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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Outlines New Steps To Fight COVID This Winter; Biden To Require Insurers To Reimburse Costs Of At-Home Tests; CNN Gets Rare Look Inside Lab Sequencing COVID Variants; New CNN Analysis" Risk Of Dying From COVID Is 50 Percent Higher In Red States Than In Blue States Since Vaccines Became Widespread; South Africa Reports Cases Up 7K Plus In One Week, Fastest Spike Since Start Of Pandemic; Veterans Study: Moderna Offers Stronger Protection Than Pfizer; Smollett Defense Calls For Mistrial, Attorney Gets Emotional & Claims Judge Lunged At Her During Sidebar; 9-Year-Old Afghan Girl Sold As Child Bride Returns To Family; Beijing Blasts WTA Decision To Suspend All Tournaments In China; Major League Baseball Implements First Lockout Since 1990s; United Completes First Successful Flight On 100 Percent Sustainable Fuel. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 02, 2021 - 17:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Biden will impose stricter testing requirements on U.S. bound travelers, extend TSA's mask mandate, launch mobile family vaccine clinics, move to require private insurers to pay the cost of at home test and boost access for those without it. There are some caveats to Biden's new campaign, given insurance won't pay for past test purchases, and the rule likely will go into effect for at least six weeks.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We expect to be have the final rules on this and have this implemented in mid-January. So expect additional details about how it will work and the functioning of it will be out in that timeline.

COLLINS (voice-over): Americans are currently split on Biden's handling of the pandemic, with 44 percent approving while 48 percent disapprove.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey finding that most fully vaccinated adults in the U.S. plan to get a booster, but nearly one in five say they probably or definitely won't despite CDC recommendations.


COLLINS (voice-over): Today, Biden making this appeal to stop the pandemic from being so political.

BIDEN: I know COVID-19 has been very divisive in this country, has become a political issue, which is a sad, sad commentary. It shouldn't be, but it has been. This is a moment we can put the devices behind us I hope. COLLINS (voice-over): The President's attempts to mandate vaccines in some capacities has hit a slew of legal challenges and led to a political fight with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

BIDEN: Well, my existing federal vaccination requirements have been reviewed by the courts. This plan does not expand or add to those mandates.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, we should note that when it comes to those stricter testing requirements, going from 72 hours before you get on a flight to go to the United States to 24 hours, it's not clear when that is going to go into effect. Officials have said potentially early next week, but they have not put a specific date on it yet as the CDC is still drafting that order. Though, of course, that is a big question and a big factor for people who are traveling on those international flights to the United States.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us. Thanks, Kaitlan.

Here to discuss this all is Andy Slavitt, the former White House Senior Advisor for Coronavirus Response.

Andy, thanks for joining us.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki today defended the President's plan saying, quote, "We're pulling out all of the stops to protect Americans." Earlier in the show, Rick Bright (ph), who was previously part of the Biden COVID advisory board said in the last -- and you know, he doesn't understand why some of these plans are just now being rolled out two years into the pandemic, why pull out all the stops now in December 2021?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE SR. ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, I was very excited about what the President announced today. I think what he's making clear to the public is we have the tools and we're going to aggressively build on what we've started to get more tests available to people effectively at no cost, whether through a community health center, or through their insurance plan, that we're going to push boosters aggressively.

And I think one thing that Kaitlan may have mentioned is that they're now committing to sending children million more doses of vaccines overseas in the next 100 days. They've already spent about 200 million, including 90 million to Africa. So pleased to see the President come out with a really comprehensive plan.

TAPPER: Critics accuse the Biden ministration of having been caught flat footed by the Delta variant, given how fast that spread in the U.S. Do you think that this new nine step plan is partly influenced by that to avoid facing those kind of criticisms?

SLAVITT: Well, I think there's no question that this is a rubber meets the road very aggressive, very assertive plan, which tells people we don't need to panic, we have these tools.

I'm going to reserve my criticism for Ted Cruz and the Republicans in Senate who are basically telling their constituents, hey, don't worry so much about getting vaccinated. In fact, we're going to stop the government from requiring you to get vaccinated. The message that that sends versus the message that the President sending is 180 degrees. And right now, I wish everyone would pull together and say let's go, let's fight this aggressively before it starts spreading over the course of the winter.

TAPPER: One of the steps announced by President Biden is expanding free at-home testing for all Americans, which the White House hopes to implement as soon as mid-January. The insurance companies would reimburse people for at-home testing. But we aren't nearly two years into this pandemic, and President Biden has been in office for almost a year. Why are we still talking about expanding testing? Why was this outlook? My expectations for the previous administration are what they are, but how was this not a day one priority for the Biden team?

SLAVITT: Well, when the President moot came into office, there were zero at-home tests approved in the U.S., today they're eight. In September, he committed about $3 billion to ramp up manufacturing. That is going to basically quadruple the number of tests from late summer till December, I think the positive sign. Now he's basically saying we got to make them more available, and we got to make it more available equity.

One of the things that's happening now, Jake, as you might know, is in certain communities, you know, people in well off communities, they take these tests pretty frequently because, you know, $10 is nothing for them to go see their friends and go over the holidays. The problem is, in many communities they just can't afford $10 to go get a wrap at-home tests. So, this push to lower costs, increase manufacturing, and require coverage is the right combination.


TAPPER: President Biden declared independence from the virus on July 4, you had left the White House by then. At the time, were you worried that that was a premature declaration?

SLAVITT: Well, at the time, I mean, if we think about where we all were at that point in time, we were about 10,000 cases a day. We had a large portion of the country vaccinated. And indeed, what the President was saying was, hey, it's Fourth of July, let's go -- we should be able to gather a small barbecues with friends. And indeed, that happened.

What I think everybody didn't see was how rapidly and more aggressively Delta would come into the country. So look, we made that mistake, I made that mistake, I underestimated what would come from Delta.

You know, people can say today that they might have predicted Delta, but I can tell you all during 2020, very few people said we're going to see a worse variant in 2021. Now, I think we see that case, and I don't think we're going to make that mistake again. So, I applaud the President for being aggressive today and trying to get out ahead of things.

TAPPER: There are questions about how this reimbursement by insurance companies for at-home tests is going to work. Biden said it's going to be covered by insurance. It makes it sound like Americans are going to have to front the cost, and then try, you know, write into their insurance company. I guess a question that the average voter might have is, why doesn't the Biden administration just make these free to pick up at pharmacies or doctor's offices?

SLAVITT: Well, if I were -- first of all, there are 50 million free tests available in community clinics around the country. I think telling the insurance companies, they've got to participate here, that it is in their interest to keep people healthy and not have COVID spread is a smart thing.

Further, if I were in the White House, right now, I'd be calling the insurance company CEOs and saying, why don't you buy in bulk from the test manufacturers and send them to people's homes, you're going to pay for them anyway, send them to people's home so it's much easier. That's what I'd be doing between now and j in the middle of -- early January. I'd be seeking to get buy in from these insurance companies to do the right thing, to take aggressive action for the period of this emergency.

TAPPER: This is new analysis today by the CNN health team finding that since vaccines have become widely available, the risk of dying from COVID is more than 50 percent higher in red states that voted for Trump in 2020 than it is in blue states that voted for Biden. That basically means that people who need to hear President Biden's message about going to get vaccinated, going to get the booster shot, a lot of them were not listening. How do you change that?

SLAVITT: Well, let's go back to Kaitlan's reporting when he talks about, you know, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, threatening to shut down the government if we don't get rid of vaccine mandates. The message they're sending is not what they should be doing, which is ideally standing shoulder to shoulder with the President and saying, hey, this is bad everywhere. We can fight about anything we want to in politics, we can argue other things. But none of us want anybody to die.

And for a party that has been willing -- not willing to lift a finger to help fight the pandemic, they're going to a great deal of effort to fight people who are fighting the pandemic. And that just doesn't make sense. And so, they should partner up here because people in their own communities, as you just said, are the ones paying a heavy price.

TAPPER: Well they don't seem to care. I guess my question is, what more completely (ph), you're not going to get the people you mentioned to act in a reasonable and responsible fashion. So, what can be done beyond that? I'm not faulting you.


TAPPER: I'm just wondering what more hasn't been tried? SLAVITT: Look, I think what the -- what we started to do when I was there and it's continued to today is speak to local leaders, local church leaders, local people on the ground, doctors, people in these communities, because they're more effective in carrying these messages. The people that are not getting vaccinated or people that don't trust the government, they're not by and large -- the people who are going to listen to President Biden are vaccinated, so they're trying to use these other means. And this is my point about why it's so unfortunate that people who could be helpful are not being helpful.

I did see some data today and it's preliminary, which shows that with Omicron, that this may cause some people who are not vaccinated to reconsider getting vaccinated. I hope that's true. I think we should always keep the door open.

TAPPER: And we should note that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he's not going to allow a shutdown of the government over this issue. And he has been very pro vaccine even spending, I think, campaign money to run pro vaccine ads in his home state of Kentucky. So it's not all Republicans, but certainly too many.

SLAVITT: No question.

TAPPER: Andy Slavitt, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, to the hunt for Omicron CNN goes inside a lab where officials are trying to detect the new variant.

Plus, new details on the story you saw right here on The Lead. One young Afghan girl sold into marriage while cameras roll because their family needed them money to afford to live. He's now talking to CNN. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead now, right now, the race is on to catch and stop the new COVID variant in its tracks. But how? CNN's Dianne Gallagher got a rare access to a lab on the cutting edge of detecting the ever changing virus.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the front line in the hunt for Omicron in the U.S. After you finished that often uncomfortable COVID test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're doing great, perfect. Next nostril.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): It's usually shipped to a place like MAKO Medical Laboratories just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina.

MATTHEW TUGWELL, DIRECTOR OF GENOMICS MAKO MEDICAL: Ten thousand square feet just COVID processing. GALLAGHER (voice-over): MAKO sequences samples taken in more than 40 states.


TUGWELL: Thirty thousand per day is how many we're processing right now, so that's about 100,000 or so per week.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Labs like this are key in detecting the Omicron variant in the United States because of what they do after identifying a positive test.

TUGWELL: As of right now, we are at the point where we're sequencing every positive that we get.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Genomic sequencing, complicated and expensive testing that reveals the precise genetic lineage of the virus is the only way to identify new COVID-19 variants. MAKO was one of just over 60 labs that does sequencing for the CDC's national strengths surveillance network.

LAUREN MOON, SEQUENCING MANAGER, MAKO MEDICAL: I would say it takes between two to three days to actually fully get the sequence from confirming a sample as positive to library prepping the DNA and then to actually sequencing that library.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The World Health Organization, and the CDC declared Omicron a variant of concern after it was flagged by scientists in South Africa. A mutation in the Omicron variant causes a peculiar test result called an S-gene dropout.

MOON: N-gene is the blue curve, and the green curve is the S-gene.

GALLAGHER (on camera): It would normally be up there with them?

MOON: Yes. Typically, they're all grouped pretty closely together, because --

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Making a suspicious case easy to spot for expedited sequencing.

TUGWELL: Right. We have about six samples right now that have that signature S-gene drop out.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But sequencing is required to confirm Omicron because isn't the only variant with that type of marker. Scientist at MAKO say they've seen many different variants throughout the pandemic. Some like Delta become the dominant strain, while others fade quickly or never take off. Right now, there's no way to know what type of impact Omicron could have on the U.S. But they agree that when it comes to cracking COVID, knowledge is power.

TUGWELL: That every time it transmits from a person to another person, it's another chance for the virus to mutate and change into something different. So, you know, being able to monitor it. It really highlights the importance of testing, right? Because without the testing, you really have no baseline to understand what's going on.


GALLAGHER: Now, I just spoke with the lab. And one of those so called suspicious samples came back, and it was not Omicron but added another one. So right now there are six of those suspicious samples that are currently in the sequencing process. It should be wrapped up sometime tomorrow, they say, and then they'll report it out to the CDC.

But Jake, of course, a lab like this gets 10s of 1000s of new COVID tests to sample each day. And so these numbers are going to continue to be fluid and are likely going to change in the days and weeks to come.

TAPPER: Fascinating story. CNN's Dianne Gallagher in North Carolina, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this all with CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. A rare treat we have him in studio. Thank you. Thank you for slumming it here in D.C. with us, we appreciate it.

How important are labs like the one Dianne went to in fighting the spread?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're really important because they're going to find these variants. You know, you get a positive test and then you want to find out the genomic sequence to figure out is this Delta, is this Omicron.

The thing that strikes me, though, still, Jake, is that we're doing about a million and a half tests a day. That's not that many. You know, you may remember several months ago or a year ago, we were saying we need to be doing 20, 30, 40 million tests a day. We never got to that point. So, it's great that we're doing more sequencing, but it's still of a very small denominator.

If we're serious about, you know, stopping or slowing the spread, we need to be testing a lot more. Now Dr. Fauci said last night, maybe we'll get to the point where we have 500 million tests a month out there. That would be a more robust sort of surveillance system.

TAPPER: It seems like the only way to stop this, that testing and the vaccination.

GUPTA: I have vision (ph) on it.

TAPPER: So we've been warned since the beginning of the pandemic how much more challenging it is to contain the virus in winter, which is obviously what we're approaching right now. Biden plans to extend the mask mandate for domestic travel, increase booster outreach, make at- home testing more accessible. Which one of these efforts do you think will make the biggest impact on containing this virus?

GUPTA: Well, I think, you know, the vaccines and the boosters will make the biggest impact in terms of ailments, which I think is the biggest thing because hospitals become overwhelmed. This is going back to the early days of flattening the curve. We now have that really important tool to decrease the likelihood someone will get severely ill.

But I think sometimes we have forgotten or not paid as much attention to masks, you know. And it's like we're being drenched in virus right now. These are umbrellas. If we wear them, we're going to be far less likely to become infected in the first place, Omicron, Delta, whatever variant it may be. And then, you know, the testing, like we're talking about.

So many people have called me saying, hey, I'm thinking about having a holiday party. We're all vaccinated. Anything else we should be doing? I said, hey, look, if you can get the 15 minute test and answer the question you're really trying to answer which is am I contagious, you should do that. And therefore when you show up or people are coming over to your house, they're pretty good idea that, A, vaccinated, B, they're not contagious and going to spread when they're at that event.


TAPPER: So here's this interesting study that your division here at CNN, the health team came up with, the CNN analysis found a 50 percent higher risk of dying from COVID in states that voted for Trump, red states, than in the states who voted for Biden, the blue states. Andy Slavitt just argued it's a messaging issue with anti-vaxxers, who are predominantly, but not exclusively, pro Trump. But it's not only that, right? I mean, it's not just the MAGA Republicans who are resistant to this.

GUPTA: No, it's not. I mean, you know, there's a pretty heterogeneous mix of people who have decided not to get vaccinated for all sorts of different reasons. A lot of it is, you know, frankly, bad messaging even from the medical community. I mean, there's been terrible studies that have come out in the medical journal, some of them even peer reviewed, which have really been sowing a lot of doubt, creating a lot of chaos in this area.

Ultimately, it is bad messaging, but it's coming from all sorts of different sources. But ultimately, the vaccines it is a proof that the vaccines do make a huge difference, because you can correlate what you're describing, this likelihood of contracting COVID, getting sick from COVID, dying from COVID with vaccines. New York and Mississippi, earlier days before the vaccines, they were pretty similar at one point in terms of deaths per 100,000. Post vaccines, New York dropped about half of what Mississippi has now, almost all vaccines.

TAPPER: So Africa's CDC, which is a public health agency on that continent, says that Africa has seen a 20 percent increase in COVID cases in the last four weeks.


TAPPER: Mostly driven by countries in the south, which is in a 153 percent increase. What are the statistics alone tell you about this new variant, Omicron? GUPTA: Well, if you look at what's happening in South Africa, it's a really interesting picture. You know, you've seen these different waves over time. You know, the original variant, you see Beta, Delta, I think what's really important here, the context of where we start. South Africa, in particular, which is driving most of the surge, they were having sort of a lull, this is late spring, it was kind of quiet there. So when you say that they've had a significant increase, it started from a relatively small number.

And I think really importantly, for us here in the United States, there wasn't a lot of Delta circulating over there. So Omicron became the dominant variant, but it wasn't really competing against anything. We don't know that it will be able to outcompete Delta here. Delta may still remain the dominant strain.

At one point in South Africa as you know, Jake, Beta was the dominant strain. Everyone thought, well, that's going to happen all over the world, it didn't. So we'll have to see what happens with Omicron.

TAPPER: And researchers have been studying the difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. In U.S. veterans --


TAPPER: -- they found over about five months veterans who got the Pfizer vaccine had a greater risk, about 70 percent higher of getting hospitalized from COVID than those who got the Moderna vaccine.

I'm a Pfizer guy, I need to say. But plain and simple, is Moderna the better vaccine?

GUPTA: I don't know that we can say that still yet. You know, initially, it was interesting, because the very first recipients of vaccines got the Pfizer vaccines. They were the most vulnerable. But they were also, you know, older and had higher risk factors. So they seemingly did not do as well.

The Moderna vaccines also a higher dose than the Pfizer vaccine. You know, Pfizer's 30 micrograms, Moderna is 50. So, you know, for the booster, 100 for the actual shot. So it could have something to do with that.

But they're both, if you really look at that data, they're still very good at preventing serious illness. There was a slight uptick in hospitalization, but overall they're still pretty comparable.

TAPPER: All right. Sanjay Gupta, good to have you in studio and good to see you. Thanks so much.

Drama inside the courtroom of actor Jussie Smollett's trial including an attorney claiming that the judge lunged at her. The wild details, next.


[17:28:15] TAPPER: Breaking news in our national lead, drama unfolding in just the last few minutes in that trial of actor Jussie Smollett who is accused of lying to police and staging a fake racist and homophobic attack against himself. Moments ago, Smollett's defense attorney is called for a mistrial, after the testimony from the two brothers who claimed that the former empire actor orchestrated the hoax attack on himself back in 2019.

CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us now live from outside the Chicago courtroom.

And Omar, one of the attorneys got quite emotional after claiming that the judge lunged at them. What is going on?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. There has been some crying, some accusations of physical intimidation by the judge, a call for a mistrial. Things are cooling down a little bit right now.

But this basically began when Olabinjo Osundairo, or otherwise known as Ola (ph), was being questioned about potential homophobia. And some texts exchanged was brought up where he referred to someone as a fruit. And the defense attorney asked if he would use that language to describe a woman. Well the judge then made a comment saying that we're now getting into something collateral. The defense called for a sidebar, came back and said they would be requesting a mistrial because the judge should not have made, in part, because the judge should not have made a comment like that in front of the jury on what they argued was a main part of their case, that homophobia could have been a potential reason for a real attack on Jussie Smollett.

Well, the judge or that same attorney, I should say, then claimed the judge lunged at her physically in a sidebar. The judge denied that he did that lunging. He denied the mistrial. And that's when things started getting very testy back and forth between a lot of attorneys. In particular, a separate defense attorney said that the judge had been making nasty faces on the bench every time.

One of their objections from them was sustained specifically, saying, I noticed snarls multiple times to which the judge shot back. You're great at facial expressions, as he denied he was making his own facial expressions.

So there was a break called -- the jury was sent out of the room and now we are back to cross examination in a more calm fashion, but it is just emblematic of the high emotions we have seen throughout this trial. Jake, today maybe the most so.

TAPPER: Bizarre. And how did these two brothers describe Jussie Smollett's plan for this attack on himself in their testimony today?

JIMENEZ: Well, maybe the most succinct description came from Ola who's currently testifying. But earlier today, he described it as a crazy idea that Jussie Smollett would want to have two MAGA supporters or President Trump supporters beat him up and as part of a fake hate crime and then to post it on social media. And that is sort of the crux of where prosecutors have tried to keep not just Ola, but his brother Bola Osundairo as well, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Omar Jimenez, thank you so much.

There was an outcry after viewers on -- of The Lead saw a report about a young Afghan girl forced into a child marriage. Coming up next, some good news on her journey back to safety. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news, just moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown. But we are not out of the clear just yet. The resolution now goes to the Senate, where a group of Republican senators are threatening to shut down the U.S. government because they object to President Biden's vaccine mandate for private companies. The U.S. government will run out of funding Friday at midnight if the Senate fails to pass this bill.

In our world lead, new details on that gut-wrenching story you saw first on the lead last month. A nine-year-old Afghan girl sold to a stranger as a child bride -- bride is not even really the right word -- so her family would have enough money to eat. There was global outcry after we told you the story of Parwana. And people from across the world asked how they could help her, how could they help other young girls in Afghanistan.

And we are happy to report that one charity was able to assist in reuniting Parwana with her family. She spoke with CNN's Anna Coren who broke the story about her hopes and dreams for her future.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An Iranian love song plays from a cassette as a driver navigates his way through the snow-dusted layman valley in northwestern Afghanistan. Ground in the back of his station wagon is a mother and her six children, who've just left behind a life of constant struggle and hardship, all they've ever known.

Among them, nine-year-old Parwana. Our cameraman Siddiqui (ph) asked her how she's feeling.

I'm so happy, she says, with a beaming smile. CNN met Parwana, dressed in pink, in an internally displaced camp in Badghis province back in October. Her father claims he was selling her to feed the rest of the family, as a humanitarian crisis grips the country.

He'd already sold his 12-year-old into marriage and told CNN that unless the situation improved, he would have to sell his four remaining daughters as well, including the youngest just two.

If I didn't have these daughters to sell, he asks, what should I do? Parwana's buyer who lived in a nearby village confirmed he was taking the nine-year-old as his second wife. QORBAN, BUYER OF PARWANA (through translation): I'm 55 years old. I have a wife with four daughters and a son. I bought her for myself. I will wait until she becomes older.

COREN (voice-over): CNN was granted rare access to film the final payment and handover. The buyer asked for it to take place at a house in his village and not the cab for security reasons. He paid a total of 200,000 Afghanis just over 2,000 U.S. dollars for Parwana in land, sheep and cash.

This is your bride, please take care of her, says Parwana's father. Of course I will take care of her, replies the man. As he drags her away, she whimpers.

Moments later, she digs her heels into the dirt, refusing to go but it's hopeless.

CNN story caused an outcry.

TAPPER: -- now in a distressing story out of Afghanistan showing the --

COREN (voice-over): The network was inundated with offers of help from the public aid organizations and NGOs wanting to assist Parwana and the other girls featured in our story. The U.S.-based charity Too Young to Wed took the lead. Its founding Executive Director Stephanie Sinclair has been working to end child marriage and help vulnerable girls around the world for almost 20 years. She says the perfect storm is brewing in Afghanistan, and it's the girls that are suffering.

STEPHANIE SINCLAIR, FOUNDER, TOO YOUNG TO WED: I know these stories are difficult to watch and they're difficult to do. And they bring them around a lot of concern but at the same time, we need to keep people understanding that this is happening. We need to keep ringing the alarm bell. Understand these are real girls and real lives and they can be changed.

COREN (voice-over): Within Badghis province, there was widespread backlash towards Parwana's father and the buyer after our story went to where, with claims they brought shame on the community. Even the Taliban told CNN the practice is forbidden.


MAWLAWI BAZ MOHAMMAD SARWARY, BADGHIS INFORMATION & CULTURE DIRECTORATE (through translation): I request everyone not to sell their children. Child marriage is not a good thing. And we condemn it.

COREN (voice-over): Women's rights activist and U.S. citizen Mahbouba Seraj who chose to stay in Kabul after the Taliban swept to power in August to run her women's shelter, says Parwana's case is just the tip of the iceberg.

MAHBOUBA SERAJ, AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: There is a lot of misery, there is a lot of mistreatment, there is a lot of abuse is involved in these things. And it will keep on happening with the hunger, with the winter, with poverty.

COREN (voice-over): As a result of the controversy caused by the story and intervention from the charity, Parwana was allowed to return home after almost two weeks with the buyer's family.

Since Parwana has been rescued, I'm very happy for that, says Parwana's father. He admitted to CNN that under duress from the community and some local media outlets, he changed his story out of embarrassment for what he had done and apologized.

The buyer is unreachable for comment, but the debt (ph) is still outstanding. Too Young to Wed then organized to have Parwana, her mother and siblings removed from the camp with the father's permission.

Before our journey to neighboring Herat province, was broken up with some childhood fun, before arriving at the motel. For children who've only ever lived in a tent, the novelty of being warm, fed and safe wasn't fair enough.

They rescued me, they've given me a new life, says Parwana. I thank the charity for helping me. A few days later, they moved into the safe house. Parwana's mother, 27-year-old Reza Gul has never lived in a house. She was sold into marriage at 13 and has since had seven children, six of whom were girls.

Most days in the camp, she would beg for food, and often her family would go to sleep hungry. Now, all she wants is to give her children a better life.

I have a dream, a wish they go to school and start an education, she says. I have a lot of wishes for them.

Too Young to Wed has already begun distributing aid to Parwana's impoverished camp among others. Well, the small charity is prepared to bridge the gap they're calling on the large aid organizations to step up.

SINCLAIR: These are communities that have relied on international aid for the last 20 years. And so, with a lot of that aid stopping, these people didn't stop needing support. No, we can't let them pay the price. Because, ultimately, girls always pay the biggest price.

COREN (voice-over): I speak to Parwana on Zoom through my colleague Abyssea (ph).

(on-camera): Hello, Parwana, I'm Anna.

PARWANA, SOLD AS CHILD BRIDE BUT RESCUED (through translation): How are you? How are you feeling?

COREN (on-camera): I'm very good. Thank you. How are you?

PARWANA (through translation): I'm fine. I'm so happy. I'm safe. I rescued. COREN (voice-over): Then she asks, when are you sending me to school? She wants to study and become a doctor or a teacher. But fairytale endings are few and far between for girls in Afghanistan, even more so now than ever.

Anna Coren, CNN.


TAPPER: Thanks to Anna Coren for that fantastic reporting.

Two major sports organizations taking two quite different approaches over the missing tennis champion. Legendary Sportscaster Bob Costas will join us to discuss, next.



TAPPER: In our sports lead, the Chinese government is firing back after the Women's Tennis Association decided to immediately suspend all tournaments in China amid concerns for the safety of tennis star Peng Shuai. The Chinese government says it rejects any move that, quote, politicizes sports.

Meanwhile, just two months out from the Beijing Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee is taking a very different tact. The IOC spoke with paying in a second video call this week but would not release any clips from the call.

Joining us live to discuss, Legendary Sports Broadcaster and CNN Contributor Bob Costas. Bob, good to see you. Why have these approaches from these two powerful sports bodies been so different?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the IOC is in bed with China. Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008 Summer Games, they did it in spectacular fashion. But even then, it was apparent to many of us that the IOC was aiding and abetting a problematic regime and then they go back for the Winter Games in 2022. And in between the state, the Winter Games in Sochi.

It's very troubling their affinity for authoritarian regimes. So it's pretty clear that in the video, interview with Peng a week or so ago, they were just giving China cover. It was pretty clear that it was coach than it was all a setup. Meanwhile, you've got not just the IOC, you got the NBA and you got Nike and various individual sports stars in the United States who have significant investments in China, where the sports market is huge.

And some of those people are very outspoken as they have a right to be and maybe in general you and I would agree with their viewpoints, very outspoken and sometimes offers weeping condemnations of their own admittedly imperfect country, the United States.


But when it comes to China, perhaps the world's leading human rights abuser given its size, and its wherewithal, their mom, very, very few have

anything to say, in fact, some object to any criticism of China. Meanwhile, China's playbook is always to shut down all criticism, to reject it out of hand and then to exact some kind of price.

When Daryl Morey, who then was in the front office of the Houston Rockets tweeted something to the effect of stand with Hong Kong, all of a sudden, Rockets games were not on China TV. And the Rockets were a popular team is Yao Ming was the first big time Chinese star in the NBA. And just this week, Enes Kanter, the Celtics criticized China, Celtics games gone, disappeared from Chinese TV.

TAPPER: Just incredible. And the minute and a half I have left, I want to ask you about baseball because Major League Baseball owners last night --


TAPPER: -- voted for this lockout after players and owners failed to reach a new labor agreement. We're about two months from spring training starting, do you expect this is going to get resolved before them?

COSTAS: Yes. In fact, I have to agree with the approach of Commissioner Manfred and the owners here. There have been three lockouts in the past. And every time, not a single game was lost. There have been multiple strikes, and multiple games have been lost, some 1,700 total games through the years lost.

When you go into a season without a collective bargaining agreement, then you leave the door open for a strike. So now, with the lockout happening in early December, they've got a long runway between now and spring training, or opening day. And fans, by and large, don't care about the issues as much as they care about seeing their teams play. So they got time now to work these issues out and there are many of them between now and spring training.

TAPPER: The last time baseball had a lockout or a strike was 94, which did result in several years of drops in attendance, loss of popularity for the great game of baseball --


TAPPER: -- is that what baseball might be facing again?

COSTAS: I don't think so. They're awash in money. The question is how to distribute it. There are some inequities there. Max Scherzer this season just signed with the Mets this coming season if they play. His individual compensation might be roughly equal to the entire payroll of the Baltimore Orioles. And the Pittsburgh Pirates, both baseball because they want competitive teams and the Players Association want to address that because the Players Association wants those payrolls to come up.

Baseball wants those lower market teams to be able to be at least reasonably competitive, they got to see a mutual interest there in their various devices that they could hit upon to address it.

TAPPER: Bob, it's always great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.

COSTAS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Running on sugar. CNN was on board, the first flight using a new type of alternative fuel. But is it too pricey to be sustainable? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth matter series now, your future commercial flights could be fueled by food scraps. After a successful United Airlines flight from Chicago to D.C. on Wednesday ran on a mixture of corn and sugar. CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean finds out how United made one man's trash another man's jet fuel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our first ever 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel flight.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment you step on board, it is clear this is not your regular flight. The passengers are executives and politicians. Flown by test pilots, this plane is labeled "Experimental." Since the fuel onboard is not traditional jet fuel, this is what's called sustainable aviation fuel processed from sugar and corn. It is powering this United Airlines 737 in one of its two engines, a first for a flight carrying passengers.

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: This is an important and historic moment for global aviation.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): United CEO Scott Kirby says this test could one day combat climate change. The Biden administration's goal is no aviation carbon emissions by 2050. An industry that contributes about 3 percent globally. Sustainable aviation fuel cuts emissions by up to 80 percent. But it is up to eight times more expensive than regular fuel and right now in limited supply. But it is a start with electric airplanes too far in the future.

KIRBY: There's simply no battery technology, even theoretical technology that has enough energy density that you could put enough batteries on the airplane to get an airplane this big with this many people flying this far. And so, what works in a lot of other transportation industries won't work for aviation.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): This test touchdown in Washington with a message, airlines want tax credits to lower the cost and the FAA to approve the fuel more widely. Manufacturer Virent says this fuel is so molecularly similar to jet fuel. It is a direct replacement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means all the infrastructure, the planes, the engines, everything's ready to go today right now. So this hopefully someday is not really a big event. It's just the normal way we do things.


MUNTEAN: United Airlines says these tests will continue but it says now the ball is in the court of the government to raise the limit of sustainable aviation fuel on a plane like this, which will thereby lower the cost. But by the way, Jake, this is the plane used in the test. It's a normal Boeing 737 MAX 8, it's about to go out and fly passengers again. I'll be at this time with normal jet fuel on board. That's the beauty of this just a drop in replacement, Jake.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Pete Muntean, thank you so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of our show, you can listen to The Lead wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.