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Oklahoma Governor Grants Clemency to Julius Jones; U.S. General: China's Hypersonic Missile "Went Around the World"; Biden Administration Considering Sending Some Evacuees Back to Afghanistan; Retired Admiral Behind Bin Laden Raid Pens Children's Book; As FDA Decides on Boosters for All Adults, Fauci Says Hospitalizations Rising Among Vaccinated Without Boosters; Disney Cruises to Require Passengers Ages 5-Plus To Be Vaccinated in January; New NASA Telescope to Travel 1 Million Miles in Search for Life on Other Planets. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Breaking news out of Oklahoma. Oklahoma's governor has just granted clemency to Julius Jones just hours before his scheduled execution.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has the breaking details for us.

Ed, what can you tell us?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were about three and a half hours away from the scheduled execution of Julius Jones. He was the man convicted of murdering a gentleman by the name of Paul Howell back in 1999.

This is a case that has garnered a great deal of attention across the country. Millions of people signing a petition urging the governor of Oklahoma to spare Julius Jones' life.

And has garnered the attention of Kim Kardashian, Baker Mayfield, the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, and other celebrities across the country.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has issued, several weeks ago, a recommendation saying that Julius Jones be granted clemency, that his sentence be reduces to life imprison with the possibility of parole.

But just a short while ago, the governor of Oklahoma made the decision of granting Julius Jones clemency, reducing his sentence, sparing his life but with the caveat that he'll have to spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

We've not heard official reaction from Julius Jones' family. His mother and family members have been pleading for weeks for the governor to spare his life.

The mother has also been asking that her son get a new trial.

A great number of questions surrounding various issues that happened during that trial, including issues of whether there was racial bias in the jury and investigators.

Also some question over DNA evidence, including the murder weapon and a bandana that was used.

And all of this happening as the family of Paul Howell has maintained that had they believe that there's overwhelming evidence that Julius Jones was the man responsible for the murder of Paul Howell back in 1999.


They say there's overwhelming evidence. And that this whole experience has basically retraumatized the family throughout the entire process.

So the breaking news this afternoon is that Julius Jones' life has been spared.

CABRERA: OK. Ed Lavander, with this breaking news, thank you.

Now to the nation's second-most senior military general issuing a sober new warning: China is developing weapons that could enable it to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the U.S.

In a new interview with CBS, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Hyten, revealing new information about a hypersonic missile test China conducted last summer.

The missile traveled all around the world at five times the speed of sound. Hyten said that, after that, it dropped a glide vehicle that made it back to China.

When asked if it hit its intended target, Hyten said, "Close enough."

This raises a whole host of concerns, especially since these types of hypersonic missiles are much harder to detect.

I want to bring in retired U.S. Navy four-star admiral, William McRaven. He's also the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

He's also out with a new book that we will get to in just a moment.

But first, thank you for being with us.

I've got to get your reaction to this news. How concerned are you about China's weapons technology right now?


I think we need to be concerned about China's advancement in the hypersonic technology.

Now, I'm not concerned that China is going to use these weapons against us. You know, countries develop weapons and, hopefully, certainly, something like the hypersonic weapon, they never end up using.

But that doesn't mean we don't need to be focused on it. That doesn't mean we don't need to develop hypersonic technology as well.

We're a couple of years behind the Chinese when it comes to developing this kind of weapons system.

CABRERA: Is the U.S. able to counter this?

MCRAVEN: Right now, that's a problem.

When John Hyten, the vice chairman, talked about a first-strike capability, the reason this is so concerning is that a hypersonic missile can come in very quickly.

And right now, we don't have the defensive systems that could potentially, you know, shoot down a hypersonic missile. So that then does become a first-strike capability.

Once again, I'm not concerned that the Chinese will use it as a first strike but the potential is out there.

CABRERA: Let me pivot to Afghanistan because, as you mentioned, you helped to lead the raid that took out Osama bin Laden.

Right now, the U.S. is in the process of vetting thousands of Afghan evacuees following the U.S. withdrawal from that country.

We have some new reporting today that the U.S. is considering sending some evacuees who don't pass the vetting process back to Afghanistan.

Do you agree with that? And do you think that those who fail the vetting test pose a real threat to the U.S.?

MCRAVEN: Yes. I mean, this is obviously a difficult and complicated problem.

But the fact of the matter is, you know, when we loaded up 130,000 Afghans that we pulled out of Kabul before August 31st, we knew that there would be some that wouldn't meet the State Department's vetting process.

And my expectation is they were made aware of that. And, you know, hopefully, we'll be able to get them back safely to Afghanistan.

But, you know, if not, maybe to a third country that would be willing to take them. Or they can, of course, apply for asylum. We don't want to put them back in harm's way, that's for certain.

But frankly, we also need to ensure that we go through the State Department's vetting process to ensure that the right people are coming into the United States.

CABRERA: You have had such an incredible career. And it's so great to have you on as a guest to help us navigate national security issues.

But I is also to ask you about your latest project, this children's book, "Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal."

I got my hands on it and had a chance to read it. It's a book about bravery, about hard work, and about teamwork, about learning from mistakes and overcoming obstacles.

Just so many messages, so many lessons in this book, But why a children's book?

MCRAVEN: Well, you know, when I was a young parent -- I had three kids -- I really enjoyed reading to my children.

And there's -- of course, you have a connection when you read with your kids and you have an opportunity to teach them the values that you just talked about.

But now I also have a 5-week-old grandson and so now I'm going have an opportunity -- and I have already read the book to my grandson. He was the first reading.

But, you know, it's just great to be able to connect with kids when you're a young parent or a friend or a member of the family and connect through reading.

CABRERA: And, again, the messages here resonate with children, especially, but adults, too.


CABRERA: These are life lessons that you touch on in your book. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Thank you for being a guest on my show today.

Admiral William McRaven, the book is "Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal."

Good to see you.

MCRAVEN: Thank you, Ana.


CABRERA: Well, the clock is ticking now on the FDA's decision about boosters for all adults, especially with doctors warning about a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations among the vaccinated. Just how protected are you without a booster?


[13:45:05] CABRERA: Any moment now, the FDA could authorize booster shots for both Pfizer and Moderna's COVID vaccine for all adults, which would green light additional vaccine doses for millions of Americans.

And the timing couldn't be more critical. Cases are starting to climb again.

And according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, and I quote, "What we are starting to see now is an uptick in hospitalizations among people who have been vaccinated but not boosted."

Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez. He a professor and dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, a lot of us are wondering, if I was fully vaccinated more than six months ago, and I'm not among those current eligible for a booster, how protected am I right now?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR & DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. There's some vulnerability, Ana. So there's some bad news, followed by some more bad news, followed by a little bit of good news.

So bad news number one is there's more than an uptick in the number of total cases. We're starting to see the beginning of the winter wave.

We've had a 14 percent increase in cases over the last week. We're about to go yet again over 100,000 new cases a day. And it's starting up in the northern Midwest, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan.

So that's very concerning that the winter wave is now upon us and now starting. That's the first piece of bad news.

Second, there's now strongest for waning immunity after two doses. So, more so for the Pfizer vaccine than the Moderna vaccine.

And we're seeing, for instance, in Colorado, about 20 percent of the hospitalized cases are among those vaccinated with waning immunity.

So you're saying, well, what's the good news? The good news is I think we're going to move very quickly now towards universal boosters for those over the age of 18, the third immunizations.

And as we've been speaking about all year, Ana, this was always a three-dose vaccine, and so this was all predicted and predictable. So it's going to be very important for everybody to get boosted.

The good news is that will really rev up your virus-neutralizing antibodies 30 to 40-fold. It will create more durable protection.

And not only will it keep you out of the hospital, but it's also going to likely prevent you from getting infected, based on data coming out of Israel, and therefore, prevent you from potentially getting long COVID.


CABRERA: OK, so we've got to wait for the green light though. It's like, come on, let's get on it, our FDA, our CDC officials. We're waiting for the green light if the data is clear.

It sounds like the green light should come very soon.

There's other good news that I think is worth point out for people who are fully vaccinated, who haven't even gotten the booster yet.

But it's still much, much better news for those people than those who aren't vaccinated at all, according to Dr. Fauci and some other data.

Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Let's take Texas and look at a comparison of unvaccinated people with vaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people were 13 times more likely to become infected than fully vaccinated. And unvaccinated people were 20 times more likely to die than fully vaccinated people.


CABRERA: Dr. Hotez, he's talking about your state. The data could not be more clear on this. And yet there are still tens of millions of Americans who aren't vaccinated at all.

HOTEZ: Yes. I've been talking with Tony, Dr. Fauci, about Texas where I work and live. And it's really tragic, Ana. The numbers are extraordinary.

Since June 1, 2021, 20,000 unvaccinated Texans have needlessly lost their lives to COVID despite the widespread availability of vaccines. There's almost no words to describe it. It's a form of self- immolation.

All of those lives did not have to be -- none of those lives had to be lost. People who were defiant of vaccines. And of those 20,000, you know, well over 85 percent, 86 percent were unvaccinated.

And the thing that I'm worried about, this is all coming from aggression, coming -- I don't even call it misinformation or disinformation anymore, Ana. I call it what it is, anti-science aggression coming from the far right.

And we're about to see it again, because I believe that with this new wave coming up in the northern Midwest, we're going see the same thing.

We've still got 40 percent of those populations unvaccinated. And those are the ones that will get hospitalized and lose their lives. Doing everything that I can to prevent it, but it's really dug in, and

it's a very difficult situation.

CABRERA: Disney Cruise Lines just announced, come January, all passengers, 5 and up, must be vaccinated. How big of a deal is that?

HOTEZ: Well, it's essential. I can't imagine going on a cruise right now, especially as we're about to hit that winter wave now without everybody being fully vaccinated.

And we're going have to make it clear that, unfortunately, the goal posts have moved and being fully vaccinated now means three doses of mRNA and two of the J&J.


The good news is, though, it won't be one and done and two and done, I it could be three and done. I do not think we're going to need boosters on a regular basis after that.

Don't know that for sure. But looking at some of the data, I think we're going to have some longer-lasting protection after that third dose.

Just like we do with a lot of pediatric vaccines where you give a series of quick immunizations and then we wait six months to a year and then boost, and then we don't have to vaccinate again for five years, sometimes 10 years.

And I'm hoping it goes by that playbook.

CABRERA: Dr. Peter Hotez, I always appreciate your time and your expertise. Thank you for all you do.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

CABRERA: Back to our other breaking news today. Prosecutors cross- examining the man who chased, shot, and killed Ahmaud Arbery, and getting a critical admission in the process.


CABRERA: Is there life on another planet? Humanity is closer than ever before to getting that answer.

The new CNN film, "THE HUNT FOR PLANET B," follows the team of female- led scientists who are leading the quest to find another earth. The film provides an inside look at this groundbreaking mission.


Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Webb Telescope is a hundred times more powerful than Hubble. Telescopes are getting bigger because, the bigger the telescope, the better the resolution.

We wouldn't have built the telescope this big unless we needed to and you need it to look at the dimmest, most-earliest galaxies in the universe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The James Webb Telescope is not just a machine built by engineers and scientists to look after the universe. It's taking humanity on a journey.

We're going to enter completely new part of observational space, what we have never trod before. And every time we've done this, as a species, we've discovered new things.


CABRERA: Joining us now is Dr. John Mather. He is the senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope Mission at NASA.

Thank you for being with us.

This is fascinating. This telescope will show us the earliest lights in the universe. It might be able to find other habitable planets. It's really astonishing.

Tell us more about what it will be able to do.

DR. JOHN MATHER, SENIOR ASTROPHYSICIST & SENIOR PROJECT SCIENTIST, JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE MISSION, NASA: The Webb Telescope was designed to look at everything we already know about in the sky from those nearby planets, the solar system, and places where we know there's a planet around a nearby star.

Out through the nurseries where stars and planets are being born today, all the way out as far as we can see back in time.

And far out in space to the very first objects that grew after the Big Bang, whatever they were, probably stars, possibly also galaxies with black holes growing up.

It's a story we're trying to work out. And we have great hopes of finding some surprises.

CABRERA: Wow. What about the technology behind this telescope? How is it able to do and see all of these incredible things?

MATHER: The telescope is much bigger than any we've ever put into space before. And it does that by folding up so it can go up in the rocket and then unfold after launch.

It is cooled off to a low temperature so we can pick up the infrared light from those cooler objects out there that the Hubble can't see.

And it's totally gigantic. So we've got a little paper model. Your viewers can make their own. If you Google James Webb Space Telescope Paper Model, you put it together yourself. But the basic thing is there's a gold-coated mirror, which is 21 feet across, and that's the thing that collects all the light from those distant objects.

Focusing it down onto some camera chips that are so much bigger than anything we had before also. So that's the technology behind it. It's amazing.

CABRERA: It really is.

When can we expect to start receiving information from it?

MATHER: We will plan to launch it around December 18th, and it takes six months to -- of daily work, planned hour-by-hour, to get it all set up, focused after launch.

All the instruments checked out and knowing how to run the exposure calculators, all those things. So that June of next year is when we should start flooding you with scientific information.

CABRERA: What is your greatest hope for this mission, and what is your biggest fear?

MATHER: Oh, my greatest hope is there's something out there that nobody ever imagined before, ever. And so, I'm guessing where that could be.

Maybe there's something about the very early universe with the dark matter and the dark energy and the mysteries of that, because we've never been able to see them.

Closer up, I think we could get some surprises about planets, because there are plenty of them very close by. But none of the ones we've seen, so far, are much like home.

So, we'd like to know, are they like home? Could they have an atmosphere even around little red stars that we know about already? So, that's what I'm hoping for.

The things I worry about, of course, will it unfold properly in space? This is new. We've never unfolded a thing this big in space before for astronomy.

And so, well, it's new.


MATHER: It could be trouble. So we are very careful and cautious about it.

CABRERA: Yes. Fingers crossed. We don't know what we don't know when it comes to this sort of thing, right?

It is an incredibly expensive mission. We do know that. It will be nearly $10 billion in all.

So, what is your response to critics who say that money should be spent solving problems here on earth?

MATHER: I think what we can prove is that if you spend money, you can solve problems. We had a definite problem to solve, and we solved it.

I think, given problems closer to home, we just need to agree what they are and decide to solve them, and we can solve them.


That's what Kennedy thought when he said we would go to the moon and we'd do the other things, too. So, I think he was right. We proved we can. So, let's do it.

CABRERA: All right. Dr. Mather, thank you so much for joining us. We look forward to the film.

It is "THE HUNT FOR PLANET B." It premiers Saturday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.