

The primary driving factor between these agreements is an effective anti Iran alliance between the Sunni Gulf states and Israel.

Trump and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called this a shift in the region and a shift towards peace. Netanyahu saying it was peace for peace, a result of Israel's strength. Noteworthy, the foreign minister of the UAE says one of the important parts of this was the halting of Israel's annexation of parts of the West Bank, a halting of the annexation of Palestinian territory.

Although the Palestinians were not there and accused both the UAE and Bahrain of betraying their cause and of betraying Jerusalem, this does keep alive the possibility of a 2 state solution as noted by Bahrain and the UAE.

An important aspect of this for both Arab countries who say they are still committed to the 2002 Saudi-led Arab peace initiative. Netanyahu and Trump promising that there are more countries, more Arab nations that are waiting in line, perhaps soon to normalize relations with Israel and bring those relations out to the forefront.

But the reality check in the middle of this: as the Emirati foreign minister began to speak, rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, two rockets according to the Israeli military, one of those intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system.

So although this brings to the forefront relations between countries that have never been at war, there are ongoing conflicts in the region, like that between Gaza and Israel.

One of the big questions hanging over the ceremony was coronavirus. Israel will be returning to lockdown shortly after Netanyahu returns to the country because of how bad the coronavirus numbers are here.

Perhaps the first country in the world to reimpose a general lockdown because of the situation, 4,973 new cases on Monday, a new record, according to the numbers provided by the ministry of health.

One of the key questions as Netanyahu attended the ceremony on the White House lawn, would he be wearing a mask?

Would there be social distancing?

Both questions emphatically no and that can play quite poorly here, because Netanyahu has hyped and stressed the importance of mask wearing and of social distancing, two things notably absent at the White House ceremony.

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LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Very quickly, Netanyahu will have to pivot from the celebrations in Washington, to the domestic situation here, high unemployment, ongoing protests and that second general lockdown looming just a couple of days away -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

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VAUSE: Right, now officials count at least 87 major wildfires raging on the U.S. West Coast and their impact is being felt all the way to the East Coast.

Also, with France now seeing a second surge of the coronavirus, what has changed for the doctors and nurses on the pandemic front lines?

A close-up look inside a major city hospital when we come back.

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VAUSE: With scores of wildfires raging across the West Coast of the United States, are pushing firefighters beyond exhaustion, creating the worst air quality on the planet. At least 36 people have died; authorities are bracing for more fatalities. CNN's Martin Savidge has the latest.

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MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice over): In Oregon, firefighters loading up and heading out, including elite hotshot teams, trying to rein in the massive Riverside fire outside Portland. One of three dozen blazes burning in the state.

The effects of the historic western wildfires now spreading far beyond the region, seen from space smoke from the fires streaming across the country, reaching the skies of New York.

The smoke even forced flight cancellations. Schools in northern Oregon remain closed as millions shelter in place from smoke choked air classified a health hazard.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): These fires in Oregon, they're apocalyptic going through a couple of towns that had been absolutely incinerated.

SAVIDGE (voice over): Oregon's Governor says the state is stretched to its limits. Last week, it had 3,000 firefighters. This week, nearly double that number and still more are needed. And in an ominous sign for the first time in its history, Oregon is preparing to use its mobile morgue, with a team of 75 forensics specialists.

CAPT. TIM FOX, OREGON STATE POLICE: We're able to take those trailers out and set them in a central location and this time we're able to take in any fire victims from all the counties enter this facility.

SAVIDGE (voice over): With as many as 50 people listed as missing or unaccounted for, the State is bracing for a rising death toll even after the flames subside.

FOX: Purpose behind this facility is so that we could give families closures.

SAVIDGE (voice over): In neighboring California where the fires have been even deadlier, the Campus family considers themselves fortunate to be alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the fire coming down to burn all my barn.

SAVIDGE (voice over): First trying to fight the flames on their farm before fleeing.

On the outskirts of Los Angeles at the Bobcat fire, a desperate battle is shaping up between firefighters in flames at the historic Mount Wilson Observatory. The next 24 hours could be decisive.

CAPT. DAVE GILLOTTE, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPT.: We've got a lot of dirty brush and dirty growth laddered and layered.

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GILLOTTE: And so it burns deep down in there and climbs through the trees and then it rolls with the hills. Luckily, we don't have any wind driving the fire right now.

SAVIDGE (voice over): Back outside Portland, in the near deserted neighborhoods of Estacada, volunteers deliver food to those refusing to leave.

TONY DIFRANCISCO, ESTACADA RESIDENT: We all had a pretty grim outlook and the fact that the firefighter stopped it, nothing short of amazing. I think it's a miracle.

SAVIDGE (voice over): Across Oregon and much of the West, they will need a lot more miracles in the days and weeks to come.

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VAUSE: CNN's Martin Savidge reporting from the U.S. state of Oregon.

Back to our top story, intense winds and torrential rain are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast as Hurricane Sally crawls toward landfall.

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VAUSE (voice-over): These are live images from Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. You can see the water there, crashing over a road. It's late at night there, just after 11 o'clock in the evening. There is no one, out as you can see, the roads are deserted and this road in particular has been flooded.

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VAUSE: The storm is moving at about 3 kilometers per hour and experts warn some areas could see months of rain in just days. That could bring potentially life-threatening flooding. Tens of thousands of people have lost power already. Damage is reported throughout the region.

Lt. Darren Versiga is an overnight supervisor at Pascagoula, Mississippi, police department. He joins us now on the line.

Officer, thank you for being with us.

What is the update there now for your region?

You are abut 40 miles from where this storm is expected to make landfall. A number of flash flood warnings have been canceled. It seems like maybe it is easing up where you are.

It is. We are just out getting a lot of the wind and we're having power outages, limbs down the road, a few power poles that have snapped. But it is not as severe as it could have been, obviously.

And the water hasn't risen to what we expected it a few hours ago. Right now, we are doing fairly well. It is windy here. We do have wet roads and we are still trying to keep our citizens safe.

VAUSE: You say could have been a lot worse.

Is there a possibility, are you still preparing that this could take a turn for the worse?

VERSIGA: Oh, yes. As I said, we just started getting wind an hour ago. And it is picking up as we speak. So we are not out of the woods yet.

But that means we want our citizens to be safe inside and if they need us, to give us a call. We have plans in effect and we can pick up some people if we need to and bring them closer to a shelter. We can do that. So right now, we are just on standby and everything at this point looks fairly well.

VAUSE: I understand shelters will begin shutting down on Wednesday but how do you manage to evacuate people into safe areas in the midst of a pandemic?

VERSIGA: That is a question we had went (sic) over before, before the storm hit. It is what it is. You put one foot in front of another. Right now we need to get to the safety the most safe we can bring our citizens to the shelter during this storm. We will worry about the pandemic later.

VAUSE: Yes. And very quickly, I am looking at some of the images around the state. It seems that most people are staying inside and hunkering down.

Is that your experience?

Most people are taking this seriously and have basically prepared for this?

VERSIGA: Yes, they are taking it pretty seriously. We haven't seen a lot of traffic. A couple went around the barricades, sightseeing. And we put them on their way. But most everybody's at home so we are not seeing a lot of people out at all.

VAUSE: Officer Darren Versiga, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

VERSIGA: Anytime. Thank you for calling.

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VAUSE: As he has done in the past, the U.S. president is attempting some revisionist history when it comes to the coronavirus and his response.

During an ABC town hall filled with falsehoods and confusion, he claimed that he took strong action, even up-played the threat from the virus.

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TRUMP: Well, I didn't downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up- played in terms of action. My action was very strong. What I did was with China, I put a ban on with Europe and we would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on.

So that was called action. Not with the mouth but in actual fact. We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on. Whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important. So we saved a lot of lives when we did that.

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VAUSE: Really?

Did they?

The U.S. death toll will hit 200,000 in the coming days. President Trump has frequently issued false and misleading information throughout the pandemic, while ignoring the advice coming from the government's senior leading medical experts.

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VAUSE: He himself even admitted to journalist Bob Woodward that he deliberately downplayed the virus and yet in a newly-obtained audio from an April interview, Trump calls COVID-19 "the plague."

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TRUMP: This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you are the wrong person, you don't have a chance.

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, yes, exactly.

TRUMP: A friend of mine died. A great real estate developer from Manhattan.

WOODWARD: Listen, students of mine, I teach a journalism seminar. They have written me that have had it. And one of the women said she had it. They said she was cured and they kept coming back with new symptoms, strange things happening, she had intense headaches --

TRUMP: What happened?

WOODWARD: She is in agony. And they are telling her, oh, you're cured now. You're over it. You've said it. This is a scourge.

TRUMP: It is the plague.

WOODWARD: It is the plague.

TRUMP: And Bob, it is so easily transmittable. You wouldn't even believe it.

WOODWARD: I know.

TRUMP: You can be in the room. I was in the White House a couple of days ago, a meeting of 10 people in the Oval Office and a guy sneezed, innocently. Not a horrible sneeze. The entire room bailed out, including me, by the way.

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VAUSE: Yes, it's unbelievable how contagious it is, because now in the United States infections exceed 6.6 million. Johns Hopkins University recorded more than 1,200 deaths on Tuesday. CNN's Nick Watt has all the details.

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NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The national daily case count is falling.

All rosy, right?

Wrong.

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: You can't relax with this thing. It's relentless.

WATT: More new daily cases now than when we start started going into lockdowns, on average, more new cases now even then during those dark days of April.

DR. ARABIA MOLLETTE, BROOKDALE HOSPITAL: This is a war zone. It's a medical war zone.

WATT: New York crushed its curve but 55 school staffers have now tested positive. The teachers union says they're not ready to reopen.

Remember, kids can get sick. Nine-year-old Eli Lipman and his dad Jonathan both got sick in March, still suffering, so-called long haulers.

ELI LIPMAN, CORONAVIRUS VICTIM: It felt like getting -- the day after you got smashed into a wall. Like, you're achy, you're sore, you're tired but not that tired where you go to sleep. I can't go to sleep.

WATT: Many Michigan State sororities and fraternities now ordered to quarantine after cases in the county are up over 50 percent in a month. All students at the University of Arizona are urged to shelter place through the end of this month.

And pastor Joel Osteen planning to hold services at his Houston megachurch again next month, 25 percent capacity but that's still more than 4,000 people.

And a vaccine might not be a quick fix.

HASELTINE: Even if it's effective, which is -- and very effective, it's going to take a year or two before everybody is protected.

WATT: And the FDA has to green-light any vaccine.

Will the public take their word?

BILL GATES, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: We saw, with the completely bungled plasma statements, that when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails. And so the FDA lost a lot of credibility there.

WATT: Gates just told "STAT," "This has been a mismanaged situation every step of the way. It's shocking. It's unbelievable" -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

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VAUSE: Europe has been dealing with small flare-ups and that's bringing fears of a second wave of the pandemic. But the World Health Organization says there's still a long way to go before the first wave is over.

Dr. David Navarro told members of the British Parliament, "It is much worse than any of the science fiction about pandemics. This is really serious. We are not even in the middle of it yet. We are still at the beginning."

In Ireland, the lower house of Parliament is back in session after the health minister tested negative for the virus. Earlier Parliament was suspended. The entire Irish cabinet was told to self isolate because Donnelly was feeling unwell.

In Sweden, the infection rate is decreasing. The country's public health agency says it's actually the lowest since the start of the outbreak, just 1.2 percent. That's despite more people getting tested and despite Sweden's apparent strategy of herd immunity.

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VAUSE: France is struggling to contain a new surge of infections. More than 800 clusters are now under investigation. CNN's Melissa Bell reports from one of them.

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MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the young driving the newest wave of COVID-19, French officials say. Now they are passing it on to their older relatives. This dramatization by health authorities meant as a warning of how France's rising numbers are now beginning to lead to a strain on hospitals.

Like this one in Bordeaux, one of France's hotspots. The head of the ICU says it is now nearing capacity with very little known about its longer term ability to cope.

DR. OLIVIER JOANNES-BOYAU, BORDEAUX UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Second wave is probably less high, with less patients that arrive at the same moment but unfortunately, probably more prolonged.

BELL: For the doctors and nurses on the front line, it's about dealing with a virus that is here to stay. This hospital is preparing for the arrival of more COVID-19 patients but unlike last spring, will continue to treat other emergencies as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The University Hospital will be dealing with those two populations and that is what makes the situation harder. It's also going to be harder than last time, because this wave, I think, will grow progressively and then last over time.

BELL: But as he shows us around the ICU, Dr. Joannes-Boyau says that at least now lot more is known. The use of steroids and specially adapted ventilators that can now avoid contamination mean that this time, intubations are down 50 percent since the spring he says.

But intubation is dangerous and intubation is painful and it's a last resort.

JOANNES-BOYAU: Yes. Intubation increase the risk of (inaudible). Sometimes we don't have a choice and we have to intubate the patient and ventilate the patient, because he's not able to use the oxygen that we bring to him.

BELL: So doctors are better at dealing with COVID-19 but that doesn't mean they are not worried.

JOANNES-BOYAU: The major problem is to keep the wave really, really low. If the wave grow up a lot, we will face a large number of patients with COVID that will come and we will not be able to treat and to manage all of the patients.

BELL: With capacity fast approaching and the hospitals in France's hotspots, it's a question of the system's ability to cope that is once again being posed, let's dramatically but no less urgently -- Melissa Bell, CNN.

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VAUSE: India now has the fastest rate of infection in the world. They are now approaching -- passing 500 million confirmed cases and second only to the U.S. in total infections. The death toll there crossed 80,000 on Tuesday.

India's infection rate has increased exponentially in recent weeks after taking almost six months to record 1 million cases.

Still to come, lawmakers in Japan are voting this hour for their new prime minister. A closer look at the man who will succeed Shinzo Abe. That is just ahead.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Before this day is over, Japan will have a new prime minister. Lawmakers in both houses of parliament are voting this hour. These are live images from Tokyo, where it has gone 1:30 in the afternoon. These are the -- this is the lower house, where they are voting.

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It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, will take over from Shinzo Abe. CNN's Will Ripley following developments live from Hong Kong.

So, you know, Will, this is a man who is following very closely in the footsteps of Shinzo Abe. They're talking about a continuity of policy, and not much is going to change.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There is nobody who is more familiar with the policies of Shinzo Abe than Yoshihide Suga, because in his role for the last seven and a half years as chief cabinet secretary, he has been not only, essentially, the chief of staff but also the press secretary for the prime minister.

And he has been a behind-the-scenes operator in terms of implementing Abe's policy initiatives, whether it be the economy and economics or trying to tackle Japan's aging society and other demographic problems, like the fact that women are overeducated and underemployed. And COVID-19. This has been the new one, of course, which the Abe administration has really been pummeled in the Japanese press and in public for their handling of the -- of the pandemic, some accusing them of trying to focus so much on saving the Olympics in the early months that they didn't act quickly enough to protect Japanese lives and the economy, which contracted by more than 25 percent since the start of the pandemic. It's a record contraction.

So there are a lot of problems that Suga is inheriting from his old boss, but he also was a key orchestrator of the policies. And the Liberal Democratic Party, which he's now the leader of, which is why he's basically guaranteed to be prime minister, because of this vote that is happening. The leader of the LDP is almost certainly going to be the prime minister. He certainly is aware of the challenges that he's facing, John.

VAUSE: Shinzo Abe had one last push to try and, you know, beef up Japan's defense strategy by including a missile -- ballistic missile program. He talked about that. He's been an advocate of that for quite some time.

Do we know if a Prime Minister Suga will have that same policy?

RIPLEY: This was, perhaps, the cornerstone of Abe's goal for Japan. You know, many U.S. presidents had been saying that Japan needed to have another look at its pacifist constitution, which has been in place since the end of World War II, and to try to take a more assertive stance here in Asia Pacific, especially considering how China continues to expand beyond its borders.

But the policies of moving away from pacifism faced huge opposition. I remember in Tokyo a few years ago, massive protests, some of the biggest the Japanese capital had seen in many years. So there's a lot of pushback. And that is one of the policy initiatives that Prime Minister Abe was never able to get through, but it is very much supported by the nationalist kind of old guard of the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP.

So it will be a big challenge for him to try to push forward with that, but the immediate concern is salvaging the economy and making sure that the pandemic situation is under control. And also, what to do about Tokyo 2020, which is now postponed by a year but may not happen at all, depending on what's happening globally with the pandemic. And this is an event that Japan has been planning for for many years and has spent many billions of dollars on, John.

VAUSE: Yes. The economy is an interesting question, because the Bank of Japan says they're out of ammunition when it comes to monetary easing, so you may have to come up with something new.

More to talk about next hour. Will, I hope you'll join us. Will Ripley, live from Hong Kong. I know you will. Thank you.

Well, moving now to another side of the Russian opposition leader. Alexei Navalny is on the mend. He posted a picture on Instagram of himself and his family from his hospital bed in Berlin.

The Kremlin critic says he can hardly do anything, but he is able to breath on his own. Navalny became violently ill after drinking tea at an airport in Siberia last month. German doctors say he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, made exclusively by the Soviets. Russia denies any involvement. How about that?

Well, still to come, while President Trump boasts about his handling of the pandemic, the rest of the world weighs in on his performance. And they don't think it's very impressive. What a surprise. More on that when we come back.

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VAUSE: Louisville, Kentucky, has agreed to a record payment of $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor, the young woman who was fatally shot when police stormed her apartment back in March.

Taylor's death led to months of protests across the United States, as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, protesting police brutality and demanding social justice.

The city admitted no wrongdoing but did agreed to institute sweeping police reforms as part of the settlement. Taylor's family say they will continue to push for criminal charges, which are yet to be brought against the officers involved.

To the rest of the world, when it comes to the handling of the pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump is less trustworthy than China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin. A Pew Research survey of people in 13 countries finds the image and the reputation of the U.S. has plummeted. Isa Soares has details.

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ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As more American lives are lost every day, President Trump continues to defend his handling of COVID-19.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I took tremendous steps and saved probably two or two and a half million lives by doing what we did early.

SOARES: Internationally, however, the world doesn't share his self- appraisal. According to a new report by the Pew Research Center of 13 nations, a median of just 15 of people believe the U.S. has done a good job handling the crisis. Even China, where the pandemic began, received better reviews than the U.S.

Pew, which polled over 13,000 people from early June to early August also found that, internationally, the view of the United States overall has plummeted. In some countries, it's never been lower.

How about President Trump? How do these nations rate him? According to Pew, the median here, 16 percent of all nations surveyed have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in a world affairs.

And, when compared to other leaders, well, the president doesn't stack up very well, behind Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who the president has criticized in the past, received the highest approval rating, with the median of 76 percent of those surveyed having confidence in her leadership.

But with less than 50 days until the U.S. election, President Trump's focus likely isn't on how he's perceived internationally. Rather, it's about rallying enough support inside America ahead of the November 3 poll.

Isa Soares, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Nicholas Burns served as undersecretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. He's currently a foreign policy adviser to the Biden campaign. He's with us from Westport, Massachusetts.

Ambassador Burns, thank you for taking the time.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER, JOE BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: You know, this Pew study was interesting, because it ranked five world leaders in terms of the level of confidence they would do the right thing in world affairs.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the highest level of trust. That's followed by the French president, Emmanuel Macron. Then we have Boris Johnson of the U.K. somewhere in the middle.

[00:40:06]

What's interesting, Vladimir Putin comes next, then Xi Jinping of China. The least trusted out of those five leaders is Donald J. Trump. It was shocking but not surprising. And I'm wondering if this says to you the damage which is currently being done to the international reputation of the United States, is for the most part, being driven by the actions of one man who happens to be the president.

BURNS: I think that's correct. I think this is a devastating portrait of Donald Trump's leadership and what people think of it. But you know, what could we all expect?

Donald Trump took the United States out of the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic and withdrew American funding. He took us out of the Paris climate change agreement. We're the only country in the world not part of it tests. That's the major global crisis, long-term. And in a time of huge numbers of refugees worldwide, he's closed his -- America's doors to refugees.

So people are watching what he's doing, and they don't like what he's doing.

VAUSE: Then there's sort of the real-world impact from, you know, Trump's failed pandemic response, which is beyond that daily death count. Here's a headline from the Pew Center, as well. "Coronavirus, Trump Chill International Enrollment at U.S. Colleges."

You know, that's one example. It's a big deal, because that's a big money earner for those colleges. But what are the other implications here for the United States internationally, especially among allies and the low opinion they now have of the United States?

BURNS: Well, the big implications for the United States are that the allies -- and I'm a former ambassador to NATO -- don't trust the president of the United States because he continually critiques the NATO alliance, and he's been particularly pointed in his criticism of the leader who received the greatest confidence by people around the world in this Pew poll, Angela Merkel.

And our allies are at the great power differential between the U.S. and Russia in the transatlantic region, but we've never had a president who's been so negative about NATO, and our allies reflect that -- reflect that view in this poll.

VAUSE: You know, when Donald Trump was elected four years ago, many saw that outcome as not being reflective of the country and its values. There was a comfort for many world leaders that President Trump was just an aberration. If he wins a second term, it will be not so much an aberration but rather affirmation for the values of the country?

BURNS: Well, it will say a lot about the country, obviously. It will say a lot about the damage that Donald Trump could do in the second term.

Even John Bolton, the arch conservative former national security adviser to Trump, said publicly a month ago he feared that Trump could take the United States out of NATO, leave NATO in a second term. That's one of the reasons -- it's one of the many, many reasons I'm supporting Joe Biden. He'd be a much stronger president of the United States, much more of unifying president and, frankly, one who knows what he's doing around the world in foreign policy.

VAUSE: It will be a critical election. They say that every time, but this year, I guess, more than most.

BURNS: Yes, big election.

VAUSE: We'll see you next hour. You're going to stick around. We're going to have more on the smoke and mirrors of Trump international deal making. But for now, thank you.

BURNS: Thank you.

VAUSE: And a quick programming note, 1 a.m. this Friday, London time, 8 a.m. in Hong Kong, watch CNN's Anderson Cooper moderate a town hall with the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. You will see it only on CNN.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us, please. WORLD SPORT is up next.

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