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Vigil Held For Victims Of Christmas Parade Crash; President Hopes To Announce Oil Reserve Release; French PM Tests Positive Despite Being Fully Vaccinated; Jill Biden Receives New White House Christmas Tree. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 04:30   ET



FOSTER: Welcome to the Newsroom. I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining us, do let us bring us up to - bring you up to date rather with the top stories this hour. Jury deliberations are expected to begin today in the trial of three white men accused of chasing down and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed black man, who was running through a South Georgia neighborhood.

And vigils were held on Monday night in Waukesha, in Wisconsin, a day after a driver plowed an SUV into a crowd of people at a Christmas parade, killing five and dozens injured as well. CNN will continue to follow both of these stories throughout the day for you.

COVID cases rising once again in the United States just as the country prepares to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. The U.S. is now averaging more than 95,000 new cases a day. That's about half of what we saw this time last year. But compared to last week, cases are up around 16 percent. On top of that, hospitals are seeing more COVID patients, more than a third of states reported a significant jump in hospitalizations last week compared to the week before.

Despite all of those experts say it's still safe for people to gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving if everyone is fully vaccinated.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, U.S. CDC DIRECTOR: We are really enthusiastic for people to be able to gather again for this holiday season and we would just encourage that people do so safely. So, of course that means to get vaccinated if you're not yet vaccinated and ideally to practice safe prevention measures before heading into gathering numerous households together. But just as you note, one extra layer of protection that you might take is to take a rapid test before you gather together.


FOSTER: Soaring Coronavirus cases across Western Europe are prompting you restrictions and for some a return to lockdown. Austria began a nationwide partial lockdown on Monday for at least the next 10 days. The latest government data shows the country's COVID cases are skyrocketing. With a seven day incidence rate, setting a new record. The Delta variant is driving this latest surge. This map shows the increase just in the past week compared to the previous week.

The darker the shade of red, the more severe the outbreak. CNN's Cyril Vanier joins us from Paris where you have news today, Cyril, about the prime minister's contraction of the disease.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. COVID hitting the highest levels of state here in France, Max. The prime minister's 11- year-old daughter tested positive for COVID yesterday, and that prompted the prime minister to do a COVID PCR tests while he was waiting for the results, he self-isolated, he took part in an emergency crisis meeting for the unrest in the Caribbean Island of Guadalupe remotely while he was waiting for the results and then the results came back. The prime minister tested positive, Max.

That means for the next 10 days, he is going to be self-isolating. He is going to be working remotely. We can infer from that he is asymptomatic for the moment. And of course, then you have to contact trace. So, who was the prime minister in contact with over the last few days? Well, with the Belgian Prime Minister, as he just came back from a working meeting in Brussels, so the Belgian Prime Minister and multiple other Belgian ministers are now isolating.

He was also in physical contact with the French victorious rugby team over the weekend. So now they're wondering whether perhaps there were any infections there. Also, interesting to note, this is a breakthrough case because the French Prime Minister was fully vaccinated, Max.

FOSTER: In terms of these lockdowns, we are talking to, in particular, in reference to Austria, it does feel as if going into the winter, the deeper winter that we're seeing the continent locking down increasingly.

VANIER: Yes, absolutely. You have Austria that's on lockdown, the Netherlands are already in a partial lockdown, you have Belgium that is imposing four days of homeworking per week and you have countries that are gradually imposing stricter and stricter measures.


Now, Austria is mandating vaccines starting February 1st. People who are not vaccinated will actually be paying a fine. And as we see the cases go up and the restrictions go up, we're also seeing the unrest, the push back against those restrictions, increase with violent protests we saw in multiple European countries today.

The interesting thing Max about this, as we've seen a scenario similar to this play out here in France, during the summer when the French President imposed a vaccine past that essentially, effectively cut off the unvaccinated from many areas of public life. That prompted protests during that lasted for several months. But you know what it also did Max, it actually prompted a massive rise in the vaccination rate, France, going from one of the least vaccinated countries in Western Europe at that time, early summer to one of the most vaccinated now, and it is faring relatively better than some of its neighbors, especially Germany and Austria.

FOSTER: OK, Cyril, thank you very much indeed. As you can see getting pretty cold across Europe as well. Thanksgiving travel is in full swing in the U.S. and its breaking pandemic records. Friday marked an all-time high for air travel since the pandemic began. With more than 2.2 million passengers screened at U.S. airports. The numbers were just as high on Sunday, and they're close to what we saw pre-pandemic but travelers could be facing headaches later this week with storms and snowy weather in the forecast for many there.

Let's bring in our meteorologist. Good morning to you, Tyler.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Max. We are looking at a very busy weather map behind me. So, let me walk you through the systems that we're watching for the next 72 hours and could impact travel. System number one is actually the cold front that push offshore yesterday behind this from colder air and some gusty winds across the Northeast and the Great Lakes. And on those winds, we have lake effect snow here. That could lead to a little bit of some problems for us in terms of the travel up there. But air travel across the country right now. All good.

We got the green light across the entire country. That could change in the days to come though. Take a look at this out west across the Northern Rockies going on into the northern plains. There's an area of low pressure gathering strength and pushing eastbound. This system is going to pick up the winds across the plains. We're talking about winds up to 60 miles per hour in some areas that can lead to some delays. And then yes, that system is also going to lead to snowfall across the Northern Rockies. We're looking at up to 10 inches of snow.

And then as it pushes east, it's going to gather strength and it's going to create a mixed bag of weather across the country, not only on the busiest travel day of the year, Wednesday then Thanksgiving, but also Black Friday too as it pushes to the east. On Thanksgiving itself Max, we are looking at trouble spots in likely Seattle around the Great Lakes and then from Houston up through St. Louis and on into Chicago.

FOSTER: Tyler Mauldin, thank you very much indeed. Is he - weekend, Thanksgiving Day target runs are officially a thing of the past, we're told? The popular American retail giant announced on Monday that its stores will be closed every year on Thanksgiving from now on. Target did closed stores during last year's holiday because of the pandemic. But Monday's announcement made the change permanent.

U.S. President Joe Biden and the First Lady visited American troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for what's been called a friend's giving.

The couple thanked both servicemembers and their families. President Biden recounted his late son Beau's service in Iraq and work in Kosovo, adding that he knows how hard it is to have someone missing from the table on a holiday. He then served the troops stuffing whilst Jill Biden dished up mashed potatoes.

Now earlier on Monday, First Lady Jill Biden was on hand to bring some holiday cheer to the White House. Biden inspected the new White House Christmas tree, a tradition for U.S. First Lady dating back to the 1960s, this year's tree is a Fraser fir from North Carolina. The theme for the decorations will be announced after Thanksgiving. The Fraser fir joins a long line of White House Christmas trees, the first making its debut in 1889.

Still to come, growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and how the U.S. military is planning to counter that threat. And horrific bus accident in Bulgaria, kills more than 40 people including a dozen children. Details ahead.



FOSTER: At least 45 people have died in the deadliest bus accident in Bulgaria's history. Authorities say the bus was carrying mostly North Macedonian tourists when it crashed in flames in Western Bulgaria. Seven people are in stable condition in hospital with burns. The cause of the accident is unclear but the bus apparently hit a highway barrier either before or after it caught fire.

A Christmas parade in Brazil was interrupted on Monday after a sidewalk collapsed injuring at least 33 people after they fell into a nearby river. 21 adults and 12 children were sent to local hospitals with injuries though none of them were serious incredibly, of a site is being investigated by local officials and the city's mayor has already called a meeting for Tuesday to determine the next steps in that investigation.

Russians Foreign Intelligence Service is dismissing concerns about a possible invasion of Ukraine is absolutely false. But the U.S. and Western allies are watching closely as Moscow masses troops on the border and in the region. CNN's Jim Shooter has more.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With concerns growing about a Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border. The Biden administration is now considering sending military trainers to the region and military equipment that could include Javelin anti-tank missiles and mortars as well as Stinger air defense missiles. Multiple officials tell CNN, but the Biden administration is still weighing the consequences of such moves with some administration officials concerned they could be seen by the Kremlin as a major escalation.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Javelin anti-tank missiles are quite effective against the T-8010, which the Russians are actually employing in these efforts against Ukraine right now.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. has been warning allies of a possible Russian invasion with just a short window to prevent Russia from taking action as top U.S. officials increasingly sound the alarm publicly.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have real concerns about Russia's unusual military activity on the border with Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to.

SCIUTTO: A top Ukrainian intelligence official claims in an interview with the Military Times that Russia has more than 92,000 troops amassed near Ukraine's border that are preparing to attack in January or February. These satellite images from earlier this month show those Russian T-80 tanks, as well as armored personnel carriers and other equipment, massed in the small town of Yelnya, a possible staging area for invading Ukraine from the north, potentially through Russia's ally, Belarus.

BLINKEN: We don't know what President Putin's intentions are. But we do know what's happened in the past. We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and then using that as an excuse to do what Russia is planning to do all along.

SCIUTTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin's response is to call existing us support for Ukraine, a provocation.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: We need to consider that Western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kiev modern lethal weapons and having provocative exercises in the Black Sea.


SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

FOSTER: Now still to come new prove climate changes hurting minorities more than others and not just extreme weather, but also pollution. Why residents say the government is failing to protect them.



FOSTER: This just into CNN, the Chinese government hopes to see malicious speculation and the politicizing of the Peng Shuai issue stopped. A spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued this statement a short while ago, the spokesperson also reiterated Peng's situation was not a diplomatic issue, and that some Western forces are trying to force the tennis star to demonize China's political system. The story surrounding Peng started to gain traction with global concerns about her well-being after she disappeared from public view after accusing a former Chinese leader of sexual assault.

LeBron James won't be in the lineup tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the New York Knicks. He's been suspended for the first time in his 19 year NBA career. James was ejected from Sunday's game against the Detroit Pistons for hitting Isaiah Stewart in the face. James's teammate says it was an accident as Steward was also ejected for escalating the situation. He's been suspended for two games.

Now the climate crisis, extreme weather and rising rates of disease and pollution problems that can affect all Americans. But often it's low income communities and people of color, who bear the brunt of those growing threats as CNNs Rene Marsh explains.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been nearly three months since Hurricane Ida, a category four storm slammed Louisiana. Yet this small black community of Ironton looks like the storm hit yesterday.

WILKIE DECLOUET, IRONTON, LOUISIANA RESIDENT: They got people that lost everything. Don't know where they're going to get the next meal from.

MARSH: What is that like having to know that every hurricane season you don't know if you're going to lose everything.

DECLOUET: I've never been to war. But I can imagine what a young man that's been in the war and dealing with post-traumatic stress because this is a form of post-traumatic stress.

MARSH: Steps away from destroyed homes, caskets with the dead inside sit under the warm Louisiana sun. The state run cemetery task force has not returned them to their resting place after floodwaters forced them from their grave sites.

CASSANDRE WILSON, DECEASED FAMILY MEMBERS DISPLACED: It's heartbreaking to see that no one's really trying to put them back.

MARSH: Ironton is in Plaquemines Parish where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, south of New Orleans. Much of the area is below sea level. And it has the dubious distinction of being one of the fastest vanishing places on the planet due to climate change and do sea level rise.

A recent EPA study found minorities are more likely to live on land endangered by rising sea levels and more likely to die from extreme temperatures. But extreme weather is not the only danger. A drive along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge reveals an 85 mile stretch of more than 150 petroleum and chemical companies that have sandwiched whole neighborhoods, while spewing harmful emissions, more vulnerable to climate change, more exposed to pollutants.

It's the proverbial one two punch EPA Administrator Michael Regan came to see as the Biden administration promises to address environmental injustices in minority and low income communities.

MARSH: The general feeling here is that their government has failed them.

MICHAEL REGAN, ADMINISTRATOR, U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: I think the state and federal government and local government has failed the people in terms of effectively communicating and being transparent and offering some levels of relief.

MARSH: Failing people like 81-year-old Robert Taylor, a lifelong resident of Louisiana's Cancer Alley, where the nation's highest cancer rate is concentrated. ROBERT TAYLOR, CANCER ALLEY RESIDENT AND ACTIVIST: We want him to stop the slaughter. This is outright slaughter.

MARSH: These are all of Taylor's family members diagnosed with cancer. Almost everyone here has a cancer story.

REGAN: When you look at how much industry is here. And the suffering that we're seeing, there has to be a correlation.

MARSH: The state has not declared this a public health emergency. Are you prepared to go against that?

REGAN: We're going to assess the data. We're going to follow the facts. We're going to follow the science and we're going to follow the law.


MARSH: Well, we reached out to the state of Louisiana about those caskets that you saw in the piece there, but did not get a response. Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


FOSTER: Einstein's manuscript for the general theory of relativity is going up for auction in Paris on Tuesday, it's a rare glimpse into the mind of a genius. Christie's Auction House says the 54 page document is worth up to $3.4 million. The manuscript is one of just two surviving documents recording how Einstein arrived at one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history.


VINCENT BELLOY, CHRISTIE'S EXPERT ON BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS: Einstein Besso manuscript is a work document signed by Albert Einstein, and by his colleague and friend Michele Besso. And it's a document that shows the birth of the general theory of relativity, which is probably the most important discovery of Albert Einstein's career and one of the most important theories in the history of modern physics.


FOSTER: Now, Einstein makes some errors in the manuscript you may be surprised to learn and proof that nobody is perfect of course. Before we go, new findings on what makes for a good hug. Researchers at the University of London examined hugging behavior somehow in the UK, we're not that into it. They found that long hugs, those lasting five to 10 seconds are more pleasant than short hugs lasting just one second. I could have told them that.

They also found that crisscross hugs, or dancing, as you may imagine, are more common than neck waist hugs. And that the crisscross hugging style is more common between men and between women or mixed pairs. So now you know, researchers hope this and future studies will help them wrap their arms around what they call an understudy human behavior. Thanks for joining us. I am Max Foster. Early Start is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)