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Experts See Reason For Optimism As New Cases, Hospitalizations Drop; Appeals Court Pauses Judge's Order Blocking Texas Abortion Ban; Laundrie Search Continues In Florida Nature Reserve; North America's Biggest Cargo Port Facing Record Backlog; NYC To Replace Criticized Gifted Students Program. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired October 09, 2021 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST (on camera): Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with another twist and the back and forth battle over abortion rights in Texas.

Late Friday night, a federal appeals court reinstated the state's restrictive abortion law, essentially banning procedures once again. The decision pauses a lower court's ruling made just days ago that found the abortion restrictions in Texas were unlike -- were likely unconstitutional.

The Texas law is one of the most restrictive in the entire country. It bans all abortions after six weeks before many women even know they are pregnant. There are no exemptions for rape or incest, and it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers.

The law has provoked women seeking the procedure to find care in neighboring states, overwhelming some clinics.


KATHALEEN PITTMAN, ADMINISTRATOR, HOPE MEDICAL GROUP: Under normal circumstances, about 18 to 20 percent of the women we see are from Texas. And at this point in time, we're running closer to 60 percent.


WHITFIELD: All right, we'll have much more on that in a moment.

Meantime, right now, experts are seeing reasons for optimism with the U.S. now averaging the lowest number of daily new infections of COVID since August. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is down by more than 30 percent from last month, and deaths are beginning to drop as well.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me now from New York with more on this. Polo, what are you learning? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hi, Fred. Optimism is certainly right here. Especially when you look at the numbers there, it's certainly clear that much of the country, the situation is improving, though not in all states.

You do have places like Utah or Alaska, for example, still seeing not only high infection rates, but also hospitalizations that are either at or near capacity with COVID patients.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): The nation's COVID-19 hospitalization rate is at its lowest point in nearly two months. Add to that, the average number of new COVID cases each day which fell below 100,000 this week, for the first time since August. It's clear to many health experts that most of the nation is on the right path with over 65 percent of eligible Americans to receive COVID-19 shots being fully vaccinated.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: There are some communities that are really well vaccinated and went really well protected. And then there are pockets of places that have very little protection. And the virus isn't stupid, it's going to go there.

SANDOVAL: That's what concerns both the current White House and the last. Admiral Brett Giroir served as COVID testing czar under the Trump administration. He agrees that the nation is in a promising point, but the war against COVID is far from over.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: This was associated with an increase in vaccination rate, more testing, and about doubling of the mask-wearing so the American people did the right things. But we are not out of the woods yet. As a surgeon general says there are still a lot of Americans who do not have natural immunity and who have not been vaccinated. They are still susceptible.

SANDOVAL: But most of the lower 48 seems to be turning a corner. Alaska remains on high COVID alert. This week, state health officials reported a COVID case count five times greater than the national average.

According to the health department, 20 of the state's medical facilities implemented crisis standards of care. That's a last resort when medical personnel have to ration care.

Pfizer's raised to secure emergency use authorization for its vaccine continues for children five to 11, as well its trials, according to the company. Vaccine advisors at the CDC will meet in the next couple of weeks to discuss Moderna J&J boosters, and early November, to discuss pediatric COVID vaccination.

That reduces the likelihood that U.S. children 11 and under will begin receiving shots before Halloween.


SANDOVAL (on camera): And that translates to an ongoing waiting game for the parents of those children ages five to 11 years old.

Now, staying on the topic of children affected by COVID, there's some new research that's now indicating that orphanhood is now emerging as a secondary tragedy in this pandemic.

Research that was published recently by the National Center for Health Statistics, Fred, now indicating that at least 120,000 children lost a primary caregiver to COVID since, at least as of this June here.

We're talking parents or grandparents and about 65 percent of those children were the children of ethnic minorities.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. And then, Polo, let me ask you about the crazy that is still associated with, you know, COVID-19.


WHITFIELD: An Apple store security guard in New York City is recovering today after he was stabbed while trying to enforce his store's mask policy. What more can you tell us about what happened and how he is doing.

SANDOVAL: Yes, hard to believe these kinds of incidents were isolated are still happening. It was a 37-year-old security guard at that Apple store that apparently was stabbed, sustained non-life-threatening injuries while he was trying to enforce the mass mandate, Fred.

So, it certainly reminds us that this is still certainly a big hot- button topic. One that is turned violent in some cases, though, certainly not frequently.

WHITFIELD: Yes, sad reality. All right, thank you so much, Polo Sandoval. Appreciate that.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right back now to the battle in Texas over abortion rights, which is our top story this hour. A federal appeals court reinstated the state's restrictive abortion law, essentially banning procedures once again.

Joining us now to talk about what all of this means, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, which operates several clinics in Texas and a handful of other -- and in a handful of other states Amy Hagstrom Miller.

Amy, so good to see you again. So, now give us the latest and how are you gauging desperate measures women are taking to get care across state lines right now?

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, FOUNDER, WHOLE WOMAN'S HEALTH: So, it's ground zero in Texas right now. We had to cancel appointments because -- the reversal on the injunction yesterday. And it's just heartbreaking when these pregnant folks have been -- just a roller coaster when they really need us to be able to provide care for them. So, now we're back to where we were a few days ago, where we can only provide care up to about six weeks into the pregnancy. And then, folks who are over that point, need to either figure out how to travel out of state, which for most of our patients is really difficult because they're parenting and they juggling jobs in school during a pandemic. And other folks are just kind of in a wait and see game wondering if they'll be able to prevail and they'll be able to get the abortion they need in their -- in their own community.

WHITFIELD: Can you share with us any, you know, a specific journey that someone, you know, that you've had interaction with is having without revealing their identity, just to give people a more clear idea of what these women are going through?

MILLER: Sure, you know, I think we have to remember that abortion and access to safe abortion benefits everybody not just women. There is men -- families, communities that rely on this main -- in health care in order to plan their families and live their (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: And I am so sorry, our signal is --

MILLER: The ripple effect is great, and it's for the --

WHITFIELD: And Amy, I mean, you're terrific, and I know you are a wealth of knowledge and information, and we want to try and do this again because the signal right now is so terrible that your message is just not being adequately conveyed. So, we'll try it again another time. Amy Hagstrom Miller, thank you so much.

All right, coming up. The search for Brian Laundrie continues his people and dogs scour a Florida nature preserve for the missing fiance of Gabby Petito. A K9 search and rescue specialist and Dolby, the dog right there. The canine specialist will be joining me live next to talk -- walk us through how dogs could be the key in finding Laundrie.



WHITFIELD: All right, police say that they have yet to find a single piece of physical evidence of Brian Laundrie in the Florida nature preserve that they've been poring over for close to four weeks now. Authorities have brought in search teams, even dogs to try to find the fiance of Gabby Petito. But so far, still no sign of Laundrie.

My next guest is a canine search and rescue specialist and the author of Go Find: My Journey to Find the Loss and Myself. Susan Purvis joining us now along with Dolby as in, in stereo.

Good to see you. So, Dolby is a canine searcher himself, right? He's about eight years old. He's some kind of special retriever, and he likes the camera already. So, Susan, tell us, you know about the role that Dolby and other dogs would have in trying to carry out a search like this.

SUSAN PURVIS AND DOLBY, CANINE SEARCH AND RESCUE: Yes, it's fascinating and incredible for me after two decades of training, search and rescue dogs that dogs are being highlighted with this case of finding Brian Laundrie.

The sooner you can get dogs on scene, the more successful they will be and it's good for everyone.

WHITFIELD: And tell me how it works. You know, how does it begin with the use of the dogs? I understand like in Bloodhounds, they can hold on to a scent for something like 14 days. What is that you would expose Dolby or another dog to, to try to search for someone like Laundrie?

PURVIS: Yes, so recently, the FBI went into Brian Laundrie's house to grab personal items. Really, girl my dog's handlers point of view, that's a scent article. So, what is sent? Let's -- I want your viewers know what the dogs are looking for.

So, think of your body be -- have a big sack of skin, and about every second, 15,000 skin cells shed from our body. Remember, there's bugs and bacteria on our skin. So, every person has their own unique scent.

So, as you walk down a trailer through the woods, you're shedding skin cells. About two-thirds of those cells float in the air. And that's when you would use an air scent dog. Dogs that have their nose up in the air and they're looking for the scent aloft, or two -- a third of the scent falls to the ground. And that's when they bring in trailing slash tracking dogs, and they're actually looking for the physical track left behind by the person they are looking for.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, you've made this even more fascinating. OK.


WHITFIELD: So, then, now, you have your dogs out there, looking for these skin cells on the ground, airborne, all of that. Is it strange or unusual? Then, that after this four weeks search, there's no physical trace of a laundry? Is it important in terms of, at what juncture the dog is brought into an area like a nature preserve to look for someone who's missing?

PURVIS: Yes, let's talk about bugs and bacteria. Thinks of the human body like inside the nose, the common cold. Bugs and bacteria like to be in warm, dark, protected places. So, scent can actually stick around for a long time. That's why we get sick because we have bugs and bacteria up in our nose.

So, you know, the swamp area where maybe he is, that's that might stick around for a while because it's protected by the vegetation. It can blow into some coverage. And so, if he was in there, you know, within the past couple of days to a week that scent might still be lingering around.


PURVIS: The other thing I wanted to say is that they need to use scent discriminating dogs. So, when they collected that scent article from Brian's house where nobody else has touched it, and it might be like his baseball hat, or maybe his pillowcase, they give that scent on scene to the dog, the trained dog. And the dog is trained to only find Brian's scent and not the searcher's scent.

WHITFIELD: Wow. I mean, this is incredible. So, now, would there be anything -- particularly, as we're talking about a swampy, you know, damp area? Would there be anything that would obstruct the dog's scent or ability to pick up on the scent?

PURVIS: Well, it's complicated because it's 24,000 acres. That's like 38 square miles. But what people -- what your viewers might not know is that dogs can find humans in the water. OK?

So, you know, one of the theories about scent movement is that warm air rises. So, if they're in the water, scent rises, and then the wind takes it away.

So, recently, I just saw a search dog, probably a water train dog on a boat, and they're looking in the water to see if he's perhaps in the water. And I'm thinking they didn't get any indication or a trained behavior to tell the handler that he might be in the water.

WHITFIELD: Well, Susan Purvis, you're a wealth of knowledge and information. I mean, I'm hanging on every word just like I'm hanging onto every vision of Dolby, because he is cute as a button.

Thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it, and all the best and keep us updated on your efforts on this ongoing search.

PURVIS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, how former President Trump may try to use executive privilege to block the January 6th committee from getting testimony and documents from his associates. Is there a legal precedent for this? That's next.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're following new developments on the Capitol riot investigation. A source tells CNN that Dan Scavino, a top aide to former President Trump has now been served with a subpoena.

Scavino is one of several former Trump aides, the January 6th committee wants to appear at a deposition next week. CNN's Marshal Cohen is covering these developments for us. So, Marshall, What more do we know about these subpoenas?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Hey, Fredricka. This is the new development today about Dan Scavino, who is sort of the brains behind President Trump's social media presence.

According to sources familiar with the matter. He was served yesterday with that subpoena. The subpoena was brought to Mar-a-Lago, and he has been notified and he will be working with his attorneys on a response.

Dan Scavino, he is the fourth of the first batch of Trump aides to get subpoenas. The first four people that got subpoenas are trying to figure out what they're going to do. Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Kash Patel, who was over at the Pentagon, they've given some different responses to the committee that's trying to probe into January 6th.

Steve Bannon said that he wants to claim executive privilege, even though the legal scholars say that's probably not going to work. A court battle may be in the future there. And the other two, Mark Meadows and Kash Patel, lawmakers said in the statement yesterday that they have engaged constructively with their attorneys. No decisions yet on what will be or won't be turned over.

So, Fredricka, it's a slow process. You know, every week we come back here and give you the latest. Last time it was subpoenas, this time it's a response. We'll see if we go to court next time. It does take a long time to work its way through, but this is a breakthrough. This is the first step as they tried to get their hands on these documents and maybe -- just maybe get some subpoena -- get some depositions too.

WHITFIELD: Yes. OK, and it was notable that you said, you know, these four are part of that first batch to receive subpoena. So, more is coming around the corner.

So, is former President Trump tried to claim executive privilege over documents as well?

COHEN: He is. He's trying. He really wants to, but it's really not up to him right now. In addition to these aides and associates of the president, former President Trump, the lawmakers on the committee sent requests to tons of government agencies, most importantly, the National Archives.


COHEN: Those are the people here in D.C. that actually have custody of Trump's records from the White House because he's the former president, he's down to Mar-a-Lago. He's in Bedminster. He doesn't have possession of these documents anymore. And it's actually up to Biden and the Biden administration to decide whether to turn them over.

Former President Trump has complained. He has said that they should be shielded. He has said they should stay secret. But the Biden White House has made its own determination that at this point for this initial batch of documents, they are not going to use executive privilege. And here is why. Let me read this for you from the White House Counsel of the Biden White House.

She said, "The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself."

What's she talking about? Of course, she is referring to President Trump's unprecedented and disturbing effort to overturn the 2020 election. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Marshall Cohen, thank you so much for that.

All right. Joining me now to talk more about all this is Michael Zeldin. He is a former federal prosecutor and the host of the podcast, "That Said with Michael Zeldin".

Michael, so good to see you.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (on camera): Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. So, what do you make of Donald Trump's claim to executive privilege for, you know, to protect against the release of documents or eyewitness accounts, even though he's no longer on office?

ZELDIN: So, the president -- the former president has a right to his opinion. And if this goes to court, that opinion will be considered. But due deference is really given to the current president, the executive privilege concept is to protect the government from having to disclose secrets that it thinks are to be protected.

The government doesn't think that it needs to be protected, as Marshall said in the letter from White House Counsel, and so, the court, I think will in balancing Trump's desires versus Biden's assertion that there is no need for privilege should rule in favor of disclosure.

We saw the exact same thing happened with Richard Nixon, after Watergate. They tried to get documents that he thought should be retained in privileged capacity. And that went to court and the court ruled against him. I think that should be precedent here too, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. Meantime, a lawyer for Steve Bannon, and among those subpoenaed in that first batch that Marshall was talking about for -- have been subpoenaed, that lawyer says that the former president instructed him to defy testimony. So, if that's the case, is this obstruction? Can a former president potentially face any legal repercussions or does he have immunity from doing something like this?

ZELDIN: So, my expectation is that this has been a bit exaggerated in the language, my expectations is, are that Trump said to him, I'm asserting privilege, and you should not, therefore, cooperate. That would not be legal obstruction of justice.

What would be obstruction is if this went to court, and the court ruled that Bannon must testify. And then he, on his own defied that order, or Trump ordered him, in some way, to defy that order. Then, you get into the question of Is that legal obstruction?

I think we're a step or two before that at the moment, though, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So, where -- how is the Justice Department poising itself at this point, since we're talking about a House Select Committee?

ZELDIN: Right. So, if they decide any of these people who have been subpoenaed, not to cooperate, and therefore, are held in contempt or -- of Congress, Congress, then in the criminal contempt context, goes to the Justice Department and says, prosecute these guys.

We want you to bring them to court and charge them with obstruction of this subpoena. And if the Justice Department agrees to do that, then a court would determine whether or not there was a valid basis to refuse to testify. And if there wasn't, and orders them to testify, and they testified, fine.

If they don't testify, then, the court can hold them in criminal contempt, jail them, theoretically, fine them, until they get the testimony that they are entitled to.

WHITFIELD: Fascinating. And this is just the opening chapter. Michael Zeldin --

ZELDIN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Michael Zeldin, always good to see you.

ZELDIN: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up next. A bottleneck of ships off the California coast is causing quite the crunch in the supply of goods across the country. We'll follow the impacts from the crowded poor to the higher prices that you're now paying at the stores.

And this quick programming note, the new CNN original series "DIANA" will introduce us to the person behind the princess and reveals a life much more complicated and fascinating than the world knew.


"DIANA" premieres tomorrow night at 9:00 on CNN. Here is a preview.


DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: I was always different. And I've always see inside me that I was going somewhat different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was going to marry her dashing Prince, like all the stories she'd read.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was iconic. She was box office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to dance with the Princess tonight?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pre Diana, there was zilch interest in the royal family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think anybody has grown up in public like Diana has been.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Diana provided a very public model for defiance and truthfulness.

DIANA: Isn't it normal to feel angry, I'm going to change a situation. I was able to recognize an inner determination to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new CNN Original Series, Diana premieres tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.



WHITFIELD: In the Pacific Ocean, the two largest ports in the nation, Los Angeles and Long Beach are clogged. An unprecedented number of container ships anchored. CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah takes to the sky to show us the ripple effects of this backlog.


CDR STEPHEN BOR, U.S. COAST GUARD: This is where we've got a second clear passage.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To understand the problem on the ground --

BOR: 542 preparing to take off.

LAH (voice-over): -- you first need to see it from the air.

BOR: We're flying right over the anchorages just south of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

LAH (voice-over): This is where the global supply chain meets the U.S. economy says Coast Guard Commander Stephen Bor.

BOR: It's record breaking. It's unprecedented. There are more ships than there are parking spots. We are effectively operating a cell phone waiting lot in the Pacific Ocean.

LAH (voice-over): This bottleneck of container ships as far as the eye can see, carries more than half the made in Asia items purchased by the American consumer.

BOR: You're looking at all of the electronics. You're looking at all of the home goods. You're looking at all of the things that people are looking forward to buy this coming holiday season.

LAH (voice-over): Zero ships usually stay parked here, but on this day Commander Bor counts 55 in the ports and more drifting further out into the Pacific. While worst here, the back-up at all west coast U.S. ports.

(on camera): What does that indicate to you about what's happening in the supply chain?

BOR: You know, I think everybody can see that things are slowing down.

LAH (voice-over): Slowing down and piling up at sea, and at the ports of entry. This is what happens when a global economy snaps back after the COVID slump of 2020. American consumers are back buying with force, but the supply chain is struggling to catch up.

MARIO CORDERO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT OF LONG BEACH: We need to have an Amazon state of mind in this industry, and by that I mean Amazon changed everything.

LAH (voice-over): While shoppers click 24 hours a day, factories in Asia are still stopping due to COVID. Then in the U.S., national labor shortages and limited work hours. The Port of Long Beach is just now experimenting with round the clock operations.

CORDERO: What this is, is a wake-up call for all of us in this industry to realize you can't operate with the model of yesterday.

LAH (voice-over): The goal, cut the wait time for truck drivers, the next link of the supply chain, moving containers out of the port.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day there are five, six hours in the harbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to wait like six hours.

LAH (on camera): Six hours?


RUBEN PONCE, TRUCK DRIVER: I was in there for nine hours.

LAH (voice-over): Nine hours Ruben Ponce lost that he could have been moving merchandise.

PONCE: That means I'm making less money. Yes, because I can't do as many rounds.

LAH (voice-over): National data shows there is a truck driver shortage, but Ponce says the problem is even more basic than that.

PONCE: So now the port is backed up. Us, we're backed up. The truckers were backed up. Everyone's backed up and it's just a big problem.

LAH (on camera): So it's like a chain reaction.

PONCE: Exactly, exactly.

LAH (voice-over): Delayed trucks means delays at warehouses like Canton Food Company in Los Angeles.

CHO KWAN, CEO, CANTON FOOD CO.: I have about eight containers out in the harbor somewhere are from China and Vietnam.

LAH (on camera): Filled with food.

KWAN: Still just waiting. LAH (voice-over): That means for this warehouse, empty shelves with no date to fill them. Basic economics are at play, scarcity drives up prices.

(on camera): So it's almost doubled in price.

KWAN: I would say maybe at least 70 percent.


LAH (voice-over): Prices for ingredients, restaurant owner Ricardo Mosqueda has to pay.

MOSQUEDA: All those different products that you have to substitute, you have to change, now at 30 percent more or 50 percent more, 100 percent more.

LAH (voice-over): La Taqueria Brand location operates in a renovated shipping container.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Churros preparados por favor.

LAH (voice-over): The supplies Mosqueda needs sit out at sea, in the same metal bins, a cruel irony after barely keeping his restaurant open through the pandemic.

MOSQUEDA: We worry, as far as because you don't know what's going to happen, right? You don't know what's next.

LAH (on camera): How long are these ships going to be floating out here?

BOR: I really can't say how long they're going to be like this. I think we're all going to wait and see how long this shakes out.


LAH: Now the consensus from the Coast Guard, to the economists, to the very workers on the supply chain, this could last into next year. So what does that mean for you? Well, start your holiday shopping now. The truck driver you heard from, he's already going through his list because he wants to make sure that his nephews get what they want.


Kyung Lah, CNN, Long Beach, California.

WHITFIELD: And maybe the holiday wish lists are going to have to be shorter too.

All right, coming up, it has been controversial for years and now the New York City Gifted Program will be phased out for a quote, new equitable model. What that means for New York students, next.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. New York City is ending its Gifted Students Program. Officials say they'll replace it with a more equitable model by next year. One of the main criticisms of the existing program was that it's -- of its exclusivity.

Some students who were tested at four years old before they even entered kindergarten to qualified for the gifted track. Well, critics also pointed to the disproportionate racial makeup of the program for enrolling too few black and Latino students.

Sal Khan is the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit focused on supporting low income students and students of color. And he's joining us right now, Sal, so good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right, so first up, you know, can you expand on why some people felt New York's Gifted Program was not working?

KHAN: Well, it's a lot of what you just described. You had underrepresentation of a lot of black and Latino students, especially relative to their population in the overall School District. And you also have these practices like, you know, testing when kids are four years old.

And when you're testing at four years old, in many cases, a lot of folks would argue that you might be driving inequality more, because it's really just dependent. Oftentimes at four years old on what type of preparation you had going in before you had any type of, you know, equity that the school district might have been able to pull off, so that that was the concern.

I think the concern on the other side, though, is maybe and it is a maybe, we might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, that, you know, testing at four years old, maybe that's not the right thing, maybe you should wait until six or seven years old. The other thing is, even though you might have underrepresentation of black and Latino students, you do have still a lot of black and Latino students in those programs.

And whenever you remove something like this, oftentimes, the middle income, higher income families will find other solutions, or they might leave the system while then you might have low-income students or black and Latino students who are left with nothing else. The district has said that they want to take a lot of what the Gifted Programs intended to do, which is really more personalization, stretching the kids who are ready for it, and bringing that into the mainstream classroom.

And that's something we believe very strongly in at Khan Academy, that you can create a world where every student can be on their own learning path and truly master things. And if you do that, you don't have to separate kids physically. Now, on the other side of that, it would be nice to have some of that in place before you remove some of these programs, because in some ways could dry --

WHITFIELD: Like a transition.

KHAN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Right. So when New York phases out this program, the students from the Gifted Program are going to return to start in their classrooms. So how, you know, can the teachers account for what could be a very wide gap between those students, I mean, like you said without something transitioning, how are they going to tackle this, meet the needs of those who have gained significantly from being in the Gifted Program, to those who, you know, had been struggling perhaps or didn't get a chance to have that opportunity.

Now you got them all together, everyone's learning paces are different, and their needs are different.

KHAN: Exactly. And my understanding of how they're going to phase it out is they're not just going to turn off the Gifted Program tomorrow, the students were already in it. As they age, they're going to keep those programs but they're not going to enter new kids. So there's not going to be new kindergarteners next year, then new first graders the year after and so on and so forth.

But the point you're making is a very real one. Even before the pandemic, I was just reading a study this morning, that in your average classroom in America, you can have as many as seven grade levels of performance, some kids are performing three grade levels behind.

And some kids are ready to be three grade levels ahead. The pandemic, by all accounts has actually made things worse, where there's been a lot of learning loss, there's a lot of unfinished learning for kids, some of them might be even more than three grade levels behind.

And we know that all within a historic academic model, teachers have traditionally taught to the 23rd percentile, so you have 76 or 77 percent of the kids who are bored, you have 22 percent of the kids who are still lost. It's really hard. This is where we've always preached use online tools. This is what Khan Academy is built for is a not for profit funded by philanthropy, where every student can learn at their own pace, master concepts.

And then the teacher can see in real time where they all are, and then do focused interventions. This is a model that we have hundreds of thousands of teachers working with millions of students. We have 120 million students on the platform about half of them are what we call classroom learners. But at the same time, these types of practices aren't as mainstream as we would like.

So in a place like New York, this still is not the mainstream practice. So to your point, if you're getting rid of a program like this, that even though you did have underrepresentation of black and Latino students, there were a lot of black and Latino and low income kids in these programs.

So I do worry is as you get rid of him, as you get rid of these programs where -- these kids, how do you keep stretching them? And one of the other issues is, there was fear that these programs caused segregation within the school district, but it could create a bigger fear where some families might say, hey, this was a program that was right for my kid. There's a lot of potential here.


WHITFIELD: It's complicated.

KHAN: Maybe I look at the public charters or something else.

WHITFIELD: Right. Well let me ask you something, which is very complicated and, you know, a portion of President Biden's economic agenda is it advocates for more support and resources for America's schools.

In fact, you were talking about the disparity, particularly of the early age kids and part of his package or his desire is to have pre-K education funding. So what is your message as Congress debates? What should be on the chopping block? What shouldn't? And how do you, you know, delineate adequate costs?

KHAN: Universal pre-k is a great idea. Florida has pioneered this. And I think there's no reason why we can't do it nationwide. So I think that has the highest bang for your buck, a lot of research to back that up. Obviously, how it's implemented. There's a lot of devils in the details.

There's also talk about free community college. Community college once again, high leverage, a lot of bang for the buck and community colleges have done a pretty good job holding costs in line, although they are heavily subsidized.

There, some people are arguing that we need to increase some of the things like the Pell Grant Program more to keep up with the cost of four-year institutions. My view there is you do want to make college as accessible as possible. But we also want to put pressure on the four year institutions to not just be able to keep increasing tuition at, you know, two or three times the rate of inflation for decades on end, there has to be some check on that as well.

But obviously, from my vantage point, I'm a big fan of more resource for -- resources for education, but I'm also someone that, you know, just as a citizen, as a taxpayer, always want to say, hey, it's not just about resources, it's how efficiently you can use those resources.

WHITFIELD: That's right. All right, Sal Khan, good to see you. Thank you so much.

KHAN: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right, right now, meet this week's CNN Hero. Heather Abbott is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing. Remember her eight years ago, she was hit by one of the blasts near the finish line and suffered a below the knee amputation of her left leg. She turned tragedy into triumph, creating a foundation raising millions to help amputees of all ages. And on Monday, she will be back at the finish line of the 125th Boston Marathon cheering on runners.


HEATHER ABBOTT, BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING SURVIVOR: I heard the first occlusion just ahead in front of me. The next thing I knew, a second explosion occurred just to my right. And that was the last thing I knew before I landed in the restaurant on the ground.

I was in the hospital for several days while doctors were deciding whether or not to amputate. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I am an amputee at first and had my injury not happened in such a public way where there was so much assistance available, I never would have been able to afford multiple prosthesis.

Some of our recent beneficiaries.

So I decided to just do what I could to help people get those devices that simply couldn't get them because they were out of reach. It has been life changing for them. And a lot of them remind me of that.

He is a crazy man.

It feels very rewarding to be able to do that.



WHITFIELD: Amazing. To see more, go to And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: The Biden administration is canceling more Trump era contracts to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico. The latest termination cover sectors in the Laredo and Rio Grande Valley of Texas. And as part of President Biden's pledged to stop border wall construction, the government is returning that property in some cases to landowners who have spent years fighting the Trump administration in court over the land seizures.

President Biden is also expanding three national monuments. It's a move that restores protections undone by former President Donald Trump. The President signed the proclamations Friday during a ceremony outside the White House calling it quote, the easiest thing I've done as President so far, end quote. The three monuments are Bears Ears, and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, as well as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England.

And two journalists are being honored for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression. Maria Ressa from the Philippines, who is a former CNN employee, and Dmitri Muratov of Russia have each been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prizes. Both have faced legal and physical threats during their careers as their respective governments' crackdown on rights of journalists. Congrats to them.

And hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we begin this hour with a sense of cautious optimism as some experts say the U.S. is beginning to turn a corner on the pandemic. The nation is now averaging fewer than 100,000 daily new infections for the first time since August.