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U.S. to Ease COVID Border Restrictions; Biden Targets Supply Chain Issues; William Shatner in Space. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 13, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The court's conservative justices signaled their support for reinstatement. We will keep an eye on that case.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

William Shatner, actor icon, astronaut, for the briefest of moments, life imitated art for this man who will forever be known as Captain Kirk from "Star Trek."

The robust and gregarious 90-year-old launched into space this morning, and then landed safely. And just minutes earlier, he and his three fellow crew members joined one of the most exclusive clubs on Earth, or above it. They are officially space tourists, after a 10- minute flight aboard a New Shepard spacecraft, the one developed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his Blue Origin rocket company.

The flight itself flawless, the rocket portion of the spacecraft touching down softly in a scene more like science fiction than fact. The remarkable reality? It's a commercial flight to outer space.

Shatner overcome with emotion and deeply moved by that experience.


WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: It's like a beat and a beat. Then suddenly you're through the blue, and you're into black. And you're into -- it's -- it's mysterious and galaxies and things.

But what you see is black. And what you see down there is light. And that's the difference. And not to have this, you have done something. I mean, whatever those other guys are doing, what isn't -- they don't -- I don't know about that.

What you have given me is the most profound experience. I can't -- I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just -- it's extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I

feel now. I don't want to lose it. It's so much -- it's so much larger than the me and life. And it hasn't got anything to do with the little green planet, the blue orb and the -- it has nothing to do with that.

It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: And you shoot through -- what you were saying about shooting it through so fast.

SHATNER: So quickly, 50 miles, and you're...

BEZOS: Then you're just in blackness.

SHATNER: And you're in death.

The moment...

BEZOS: This is life.

SHATNER: This is life, and that's death. And it's -- in an instant, you go, whoa, that's death. That's what I saw.

BEZOS: That's amazing.


CABRERA: Truly amazing. What a description terrorist.

CNN's Kristin Fisher joins us now from the Launch Site One in West Texas.

Kristin, what are Shatner and the rest of the crew doing right now?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, they are celebrating a successful flight to space and preparing for their post- flight press conference.

But I tell you what, it's going to be tough for William Shatner to top the monologue that he just delivered from the desert floor shortly after landing. I mean, that was pure poetry.

And if 2021 is the year that space tourism really takes off, then William Shatner has just become the poster child for what space tourism can do, how it can change a person. I mean, truly, he just expressed the power of space tourism.

And this is William Shatner, somebody who has had arguably one of the most interesting lives that any human could have, saying that he just had the most profound experience of his life. And he said that it's something that he wishes every person on the planet could experience.

So I want to ask him about that at this press conference. I also want to talk to Audrey Powers, who was on the mission. She is Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations. And think about what she just experienced. She spent eight years pouring her heart and soul into this rocket. She now got to fly on it for the first time.

And not only that, but it was her team, her people who packed those parachutes and send her up into space. So I want to talk to her about that.

And then there's Glen and Chris. Those were Blue Origin's two paying customers. And maybe this isn't an appropriate thing to ask you, but I'm still dying to know exactly how much they paid for this trip to space and was it worth it?


FISHER: So far, Blue Origin has not said. But I want to push a little bit and see if they might answer that question.

But I think it's safe to say, Ana, William Shatner certainly experienced that overview effect that so many astronauts talk about today.


CABRERA: His description was priceless. That's for sure.

Kristin Fisher, I look forward to hearing the answers you get from your questions at the upcoming press conference. Thank you.

I want to bring in now a member of the first orbital flight manned entirely by tourists. Chris Sembroski was aboard that SpaceX flight last month.

And, Chris, you heard William Shatner there describe just such a profound experience. You have been back now almost a month. Do you feel like your feet have touched the ground yet?


I am still trying to figure out what this new sense of normalcy is. And I understand exactly what Shatner is talking about. I mean, once you get up above the atmosphere, and you start looking back at Earth, no matter what you used to dream of as a kid looking up at the stars, thinking about what it's like to travel amongst the planets and being out in space, once you're up there, you're either thinking about, well, why am I only so close to Earth, and why aren't we just going out farther?

And I think that was my commander's response. But, for me, it was looking back at Earth and thinking that this is such a beautiful and sacred place that contains life. And it was really, for me, a moment of, oh, my gosh, this is an incredible planet. I'm seeing all these wonderful and amazing places. And this is how -- just like you said, you're being introduced to this amazing experience.

And now you can see all these wonderful things below you that you have always been a part of it and now you want to go and be a part of them even more and travel and connect with them more directly.

CABRERA: It sounds like it changed your life perspective.

We know William Shatner is 90 years young, hard to believe, given the amount of energy and exhilaration and exuberance that he was demonstrating there. But he's now the oldest person to have traveled to space.

I'm curious about what space travel does to someone physically. What kind of toll did your spaceflight take on your body? What was the impact?


Well, I mean, one of the great things about going on this flight was proving that you don't have to be that perfect specimen and get eliminated medically to be a part of the small core of astronauts.

And so, for me personally, I did experience some space motion sickness being up there in microgravity for a little while. Nobody threw up on our flight, in case anybody was wondering, but thanks to great medicine, and great help and our medical officer on board, Haley Arseno.

But it's a little bit disorienting at first, but you experience those g forces that are really pushing it on your chest. You feel some of the vibration of lift off, the excitement of reentry. And those are things that I will always take with me and keep remembering it.

But, for overall, you get -- you keep your balance for the most part unless you're up there for a long time. And so we were able to just come out walking and dancing once we got back on top of the ship.

CABRERA: We keep on covering these launches, which seem to have come back to back to back to back over the last several months. And it's this big space race that's essentially between billionaires, right, and their private companies currently.

NASA has said, though, that this commercial space tourism is mutually beneficial. How do you see it?


I think -- I mean, Shatner said it himself that everyone should go and experience this. I think what is so great about space travel is that we can go into space and do some incredible science and research and develop our presence out there, while simultaneously solving problems here on Earth.

We don't have to sit back and just spend all of our money and energy or resources on all the problems we have had here for millennias here on the planet, because if we don't go out and explore, just like so many explorers have come into past to travel across the oceans, to forge across the continents, to dive into microtechnology and develop computers and cell phones, if we didn't have those people that were willing to push the boundaries of what we knew and to understand more of what science can tell us, we wouldn't have those amazing technologies that have helped better all of humanity and improve the lives of all of us.

And so going into space has that great potential to do the same for us now. It's just such an incredible experience and opportunity, that we really should all have the opportunity to go out and experience and benefit from it.

CABRERA: Right now, it's just the richest of the rich. I know, as my understanding, you got yours as a gift, essentially, your trip to space previously.

SEMBROSKI: Right. Right.

CABRERA: But we know that it could run into the millions of dollars for that 10-minute flight in this case.

Thank you so much, Chris Sembroski for joining us. It was a pleasure to speak with you. Really appreciate it.

SEMBROSKI: Well, thank you, Ana. It's great to talk with you.


CABRERA: Meanwhile, back here on Earth, President Biden is about to address the supply chain crisis that's jacking up prices and threatening the already sluggish economic recovery.


Let's get straight to our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly, live at the White House.

And, Phil, this hour, the president is meeting with port officials, labor unions and top executives from companies like Walmart and Target. What's his plan?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, what you see from White House officials and when you talk to White House officials, it's essentially to serve as the honest broker, to kind of serve as the middleman to try and address what has been one of the more vexing and I think really complicated issues for the administration, for, frankly, pretty much everybody in the world to figure out, as the world and the global economy has started to move past or beyond the pandemic, whether it depends on what folks are buying, how they're buying it.

And it's created a series of major issues up and down the supply chain, issues that have had very real, tangible effects on individual Americans, whether they're trying to buy toys, or clothing, cars or food. These knots that have formed have created not just delays, but also increases in prices, played a role in some of the inflation numbers that we have seen continue to run hot in the latest report today.

And what the White House is putting together here is a combination of private businesses, port directors, particularly in Southern Los Angeles -- or in the Los Angeles area, in the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles, to try and expand capacity, and also including in that private companies, folks like Walmart, UPS, FedEx, Home Depot, Target, to give commitments, essentially everybody coming together and trying to agree to expand how much work they're doing.

And one of the primary issues here, why they're bringing in the top official from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, is Ana, you can just look off the shore of Southern California, where you have ships that have basically been anchored sometimes for days, sometimes even longer, that cannot unload their containers because there's essentially such a stockpile, such a holdup.

And so those ports -- Port Long Beach has been operating 24/7 in a pilot program. Port of Los Angeles will now expand to 24/7 operations as well. Those companies will either move 24/7 or also expand night hours. The effort isn't going to flip the switch and change everything, but they're trying to show progress here on what White House officials know, Ana, is a very real problem for everyday Americans every single day.

CABRERA: Yes, and got to get those goods moving.

Thank you, Phil Mattingly. Appreciate that.

These supply chain disruptions are going to get worse before they get better. That is the warning from Moody's Analytics.

And I want to bring in their chief economist, Mark Zandi.

Mark, is this plan that Phil just outlined from President Biden that he's expected to announce today, is that enough to solve this crisis?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: No, Ana, not enough, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. It's a really good sign that the administration is focused on this and trying to get all the parties involved to kind of solve these issues, because there's a lot of parties involved all over the planet.

It's a logistical nightmare, by definition. And so having them engaged, getting everyone talking and moving in the right direction, I think, is a step in the right direction. But it's a complicated problem. The pandemic is still on, and as long as the pandemic is still plaguing the rest of the globe, this isn't going to be easy. It's going to take some time, but a good step in the right direction.

CABRERA: But I guess, for a lot of us, it's hard to understand why this remains a problem, given the awareness of this being an issue has been around for some time.

So you say it's complicated. Explain that. Why is this still such a problem?

ZANDI: Well, I think this is Delta. The Delta variant did a lot of havoc here in the U.S., but it really creamed the rest of the world, particularly Asia, and, more specifically, Southeast Asia. And that's where a lot of these supply chains begin. So, for example, just as an example, a bunch of Malaysian

semiconductor plants had to shut down because everyone got sick, literally sick. And those chips are key to producing vehicles all over the planet. So vehicle manufacturers have been unable to produce.

Truckers. There was a shortage of truckers even before the pandemic for lots of different reasons. And, of course, the pandemic has just complicated all of that. So the pandemic itself has just really made things a jumbled mess.

I will also add throwing into the mix demand, right? So we have all been stuck at home more or less, and we have been buying stuff, all kinds of stuff, everything from appliances, computer equipment, furniture, clothing, toys. You name it, we have been buying it. Demand is as strong as it's ever been by orders of magnitude.

So you -- just demand and supply. You got all this stuff coming through the pipe. And the pipe is being disrupted by the pandemic. And that results in this jumbled mess. And then it's an intricate set of relationships, from the factory, to the truck, to the port, to the container ship, to the port, to the truck, to the warehouse.

There's a lot of stuff going on.

CABRERA: Sure, yes, and you explain how it's all interconnected.

Inflation obviously is another issue. This morning, we learned inflation, the inflation rate of the last 12 months is 5.4 percent now. That's the highest rate since the summer. And people are feeling it. The cost of gas is up 42 percent in the last year, used cars up 24 percent. The cost of food is up, clothes.


Are these prices eventually going to dip, or are they just going to stabilize at some point, and when?


No, I think they will start -- they will moderate. Again, it'll take some time. It goes right back to the supply chain issues we were just talking about, I mean, the shortages of products. And when you have shortages, then you have higher prices.

But as the pandemic winds down -- and I think it will -- each new wave of the virus will be less disruptive than the previous one. We will work through these things, and we will start to see some price moderation.

Same in the job market. The other thing that's been scrambled is the job market, where you have all these open positions out there, but we haven't been able to fill them because people have gotten sick, they're taking care of sick people, they're fearful of getting sick, they're fearful of getting their kids sick.

So they have been staying home and not taking those jobs. And that's complicated things and caused wage costs to rise and prices rise. And that will iron itself out as well. So it's not next month, probably not next -- not Christmastime, maybe not even early next year.

But I think by this time next year, if everything kind of sticks to script, prices will begin to moderate again.

CABRERA: OK, we have to be patient, which is so, so hard.

Mark Zandi, appreciate it. Thank you for being with us.

ZANDI: Sure.

CABRERA: A major step toward a return to normal. For the first time in 18 months, the United States will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel. But there are conditions attached.

Plus, the Laundrie family defending their fugitive son after a coroner confirms Gabby Petito was strangled. Details just ahead.

And the NFL won't release hundreds of thousands of e-mails tied to its investigation that forced Jon Gruden to resign as Raiders head coach. We will talk to a former whistle-blower who says the league still has a long way to go.



CABRERA: Some promising pandemic news today.

For the first time in over 18 months, the U.S. will soon open its borders for fully vaccinated travelers. It will happen in a couple of phases. Starting next month, nonessential fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to cross back and forth from Mexico and from Canada. And then, in early January, the second phase, which will apply the same vaccination requirement to all inbound foreign travelers, including nonessential travel.

Joining us now, Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician, former Baltimore health commissioner, and author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health."

Dr. Wen, border openings, another sign of life returning to normal. Plus, we have new cases declining. The CDC's ensemble forecast also projects a decline in new deaths for the third week in a row and a decline in hospitalizations for the fifth week in a row now.

How significant is all of this?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it's showing that we are learning to live with COVID-19, which is something that we can do.

I mean, we have vaccines for this reason. We know that they help to keep us safe, and they also help us to return our economy and schools and everything else back. I do want to applaud the Biden administration for mandating vaccines in this case.

I think it's -- that sends a strong message about the importance of vaccinations. And I really hope that the administration considers the same type of vaccine requirement for domestic air travel as well.

CABRERA: And yet there are governors of Republican states that are really pushing back hard and trying to thwart those mandate plans.

The governors of Florida and Texas banning local jurisdictions, even private companies, from issuing vaccine requirements of their own. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just hit one county in his state with a $3.5 million fine for violating the state's ban on vaccine mandates. Your reaction?

WEN: These are the same governors who will otherwise talk about the importance of local control, and whom say that they support businesses for innovative practices and entrepreneurship.

Well, there are businesses that want to do their part to protect their employees or their customers. There are local jurisdictions that are responding to the needs of their communities. Why are these governors not doing the exact same things that they normally are proponents of?

And so I think it's hypocritical and also flies in the face of public health guidance.

CABRERA: And, meantime, you have Southwest and American Airlines, also Dell Computers, that are all pushing back on Texas Governor Greg Abbott's new ban on vaccine mandates there in Texas, saying they're sticking with their requirements.

So, to your point, more private companies are actually embracing these vaccine requirements or mandates. But let me ask you about this new report which also goes to show why vaccines are just so crucial. This is from "The New York Times" today. And it finds COVID-19 was the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021 for police officers.

More than four times as many officers died from COVID than gunfire in that period, according to "The Times." Despite this, you have police unions still fighting the mandates. And fear here is that if mandates are put in place, there would be an exodus of officers, which communities can't afford.

What is the best way to address that?

WEN: Right.

I mean, police officers, just like hospital employees and others, they're supposed to be here to protect health and well-being and safety of the public. I do think that having additional outreach, education, incentives, all these things that we have been trying all along, continues to be very important.

But this is also the time that we need requirements. We know that these vaccine mandates work, especially because there is a large segment of the population who are in this unvaccinated, but willing category, as in they may not have chosen to get vaccinated themselves, but if there's something else, if vaccination becomes the easy and convenient choice, they end up deciding that.


And so I think it is time for places all across the country, whether they're private businesses or local jurisdictions, to really emphasize the importance of vaccination through requirements.

CABRERA: Let's talk about kids and COVID.

The American Academy of Pediatrics today says the number of new cases in kids remains exceptionally high, with more than 148,000 cases reported in the first week of October. But there's another article in "The New York Times" that caught my eye, which argues -- quote -- "An unvaccinated child is at less risk of serious COVID illness than a vaccinated 7-year-old."

So, bottom line, what is the risk to children who are not vaccinated? What do we know?

WEN: Well, what we know is that this is -- remains a very dangerous time for children during this pandemic, because of the high rate of COVID-19 that's all around us.

I want us to think about the protection for kids as layers of protection, the same way that we think about layers that you wear in the winter. If it's very cold outside, you need many layers. Well, if there are -- if there's a lot of virus circulating around us, we need a lot of layers as well.

This is the reason why having masking requirements in schools and also why having everybody around the child who's able to be vaccinated to get vaccinated, that's all really important to protect the unvaccinated child.

CABRERA: Dr. Leana Wen, it's good to have you here. I really appreciate all that you do. Thank you for being with us.

The parents of Brian Laundrie defending their fugitive son after the autopsy report on Gabby Petito reveals she was strangled.

Details next.