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House of Sudan's Prime Minister Surrounded by Military; Vaccine for Children in the U.S.; Asia-Pacific Countries Battling Rise of COVID Cases; Australia to Lift Travel Restrictions; New Developments on Alec Baldwin's Prop Gun Shooting; Former U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan Resigned Because of Internal Debates; Information Ministry: Sudan's PM Under House Arrest; Atmospheric River Triggers Landslide In California; Israeli Delegation To Brief U.S. Officials After Labelling Palestinian Civil Society Groups Terrorist Organizations. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired October 25, 2021 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Paula Newton. Coming up on "CNN Newsroom," a developing situation in Sudan. Protests erupt as the military surrounds the prime minister's home. We will have a live report from Nairobi coming up.
Plus, young children in the U.S. could soon be be eligible for the COVID vaccine. An update on when that final decision could be made.
Plus, new details about the accidental fatal shooting on the set of Alex Baldwin's film "Rust." A warrant describes what the actor was doing the moment the gun was fired.
And we begin this hour with breaking news out of Sudan where the home of Prime Minister of Abdalla Hamdok has been surrounded by the military. Now, it's unclear if they are actually protecting him or if he's under house arrest.
There are also reports that top government officials including cabinet members have been arrested. That is according to witnesses and media on the ground. We want to get the latest now from CNN's Larry Madowo. You're standing by for us in Nairobi. And, Larry, obviously, a confusing situation on the ground, but what more do you know?
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All we know at this time, Paula, is also in the last hours that we've heard from a source in the civil aviation authority that flights from and to the Khartoum International Airport have been suspended. And that is the latest development this morning in Khartoum where we see people on the streets lighting bonfires, setting up roadblocks.
And that's because they've been told by the Sudanese Professional Association to go out on the streets and protect against what they're calling a military coup. Again, to be clear, we're not sure exactly what's happening in Sudan.
What we know is that the home of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is surrounded, appears to be surrounded by the military. They could be protecting him or he could be under house arrest. Several officials and government ministers have also been arrested today according to eyewitnesses in Sudan's information ministry. It's all a fast developing situation.
We still have not seen a statement from the transitional government, from the military, from the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok. So we're working to understand exactly what's going on in Sudan. And this is the backdrop of a month ago in September, late September. There was an attempted coup that failed. And at the time, it was blamed on forces loyal to the ousted president, Omar al-Bashir.
NEWTON: Still a confusing situation there. We'll wait to hear more and as you said, wait to see if we do get a statement either from the transitional government there or from the military. Larry Madowo, thank you so much.
Now, a potential game-changer in America's fight against COVID-19 could just be days away. FDA advisers will meet Tuesday to discuss whether to approve Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids as young as 5. CDC advisers will weigh in a week later.
Now, if both groups give the green light, 28 million children could be eligible for their first shot within the next few weeks. CNN's Nadia Romero has a closer look at the timeline and what comes next in this approval process.
NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, tomorrow, on Tuesday, FDA vaccine advisers will meet with Pfizer to talk about their vaccine to be used on kids who are ages 5 through 11. Now, Pfizer's last trial they said they had about 2,300 participants and there was not a single case of myocarditis. It was the inflammation of the heart muscle.
That was a concern previously, but Pfizer says right now, their latest data shows 90 percent effective, their COVID vaccine for kids of the age group. Listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci talk about a timeline for just how soon kids could get vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIORECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So, if all goes well and get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC, it's entirely possible, if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMERO: So first things first. FDA vaccine advisers must recommend the vaccine for emergency use authorization. Then, it heads to the CDC before it could potentially be found at your pediatrician's office. Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta. NEWTON: Now, earlier, I spoke with Dr. Chris Pernell, a fellow with
the American College of Preventative Medicine and I asked her what she is telling parents who might actually be hesitant to get their kids vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS PERNELL, FELLOW, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: If we look at the data from the recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll that showed about one-third of parents of children who were in the 5 to 11- year-old group, they were pretty eager and ready to get their children vaccinated.
But another third were in that wait and see category. Just like when we had adults that were in that wait and see category. What moves the needle for those folks is empathy, science that is plainspoken that people can understand that the safety and the efficacy outweigh any potential risk.
And I think we need to talk about how this is helpful for the family as a whole. Protecting the family as a whole. And I believe parents will be able to convert so to, say into the decision to get their children vaccinated.
NEWTON: Right. And you seem to be indicating it will just take more time and I -- I hear you. I hear you on that. Now, on boosters. Certainly, a lot of people are eligible for them now in the United States. Not so much and other parts of the world. But, from what we are seeing of the research, should we all be prepared to be lining up for that booster about six months after our last shot? What is the research telling us?
PERNELL: You know, when I tell people about boosters, think about it this way. We know that the vaccines that are currently available in the U.S. and even more broadly, are effective against severe disease. So what severe disease? They are effective against hospitalization. They're effective against perhaps the ICUs stay and the worst outcome, death.
Where we see waning immunity is how folks are susceptible to mild infection. So, if you are of the general adult population, a booster would just give you even further gold standard protection. Now, if you are 65 years or older, if you have chronic health conditions, if you live in a congregate setting or you work in an occupation that has a certain exposure risk, yes you should be thinking about the boosters differently from the general adult population.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Thanks to Dr. Pernell there for that information. Now, meantime, protesters scuffled with police at Barclays Center in New York Sunday. Now, they are supporting the Brooklyn Nets guard, Kyrie Irving, in his decision to remain unvaccinated. New York police say no arrests were made and the scheduled game went on as planned, but of course, without Irving. Local regulations prohibit unvaccinated players from participating in home games. Here is what one protester had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO MALDONADO, PROTESTER: I support Kyrie because it is a personal choice. If Kyrie wants to do that, it's his body, his choice. Selfishly, do I want him with the Brooklyn Nets? Of course, as well as millions others. He's good for the NBA. He's got a lot of talent. He brings a lot to the table. Obviously, they look like they miss him. But at the end of the day, it's more than basketball.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: New Zealand is reporting its second highest daily case count of the pandemic. Now, many of them are in Auckland, which remains in a strict lockdown until more people get vaccinated. And Singapore reported more than 3,000 new daily cases on Sunday compared to very few cases during the so-called zero COVID effort.
And China is postponing the Beijing marathon as the country faces a new COVID outbreak ahead of those all-important Winter Olympic Games. A raft of new restrictions on gatherings and travel have also been put in place. Now, journalist Manisha Tank joins me now from Singapore for more on all of this. You know, China remains one of the only places in the world still aiming for zero COVID. And yet that seems to be getting more challenging by the day for them.
MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Yes, it definitely seems that way, actually. And if you look at the last five days or so, you'll notice that the case count has been steadily, rising. And this is the problem with this delta variant. It's just so easily transmissible. This is what we've seen in countries all over the world, right here in Singapore.
This is the reason why the government a few months ago said that we were going to have to accept a future in which we live with COVID as an endemic disease. And there were lots of questions around as to how much longer China is going to continue with the zero COVID policy.
It's also worth pointing out that there is different reporting in China so, sometimes asymptomatic cases or most of the time, asymptomatic cases are not included with the confirmed case counts. So, it can be important to just delve a little bit deeper into some of those numbers. Just going over the latest news, even the Beijing marathon that being suspended due to the latest rise in case count.
And this means -- it was meant to be on October 31st, but this means that a lot of people are asking questions about those Beijing Winter Olympics. You mentioned the raft of measures, people in Beijing have been told to halt all of their nonessential travel. Big gatherings have been reduced. Community thresholds (ph), that sort of thing, these are widely used. These are all being shut down. All sorts of social activities are being shut down.
And, you know, what will that mean for Winter Olympics? Lots in the sports community are asking that question.
So, yes, lots of questions, of course, around how long this policy can continue and whether it can be maintained with such an easily transmissible strain of COVID-19 around.
Now, another country that we can compare it to is of course New Zealand because New Zealand had the zero COVID policy as did Singapore some time back. But New Zealand back in august gave that first inkling that it would open up and that it had to accept this new reality.
But Jacinda Ardern a few days ago coming out and saying, the prime minister, coming out and saying that until vaccination rates are at 90 percent, really relying on vaccinations for this opening up, then New Zealand will have this tiered system to get things reopened again. But yes, lots that we're on the lookout for.
NEWTON: Yes. And lots more time ahead for China to decide exactly how it's going to get a hold of this. And we have to caution, right? The numbers are still extraordinarily low in China despite the alarm with which they are treated. Manisha Tank for us. Appreciate the update.
Now, despite the COVID outbreaks in the Asia Pacific region that we were just talking about, some places are getting ready to welcome visitors, while other countries have tried reopening with mixed results.
NEWTON (voice-over): Time for a wash and the ones over before Qantas planes start flying again on international routes carrying eligible passengers, November 1st. Maintenance crews are preparing for the return of flights between Sydney and cities like Los Angeles and London in just a week, with flights from Melbourne opening soon afterwards.
A chance to get back in the skies for these aircraft, which operated only on limited cargo and repatriation runs during the pandemic.
UNKNOWN: So, they've been doing one day a week instead of seven days a week, so its quite a bit just things like making sure the tires, the brakes are ready, doing some lubrication.
NEWTON (voice-over): Qantas canceled regular international flights in March of last year after Australia applied strict COVID restrictions, stopping citizens from exiting without special permission and requiring two weeks of quarantine to re-enter the country.
But Sydney, and Melbourne are lifting those requirements after reaching their vaccination goals and will finally allow fully vaccinated Australian citizens, residents, and their families to travel again with no quarantine period. Officials say the return of tourists will be announced at a later date.
SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Australia is ready for takeoff. You can see it all around us. You can see the staff readying themselves. The ground crew have been doing the work they've needed to do, the maintenance teams, and we're ready for takeoff.
NEWTON (voice-over): A cautious reopening that many countries in the Asia Pacific region are testing out. Singapore recently expanded its travel lanes allowing more vaccinated passengers from designated nations to come and go without quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.
ANDREA MULLENS, PASSENGER FROM AMSTERDAM: That's perfect, is it? Yes. It's really convenient. You can go to school right away after we have the results of course.
NEWTON (voice-over): At the beginning of the month, Thailand will open its doors to visitors from 46 countries and territories up from previous plan of just 10. If they arrive by air, have been fully vaccinated, and have a document to show they are virus free before departure and after arrival.
Malaysia is also considering opening a travel bubble in parts of the country for vaccinated international visitors in the coming weeks. But in Bali, a grand re-opening for some foreign tourists hasn't gone so smoothly. So far, there haven't been many takers. Government rules still require people to quarantine at a hotel for five days and international flights aren't picking up like the locals who depend on tourism had hoped.
This taxi driver says, we are really destitute. When it comes to our money, there is no income he says. We are hoping tourists can come here, but not one has.
China, so far, is sticking to it zero COVID policy. Its borders are still closed to most foreigners with mandated quarantines enforced. Strict rules remain in place. When the country host the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, it has already said most international spectators will not be allowed to attend. Paula Newton, CNN.
NEWTON (on camera): So, that was the view from the Asia Pacific, but COVID numbers are climbing across much of Europe as well as restrictions are lifted and falling temperatures drive more people indoors. Cases have been rising in almost every country over the last week except Finland. You see it there.
Eastern Europe meantime is battling its worst outbreak of the entire pandemic. The number of new COVID deaths in Russia, Ukraine, and Romania are now among the highest in the world. In Western Europe meantime, new infections in Germany have soared to their highest levels since mid-May.
And in the U.K., experts are warning that the latest surge could push the health care system to the breaking point. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHERINE HENDERSON, PRESIDENT, ROYAL COLLEGE OG EMERGENCY MEDICINE: We are already in a terrible place where we have gotten large queues of ambulances with vulnerable people waiting in those ambulances to be off-loaded into departments, and other patients at home waiting to be picked up by the ambulance.
That's the thing that really worries me. That these are patients who have not yet received treatment that we don't necessarily know what's wrong with them that we're really struggling to get into our health care facilities to then work out what we need to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, despite warnings like that, the U.K. government is saying it will not introduce stricter COVID rules, instead leaders are pushing vaccinations and booster shots as the best way out of the pandemic.
Now, more details are emerging about the accidental fatal shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin film "Rust." The film's director, Joel Souza, was injured in the accident. You'll remember he was in hospital and then released. Now, a new released warrant says he told authorities Baldwin was practicing drawing his gun for a scene when the weapon discharged a live around.
It goes on to describe how cinematographer Halyna Hutchins then grabbed her midsection when she was struck. She later died. Souza was standing behind Hutchins and was hit in the right shoulder. The director said the camera wasn't rolling when last week's tragedy occurred in New Mexico.
Investigators say that both Souza and a camera operator acknowledged difficulties on the set that day because of a walk-out of some crew members over payment and housing. So far, no charges have been filed.
Now, as the investigation into Hutchins' death continues, mourners are honoring her life. This was a vigil in Burbank, California on Sunday, paying tribute to the slain cinematographer. Another vigil was held in Saturday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech as tensions remain high with Taiwan. Details on what he had to say, that's in a live report coming up from Beijing.
Plus, already struggling with the spate of abductions, Haiti now faces a fuel crisis that threatens to destabilize the country.
NEWTON: China's president has just delivered a speech marking 50 years since Beijing was admitted into the United Nation. Now, Xi Jinping's remarks come as tensions with Taiwan, of course, remain high. And the self-governing island remains shut out of the U.N. CNN's Steven Jiang has more. You have been following the speech of course. What more can you tell us?
STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Paula, you know, the strongman leader didn't say anything we haven't heard before. He obviously stressed the multi-lateral approach to international affairs with the United Nations at its core, and also throwing buzzwords we have often heard from Chinese leaders like win-win cooperation and each country choosing its own path.
But of course, the Chinese are celebrating an occasion that was very much the product of the Cold War and I think it requires a bit of historical context here because after the communists won a bloody civil war here, the defeated nationalist government was forced to flee to the island of Taiwan, but they were allowed to continue representing the entire Chinese territory at the United Nations until 1971.
That year was when the Beijing government replaced the Taipei government at the U.N. because of warming relations between Beijing and Washington, as the two sides moved closer to deal with a common enemy that was the Soviet Union.
So now fast forward to today, now of course, tensions are very high or even growing between Beijing and Washington while bilateral ties between China and Russia are getting closer and stronger. The two countries actually just concluded a weeklong joint military exercise sending 10 warships to sail around Japan including for the first time, sailing through two very strategically important choke points.
Now, this of course was seen by many as their response to this united front formed by the U.S. and its allies including Japan, against Beijing. But also against other authoritarian regimes like Russia. Now, the U.S. and its allies of course have also been sending their own warships through the Taiwan Strait in response to China's increasingly aggressive military maneuvers in that region.
So all of this, Paula, is why a lot of people are becoming more concerned and worried about this new cold war emerging between China and the U.S. So, 50 years on, you see a lot of same players involved but with their positions enrolled, switched or reshuffled. Paula?
NEWTON: Yes. And makes it ever more important to purse every word as Xi Jinping says. Steven Jiang for us. Appreciate you following it.
Now, U.S. President Joe Biden's former envoy to Afghanistan says he left the post because internal debates weren't in his words, based on the reality on the ground. Now, Zalmay Khalilzad defended his talks with the Taliban and the withdrawal agreement he helped negotiate under former President Donald Trump.
He said the U.S. hasn't been tough enough on former Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. He also acknowledged the final withdrawal was of course ugly, but said it could have been a lot worse. And he predicts Afghanistan's outlook is grim unless the Taliban changes their approach to governing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ZALMAY KHALILZAD, FORMER U.S. ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: If they don't -- Taliban don't move to more inclusiveness, respecting the rights of the Afghan people, and then honoring their commitment to us on terrorism, there will be no move toward normalcy and there shouldn't be. There should be no release of funds so their economy could collapse and in that collapse, a new civil war could start.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, for the more than 55,000 Afghans who did not want to stay in the country and are currently on U.S. military bases, the White House is clearing the way for them to move to permanent homes.
A resettlement programs will allow private citizens and military veterans with ties to Afghans to sponsor them and bring them to their cities. Matt Zeller is a U.S. Army Reserve Major who is eager to meet the Afghan interpreter he helped evacuate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT ZELLER, U.S. ARMY RESERVE: I'm thrilled. This is exactly what is needed. But I've been asking the White House personally to do this now for several weeks. I have learned through my years of experience and re-settling these Afghans and Iraqis that come to the United States under the special immigration visa program that the key to that success, the key to them not ending up in endemic poverty is being paired with the U.S. military veteran as early in their resettlement process as we possibly can. This is absolutely what is needed at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: What's interesting here is the last time the U.S. resettled close to this number of refugees it was quickly after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. More than 130,000 people came into the United States in an eight-month period back then.
Now, it's been nine days since a gang in Haiti kidnapped 17 missionaries from the U.S. and Canada. The gang leader has threatened to kill them if a $17 million ransom isn't paid. Family members of the hostages say they've received messages and prayers from all over the world.
Protesters meantime in Haiti have gone on strike over fears about the country's security as well as its fuel shortages. UNICEF warns that hundreds of women and children who need emergency care in hospitals could be at risk if those facilities begin to losing supplies for electricity.
Coming up, the latest on that developing story out of Sudan where the home of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been surrounded by the military. We will have a live report on that breaking news, up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [02:30:00]
PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: And returning to our top story in our breaking news out of Sudan, where the Ministry of Information now says Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok is under house arrest by military forces. I want to get the latest now from CNN, Larry Madowo, who is standing by for us in Nairobi. Larry, an alarming new development, what's been the reaction on the ground as far as you can tell?
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of concern incident right now Paula, after this new information from the Minister of information in Sudan saying confirming that Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok is under house arrest. And they're going on to say that from his house arrest, he is calling a Sudanese people to occupy the streets in a peaceful manner to defend the revolution.
So that is a call to action from the Prime Minister. If this report from the Minister of information is to be believed that follows another one from the Sudanese professionals association that also told the people to go out in the streets to protect the revolution in a peaceful manner.
The Sudanese professionals association is important because it is the same umbrella body of smaller unions and organizations that was behind the popular protests back in 2019 that led to the ouster of President Omar al Bashir in April. And what is happening right now is we're halfway through a transitional government, a civilian led transitional government that's supposed to lead eventually to a full return to civilian rule.
And now Sudan today appearing to be at a crossroads, and this entire democratic experience, this democratic experiment still hanging in the balance if this develops in the way it appears to be heading.
NEWTON: Yes. And give us a little bit more context on that the transitional government has been having problems for a while here. And that was just really exacerbated by the protests, right, that have been on the ground there?
MADOWO: Absolutely. Last week, we saw Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, many of the civilians in the transitional government support the popular protests around the country in support of civilian rule. That's what they say the people want. But the military has also been trying to consolidate power and try to get some political groups to support them and show that that's the direction to go.
The man at the center of this that we haven't heard from yet is General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan who, if he makes a statement will give direction on where this is heading. This civilian slash military arrangement has been very challenged, but not especially in the past few weeks where the cracks have really come out in the - into the open.
And right now we know for instance, that the U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, has been in Sudan and met as recently as yesterday with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. They will describe it as the third meeting in two days, and he expressed support for a civilian rule in Sudan. So this now a real concern, if it does appear that this civilian rule is under attack.
NEWTON: Yes, that's so interesting, the fact that they had had these consultations with the U.S. envoy there and Larry, how dangerous is it really, in terms of what's going on Now, when you have the military saying that look, OK, perhaps the Prime Minister is going to stay sequestered for a while, but then you have the Prime Minister having this call to action, as you put it?
MADOWO: I think it speaks to the Prime Minister seeing the danger here of a military takeover, if he is in fact calling people to go out on the streets in a peaceful manner, but to defend the revolution. That is significant. I spoke to the Prime Minister last month, Paula and he told me because of the successes they have been making in Sudan, some of the old elements are nervous, and he says they always dream of coming back.
And that seems to build on what he's now saying, according to this report, this update from the Minister of Information that he requires the people to go out in the streets and defend the revolution, though the way he sees it that the gains that they have made since he took over as Prime Minister last year, are all under threat right now. And there needs to be a popular resistance to defend what he's calling the revolution.
NEWTON: Yes, and as you said, the democratic transition there hangs in the balance. Larry, I know you'll stay on top of this for us. Appreciate it, we will get back to you as soon as you have more information.
Now the U.S. says it wants more information of its own on why Israel labeled several Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations. More in a live report from Jerusalem just ahead.
NEWTON: A delegation from Israel is set to travel to Washington this week. A senior Israeli officer tells CNN they plan to brief U.S. officials on its decision to designate six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations. Now this comes just days after Israel's move sparked anger among human rights groups and of course, the Palestinian Authority.
CNN's Hadas Gold has been following this story. She joins us now live from Jerusalem. And you know, they're describing the civil society organizations now as terror groups. And yet, what have they offered as justification for any of this? And is there any indication that the U.S. and other allies will push back?
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Paula, these six organizations are very well known. Some of them are some of the most well established civil society organizations, Palestinian civil society organizations, they advocate on behalf of women, children, agricultural workers, prisoners, and several of them also document what they say are human rights abuses not only caused by the Israeli occupation, but also by the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas.
But the Israeli Defense Ministry said that after investigation that they conducted between March and May they determined that all six and I'm quoting here constitute a network of organizations active undercover on the international front on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or PFLP. Now the PFLP is a group that's designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the EU and several other countries.
They're behind a series of high profile hijackings and attacks since the 1960s. Israel blames them for bombing as recently as 2019. Now the Defense Ministry says that these six organizations have helped fundraised -- they're accusing them of helping to fundraise, money- launder support and employ members of the PFLP. But these designations now if they go through will present a direct challenge to these organizations, funders, many of whom include European countries because by continuing to work with these organizations, these European countries could stand accused of supporting terrorism.
Now this announcement on Friday caused a huge uproar. One of the founders of the organizations called Al-Haq called it a clearly political decision. The continuation of an Israeli campaign meant to target Palestinian organizations with the aim of silencing and frightening them, the Palestinian Authority called them unhinged fallacious, and libelous slander.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement saying that these designations are part of an attempt by Israel to muzzle human rights monitoring. Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives have also denounced the move. And as you noted, a senior Israeli official telling me that although they briefed Washington about these allegations ahead of time, a delegation will be heading to Washington this week in order to further brief and present evidence behind these designations. So we'll wait to hear whether we will see that evidence laid out for the press, Paula.
NEWTON: And quickly though before I let you go, is there an indication that the European allies, the United States will push back?
GOLD: What we are hearing from European sources who say that they are waiting to see the evidence laid out before them before they continue, but this has caused quite an uproar, not only by other human rights organizations but also by members of the U.S. House of Representatives by the PA. There is still a lot of uproar about these designations and what they could mean for these organizations that I have noted, some of them are very well established. Some of them have been around since the 1970s. Paula?
NEWTON: Yes and again, we'll wait to see especially this week as you said, those Israeli officials will be in Washington. Hadas Gold, really appreciate the update there. And I want to thank you for joining us here in CNN Newsroom. If you're an international viewer, World Sport is up next. If you're watching us right here in the United States, I will be right back with more news.
NEWTON: You're looking at a major highway in California that is now blocked as you can see by a landslide caused by a massive storm over the weekend. Now officials say they expect the course to stay that way for several days and that's because a massive storm is still wreaking havoc in parts of western United States. Nearly 130,000 people are without power. They are being reported in California.
Meantime in the Golden State, various areas are now under a flash flood warning which have triggered debris flows. And heavy rain is still slamming the western region combined with snow in higher mountain elevations. Joining me now is meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, you know, the forecast for this was absolutely ominous and it was going to go on for quite some time. How did it shape up?
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it seems to verify, you know, when you look at the numbers, you look at what is played out here, this is the third Paula, third storm in as many days as sent back to this region of California and coming in across really the western United States and just battering this region with an incredible amount of rainfall.
In some cases, some of these areas had not seen rainfall since St. Patrick's Day. And now they've seen rainfall for at least four or last five consecutive days. And you tally it up, these are just 24 hour observations I'm sharing with you here. Strawberry Valley just north of east of Sacramento, not too far from Yuba City sits with an observation of almost 10 inches in a 24 hour period.
And again, you look at some of these rain gauges, they've been bone dry since the middle of March and even Sacramento had not seen any rainfall since the 17th of March up until earlier this week. Now picking up five inches just in the past 24 hours, again speaks to how rapidly things have changed here. But pick your choice, especially as you work your way across the inland portion of California, significant flooding concern in place here.
20 plus million scattered about the western United States underneath these flooding alerts. And the concern really the highest level of concern is not far from the Dixie fire and also the Caldor fire. These regions, of course, have seen significant burn scars, about 2 million acres of land that was consumed this fire season. And we know when you remove vegetation, it's common sense that you're going to have a lot of flooding take place because that vegetation is not there to absorb the soil. But the layer of the soil itself becomes hydrophobic because of the extreme heat that it endured. And that's the concern here, you get this ash and the debris that's at the surface that becomes runoff essentially. And that really devastates communities downstream. Concern here Paula is that we're going to see this play out over the next several days before conditions improve in California.
NEWTON: Yes, those debris flows, you guys have warned us can be quite dangerous and people there definitely need the rain. They just don't need it all at once. Pedram, thanks so much for staying on top of it, appreciate it.
Now the head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health tells CNN, he wants to be completely transparent about research done by an agency contractor and the Wuhan Institute of Neurology. Now the group Eco Health Alliance was years late in disclosing work it did with the Wuhan laboratory. It involved bat coronaviruses but not the one and this is significant, that causes COVID-19.
U.S. Republicans have claimed the group which received funding from the NIH performs so called gain of function research work done on viruses to make them more infectious. Dr. Francis Collins admitted the contractor acted improperly, but denied Republican accusations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Yes, they did some things they should have told us about. But they did not do the kind of gain of function research that requires special high level oversight. That's where the confusion arises. Yes, they've messed up. We are going to hold them accountable. They sent us a progress report, two years late that they should have sent a while ago and it had information in it that they should have told us about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: OK. That's where the NIH stands. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Rand Paul told an Axios interviewer that Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is a liar and should be fired. Paul who has a history of spreading coronavirus misinformation has been promoting unfounded claims about NIH research, claims Dr. Fauci flatly denies.
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): The thing is just for lack of judgment, if nothing else, you know, he's probably never going to admit that he lied. He's going to continue to dissemble and try to work around the truth and massage the truth.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: - what the risk was in what the oversight is. Certainly they should have put their progress report in, in a timely manner. No denial of that and there will be administrative consequences of that. So I have to respectfully disagree with Senator Paul. He is not correct, that we lied or misled the Congress. It's just not correct.
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NEWTON: Investors are awaiting the latest earnings report from Facebook that's in the coming hours and it comes as a social media giant faces allegations of putting profit before safety. In a new internal memo obtained by CNN, Facebook's VP of Global Affairs warns employees to brace for even more bad press. This as another whistleblower steps forward supporting allegations made by former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen.
Haugen tells the U.S. Senate that Facebook values making profits over the safety of its users as well as allows dangerous and illegal activities to occur in group pages, claims Facebook rejects. Haugen is set to speak before the British parliament on this issue in the coming hours.
Theresa Payton is the CEO of Fortalice Solutions. And she joins me now from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is also a cyber security expert, and former Bush administration CIO. Thank you for joining us on what will be a momentous week to come for Facebook. I know we have said that before but really some of the criticisms continue to mount and now there's so much more evidence to back that up.
I know you have been looking at this for quite some time. What would you tell people about where we are right now in terms of this being perhaps a turning point in our engagement with Facebook?
THERESA PAYTON, CEO, FORTALICE SOLUTIONS: Yes, I do hope this ends up being a turning point. We've had sort of the warnings in the past. And Facebook says we'll do better, people assume they will and sort of things go back to business as usual. But this feels different this time. You have multiple employees on employee boards. And those messages being leaked about concerns. You've got two whistleblowers now.
And now the hill is really trying to get to the bottom of how do you govern Facebook? How do you spot and stop misinformation and disinformation campaigns? And what duty of care do you have for the people that use your platform to make sure that they're not being duped into these misinformation campaigns?
NEWTON: Yes, and they've been incredibly harmful some claim and that includes, as you were saying, one of the things that has bipartisan support in the United States that Facebook needs some kind of regulation. And yet we have had people say that look, Facebook says it needs the regulation as well. They're just being disingenuous about that.
Listen to Senator Richard Blumenthal, now.
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SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): What we're hearing from Facebook is platitudes and bromides. When it says it wants regulation, at the same time, it is fighting that regulation tooth and nail day and night with armies of lawyers, millions of dollars in lobbying. And so I must say, Facebook saying it wants regulation is the height of disingenuousness.
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NEWTON: Not holding back there, Theresa. I mean, what do you think? Because Facebook has been incredibly clear about the fact that they want the government to step in.
PAYTON: Yes, so my concern is we need to be careful what we wish for here, because oftentimes, legislation prevents newcomers from standing up, you know, before they're even popular and truly profitable. It's incredibly expensive to meet new types of regulations, Facebook is probably the best positioned to actually be able to afford new regulations.
And then the other thing I would say is why don't you lead the way? Facebook has an incredible army of data scientists and programmers that are really some of the best and the brightest in the world. Why don't you lead the way and show us what an ethical framework, a third party governance group really, truly could do?
The problem is the underpinning of Facebook, which is built to give you and I, more of what we came for. And basically, it wants us to stay engaged, whether it's Facebook, or Instagram or WhatsApp, it wants us to stay engaged on that platform. Sadly, engagement that's positive has less interaction than engagement that's negative.
And typically, the negative content gets more play, which means more ad revenue.
NEWTON: You know, what's interesting here, and I really want to rely on you and your research. When you talk about those algorithms, the way Facebook does this, it's not just Facebook, it is a lot of others social media platforms. Is there any way to get at that problem?
PAYTON: Well, for starters, we do need an international framework. And that framework needs to include engineering, ethics and governance because there is conscious and unconscious engineering bias being built into artificial intelligence algorithms and so we need an international framework to set up the ethics and the governance.
You know who watches the watchmen here? So really a third party that looks across all of big tech, and social media, which sets those social norms and guidelines. And we can do this, we have standards such as ISO. We have international electricity standards and nuclear standards, we need the same as it relates to artificial intelligence, big data, and algorithms and how they are used to track us, to make decisions about us, and how they operate as a black box where even the engineer isn't truly knowledgeable and aware of how the algorithm behaves after they built it and set it in motion.
NEWTON: No, and in fact, some of them have really expressed dismay, with the way it has played out on those platforms. Theresa Payton, thank you so much. There are some really good insights there and I appreciate the fact that you're positive about the fact that we can change the way things are, appreciate it.
PAYTON: Thank you.
NEWTON: And this is the one where we say goodbye. Actor James Michael Tyler has died at the age of 59. Tyler was best known for his role, of course as Gunther as the Manager of Central Park for 10 seasons on the hit sitcom Friends. He died in his home on Sunday, after a three year battle with prostate cancer. Now Tyler first revealed his diagnosis in June. He had planned to take part in that Friend's Reunion earlier this year, but had to appear virtually due to his health.
And that wraps up this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Paula Newton. I'll have more news for you after a quick break.