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Biden Pushes Aggressive Domestic Agenda; Children Account for More than 1/4 of New U.S. Covid Cases; Biden Warns of Climate Change as He Tours Storm Damage; Texas Governor Signs New Voting Restrictions into Law; Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake Rattles Mexico, at Least One Dead; Taliban Government Members Tied to Terror, Under Sanctions; Social Media: Women Protest in Western Kabul. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Right now, we are in outbreak mode. We have to get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people.


CHURCH: With back-to-school season in full swing, COVID cases and hospitalizations among children are the highest they've ever been.

New Texas voting restrictions are signed into law and critics say minority voters will face the biggest hurdles.

And France is set to hold its biggest trial ever on the 2015 terror attacks. We are live outside the Paris courthouse.

Good to have you with us.

U.S. President Joe Biden is making an aggressive pitch for a legacy- defining domestic agenda even has he faces challenges on a range of issues. The White House is struggling to contain the resurgence in the coronavirus pandemic with now more than 40 million cases. The president is also focused on the destruction left by hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the Western United States to push for funding for infrastructure and to fight the climate crisis. But he is facing opposition to the multitrillion dollar price tag and with the Taliban new hardline government announced, the Biden administration remains under fire for leaving Americans and Afghan allies behind. The White House is asking for billions in funding to help Afghan refugees and the evacuation process.

On Thursday President Biden will give a speech outlining the next phase of his administration's plan to fight the pandemic. It comes as the country's average daily case count is soaring. The U.S. is now averaging more than 150,000 new cases every day. That's more than triple where we were a year ago.

What else has changed? This time a lot more kids are getting sick. Children now account for more than a quarter of new weekly cases nationwide. The American Academy of Pediatrics says more than a quarter million child cases were reported last week, the most since the pandemic began. And Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN with the new school year getting into full swing, it is more important than ever for everyone eligible to get vaccinated.


FAUCI: If we want to protect the children particularly those who are not yet eligible for vaccination, you want to surround the children with people who are vaccinated. Teachers, school personnel, everyone else. Even though there are some government leaders locally who are trying to push back on that, we've to get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people.


CHURCH: So far just over 53 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one dose.

In Florida one of the big COVID hot spots in the U.S., one school district has lost 13 employees to the virus. The superintendent says none of them were infected at schools but they were all unvaccinated and African American. While he says he's doing all he can to convince employees to get vaccinated, the superintendent believes some minority groups simply don't trust that COVID vaccines actually work.


ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I think this underscores the big tragedy that we see occurring across America. Even though in my community 98 percent of individuals have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, there is still a lag specific to individuals that represent ethnic minorities in Miami-Dade. And this is the result of understandable historic facts that have in a certain way prejudiced the understanding of these communities about the viability of the vaccine.


CHURCH: Lawmakers in Kentucky have voted to extend a state of emergency until at least mid-January due to a surge of new COVID infections.


The state had a record 30,000 new cases last week and the governor says hospitals are facing critical staff shortages. National Guard members have been sent to help at hospitals which are so overwhelmed, some have had close surgery rooms to create ICU centers and add more beds. An official at the World Health Organization says the severity of the

coronavirus pandemic could have been avoided but the world missed the opportunity to eliminate the virus.


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, W.H.O. COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD: We had a chance in the beginning of this pandemic. I like not to think of the what ifs too much because it's a very difficult thing for me to think through. This pandemic did not need to be this bad.


CHURCH: As the fight against COVID-19 continues, the W.H.O. says global cases have remained stable over the past month. And it says all regions have reported consistent or declining infections in the past week compared to the previous week except the Americas which reported a 19 percent increase.

President Joe Biden says the dangerous flooding and damage caused by Ida shows the threat that climate change poses. His remarks came after touring some of the destruction from the storm in New York and New Jersey. CNN's Arlette Saenz has our report.



ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden issuing a warning on climate change as he saw firsthand the damage brought by Hurricane Ida.

BIDEN: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy and the threat is here. It's not going to get any better. The question, can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.

It's incredible.

SAENZ (voice-over): It was the second time in four days that the president toured the devastation left in Ida's wake on the ground in Louisiana on Friday and in New Jersey and New York, meeting face to face with families impacted by the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our plan was to go in and save her belongings, but, unfortunately, probably around 2:30, 3:00 Thursday, the house was on fire.

BIDEN: Thank God you didn't come back.


SAENZ (voice-over): The president pledging federal support will continue for the long haul as the region recovers from flash flooding and tornados that damaged homes and killed at least 50 people.

BIDEN: We're going to make sure the relief is equitable so that those hardest hit get what they need, and we know there is a lot more to do. That's why we're here.

SAENZ (voice-over): He also used the visit to make the case for his economic agenda, arguing investments in infrastructure and combating climate change are vital for recovery.

BIDEN: I think we're at one of those inflection points where either we act or we're going to be -- we're going to be in real, real trouble. Our kids are going to be in real trouble.

SAENZ (voice-over): The White House says one in three Americans live in counties impacted by severe weather in recent months. And officials argue action is needed across the board.

ROBERT FAZEN, BOUND BROOK, NEW JERSEY MAYOR: We do as much as we can on the local level. But I'm sure that not only the United States but the rest of the world is responsible for fixing this problem.

SAENZ: The White House today also asked Congress to approve billions of dollars in funding to respond to natural disasters in their upcoming government funding proposal. They specifically are asking for $10 billion to respond to hurricane Ida and another 14 billion for recovery and unmet needs relating to other natural disasters like wildfires and storms. And the president also suggested he may soon travel out West to California to see the impact of wildfires on the ground there.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: On the U.S. Gulf Coast, the death toll from hurricane Ida has risen to 22. Louisiana state officials confirmed two more storm- related deaths on Tuesday. One of the victims was a 71-year-old man who died from lack of oxygen during the extended power outages. Right now, close to 350,000 customers across the state are still without electricity and facing another day of dangerously high temperatures.

Well, there's also a growing scandal involving the deaths of several nursing home residents in the arrester aftermath of the storm. On Tuesday the Louisiana Department of Health revoked licenses from seven homes that evacuated patients to a warehouse facility where seven residents later died. Nurses who helped with the evacuation told CNN the warehouse was overcrowded, hot and leaked during the storm. Here is how a state health department official described the situation on Tuesday.



STEPHEN RUSSO, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Let's be clear. There is no emergency preparedness plan that allows for residents to be kept in such an unsanitary and unhealthy condition. The lack of adequate care for these residents is inhumane and goes against the rules, regulations and applicable statutes.


CHURCH: Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill are struggling to reach a consensus on spending priorities. And several deadlines loom including one to keep the government running. A $3.5 trillion economic package would increase spending on health care and climate change and would raise taxes to help pay for it. But a source says Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has suggested he could only support a $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected his call for a strategic pause on moving forward. With an evenly divided Senate, Democrats can't lose a single vote on the bill says all Republicans are expected to vote against it.

Well, the latest restrictions on voting are now law in the U.S. state of Texas and that's just one of several controversial issues that have Republican Governor Greg Abbott losing support. CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Last year, about 127,000 people cast their presidential ballots at drive-thru voting locations in Harris County. It was an idea born out of the pandemic and celebrated by local election officials as a secure way of making voting safe and convenient.

CHRIS HOLLINS, FORMER HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS CLERK: You are more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to experience mail ballot fraud, plain and simple.

GOV. GREGG ABBOTT (R-TX): Election integrity is now a law.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Drive-through voting is now banned in Texas. It's one of the extensive measures included in a controversial election bill signed by Republican Greg Abbott. Critics call it one of the most restrictive election laws in the country, Republicans deny it will make voting harder.

ABBOTT: It does make it easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot. But it also however make sure that it is harder for people to cheat at the ballot box in Texas.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The election bill also bans 24-hour voting, sets new identification rules for voting by mail and gives partisan poll watchers more access at election sites.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Mike Collier, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor says Republicans in Texas are feeling the political tides turning against them, especially in the biggest cities which now vote overwhelmingly democratic.

COLLIER: They don't want to lose their grip on power and they will assault democracy in order to retain power and I think that's very, very dangerous. LAVANDERA (voice-over): Gov. Abbott signed the election law as a new Texas politics project poll shows Governor Abbott's job approval rating at 41 percent with 50 percent disapproving of the job he's done. And the same poll also finds that 52 percent of Texans say the state is headed in the wrong direction.

In recent weeks, Governor Abbott has continued to push for a hands off approach to the COVID-19 pandemic even as cases and hospitalizations skyrocketed. The election bill is just one of several controversial laws supported by the Governor and Texas Republicans.

The governor signed a bill that allows Texans to carry firearms without a permit, as well as limiting the way issues of race are discussed in Texas classrooms. There's also the bill which went into effect last week that outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The governor was asked why the bill didn't make exceptions for victims of rape and insist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?

ABBOTT: It doesn't require that at all, because obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion. So, for one, it doesn't provide that. Rape is a crime and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Critics quickly pointed out that most women don't find out they're pregnant until after six weeks.

LAVANDERA: With all of these controversies swirling around the Governor, Greg Abbott is calling state lawmakers back to Austin for another special session this time to hammer out a redistricting plan.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


CHURCH: And you heard the governor say that he was working to eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas. That comment has prompted widespread backlash. U.S. House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez says it shows Greg Abbott's deep ignorance that's hurting people across the country.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This idea that we're going to quote/unquote end rape when the same type of, frankly, rape culture and same type of misogynistic culture that informed this abortion law to begin with, is also -- you know, those beliefs are held by the governor himself and this Texas state legislature. Frankly, there are many people in power as we know from the me too movement that commits sexual assault. That help their friends corrupt these crimes. And some of them even serve in the same state legislature that are voting on these -- you know, just these anti-choice bills. It's awful and it speaks from such a place of deep ignorance.



WENDY DAVIS, FORMER TAXES STATE SENATE DEMOCRAT: The fact that Governor Abbott and others who passed this horrid law into effect claim to be pro-life, to reiterate the point that the Congresswoman made, knowing and not caring that people are going to be traumatized in this way. And once again that it's going to have a predominant and disproportionate impact on women of color and low income women in our state. Don't you dare say that you are pro-life. There is nothing that is pro woman in those actions.


CHURCH: The situation in Texas, a sharp contrast to what's unfolding across the border in Mexico. On Tuesday, the country's Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it's unconstitutional to punish abortion as a crime. The decision is expected to clear the way for legalizing abortion nationwide. That would make the majority Catholic nation the most populist Latin America to allow the procedure under any circumstances.

And we continue to track developments out of southwest Mexico where a powerful earthquake struck just hours ago sending shockwaves across the country. The epicenter of the magnitude 7 quake was not far from the coastal resort city of Acapulco but was felt as far away as Mexico City. At least one person has died. Officials say a man was crushed by a falling pole. The country's state-owned utility service says more than 1.5 million customers are without electricity in Mexico City and across four states. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has more -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Rosemary. The latest on this earthquake is 7.0 magnitude occurring just about 20 kilometers northeast of Acapulco. Very shallow quake as we noted of course. And you take a look, when you put a quake of this magnitude 7.0 close to population density such as Acapulco, we know problems will arise. And you'll notice strong to very strong shaking felt by over a million people in total, as many as 15 million people across Mexico felt shaking associated with the quake. Although the vast majority of it on the lesser end of it, about 300 kilometers away in Mexico City where we had some shaking felt as well.

But the USGS uses historical data and kind of analyzes what quakes can produce given the magnitude and its location. And they put an economic loss estimates around $100 million to as much as $1 billion. Again, speaks to the magnitude of this quake and its high proximity to high population areas such as Acapulco.

And you take a look, anytime that you bring any quake between a 7 to 8 magnitude that is considered a major earthquake and you bring that into a shallow zone of around 10 miles, that also leads to major, major destruction as well. So, you'll notice our planet produces about 15 quakes of such magnitude 7 or greater every single year, that's roughly one every single month. And of course, we know when it comes to quakes of this magnitude,

aftershocks typically follow generally a 6.0 is expected. On average just one time and you'll get as much as 10 aftershocks that exceed the 5 magnitude and hundred exceeding 4 magnitude.

But you'll notice temperatures across this region in the coming days generally going to be to the upper 80s. A few scattered thunderstorms possible mainly late week into early this weekend, Rosemary. But we do expect at least the weather to be cooperating with recovery efforts across this region in the coming days.

CHURCH: All right, thanks for that for that, Pedram.

Well, dangerously hot conditions in California have prompted the state's power grid to call for energy conservation to avoid power outages. Residents are now under a statewide alert and have been asked to cut back on power use between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in the evening when demand is highest and solar power production is declining.

Meantime the U.S. Coast Guard is investigating nearly 350 reports of oil spill incidents in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of hurricane Ida. They are having a hard time identifying the owner of an oil line off the Louisiana coast which was dislodged in the storm and spread oil for miles.


One expert says the pipeline network is a mess with many old and abandoned wells in the area. Authorities are working with energy companies to locate the owner.

Time for a short break. Still to come, women are leading the protests against the Taliban in Afghanistan but they have no place in the newly announced government. We'll be back in just a moment.


CHURCH: The new day in Afghanistan is bringing fresh protests against the Taliban. Images on social media appear to show a small group of women marching in the western part of Kabul. Tuesday saw the biggest protest yet in the capital. Witnesses say several hundred demonstrators demanded education, human rights and a role in government. The Taliban responded with violence.




CHURCH: Some crowds dispersed after the Taliban fired over their heads. Journalists say they were beaten and arrested. Women detained for several hours.

[04:25:00] A hospital spokesman says two people were killed in the western city of Herat.

Well, this comes as the Taliban have announced a new caretaker government made up of hardliners with a history of connections to al Qaeda. The acting Prime Minister is under U.N. sanctions and was a close aide to the Taliban's late founder Mullah Omar. And the acting defense minister is Omar's son. Two others are leaders of the Haqqani network, designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. One is on the FBI most wanted list and both have multimillion dollar bounties on their heads.

Former inmates at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay are filling other posts. They were part of a prisoner exchange with the U.S. in 2014 for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

And CNN's Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan extensively and was in Kabul recently and she is joining me live. Good to see you, Anna. So what more are you learning about this protest under way in the west of Kabul putting the Taliban to the test once again and also reaction to this new hardline government with links to terror?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, the experts, Rosemary, that I've spoken about the formation of this new Taliban government say that this is the Taliban leadership really thumbing its nose at the West and at America. This idea that it would be inclusive, that it might be a little bit more moderate, clearly their appointments indicate anything but. It's basically a message to the world saying that if you want to deal with us, it will be on our terms.

Obviously, this is not a good thing for Afghanistan or the direction of Afghanistan. There is no ministry of women's affairs. There are obviously no women whatsoever. And the protests that we've been seeing, Rosemary, that has been very much in reaction to that. Today's protests in the west of Kabul, it's only a small protest, but as we understand it, it is still going. These women are saying to the Taliban without women, your government will fail.

You know, these women have come so far in the last 20 years. The advancements that have been made. These are educated women. They have traveled the world. They are connected through the internet, through smartphones. And they have had a taste of democracy. To think that they are going to be banished to their homes, it's just out of the question. Hence these women are taking to the streets. But let's have a listen now to what the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said yesterday in this press conference trying to bandy around this notion of the government that has been formed will represent all Afghans. Take a listen.


ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN (through translator): Neither can we can coexistence based on one ethnic group nor have we struggled for one ethnic group, nor do we represent one ethnic group. We represent the whole of Afghanistan and we talk on the level of the whole of Afghanistan and our struggle was based on the whole of Afghanistan. We are not people of one tribe or ethnicity neither do we believe in this.


COREN (on camera): Well, of the 33 cabinet ministers, Rosemary, caretakers they may be, 32 of them, and their representation from other ethnic minorities and as we said no women.

CHURCH: Yes, all right, Anna Coren, many thanks for bringing us up to date on all of that, appreciate it.

Carter Malkasian worked in Afghanistan for the U.S. Defense and State Departments, and I asked him what the new Taliban government might mean for future relations with the U.S. and the international community.


CARTER MALKASIAN, AUTHOR, "THE AMERICAN WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, A HISTORY": I think internationally this poses some challenges. For one thing, several countries, including the United States, have said that they don't want to see an Islamic emirate return to Afghanistan, one in which the Taliban have a full monopoly on power. And it's not just the United States that said this. Russia has said it, Iran has said it, China has said it.

What these countries are to do is a little bit unclear. Are they going to kind of hedge and wait to see how things play out or are they going to be firmer with the Taliban and say this is not what we wanted? Or are they going to say, hey, the Taliban is the best we can do, let's work with them. These kind of things are unknown, but the odds that these other countries are going to work with the Taliban has probably reduced a little bit nor or at least there is potential for more friction because the Taliban have insisted on moving forward with their emirate.


CHURCH (on camera): Our thanks to Carter Malkasian, author of the new book "The American War in Afghanistan, a history."

Well, six years after a devastating rampage in Paris, the men suspected in the terror attacks that killed 130 people are about to go on trial today. We'll have the details.

Plus, the pretrial hearing for the 9/11 suspects has resumed after months of delays. We will have details on what to expect in court this week.