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At This Hour

Blinken in Mideast to Bolster Ceasefire, Vows to Help Rebuild Gaza; White House Expects U.S. to Reach 50 Percent of All Adults Fully Vaccinated Today; America Reckons with Racism One Year after George Floyd's Murder. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 11:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: That drove this, that it fades?


PARIS STEVENS, GEORGE FLOYD'S COUSIN: I'm not worried. I'm not worried at all. With our family, all of us together, we're going to continue this journey. And as you know, I'll always say, we have to keep walking the walk.

We can't do this alone. Our --

BOLDUAN: I'm going to give it one second and, hopefully, we will make this connection -- we will reconnect with all of them. I'm just giving it one second.

I think, unfortunately, the connection did not come back.

Okay. Thank you, all three of you, so much. We will reconnect again. We you cannot do anything about these technical glitches on live though sometimes T.V.

Let's move on to this, what we're also watching at this hour. Mark your calendars for early next month. The White House just confirmed the date that is set for President Biden to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month in Geneva. The leaders will be meeting on June 16th at the end of Biden's first international trip since taking office. So, much more to come there.

But there is also important developments in the Middle East. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Blinken over there to help bolster the ceasefire and the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after the deadly round of fighting that spanned 11 days.

This morning, Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who you see there, as well as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

CNN's Nic Robertson is joining me right now with kind of the very latest. And I'm wondering, Nic, what you heard in Blinken's message that he brought over to Israel. What is realistically going to come of this visit? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there seems to be some cash on the table. Secretary of state saying that he is giving the Palestinians, subject to congressional approval, $75 million in development aid, he's also giving them $5.5 million for disaster immediate help in Gaza and giving another 32 million to the U.N. in Gaza as well to help the Palestinians there. So that is sort of the big message to the Palestinians. The United States is here to support you financially, help you rebuild after the conflict.

And the message for Israel has been very clear. We're here. We're your friend. We're you're ally. We stand behind you. But he got thanked from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for that and also thanked for, you know, supplying the military hardware for Israel's Iron Dome defensive shield, which saved many lives, and Secretary Blinken commented on that.

But he also commented that there is a long way to go between the sides here to build trust. And perhaps something that is absent here is the -- any initiative to sort of make a big diplomatic push to bring a lasting durable peace.

But the aim of this visit really is to prop up that ceasefire, keep tensions down and, therefore, keep alive the possibility of that big peace deal somewhere down the line.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Even if it is just a glimmer, really, at this point after what we just saw over the past 11 days. Thank you, Nic, great reporting.

Coming up for us still, Moderna making a big announcement about its vaccine and it could mean very good news for so many kids and their families.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, a moment to celebrate, a fantastic milestone. The White House expects today the country will hit the point where half of all adults in the United States are fully vaccinated.

Also, good news on the vaccine front for younger kids. This morning, Moderna announced that their vaccine is safe and appears effective for children as young as 12. The company says that of the almost 4,000 adolescents that were given the vaccine, the actual vaccine, in their clinical trial, not one of them contracted COVID-19 after their second dose.

Joining me now is Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean at the Brown University School of Public Health. It's good to see you, Ashish.

So, Moderna's announcement, now it would mean a second vaccine could be available very soon to younger people as young as 12. What does that mean for the country? What does that mean for the vaccine effort?


Look, this is just more good news. A couple of things to remember, one is we really now have several vaccine that are incredibly effective, and this will be the second one that will be available for 12 to 17- year-olds. There really hasn't been a shortage yet for that group, meaning, if you're 12 to 17-year-old now, you can get the Pfizer vaccine. There is no advantage of Moderna. It probably is just as good as Pfizer. They're both terrific. But it will also be really important once we get more vaccines around the world for younger people to get either one of these two vaccines.

BOLDUAN: Yes, no shortage there. It's like we're -- what an amazing turnaround this is. When we were counting the doses that were leaving facilities to get there at first, and now there is no shortage of it. This just adds to the goodness of these vaccines and science.


And then the good news from the White House, they're expecting that we're going to reach this point today of 50 percent of adults fully vaccinated in America. And I'm sitting there and I can't tell if this is my cynicism creeping in, but do you look at that as the country is half vaccinated or as half not vaccinated?

JHA: Oh, I definitely see it has half vaccinated. Again, part of it is a little historical context. There has never been a vaccine or a therapy that half of all American adults have gotten in this short order. We still have plenty of work to do. We have to get to that 70 percent that President Biden laid out. I'd like to get higher than that.

So I'm not saying we're done but I think we should definitely look at this as half full and celebrate for all the progress we've made.

BOLDUAN: What do you think of these incentives that we're seeing, you know, million dollar lotteries? I think we just saw something that Knicks tickets are now going to be offered to try to incentivize people to get vaccines. What do you think of that?

JHA: Yes. You know, it's funny, right? Because a lot of people are like, wait a second, these vaccines are so great, why do we have to get people incentives? My take is there are a lot of people who are on the fence, people who aren't 100 percent sure. Maybe it's a bit difficult for them to get that vaccine. If this helps those people jump off the fence and get the shot, it's great for them, it's great for everybody else. So I'm a fan. Anything that gets people vaccinated and gets this pandemic behind us, I'm in.

BOLDUAN: It is also still just shocking when people, you know, in other parts of the world will do anything to get a vaccine that we're having to pay people to get vaccines here.

Let me ask you about schools really quickly, because the two largest school districts in the country, New York City and Los Angeles, they are saying that they will be fully open for in-person classes in the fall and New York says that it's not even going to offer a remote option, L.A. will. Do you think all school districts should be making this announcement at this point? Do you think districts also should be offering remote classes in the fall as an option?

JHA: Yes. I think the science on this is very clear. There is no question in my mind that, you know, we're going to have plenty of vaccines for every adult. We already do. Infection numbers are going to be low. There is a lot of money in the rescue plan for schools to upgrade their ventilation. There really is no excuse not to have full in-person classes.

Could I imagine for some high-risk kids maybe having a remote option? Sure, that could make sense. Those carve-outs may be reasonable. But for the average kid and the average parent, adult, in-person classes is where we need to be.

BOLDUAN: Looking overseas for a second, Dr. Jha, there has been more talk about variant that has been seen in India and how quickly it's spreading in the U.K. The government there has restricted travel to eight different areas that are most impacted. But the U.K. also has one of the most successful vaccine rollouts in the world. So what do you take from this? Does this -- is this a concerning data point for you?

JHA: Yes. So this one, the B 16172, what people talk about as the Indian variant, this is a concerning variant. And let me say why it concerns me. So, it appears probably to be the most contagious variant we've identified so far, having totally nailed down the science on that, but that's what it looks like.

The good news is our vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, that's been tested, really does hold up very, very well against this variant. So I'm not worried about escaping the immune response. But in the U.K., they haven't used a lot of Pfizer. They've used AstraZeneca, which has lower efficacy. So we have got to track this closely. This will become a global variant that we're going to have to manage and deal with, all the more reasons why every American needs to be getting vaccinated relatively quickly.

BOLDUAN: Yes. With all these good news, I hate this virus. It's just like finding different ways every time we have these good milestones. But we continue. It's good to see you, Dr. Jha, thank you.

JHA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the murder of George Floyd ignited a racial reckoning in America but lawmakers will miss the president's deadline to get a deal on a police reform bill by today. What will -- will there then be lasting change?



BOLDUAN: George Floyd's murder changed the world. The video of his shocking killing at the hands of police reverberated around the globe and became a rallying cry for change, sparking massive protests, a sea of people in city after city, black, white, brown, all together, all calling for change, demanding justice and demanding more than just talk.

These images from last summer are truly unforgettable. George Floyd's murder became an inflection point.

So, one year later, where does America's reckoning on race stand?

Joining me right now is Rashaad Robinson, President of Color of Change, a racial justice and civil rights advocacy organization. It is good to see you again, Rashad. It has been quite a bit.

Tell me what you see has changed in the last year. What do you see as the greatest change after this year of racial reckoning?

RASHAD ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, COLOR OF CHANGE: I think the greatest change has been the cultural change, the changes that are happening all around the country in terms of more and more people waking up to the problems.

You know, this time last year, many people thought the best we could do in terms of activism was clap outside of our windows or uplift investigative journalism. But racial justice brought people into the streets, moved people to action in new ways and in powerful ways and woke up folks who were not black, many people who are not black to the issues that the community was facing.

We have to translate that into actual rule change because sentiment is not enough.


It doesn't actually change lived conditions. But racial justice became a majoritarian issue and now we have to work to make it a governing majority, not just in terms of our policies but the practices of corporations, the practices of media, the practices of media, the practices of so many areas of society where the rules and the systems are constantly set up to put black people in harm's way.

We constantly say that the system is not broken. It's operating exactly the way it was designed, and that is what we have to continue to fight to change and we're going to need as many people invested in that effort as possible.

BOLDUAN: And there are so many different areas that require examination, real gut checks, real -- and real change, in many places, really, tough conversations. But some of the things that we've seen, I was just kind of looking through a list at some of the, if you want to call it, cultural changes we've seen in the last year, like Washington's football team dropping its offensive name after fighting against doing that for years, NASCAR banning the display of confederate flags, companies rethinking brands to eliminate racial stereotypes that we've seen in many of the items that many did not think of before, more than 100 confederate monuments removed from public and private places.

Is that enduring change though, Rashad?

ROBINSON: So, you know, that's symbols, and symbols are incredibly important. But just as much as we want to change sort of the -- sort of the statues that are sort of in our public spaces, we also want to change the statutes that are actually the laws. And both of those things have to work together.

You know, we oftentimes say that we can't mistake presence for power. Visibility and awareness is not the same as changing the rules. And so that is what we are actually sort of continuing to push on. But that's all important. We've also seen many corporations speak out and stand up, and then right after January 6th, make more statements but then still give money to some of those politicians that played sort of relationship, had relationships with the insurrectionists, or refused to actually certify the election.

So we've watched corporations sort of say one thing sometimes and do another. It's why we launched this program called, Beyond the Statement, which really focuses on corporations moving beyond the statement, pushing corporations that they say they want to address racial justice issues, they have to do racial equity audits. It's why we are pushing companies who say black lives matter to really have them interrogate and stop funding things like police foundations, which have largely been able to provide resources to police without the accountability and transparency that communities deserve, politicians who say they're on our side but take money from police unions who pretend like racial profiling and police violence doesn't exhale exist.

All of this is important to setting a new standard. We have to raise the floor in what's acceptable and push up the ceiling on what's possible. That's the power of culture change. But inside of culture change, we have to win real world victories. So whether it's actually getting the George Floyd act passed, where it has real teeth to deal with things like qualified immunity, which actually holds accountable police departments to transparency standards, or the work at the local level, all around the country, to roll back sort of the funding to police budgets, to actually deal with really investing money into places that we know will actually strengthen public safety.

You know, one thing we really talk about at Color of Change is not reimagining policing, but reimagining public safety. When we re- imagine public safety and we put things at the center, then we invest in things like mental health. We invest in things like health care and education and so many other things that we know make communities safe and whole. The policy change and the culture change has to be at the heart of the work and has to be at the heart of the legacy of our fight from last year, and our work in the years to come.

BOLDUAN: Well, that was what I was going to ask you about just really quickly. I had George Floyd's cousin just told me earlier this hour that she is extremely hopeful, she's extremely hopeful that change is coming, they're seeing it now, she says -- and she says she's not concerned the momentum is falling away, that the movement is stalled. Are you as hopeful as she is? Do you feel the momentum continues? Do you fear that as time passes though, it fades? ROBINSON: I wake up every morning for a fierce sense of optimism for what's possible. When I get the stories and I see the activism of everyday people willing to stand up and take risk, black folks at the center of that story, by allies of every single race wanting to figure out what they can do. Yes, movements have always ebbed and flowed.


But over the last ten years, if you think about the progress that we have made, where people said, saying black lives matter made you a racist to like having Black Lives Matter on streets and raised up in front of Capitol buildings. All of these things is important.

And so what we want to do is make sure that we just don't simply accept presence but that we build power and that we change rules.

BOLDUAN: It's really good to see you, Rashad, thanks for being here on this day.

And thank you all so much for joining us today At This Hour. John King picks up our coverage right now after a break.