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China Committed to Reunification with Taiwan; CDC to Discuss Pfizer Shot for Children in November; Romanian Hospitals Struggle with Numbers of COVID-19 Patients; U.S. and Mexico Discuss New Joint Security Pact; Journalists Win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 09, 2021 - 03:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warm welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Paula Newton.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, Xi Jinping, not mincing words about a unified Taiwan with Mainland China.

Dozens, dead after an ISIS-K bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Afghanistan.

Plus, a dangerous mix in Romania. Low vaccination rates, and the Delta variant, filling hospitals with COVID patients.


NEWTON: After days of China flexing its military muscle toward Taiwan and dramatically ratcheting up tensions across the region, Taipei on Saturday, calling on Beijing to stop the provocations.

Now that came after the Chinese president said that China was committed to a, quote, "peaceful reunification with Taiwan."

But Xi Jinping left no doubt, that he views bringing Taiwan, under Beijing's control, as inevitable, in fact, part of China's modern destiny and he had this warning to supporters of Taiwan independence.


XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): Secession aimed at Taiwan independence is the greatest obstacle to national reunification and a grave fender to national reunification and rejuvenation.

Those who forgot their heritage betrayed their motherland and seek to split the country will come to no good and they will be detained by the people and confined by the police state.


NEWTON: President Xi made remarks at the celebration, marking the 110th anniversary of the Chinese revolution, which, of course, was in 1911. CNN's Ivan Watson, watching it all for us. He joins us, now, from Hong Kong, on the speech.

You know, the tone, the substance, I want to get a read here. Is this predictable?

Or has something changed?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of this is a reiteration of what Beijing's position has been, for decades. It is the timing, perhaps, coming after China sent 150 warplanes into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone, breaking all kinds of records and, coming on the eve of Taiwan's own, national day, holiday, where Taiwan celebrates itself as a democratically governed island, as opposed to Beijing's view of things, which, is that Taiwan is not an independent entity.

It is kind of a rogue region of the People's Republic of China. Xi Jinping did reassert peaceful reunification and saying that it should happen under the one country, 2 systems formula, supposed to be applied here in Hong Kong and Macau, 2 former European colonies, that were brought back to Beijing rule.

He also had harsh criticism for any foreign country or foreign entity, who supports Taiwan's quest for sovereignty. And, basically, argued that anyone in China or Taiwan who doesn't actually agree with the Communist Party rule, it is against the will of the Chinese people -- Paula?

NEWTON: Rhetorically aiming at the United States, without naming them. You mentioned how Xi says he could achieve that reuniting with Taiwan, using Hong Kong model. I wonder how Taiwan is responding.

WATSON: The president's office, fired back at that, it blasted the suggestion of the one country, two systems, formula. That was supposed to govern in Hong Kong, for some 50 years after handover from British rule to Beijing rule.

But many critics and observers, would argue that got ripped to shreds over the course of the last year, when Beijing imposed new laws on Hong Kong's constitution, basically crushing the right of political protests in the streets, helped to close the newspaper here and forced the closure of political parties here, basically, delaying elections for the legislative council here, for quite a long period.


WATSON: So, the Taiwanese president's office said, look, we see that you cannot respect one country, two systems and autonomy. And the people of Taiwan reject this.

Meanwhile, you had another statement coming out of the Taiwan mainland affairs office, saying, quote, "The future for Taiwan lies in the hands of the 23 million people of Taiwan and that Beijing should stop its policy of intrusion, harassment and destruction, focusing, instead, on peace, parity, democracy and dialogue." So, neither side agrees; of course, Beijing has 1.4 billion people. Taiwan, only having 23 million people. Paula?

NEWTON: Garnering a lot of attention, of course, from Beijing. Ivan, thank you for watching that speech for, us we have more in the coming hours. I appreciate it.

Now China is demanding answers from the United States about an incident involving a U.S. nuclear powered submarine, in the South China Sea, last week.

The U.S. says, the sub hit an unknown object, while submerged, last Saturday. The front of the sub was damaged, and 11 sailors suffered minor injuries, but China expressed grave concerns and demanded specific details, including the location of the collision and whether it caused a nuclear leak. So far, there has been no response from U.S. officials.

At least 46 people, dead, after a third explosion in Afghanistan, this week alone. A local official, says the suicide blast tore through a Shia mosque in the city of Kunduz. More than 140 others were injured. ISIS-K claimed responsibility and that a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of worshippers, during Friday prayers.

CNN's Clarissa Ward, explaining what the growing violence means for the Taliban as they try to rule the country.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban's whole appeal to people here is the promise that they can provide security. After decades of war, they have, essentially, put themselves on a platform to say, we are the ones who can bring about an end to the fighting.

So, when you have these sorts of terror attacks, the likes of which we've seen, over just the past few days, hitting soft targets, mosques, innocent people, the bombing today in Kunduz attacking a Shiite mosque, that is exactly the sort of ugly, sectarian violence that Afghans have become all too accustomed too but are also deeply sick of.

And so, can the Taliban get a grip on the situation?

Can they try to contain the threat, posed by ISIS-K?

We have just seen that ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for this attack and one can only assume they will continue to try to hit these soft targets.

The Taliban spent years being an insurgency; now they're the ones in charge and they're having to grapple with an insurgency. And they see for themselves it presents a number of challenges.


NEWTON: That was our Clarissa Ward there.

Meantime, senior Taliban representatives are set to meet with a U.S. delegation in Doha, this weekend. It will be the first meeting of its kind, since the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, at the end of August. U.S. officials say they'll focus on safe passage out of the country for Afghans, Americans and other foreign nationals.

A State Department official says the U.S. also intends to push the Taliban to, quote, "respect the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls."

So many health experts feeling that the U.S. could finally be around the corner in the coronavirus pandemic. The 7-day average of new COVID cases, falling below 100,000. Still a high-level but the first time in 2 months. Hospitalizations and, deaths are down as well. The U.S., also, seeing an unprecedented demand for COVID booster shots.

Now keep in mind, more than 7 million people have gotten an extra dose of the vaccine in the U.S. So far. Also, right now, it's outpacing the number of people getting their, first and second shots, in the United States.

Even as the numbers appear to be turning around, pockets of the country are, still, struggling, especially in trying to get those young people vaccinated.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Only 33 percent of the 12- to 17-year olds were given the COVID-19 vaccine, here in the South in most of the Southern states, compared to 80 percent in the Northeast.

So once again, you have this geographic divide where parents are holding back on vaccinating their adolescents. And, I have to believe, they will probably hold back on vaccinating their younger, kids as well.

So we may be looking at very low uptake, of this pediatric vaccine in the South and also in the Mountain West. And that will be a problem that will slow us down.


NEWTON: Dr. Neha Nanda is the medical director of Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship at Keck Medicine at USC. She joins me now from Los Angeles.


NEWTON: So good to have you with us, Doctor. Let's talk about what is going to finally hopefully be the end game of this pandemic. We have been waiting so long for children to be approved for the vaccine. It could be imminent now in many countries.

How much of a game changer do you think this will be? DR. NEHA NANDA, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MEDICAL SCHOOL: Thank you, Paula, for inviting me. I think that your questions are so relevant. All parents are yearning to know when their kids can get vaccinated.

So we can celebrate Halloween and we can actually have fun this Thanksgiving.

Having said that, I think if you look at the U.S. population, about 22 million children are qualified being less than 18. So if we are able to vaccinate that group, I think it will definitely help in increasing the number of people who are vaccinated.

And remember with the Delta variant we need to have at least 85-90 percent people immune so that we are able to contain the community transmission in a given community.

So I think it will definitely have a huge impact. Also, remember, now, we started learning about that what we initially, thought, that children are not the primary drivers of infection, as in they don't create a role in transmission, they do.

In fact, as recently a study came out where they compared adults and children and it seems like they are important transmitters, similar to adults. So I think it would definitely be a game-changer if all parents are as enthusiastic as myself and my peers.

NEWTON: Do you feel as if we are, now, moving into a different phase of this pandemic?

At a point where we will begin to live with it, to use the term?

And that it becomes endemic but is definitely, controlled especially when it comes to severe disease and death?

NANDA: Yes. So really, I would like to think that we are moving in that direction, wherein we will not be seeing a lot of sick people in the hospital. And, the health system will be robust, as it relates to operations.

I think where we are today, because there is a drop in our country, in the United States, there is a drop in cases, hospitalization and death, I think that the reason why it is dropping, as everyone knows, is because we are doing quite well with vaccination.

Having said that, we haven't reached out to enough. I think about 56 percent of the U.S. population is vaccinated. That is not good enough. So I think right now, we are seeing this wave coming in two months. It seems like it and we really don't know why.

So we have completed two months of the Delta wave and, this is a time where, I think, there will be a lull.

Now there is a race between how many people can get vaccinated and what percentage of our population gets vaccinated globally versus how quickly will we see another variant that will outsmart our immunity that we have acquired through the vaccine?

So I want to think, yes, we are out of the worst. Having said that, you don't mess with bugs, they can outsmart quite quickly. They multiply way faster than we do. So you have to give them the credit.


NEWTON: Unfortunately, that's been a tough lesson we've all had to learn, over the last nearly 2 years now. Doctor, I want to thank you for this information. Good stuff in there, appreciate it.

NANDA: Thank you Paula, very nice.


NEWTON: In some parts of the world the Delta driven COVID-19 surge shows signs of easing but not in Romania, with some of the lowest vaccination numbers in the E.U. Hospitals and health care workers are struggling, to keep up with the rising number of cases. CNN's Kim Brunhuber with more.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like a war. That is how the staff in one hospital in Romania described conditions, as they treat the surge of COVID-19 patients, overwhelming the country's health care system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Who can remember how many?

In the hundreds. Last night, we had 20 ambulances waiting outside and we had nowhere to put them. And this was the solution.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): A makeshift tent is set up outside the main entrance, where exhausted workers treat the sick.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): There aren't enough ICU beds inside or anywhere in the country, the government said earlier this week.

Some spaces only opening up, when someone dies. This man is one of the lucky ones. He's been in the hospital for nearly a month, saying, he's recovered from the virus. The manager at this hospital says over 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

GEORGICA VIERU, ORTHODOX PRIEST AND COVID-19 PATIENT (through translator): It is a terrible disease. I was one of those who thought the vaccine was not good. But I'm telling you now that it was a mistake on my part, an awful choice.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Romania has the second lowest vaccination rate in the European Union with less than a third of the population fully vaccinated. It recently tightened its virus restrictions after the number of new COVID-19 restrictions, sharply, increased over the past month. The country's president calling the situation a catastrophe. The

manager of one hospital, with patients lining the hallways, says he believes the whole system is near its breaking point.

CATALIN APOSTOLESCU, MANAGER, MATEI BALS HOSPITAL (through translator): We are right at the point of collapse. If the situation goes on like this, in one or two days tops, the health care system will succumb because we already don't have the space for the patients who require hospitalization.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The country is looking to neighbors like Hungary to divert some cases and ease the strain. But with so many unvaccinated citizens in Romania there could be no break in sight for these weary health care workers -- Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


NEWTON: Still to come, top U.S. and Mexico officials meeting to hash out a new security pact as they set their sights on fighting cross- border crime. What they plan to do up next.




NEWTON: U.S. officials saying the United States and Mexico have worked out the framework of a new joint security agreement. CNN's Matt Rivers, with more on the high level talks from Mexico City.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After a day's worth of meetings, here in Mexico City between top administration officials from the United States and their counterparts, here in Mexico City, it's clear both sides want to update the security framework, in which both countries have used to tackle cross border issues, predominantly organized crime, transnational crime that affects both countries so severely.

What we got was a joint statement from the U.S. and Mexico, talking about a new security framework they're both going to stop operating on, not a ton of detail, in terms of concrete steps, in terms of funding and the like.

But it is clear both countries are going to try to update the existing framework that has been used for some time now. This goes back to the Merida initiative, first coming into play in 2008, predominantly saw the United States send hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Mexican government to help fight in many cases the organized crime that operates here, oftentimes within impunity.


RIVERS: Clearly, they're trying to update that initiative which, focused on the initial years of law enforcement, combating the drug cartels. And what stood out to me, from the joint statement, both sides talking about the root causes of all of these issues, here in Mexico it provides more socioeconomic opportunity for young people to do things other than getting into the drug business.

On the U.S. side talking about the treating of addiction and the demand that sends so many drugs north from Mexico, also the amount of guns trafficked south, into the United States.

And Mexico, promising to cut down on those weapons, being sent south as well. This is all well and good; everyone said there were good meetings but this is diplomatic speak for the time being. What's clear is the current security situation in Mexico is horrific.

You are talking about thousands and thousands of people being murdered as a result of the drug trade every single year. This country is awash in guns that come from the United States, trafficked illegally, brought down here to Mexico.

So while this new framework is promising, according to some experts I spoke with earlier today in terms of addressing, trying to address some of the root causes of these issues, whether this will actually promote change, substantive change in the security situation here that remains to be seen -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


NEWTON: Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, speaking truth to the power. A closer look at two journalists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, next.




NEWTON: A pair of journalists winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize, Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov from Russia. Muratov is editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper, "Novaya Gazeta." He dedicated the peace prize to six fellow Russian journalists, who, he says, gave their lives for journalism.


DMITRY MURATOV, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "NOVAYA GAZETA" (through translator): Whether we will be declared as foreign agents, after having received a Nobel Prize, I was not given a clear answer to that.

But if yes, it will read as follows on "Novaya Gazeta" website.

"This message was created by the foreign agent and the Nobel Prize winner."


NEWTON: In fact, Russia labeled nine people and three groups as, quote, "foreign agents" just hours after the Nobel announcement. Muratov was not among them but either others were. Foreign agents in Russia are required to provide detailed financial reports and put warnings on their content.

More now on the other Nobel laureate, Maria Ressa. She worked at CNN for 15 years, before starting her own digital media company. Will Ripley has more on her fight for journalistic freedom.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For award-winning journalist Maria Ressa, who has been in the media industry for almost 35 years, being the story was never part of her remit.

But hauled through the Philippines' justice system, accused of libel, alleged tax offenses and violation of foreign ownership rules in media, Ressa has made headlines around the world.


BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN, NORWEGIAN NOBEL COMMITTEE CHAIR: Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and in Russia.

RIPLEY: No headline will be more widely reported or more vindicating for Ressa than Friday's announcement, that she had won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the award with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. Representatives for the fight for press freedom everywhere.

MARIA RESSA, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE: Journalists will keep doing those stories and that's what I hope, that's what I hope will give us more power to do this.

RIPLEY: Last year, a judge in the Philippines found the veteran journalist and her former colleague, Reynaldo Santos, who wrote a story guilty of cyber libel. It followed the publication of an article in 2012 on her online news website "Rappler" about a top level judge with links to a business man with an allegedly shady past.

The article was published two years before new libel laws were enacted. Authorities initially dismissed the case but then president Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The arrest warrant.

RIPLEY: He took exception to Ressa and her company's scrutiny and coverage of his war on drugs where thousands of extra judicial killings took place. In frequent media attacks, he even went so far as to say that journalists were not exempt from assassination if they did something wrong.

Suddenly, Ressa was facing 11 criminal cases from cyber libel to tax evasion, an attempt Ressa believes to scare and silence her.

The former CNN bureau chief and "Time" Person of the Year for 2018 said she was devastated by what she's always said were trumped-up charges. But Ressa has continued to inspire her colleagues not to give in.

RESSA: I appeal to you, the journalists in this room, the Filipinos who are listening, to protect your rights. We are meant to be a cautionary tale. We are meant to make you afraid, right?

So I appeal again, don't be afraid.

RIPLEY: High-profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has represented Ressa as part of her international legal team fighting what she has called a sinister attempt to silence the journalist for exposing corruption and abuse.

Ressa, out on bail as she wins her Nobel Peace Prize, has proven she will not be silenced -- Will Ripley, CNN.


NEWTON: Incredible. I want to thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Paula Newton. "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS," starting right after the break.