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Taliban, Resistance Fighters Battle in Panjshir Valley; Mexican Students Head Back to Class Amid COVID Surge; Parts of U.S. Struggle with COVID Over Labor Day Weekend; Pandemic Reveals U.S. Dependency on Imports from China; Paralympics Close with Parade of Nations and Fireworks; U.S. Paralympian Jessica Long Takes Home 29th Career Medal; Category 3 Hurricane Larry Headed Toward Bermuda. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 00:00   ET


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta. Your are watching CNN.


So just ahead, flights resume from Kabul's airport. One step towards a slow return to normal, allowing much-needed aid to arrive.

Celebrations in the streets of Guinea, as the country's long-serving president was ousted in an apparent coup. We have that story.

And the Paralympics comes to a close while Japan still struggles with the pandemic.

ANNOUNCER: Live, from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Thanks for joining me this hour.

So an intense battle is underway in northern Afghanistan as a Taliban offensive pushes further into the Panjshir Valley, the final holdout for resistance forces.

Now, on Sunday, fierce fighting was reported, with both sides claiming to have made gains. The leader of the National Resistance Front says he supports old school for them to fighting. He says he's ready to talk once the Taliban withdraw their fighters.

Now to the south, a vital lifeline for Afghanistan has reopened. As you can see from these pictures, the Kabul airport is now seeing more domestic flights resume.

And on Sunday, aid planes brought in more than 50 tons of medical supplies and food.

And while the Taliban have taken a key step in reopening the airport, they still have not announced what their government will look like.

Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum has the latest from Kabul -- Lindsey.


LINDSEY HILSUM, CHANNEL 4 CORRESPONDENT: It's calm here in Kabul, but there's still fighting going on north of here in the Panjshir Valley. That's a really symbolic place in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban ruled this country in the 1990s, they never ruled the Panjshir Valley. It never gave in. There was always resistance. And that was led by a man called Ahmad Shah Massoud. He was known as the Lion of the Panjshir.

His son, Ahmad Massoud, is trying to repeat history and do the same. But you know, he's really outmanned and outgunned. And he has now said that he is willing to negotiate some kind of settlement with the Taliban through with they call the Ulema. That's a council of Muslim elders.

Now, the Taliban, they want a military victory. They want to storm in there and just take the whole country, but the Ulema is calling upon them to also come to a settlement.

And doctors I've been speaking to, they're desperate for the fighting to end, because every day there are still people, civilians and fighters, who are being injured in the fighting in the Panjshir Valley. So we'll have to see in the coming days if there can be some kind of settlement.

Having said that, the Taliban, yes, they're in control of nearly all of the country. But they're not really governing as yet. Because they seem unable to form a government. They can't agree on who gets which ministries. And they have different factions from different places.

They said they were going to announce the new government with quite some fanfare on Monday. Now they're saying that that is going to be delayed.

And the head of Pakistan's spy agency came here, apparently to knock heads together and try and get them to sort it out between them, because this country desperately needs governance.

I've been talking to people today who say they haven't been paid in more than three weeks. Civil servants aren't getting any money. Banks are still closed. And those that are open are only allowing people to take out the equivalent of $200 a week, which just isn't enough.

The humanitarian situation is getting worse here. So although there is some kind of uneasy peace, the danger now is that poverty is going to increase, because the Taliban, they haven't formed their government and they're not really at the moment able to govern and to make people's lives normal.

And that, according to the people I've been speaking to, is what they want more than anything else.

This is Lindsey Hilsum in Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: Thanks, Lindsey, for that report.

Now, Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan for years. She's following the latest developments from Hong Kong and joins me now.

Hi, Anna. Lovely to see you. So tell us more about these reports and the details of the airport opening up. That's pretty significant, isn't it?

ANNA COREN, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Robyn. This is a vital lifeline, as you mentioned. I mean, after tumultuous three weeks, a semblance of normality, at least at the airport with this opening up to the outside world and certainly within Afghanistan.

The domestic carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines, is operating. It's flying between Kabul and three major provincial cities, Herat, Mazar- i-Sharif, as well as Kandahar.


But as you mentioned before, by opening up the airport, we should also remember that Qatar sent a technical team there to help with the reopening and to -- to make sure that it was repaired after the damage and looting that had occurred, that this allows foreign aid to now fly into Afghanistan, which is desperately needed.

You know, we heard Lindsey talking about a humanitarian crisis that is now facing Afghanistan. But certainly, domestically, this allows people to move around, supplies to move around, the Taliban leadership to move around, which -- which obviously needs to happen for them to come together.

But it's -- it's proving at least, you know, that this is -- this is functioning for now. We don't know when those evacuation plans will resume. The U.K. foreign secretary, Dominic Rabb, he was in Qatar over the last several days. And he met with the Taliban leadership there, talking about the need to return to evacuation flights for all those people who still want to leave Afghanistan.

So -- so the airport, obviously, a vital link in some sort of normality returning to Afghanistan -- Robyn.

CURNOW: I do want to talk more about the economic situation. Because ordinary people, the ones who can't leave, you know, face the prospect of, as Lindsey said, increasing poverty, a humanitarian crisis.

I mean, what kind of catch-22 situation are western governments and even aid agencies in now? Because to help people means either negotiating or working with the Taliban, and that -- that's a difficult position, isn't?

COREN: Yes, absolutely. Not many western governments have, I guess, acknowledged that the Taliban is in control of Afghanistan, or at least acknowledged the leadership. Those talks are yet to take place. But certainly, the head of the U.N. relief agency, he is in Kabul. We

saw pictures of him meeting with the Taliban leadership, saying that, you know, we want to continue our aid and our assistance to the people of Afghanistan. And the Taliban leadership responded by thanking them, saying that they will help, you know, obviously cooperate with this very important aid agency.

The U.N. saying that their next meeting at donor countries, they will try to get more, you know, confirmation that aid can keep coming into Afghanistan. But it certainly is a fine line.

I mean, the Taliban, as we know, need as much assistance as possible. This is a country that's facing a humanitarian crisis. A third of the people struggling to survive, half are malnourished. We know that the currency of the Afghani has plummeted. And the price of goods has risen astronomically. So the Taliban, Robyn, need as much help as they can get.

CURNOW: The question is, does the international community want to do business with them? That is a whole other story.

Anna Coren, appreciate it. Good to speak to you. Thank you.

So still to come, Israel is one of the first countries to offer a third dose of the COVID vaccine. Now officials say more booster shots could be on the way.

Plus, we'll take a look at how the pandemic has put American dependency on Chinese imports in perspective. That story next, as well.



CURNOW: Daily COVID cases are falling in Israel, raising hopes that the country may be getting its last COVID surge under control. On Saturday, Israel reported its lowest daily case count in three weeks. It comes about a month after the country began offering a third dose of the vaccine.

And Israel's Israel's COVID czar says that another round of booster shots could be on the way. Health officials are also urging people to take a COVID test before celebrating Jewish new year with family members Monday evening.

And Mexico is still battling another COVID surge, with cases averaging just over 13,000 a day, as you can see from that graph there. That is high but significantly down from a couple of weeks ago. A couple of weeks ago.

There are, though, concerns that progress could be erased after Mexican children began heading back to school last week. The government promised the return would be safe, but many parents aren't aren't so sure.

Rafael Romo reports now from Mexico City.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time in 17 months, these Mexican students are going back to school in person. Other than blessings and hugs, their return is far from normal.

Upon arrival, their hands are sanitized and their temperature checked. Parents seem anxious.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic, the highest peak as far as I know. It was not an easy decision. We hope the school has taken the right measures," this father said.

Asked how she felt about going back to school, this 7-year-old could only utter one word.

"Excited," she said.

"I'm afraid of getting infected and getting my whole family infected. That's my fear," this student said.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in July that classes would resume at the end of August, rain or shine, pandemic or not.

"There are no major risks for children or teenagers," the president said. "We can have good control, and the pandemic should not be an excuse to keep schools closed."

More than 25 million elementary and middle school students were supposed to resume classes in person in Mexico on August 30. In the end, less than half showed up.

According to figures from the Mexican government, only 45 percent of students showed up on day one, and 52 percent of schools actually managed to open.

(on camera): Were Mexican school teachers, students, ready to go back to school, given that the country is still in the middle of the pandemic?

PABLO CLARK, SENIOR RESEARCHER, MEXICAN INSTITUTE FOR COMPETITIVENESS: Unfortunately, most schools were probably not ready to welcome students back in a safe and efficient manner.

ROMO (voice-over): Pablo Clark analyzed Mexico's education system preparedness for reopening, and what he found was that some schools didn't even meet the minimum requirements for a safe return.

CLARK: When parents go to their schools and actually talk to their teachers and to their principals, they realized that there are no conditions to put in practice the guidance that are coming from the federal government. They see that their schools do not have adequate infrastructure. They do not have access to running water. ROMO: Members of a powerful teachers union blocked the president's

access to an event in Chiapas (ph) recently, as a protest for what they consider a lack of guarantees from the safe return to the classroom. The president's answer?


ROMO: "I won't be blackmailed."

By the end of May, Mexico was one of only 23 countries around the world that still kept its schools closed due to the pandemic.

(on camera): Many of the parents we talked to here at the capital were still hesitant to allow their children to go back to school, because they didn't feel conditions for a safe return were met.

But in the end, many decided to still send them back, because they were afraid of the long-term academic impact to their children after 17 months away from the classroom.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: So much of the U.S. is struggling to get the recent surge of coronavirus cases under control, but as you can see here on the map, many states are seeing spikes driven by the highly-transmissible Delta variant.

And as the debate about the rollout of booster shot continues, the idea is gaining traction with U.S. health officials, thanks to data from Israel. Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci spoke to Jim Acosta Sunday about what the information reveals.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Their data clearly show that we are going in the right direction of where we need to go with regard to boosters. But importantly, their data also show that when you give those boosters, you reconstitute, to an even higher level than before, the protection against both infection and hospitalization.



CURNOW: And as more Americans suffer through COVID, attitudes are slowly changing about the general risks of catching the virus. Natasha Chen has more on how the dire -- how dire the situation has become -- Natasha.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. is experiencing COVID-19 trends in the wrong direction, with cases, deaths and hospitalizations going upward. This Labor Day weekend, the seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents is up by about 300 percent compared to this holiday weekend last year.

The seven-day average of new deaths has increased greatly over the last week, and daily hospitalizations are topping 100,000. That's after hospitalizations tripled in July, then doubled again in August, according to Health and Human Services data.

A "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows 47 percent of adults in the U.S. feel they have a moderate or high risk of getting sick. That's a higher percentage of concerned adults compared to a June survey.

The situation is so dire in Kentucky that the governor has called a special session of its state legislature to handle COVID-19 issues. And in central California, the San Joaquin Valley area on Friday had fewer than 10 percent of staffed ICU beds remaining available for three consecutive days.

Farther north in the state, about 100 doctors from the Humboldt Del Norte County Medical Society signed a letter written to its own community, saying in part, "Please get vaccinated. We ask this from the bottom of our hearts, as your physicians and as the people with whom you have worked, played, laughed and cried. We must admit, we are tired. We will keep working, of course, but we are tired. We are tired of the suffering, the pain and death that can be avoided by getting vaccinated."

Meanwhile, the Biden administration said it is prepared to roll out the booster vaccines by September 20, though that is pending the approval and guidance of the CDC and FDA.

Back to you.


CURNOW: Natasha Chen there. Thanks so much.

So during the last days of the Trump administration, there were increased calls for a financial decoupling between the U.S. and China, but during the pandemic, shortages in masks and other protective equipment certainly highlighted just how dependent the U.S. was on the Asian powerhouse. Clare Sebastian takes a look at why.


BRIAN WOLIN, CEO, PROTECTIVE HEALTH GEAR: So there are four different layers here, separated.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These N-95 respirators are designed for pandemic survival, filtering 95 percent of airborne particles. Whether the business that makes them can survive the pandemic is not guaranteed.

WOLIN: The labor costs are associated with making an N-95 respirator is so different from China to the United States. We have hourly wages. We pay overtime. We pay double time on weekends. SEBASTIAN: Right now, with the Delta variant fueling sales, this New

Jersey factory is investing to try to bring down those costs.

(on camera): This is a brand-new piece of machinery worth over $1 million. It's not yet operational, but in a couple of weeks, it should be able to turn out to 50,000 N-95 masks every day.

(voice-over): The last 18 months since Brian Wolin and his brother-in- law decided to turn this luxury retail display business into a medical-grade mask factory have been a crash course in market uncertainty.

WOLIN: It's been a tremendous rollercoaster. So when we first started, we didn't know how we'd be able to handle the demand, and then once the unmasking policy came out back in May, the -- really, the demand dropped off significantly.

SEBASTIAN: Pre-pandemic, the U.S. imported most of its supply of personal protective equipment, China accounting for almost half of those imports, close to three-quarters when it comes to masks and respirators.

CHAD P. BOWN, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: China is, for most parts of PPE, the largest exporter. And what that meant in early 2020 is when they were hit with the pandemic first, they stopped exporting. And not only did they stop exporting, but they actually started importing from the rest of the world.

SEBASTIAN: That sparked critical shortages, leaving healthcare workers exposed.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We shouldn't have to rely to a foreign country, especially one that doesn't share our interests or our values, in order to protect and provide our people during a national emergency.

SEBASTIAN: Data shows in 2020, the U.S. continued to rely on China for PPE. Imports more than tripled, compared to 2019.

Tim Manning, the White House's national COVID-19 supply coordinator, told us PPE imports are down quite a bit this year, and there is now enough manufacturing capacity in the U.S. to meet domestic demand.

And yet, cheaper imports are still coming. A box of 20 of Protective Health Care's U.S.-made N-95 masks will cost you $74 on Amazon. The same quantity from China's BYD costs less than half that.


Some smaller mask manufacturers tell us they also believe some Chinese manufacturers are selling certain products below cost in the U.S. to undercut U.S. producers. CNN has not independently verified this claim.

WOLIN: Hi! How are you? Very nice.

SEBASTIAN: Brian Wolin is clear he doesn't want handouts. He just wants the government to buy his product.

WOLIN: We spoke to the government time in and time out and tried everything that we could to get a contract, and it just hasn't happened as of this moment.

BOWN: How big should this industry be in normal times? In order to be able to be easily scaled up during a pandemic, that's -- you know, the kind of questions that the federal government now has to grapple with.

SEBASTIAN: At a time of deteriorating relations with China and still a critical need for these products, questions that are both urgent and fraught with risk.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, in Paterson, New Jersey.


CURNOW: Now to a story we're following here at CNN. An adviser to Guinea's president, Alpha Conde, confirms the president is under arrest and that there has been a coup. Hundreds of people celebrated in the streets of the capital, Conakry, on Sunday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The joy is that it's maximum, my brother. Look around. It's like that all over the territory. The Guinean people are free.


CURNOW: The president's location is unclear or why the circulated video showed them surrounded by soldiers, but CNN cannot independently verify its authenticity.

Now, the military announced a nationwide curfew and the closing of land and air borders. Officers have summoned ministers to a Monday meeting and insist the president is unharmed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We want to reassure the national and international community, the physical and moral integrity of the former president is not threatened. We took all the necessary measures for him to have access to medical care and to be in touch with his physicians. Everything is going to be all right.


CURNOW: And the U.S. State Department, the U.N. and the African Union are condemning the coup. The economic community of West African states is threatening to impose sanctions.

We'll continue to follow that story here on CNN.

There's also much more to come, including Tokyo bidding farewell to the Paralympics. And as the games move on, Japan is fighting rising COVID infections. We'll go live to Tokyo. That is next.

Plus, after leaving the U.S. at the start of a pandemic, a Chinese researcher can't get back into the states to complete his studies. Why he says he's a victim of Donald Trump's policies.



CURNOW: Welcome back. To all of our viewers around the world, thanks for joining me. Live from Atlanta, I'm Robyn Curnow. It's 25 minutes past the hour.

So the Tokyo Paralympics wrapped up on Sunday with a colorful celebration. The closing ceremony included singing, dancing, and the parade of nations. It took place in a near empty stadium without spectators, due, of course, to the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan found some success containing the coronavirus during the Paralympics, but the Delta variant is still certainly driving new infections.

Well, Blake Essig joins me now from Tokyo. I want to talk about both of these issues. But I want to talk about the good news first.

Hi, Blake. Good to see you. I know you're a little bit wet, but you've also been able to experience the closing ceremony. What was that like?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Robyn, it really was an amazing experience. I've had the opportunity to attend several events throughout the Olympics and Paralympics.

And being able to be inside of the stadium to watch the closing ceremony yesterday really was surreal. You know, again, 68,000-seat stadium, and just a handful of reporters, some cameras. You know, and then the people, athletes, on the field. But that was it.

Again, a surreal experience to experience something like that, essentially, all by myself. That all being said, look, Tokyo 2020, the final curtain has fallen. Last night, inside of the stadium right here behind me, the national stadium, the closing ceremony was held, bringing an end to an Olympic games, and Paralympic games, like no other.

As you mentioned, it was a vibrant, loud, and colorless celebration, filled with singing, dancing, and a parade of nations that did include the two Afghan athletes who proudly carried their country's flag. Now, because of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, the country's two Paralympic athletes were originally unable to reach Tokyo, but Paralympic organizers say that with the help of individuals, organizations, and governments from around the world, the pair were evacuated from Kabul and arrived here just in time to compete.

As has been the case throughout the games, last night's closing ceremony took place inside a nearly empty stadium. While there were incredible moments and record-setting performances throughout the Olympic and Paralympic games, there's no question that the legacy of Tokyo 2020 will be defined by COVID-19. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I really hope there will never have to be a summer games like this again, where people can't attend in person, due to a pandemic. I think these games would've been even better and safer if there were no pandemic. But nobody could have seen that coming.


ESSIG: Now, inside the Olympic and Paralympic bubble, the COVID-19 countermeasures put in place by organizers proved to be largely successful, as the daily case count remained low.

But outside of that bubble, cases in Tokyo and around Japan skyrocketed. A state of emergency remains in place. Roughly 80 percent of the country is under the state of emergency, and their stocks of the state of emergency will be extended here in Tokyo, another two to three weeks.

Healthcare professionals are telling us that the medical system has completely collapsed. More than 200,000 people are at home, recovering from COVID. Tens of thousands require medical care but are unable to receive it. And as a result, some people are dying at home.

For months, there was fierce opposition towards these games felt by a majority of the Japanese people. In fact, protests were still being held last night as the flame was being extinguished.

But Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pushed ahead with the event, Robyn, seemingly against the will of the people and despite warnings from healthcare professionals that the virus could surge.

CURNOW: Thanks so much for that. Great work over the past few weeks. It's certainly been an interesting Olympics, for sure. Blake Essig, thank you.

So Paralympians tuned [SIC] in -- turned in some really inspirational performances, and broke dozens of records at the Tokyo games, as Blake was saying. One of those athletes is American Jessica Long. The swimmer won six medals, giving her 29 for her career. She told our Selina Wang she's already looking forward to Paris in three years.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, you're now a 29-time Paralympic medalist. You're going home with a full set of medals from Tokyo. How are you going to reflect on your experience here?

JESSICA LONG, U.S. PARALYMPIC MEDALIST: It's unreal. I don't think it has really hit me yet. I like the sound of 29 Paralympic medals. That sounds so insane to me. Just thinking about this journey I've been on since I was 12 years old and finding out about the Paralympic event. WANG: You were just 12 at your first Paralympic games, the youngest on

the U.S. Paralympic team. What has kept your drive and motivation after all these years?

LONG: What has really motivated me is just going back to the 12-year- old girl who never gave up. Even when days get tough, and I definitely have a lot of tough days, even with the postponement, just going back to her and how she would never give up, so why am I going to give up.


WANG: You were born in Russia with a rare health condition. How did that impact your childhood?

LONG: I was born with something called fibular hemimelia. I had a foot with three toes that, after I was adopted at 13 months, they had it amputated at 18 months old, so I could wear prosthetic legs.

There are some parts of my childhood I don't remember, because it was so incredibly painful. We're talking, if I got the right leg done, it would go back into the left leg. And then as soon as I got the left leg done, and had started to learn how to walk again, it was back into the right leg. And it was a constant. It was constantly overcoming.

I think, in some crazy way, I just thought that it was somewhat of a punishment. Right? I was adopted. It's very real to feel abandoned. And even though I had such a loving family, I was adopted into a family with a total of six kids. And you still kind of feel, what did I do wrong? Everyone had legs. No one else in my family had to get surgery. But it was survival, and it really set the tone to never give up.

WANG: How did that constant barrage of obstacles, how does that fuel your swimming today?

LONG: As an amputee, I'm still in pain every day. My legs hurt me. I think that's just kind of something that kind of comes along with being an amputee.

So it's so funny to me that I picked a sport where every single day, I'm going to be even -- like, so challenged and in pain and feeling the burn in my shoulders, but at the same time, I think to me, it's such a comfort. I just -- that pushing through, to know that, no matter what I go through, I can overcome it.

WANG: You've talked about being just exhausted after the Rio Olympics. What happened there, and how did you bounce back?

LONG: I was totally burned out. I had two shoulder injuries. I had a really bad eating disorder. I had never really dealt with that before. And I lost about 20 pounds. I was really sick. I was really weak, mentally, physically, emotionally.

And it was something that I felt, like, I had to get through it. But it felt so incredibly challenging. And then when I got back, it was the first time I truly felt depressed, sad, and I didn't like the word depressed. I think back then, right, it felt so -- it felt like such a bad word.

You know, we talk a lot about the post-Olympic blues, but after six months, and I was still feeling down and just like a failure, I knew I needed some help.

WANG: A key conversation at the Tokyo Olympics was athlete mental health. You have Simone Biles, talking about all the pressures elite athletes face. How did you relate to that?

LONG: After Rio, I started seeing a counselor, a therapist, and just talking about mental health. Coming into these games, I felt more prepared than ever. But at the same time, still having a hard time. Right? Mental health is such a journey. It doesn't change overnight.

I know that when I get home, there're still going to be a lot of processing. And you know, not being too hard on myself, I think coming out here, I realized for the first time just truly how loved I am as a person. And that, no matter my outcome, I was going home to a husband who loves me, a family who loves me, and that -- that was enough. That was just worthy or just as successful as a gold medal to me.

WANG: So the 29 gold medals are incredible, but you realize you are more than just those 29 medals. As incredible as it is.

LONG: I'll look at them. I'll celebrate, I will let people wear them, because everyone has been part of this journey with me. After I celebrate, I would probably put it in my little basket in my closet and get ready for Paris.


CURNOW: Thanks to Selina Wang for that interview.

So a crazy scene unfolded in Sao Paulo on Sunday between football powerhouses Brazil and Argentina. Less than five minutes into the match, Brazilian health officials entered the pitch to remove three Argentine players who allegedly broke COVID quarantine rules.

The rest of the team from Argentina went back into the locker room and did not return.

The confusion left both sides wondering how to proceed, but FIFA said the match will be now suspended.

Be sure to stay tuned for WORLD SPORT in about 15 minutes from now, for much more on this story.

And a Trump-era ban on visas aimed at Chinese nationals is still causing problems for students trying to get back into the U.S. The policy targeted people suspected of being spies for the Chinese military. Well, now those students are warning it may drive a bigger wedge between the two countries, as David Culver now reports -- David.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heightened tensions between the U.S. and China, striking at higher education, forcing some Chinese graduate and post-grad students to halt their studies in the U.S. Their academic futures left in limbo.

DENNIS HU, STUDENT: My research was kind of disrupted.

CULVER: Dennis Hu, one of them. He flew to Shanghai in January 2020, along with his friend and lab mate, Matthew Jagielski. Hu aimed to renew his visa and introduce Jagielski to his family and the Chinese culture.

But, while Jagielski, an American, returned to the U.S., Hu was delayed in going back to their university in Boston, first, by the outbreak. Several attempts to return failed. Then came a new policy under President Trump.

HU: First, I think it's a policy of discrimination based on nationality.



CULVER: Hu is referring to proclamation 10043. In May 2020, Trump blocked Chinese graduate students and post-grad researchers that came mostly from eight Chinese universities with suspected Chinese military ties. The policy singled out those studying in STEM fields or science, technology, engineering, and math, framed as part of national security.

ERIC FISH, AUTHOR, "CHINA'S MILLENNIALS: THE WANT GENERATION": There certainly is espionage that goes on in U.S. universities from China. There have been cases, in the past, where students have been used for espionage purposes. This policy, however, is very sweeping, and it's very arbitrary.

CULVER: It's estimated there are as many as 5,000 Chinese students, now kept from reentering the U.S.

In response to CNN, the U.S. State Department said in part that the United States welcomes international students and stated the policy is intentionally narrowly targeted, affecting less than 2 percent of those applying for the student and exchange visitor visas, stressing that the proclamation is intended to protect both the integrity of the U.S. research enterprise and U.S. national security interests.

But some experts fear the policy could worsen U.S.-China relations for generations to come.

FISH: I think when you get to a more fundamental level, this has been really alienating to a lot of the young Chinese who are most predisposed to be amiable towards the United States in the first place.

CULVER: Students like Hu now desperate to return to the U.S. His research focuses on using social media data to assess bias in the public domain.

MATTHEW JAGIELSKI, DENNIS HU'S LAB MATE: I definitely don't get the impression that his research is a, like, military sensitive thing. I also, you know, don't get the impression that he as a person, is trying to sneak it in or anything.

HU: It just hurt me with those, like, accusations or labeling of me being a Chinese spy.

CULVER: It is concerning enough for Chinese officials to raise the issue of student visa restrictions in recent high-level talks with their U.S. counterparts, calling it unfair treatment.

But in the U.S., there are American graduate students, likewise, kept from reentering China.

WALEED KHAN, U.S. STUDENT UNABLE TO GET BACK TO CHINA: And I was, essentially, meant to graduate this year 2021.

CULVER: Walia Khan and his brother lived in Shanghai up until the outbreak. The medical student thought it would be a brief hiatus, and then, he'd be back to finish his sixth, and final, year.

Instead, the brothers are left waiting in their L.A. area home.

KHAN: We want to return, and we are proactive. We want to abide by the guidelines, but we need guidelines to abide by.

CULVER: China keeping most international students, including Americans, from returning based on COVID-19 restrictions. But Khan thinks there's more to that.

KHAN: I do believe that having that American passport is making things difficult because of the political conflict between the U.S. and China. I feel like, we may be caught in the crossfire.

CULVER: Back in China, Hu is part of a group pushing the Biden administration to revoke the Trump proclamation, even trying to raise funds to launch a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

HU: I try my best to be positive, even though the reality might not always be good.

CULVER: David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


CURNOW: As you are watching CNN, a powerful new storm is traveling through the Atlantic. We'll get the latest on Hurricane Larry, just ahead.



CURNOW: Fans are mourning the loss of singer and pop star Sarah Harding. Harding was part of the hugely popular English-Irish girl group, Girls Aloud.

She died on Sunday at the age of 39, after a battle with breast cancer.

Harding was a popular and charismatic member of the group. They had a string of top 10 singles in the U.K., with hits like "Love Machine," "Jump," and "The Promise."

Harding's mother confirmed her daughter's death on Instagram. The singer revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer back in August of last year. She wrote a book about her battle with the disease.

And we're monitoring this season's third major cyclone at the Atlantic. Hurricane Larry is currently a Category 3 storm, making its way towards Bermuda. It's not forecast to hit the U.S. directly, but it's certainly expected to create dangerous surf conditions next week.

Watching the storm for us is Tyler Mauldin.

Tyler, hi. What can you tell us about where this is expected?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So this is a small but mighty storm. It is a Category 3, as you said, and it is the third major hurricane of the season. The other two major hurricanes to form in the Atlantic so far during the 2021 season have been Ida and Grace.

Hurricane Larry here is to the east of the Leeward Islands, several hundred miles to the south and east of Bermuda. Packing winds of 205 miles per hour. As it pushes to the north, it's actually going to strengthen a little bit, and then it begins to weaken.

Notice that the cone keeps it to the east of Bermuda. That is telling you that the center is going to stay to the east of Bermuda. Bermuda can still feel some tropical storm force-like conditions, as it passes by. Then eventually, it's in the north Atlantic, and it just peters out.

It's not going to impact the U.S. directly. It will send some swells to the U.S. East Coast and increase the rip currents, too.

The peak of hurricane season is just a few days away. It's on September 10 in the Atlantic. This time of the year, pretty much all of the Atlantic basin is open for business, from the east Atlantic, to the Caribbean, to the Gulf of Mexico, and everything is fair game.

Next name on the list is Mindy, and then you've got Nicholas, and then as you can see, all the way down to Wanda. That's what we have left.

Oh, and by the way, Robyn, we do have a tropical depression that is on its way to the Philippines.

CURNOW: OK. Keep an eye out for that, as well. Thank you. Tyler Mauldin there.

You've been watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta. I will be back in 15 minutes' time with more news, but in the meantime, I'm going to hand you over to WORLD SPORT.