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At This Hour

South Korea Says, North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile from Sea; FDA Planning to Allow Mix-and-Match COVID Vaccine Boosters; Alex Murdaugh Denied Bond in Housekeeper Settlement Case. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Breaking news, North Korea has fired a ballistic missile overnight. The latest test appears to have been launched from the sea, according to South Korean officials. It follows another potentially ominous weapons test in the region, China reportedly conducting a hypersonic missile launch, one capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. But China is denying those claims.

CNN's Will Ripley is live in Taiwan with more on this. Will, what do you know or are you picking up about both of these weapons tests?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here is what we're waiting for right now from North Korea, is their state media to release photos, which usually takes about 24 hours after the rest of the world finds out about this test, because we need to know if this ballistic missile actually was launched from a submarine, as is suspected. Japan actually saying that two missiles were launched, South Korea saying at least one missile. If they have actually now -- if they have the technology that allows them to launch a ballistic missile from one of their albeit pretty antiquated, noisy submarines, no match for the much modern fleet of the United States or the U.K. or even China, but still a potentially dangerous weapon because they can sneak up and they can launch.

The hypersonic missile that both North Korea claims they tested last month and also China is now denying that they tested, this hypersonic arms race is one of the most concerning trends analysts say that we're seeing in this part of the world, because now, if North Korea is getting closer to hypersonic missile technology, which means its travels at least five times the speed of sound, it could actually travel from Pyongyang to Washington in less than two hours. If North Korea has this, China has this, Russia has this, the United States is working to develop this technology, it's also very difficult to shoot down, they can change direction, they can literally fly in under the radar.

So, if you have North Korea now moving towards a hypersonic capability, China, we know that they have it, and also now potentially submarine-launched ballistic missiles, it's definitely an arms race and a lot of room for miscalculation, Kate. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great to see you, Will. Thanks so much.

Joining me now for more on this is David Sanger, White House and National Security Correspondent for The New York Times. It's good to see you, David.

When it comes to North Korea and this ballistic missile test, I saw it described as possibly the most significant demonstration of North Korea's military might since Joe Biden has taken office. What are they trying to do here?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICS AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think, Kate, the first thing they're trying to do is get some attention. So far, the Biden administration's method of dealing with North Korea has been largely to ignore them. They've put a lot of effort into trying to get back into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.


There's been no particular major outreach to the North Koreans. The North Koreans realize that President Biden isn't interested in the kind of summits that President Trump had. And so I think a good deal of this is pay attention to me. They also want to see if they can convince us that they have perfected the submarine launches that Will was discussing before. But as Will pointed out, their subs are not exactly hard to find. It's the Chinese tests that I think are more worrisome at this point than the North Korean ones.

BOLDUAN: That's what I was going to bring up. It does feel like every day we hear of another new missile launch in the region. I mean, you've been doing extensive reporting on the tension between the U.S. and China and China's denial of this hypersonic missile, saying that it was a routine spacecraft experiment, I believe, what is really going on here?

SANGER: Well, you know, routine spacecraft experiments can be used to understand things you need to know before you design a missile. The North Koreans and the Iranians at various points have put up satellites, small satellites, said this is a peaceful space launch, but, of course, the technology you need to get a satellite deployed into space is pretty similar to what you would need to be able to launch a warhead. What it's missing is the reentry part. And what we don't know about the Chinese test is what did that last segment of it look like. And, you know, probably my view would be in the U.S. interest to sort of begin to describe that.

As Will said, there is a hypersonic missile competition under way. The United States is not in a great position to argue for stopping these since the U.S. is also building them. But they are designed to defeat traditional missile defense. And I think the one thing you could conclude from this, Kate, is that 300 billion or more we've spent on missile defenses at this point is pretty much not going to do much against this kind of threat.

BOLDUAN: Welll, that's why I think probably one of the reasons you explored a provocative question recently, which is, is the United States now in a cold war with China? Where do you land on this?

SANGER: So, a lot of this issue depends on how you define the cold war and those in the administration say we're not in one point out rightly that the U.S. and China have much deeper economic entanglement than the U.S. and the Soviet Union ever did, that China is a technological competitor, an economic competitor, a military competitor. It's a much more complex relationship.

In my view, while that's true, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're not in a cold war, it just means that the elements of it are a lot more complicated. And you have some possibilities of avoiding military confrontation precisely because it would so hurt the economies of both sides.

BOLDUAN: David, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

SANGER: Always great to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

There are new developments out of Haiti this morning, after 17 missionaries, 16 of them American, were kidnapped over the weekend. A Haitian official now tells CNN the gang behind the abductions has laid out a ransom, demanding $17 million for the safe return of these missionaries.

We do know that the group includes men, women, five children, one just eight months old. They are being held in a location, we're told, near the capital of Port-au-Prince, and Haiti's justice minister tells CNN that they are believed to be safe for the moment. The FBI is assisting with that investigation.

Coming up still for us, the FDA is ready to approve mixing and matching coronavirus boosters. We're going to discuss why they're moving in this direction. That's next.



BOLDUAN: CNN has learned the FDA is planning to allow Americans to get a different coronavirus for their booster shot than their initial doses. The exact wording of what the guidance would is not yet clear, but sources say the agency is expected to make a broad authorization as soon as this week.

NIH has already presented evidence from an ongoing study showing that it doesn't matter which combination of vaccines people get, that mixing doses is safe and boosts immune response.

Joining me right now Dr. Peter Hotez, he is the co-director for the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital. It's good to have you back, Doctor.

What do you think of this? All good news? DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes. On the other hand, Kate, what I would say is there are really not too many instances where I think it would be necessary to make a switch. The reason I say that is, one, there is an abundance of the three different types of vaccines available here in the United States, and, you know, there may be some parts of the U.S. where one is limiting and you can't get it, but, generally speaking, they're widely available.

So, let's go through this one by one. So, the first two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which I got, I stuck with Pfizer, the reason being because there's always going to be more data on a vaccine coming from the same company. So, we'll always have more data on safety and the effectiveness if we stick with the same vaccines.


So, I stuck with Pfizer. I would probably recommend doing the same with Moderna, if you got two Moderna doses, stick with Moderna.

I think the one gray zone may be those who got a single dose of the J&J vaccine. There's now emerging data that a second dose looks really good and always looked that way from the phase one trial and gives really robust effectiveness when you give it in two doses.

I think the one study that's kind of spooking a lot of people is there was a meta archive preprint that suggested those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, when they got that second dose, they did better with one of the mRNA vaccines. I would be a little careful about that because, you know, the kinetics of the immune response with the J&J vaccine is a bit different. The peak in immune response tends to be delayed, and you also see more T-cell responses with the two doses of the J&J that you might see with the mRNA. So, there may be other advantages. So, the team that's doing those booster studies is going to be publishing additional studies to look at it later on.

So, possibly, the one place where you might want to make a switch is if you got a single dose of the J&J vaccine and you're at risk for clotting disorders, such as if you're pregnant or susceptible to thrombotic events or on birth control, you might want to switch to an mRNA. But beyond that, I often don't really see a need for a boost.

The biggest boost question I get by far is those who are overseas and don't have access to any of the vaccines used in the U.S., they got one of the Chinese vaccines or Russian vaccines, what should they do when they come to the United States. But that tends to be the bigger question.

BOLDUAN: That is so interesting how you lay it out. Thanks for that.

So, when it also then -- transitioning to another aspect of what we're constantly talking about is schools. When it comes to schools, we are learning more about dealing with COVID exposure in a different way. Instead of quarantine after all exposures, schools have been -- some schools have been evaluating a strategy of if exposed and exposed students test negative and have no symptoms, then they can stay in school and in person.

In Marietta, Georgia, where they're testing out the strategy, 3 percent of students who were exposed were found to test positive, which also means 97 percent of the students exposed were able to stay in class. What should we learn from this?

HOTEZ: Well, we're now understanding the importance of keeping kids in class, doing in-person classes, but then, again, if I were to take a step back, I would say the single most important thing to do is to ensure that everybody who walks into that school has a mask on, teachers, staff, bus drivers, the students, with the possible exception of some of the special needs kids who can't wear masks, and then vaccine mandates, making sure everyone who walks into the school who is eligible to get a vaccine gets vaccinated. That, overwhelmingly, are the two most important things you can do to ensure our kids are going to get safely through the school year.

This additional testing process, I think it's great. It builds in some added protection and reproach, but it's still not a substitute for the mainstays of keeping our kids in school.

BOLDUAN: Yes, maybe just further proof that the other mitigation efforts are just that important. It's good to see you, Doctor. Thank you.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Breaking news in to CNN, decision by the judge in the case of Alex Murdaugh as he appeared at a bond hearing in Columbia, South Carolina. Much more right after a break.



BOLDUAN: We do have breaking news coming in. Alex Murdaugh will remain behind bars. That's the decision just in from a South Carolina judge. The once prominent attorney who is accused of plotting his own killing as part of a wildlife insurance scheme was actually in court this morning on a different charge.

Let's get the very latest on the ground. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live outside the courthouse. Diane, so what happened?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. There are a lot of threads to the stories surrounding Alex Murdaugh. This one though this morning, not too long ago, Judge Clifton Newman denied bond to Alex Murdaugh, saying that he must undergo a psychiatric evaluation before bond could be considered again at a later date.

Now, these charges were on obtaining property under false pretenses and they're related to the 2018 death of the Murdaugh family housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield. According to the state prosecutors, Alex Murdaugh came to the Satterfield family at Gloria's funeral, saying that he could sue him after she died following a trip and fall accident at the Murdaugh family home. Now, he set them up with an attorney, according to state prosecutors, who then brokered a $4.3 million settlement agreement. Roughly $3 million of that was supposed to go to the Satterfield family, but according to attorneys, they didn't see any of it. Instead, that attorney put checks in an account that shared a name with an insurance settlement firm that deals with these kinds of things in South Carolina, except it was one that was run by Alex Murdaugh. He made the name similar, according to attorneys, and they say that he was using that money for his own personal reasons. They laid out the case saying that he had used to pay off credit card bills, give money to his father and things like that.

The judge initially was asked by the state for a $200,000 bond after the Satterfield family's attorney said that they felt that he was a clear and present danger to the state, to people, to himself.


The judge considered that. The Satterfield family attorney coming out saying that they were happy with this decision.

BOLDUAN: And as you mentioned with this, there are so many threads. Thank you so much for the update, Dianne. I really, really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for joining us today. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Much more to come. Inside Politics with John King begins after a break.