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NIH Chief: Mistakes Were Made But We Air for Transparency; China Reports Local Covid Cases Ahead of Winter Olympics; Israel Labels 6 Palestinian Civil Society Groups Terrorist; Gang Kidnaps Haitian Girl, Family Forced to Pay Ransom; Protests Support Kyrie Irving's Decision to Go Unvaccinated; Princess Mako to Wed Fiancee Kei Komuro on Tuesday. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: 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's contract and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The group EcoHealth Alliance was years late disclosing work it did with the Wuhan laboratory. It involved bat coronaviruses, but not the one that caused this COVID-19.

Well, U.S. Republicans have claimed the group which received funding from then NIH performed so-called gain of function research worked on viruses to make them more infectious. Dr. Francis Collins admitted they contracted active improperly but denied Republican accusations. Take a listen.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Yes, they did some things they should have tell 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 lies. Yes, they 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 about that they should have told us about.


SOARES: Well meanwhile, Republican Senator Rand Paul told an Axios interviewer that the 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 slightly dismissed.


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. And he's going to continue to dissemble and try to work around the truth and massage the truth. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We know 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. Though I have to respectfully disagree with Senator Paul. He is not correct, that we lied or misled the Congress. It's just not correct.


SOARES: Well, COVID outbreaks are seeing an another uptick in some Asia-Pacific countries. China is postponing the Beijing marathon as the country faces new cases ahead of the Winter Olympic Games. A number of new restrictions on gatherings and travel have also been put in place.

And Singapore is requiring employees to be fully vaccinated before January. The country reported more than 3,000 new daily cases on Sunday -- as you can see there on the graphic -- compared to very few cases during the zero COVID efforts. Journalist Manisha Tank joins me now from Singapore.


And Manisha, what more can you tell us about this surge in infections and really how worried the government may be because this is quite a shock uptick that were seen.

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Yes, well I can tell you, Isa, that the government warned us that this was going to happen because a few months ago, Singapore's government accepted that with the existence of the Delta variant here it was very difficult to control the cluster that were breaking out. And that Singapore was going to have to accept COVID as an endemic disease particularly with this mutation in particular. And so, that is what we are living with.

We are seeing these case rates go up. And concurrently the government is also ramping up the number of ICU beds, for example. Putting resources into public health systems to make sure that they can respond. Most of these cases that get reported, many of those are being taken care of at home, they're not actually being hospitalized. And that in a sense is very good news. Of course, there has been loss of life, which is never something -- there is always some good news of course, but this was something that we were very much warned about, and we were going to have to accept, in this journey, towards living with this disease.

What is at the heart of this? It is the reliance on vaccinations, to open up the economy. So, here in Singapore, that number of people who have had a double dose of the vaccine, 84 percent.

Let's take the story to New Zealand where we had updates in the past couple of days. Well, where we know there's been a new outbreak of cases there, particularly in the city of Auckland, which is the country's largest city. But with that New Zealand did have an absolutely zero COVID case rate. It also has accepted that in order to reopen, it's going to be vaccinations that will be the way forward and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying that in all districts they need to get that number to 90 percent. Just one final word. Still a zero COVID policy in China but many asking how long that can remain.

SOARES: Indeed, Manisha Tank for us there in Singapore. Thanks very much, Manisha.

Now the kidnapping of 17 missionaries in Haiti has captured the headlines. But most often it's every day Haitians facing abduction and demands for ransom they can hardly pay. You'll hear from one such victim about her harrowing ordeal, that is next.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Now 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 the 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 the Palestinian Authority. CNN's Hadas Gold is following developments and joins us now live from Jerusalem. And Hadas, what has been the justification from Israel to this designation, and is there any indication from what you've heard so far that the U.S. may challenge or will challenge Israel on this?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, definitely an uproar amongst human rights organizations about this designations because these six groups represent everything from women, children, agricultural workers, prisoner, and some are incredibly long and well established Palestinian civil society organizations. Many of them also document what they say are human rights abuses, they say they are caused by the Israeli occupation. But what they say are rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

But the Israeli defense ministry said that after investigation, they determined that these six organizations -- and I'm quoting -- constitute a network of organizations active under cover on the international front on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation Of Palestine, also known as PFLP.

Now PFLP is a designated terrorist organization according to the United States and the European Union. They are behind a series of high-profile hijackings and attacks from the 1960s onwards and Israel blames them for an attack as recently as 2019. The defense ministry says these six groups have in various ways helped fundraise, employ and support members of the PFLP.

Now by designating these organizations as terrorist organizations, it presents a direct challenge to their donors, to their funders, many of whom are European countries. Because if these countries continue to fund these organizations, they can in turn be accused of supporting terrorism. Now, as you know, there has been an international uproar over these designation. The Palestinian Authority called them unhinged fallacious, and libelous slander. Take a listen to what the director of one of these organizations had to say.

Translator: This is clearly a political decision and the continuation of an Israeli campaign that has been taking place for more than a decade, targeting Palestinian organizations, Al-Haq, had to say.


SHAWAN JABARIN, DIRECTOR, AL-HAQ (through translator): This is clearly a political decision and the continuation of an Israeli campaign that has been taking place for more than a decade. Targeting Palestinian organizations with the aim of silencing and frightening them.


GOLD: Now, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives have also denounced the move and Israeli official telling me that while Israeli officials did brief Washington ahead of this announcement, a delegation is headed to Washington this week, to further provide more evidence and brief officials on why they decided to designate these groups terrorist organizations -- Isa.

SOARES: Do keep us posted on this, Hadas Gold for us in Jerusalem. Thanks very much, Hadas.

Now Columbia says it plans to extradite its most wanted drug trafficker to the U.S. The government announced the capture of alleged cartel leader, Dairo Antonio Usuga, over the weekend. He faces more than a 120 charges just in Colombia, ranging from armed insurrection and murder to recruiting minors. Colombia's president says the arrest is the hardest blow to drug trafficking in this century.

Now UNICEF says at least 71 women and 30 children have been kidnapped this year in Haiti. The organization was helping a young Haitian girl with counseling after a street gang kidnapped her and held her for a week. The family had to come up with a ransom of roughly US$300 to get her freed. A huge amount really of money in an impoverished country where most people live on a few dollars a year a day. CNN's Joe Johns has the story.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's as common as the tire fires burning here in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Haiti is one of the kidnapping capitals of the world. The entire country has falling victim in some way.

Commerce and the economy are suffering. Children fear walking to school, even to church. It's a parent's worst nightmare. Everywhere you go, people are worried they could be next.

The human toll sinks in, talking with the victims. This 15-year-old school girl was abducted in early September and released seven days later after an unimaginable ordeal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): About three men were holding my hands and feet. They raped me. JOHNS: Did they threaten you while you were there? Or make you afraid to try to escape?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes. They just closed my eyes and they took me somewhere, and I entered inside of the house. They tore of my clothes. They blindfolded my eyes and just left enough for me to see.

JOHNS: She was kidnapped in Croix Des Bouquet, the same neighborhood outside Port-au-Prince where the American hostages were taken.


Her mother says they initially demanded $50,000 ransom -- an unheard- of sum for a family living in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.

JOHNS (voice over): Her mother says the family banded together and sold everything they owned to get her back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They told me if I didn't come to get her, they would kill her. I didn't have the money. I called my family from the countryside to help out. I negotiated with them for 20,000 Haitian dollars, but they rejected the offer.

I then called my family. They sold what they had and we settled on 30,000 Haitian dollars, and they me they would release her.

JOHNS: Though the current ongoing case involving 16 Americans and one Canadian has generated intense international interest, Haitians are much more likely to be the victims of kidnappings in this country and their families much less likely to be able to come up with the cash initially demanded.

JOHNS (voice over): And it's women and children who are increasingly being targeted. More than 100 abducted so far this year, according to UNICEF, which has been providing victims counseling and relocation for this girl and her mom. They've been working with a local NGO that caters to women in distress. Before she came here, the girl couldn't even speak about her harrowing days as a captive to one of Haiti's ruthless gangs.

LAMERCIE CHARLES PIERRE, ORGANIZATION OF COURAGEOUS WOMEN IN ACTION (through translator): Because we have received so many cases of kidnappings, the space has been reserved for 25 women. Now we have exceeded that number. That's why we have land. We will build a bigger center to welcome more woman, more victims.

JOHNS (voice-over): Now, UNICEF is warning about yet another danger to women and children resulting directly from the kidnapping trends and general lawlessness in Haiti. A fuel crisis motivated in part by the danger in the streets, jeopardizing patients and hospitals, and healthcare delivery with no end in sight.

Joe Johns, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


SOARES: And still to come on CNN, protester in New York to support all-star basketball player Kyrie Irving, who refuses to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Perspective from the scene straight ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Kyrie, no problem. We've got the best player in KD. We've got the second-best player and Harden. We're good. We're going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an athletes choice. If you want it, you want it. Don't force it on people. You know, people are losing their livelihoods for it and for Kyrie to be standing up a good thing.




SOARES: You are looking at a very ecstatic Pakistani cricket fans celebrating after their team beat India in the 2020 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday. Pakistan crushed their rivals for its first ever 10 wickets victory against India and the competition super 12 stage, for those of you who may not know, the rivalry between these two teams is considered one of the fiercest in any sport.

Now Tom Brady has added another historic achievement to his illustrious career. Becoming the first NFL quarterback to throw 600 touchdowns. Brady fired off a pass to Mike Evans in the first quarter in Sunday's game to reach the milestone. The future hall of famer threw for a total of four touchdowns and more than 200 yards, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to beat the Chicago Bears, 38-3. Memorable day not for Brady but also for his little boy -- you can see there -- who also got his hat. How memorable is that that for him?

Well, demonstrators turned out at Barclays Center in New York Sunday, to support Brooklyn Nets guard, Kyrie Irving decision to remain unvaccinated. At one-point protesters scuffled with police but no arrests were made and the game went on as planned without Irving. Local regulations prohibited unvaccinated players from participating in home games. And here's what one fan had to say.


ALBERTO MALDONADO, BROOKLYN NETS FAN: 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 of other fans. He's good for the NBA. He's got a lot of talent, brings a lot to the table, obviously the look like they miss him but at the end of day, it's more than basketball.


SOARES: Well, Irving initially refused to disclose his vaccination status, and he admitted it a day after the steam said the seven-time all-star would not be allowed to play.

And from a controversial basketball player, to the most famous one of all time. The earliest known pair of Nike sneakers worn by Michael Jordan in a regular season game have been sold by Sotheby's for nearly -- get this -- $1.5 million. It's reported a new record for sneakers at auction. Jordan wore the Nike Air in November of 1984. The beginning of the historical deal, with the brand, which of course paved the way for the world-famous Air Jordans.

Now, the wedding of Japan's Princess Mako to her longtime sweetheart is set for this Tuesday. The princess who turned 30 on Saturday, is the niece of Emperor Naruhito, and grew up in Japan's imperial household. But she's giving up that life to marry a commoner. Kei Komuro, a lawyer who works in New York, and while this may seem like a royal fairy tale on the surface, the reality for the couple has been very different.

CNN's Selina Wang joins us now live from Tokyo with more. And Selina, their coming nuptials, of course, has attracted plenty of public and media attention because in many ways -- you and I have discussed this before -- it has been marred in scandal. Is she going to get a happy ever after, finally?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Isa, I mean, it's a three-year delay. This marriage is finally happening. But there's not going to be much celebration here in Japan. This marriage has the public divided. When I speak to people here, it is clear this is such an emotional issue for people. Some revere the royal family and see it as a proud symbol of the country, and think that the princess's choice of suitor, it is contaminating this image of the royal family.

But on the other hand, Isa, you have people who say leave the princess alone, and that they are happy she is staying together with Kei Komuro after everything they've been through.


Because she has been through years of this brutal and relentless media scrutiny. It's been so bad that the palace says the media coverage has caused her to suffer from complex PTSD. Her psychiatrist in fact said that publicly, quote, she feels pessimistic and finds it difficult to feel happy due to the persistent fear of her life being destroyed.

Now, this wedding was originally planned for 2018, but was delayed after reports emerged about a financial dispute involving Komuro's mother. Now he disputed those accounts but the gossip spiraled against Komuro, to dissect every part of his family and public opinion turned against their union as well. It's important here to mention that Japanese female royals are held to these ruthlessly high standards, even though they are barred from taking the throne. In fact, if Japanese female royals marry a commoner, they have to leave the royal family.

Princess Mako is entitled to this payment of $1.35 million in taxpayer money to help her start a new life. But she is rejecting tradition in more way than one. She's rejecting that payment and after this marriage she's going to move to New York with Kei Komuro where he works as a lawyer.

Now this exit from the royal family, this fallout, her move to the U.S., has drawn a lot of parallels with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. While, Isa, there are some obvious differences you do have a situation of royals in the East and West choosing not to abide by society's expectations. Instead, they are escaping the royal microscope and trying to live the life that they want to live -- Isa.

SOARES: We'll wish them all the happiness in the world. Selina Wang there for us in Tokyo. Thanks very much, Selina.

Now, this is the one where we say goodbye. Actor James Michael Tyler has died at the age of 59. Tyler was best known for the role as Gunther, the manager of Central Perk for 10 seasons in the hit sitcom "Friends." He died in his home on Sunday after a three-year battle with prostate cancer.

And that does it for me. I'm Isa Soares. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is up next with more on the Alec Baldwin movie set shooting. You are watching CNN and I shall see you tomorrow. Have a good day. Bye-bye.