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Pennsylvania Republican Senate Race Too Close To Call; GOP Primary Winner To Face Democratic Nominee Fetterman; Trump Encourages Oz To Prematurely Declare Victory; Volatile Markets; Dow Tumbling 1,160 Points; Baby Formula Shortage; U.S. Wildfires; NY A.G. Probing Social Media Sites; COVID Deaths & Hospitalizations Expected to Increase; Afghanistan Under Taliban. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead, Pennsylvania cliffhanger with thousands of votes still to be counted. The Republican primary for a critical U.S. Senate seat remains too close to call. But former President Donald Trump is urging his preferred candidate to declare victory anyway.

Inflation jitters are turning into tremors on Wall Street. The Dow has its worst day in nearly two years amid a crash in retail stocks.

And a new report warns the world is coming closer to catastrophe. As for key climate change indicators set new records.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

COMPAGNO: Good to have you with us. Well, the fiercely contested Republican Senate primary in the key state of Pennsylvania is likely to drag on for days while every last vote is tallied. It's a critical showdown that could affect which party controls the U.S. Senate come November. T.V. personality Dr. Mehmet Oz is holding on to a very narrow lead over establishment Republican David McCormick just over 1200 votes separate them.

The race could go either way and a recount is looming. But former President Donald Trump doesn't want to wait. For all that he is urging the candidate he endorsed Mehmet Oz to declare victory now. CNN's Athena Jones picks up the story.


DAVID MCCORMICK, PENNSYLANIA REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: We could see the path ahead. We can see victory ahead. And it's all because of you. So, thank you, Pennsylvania. ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A fight to the finish in the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, with thousands of votes still left to be counted.

DR. MEHMET OZ, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN CANDDIATE FOR U.S. SENATE: What is this close? What else would you expect? Everything about this campaign has been tight.

JONES: The deadlock between former hedge fund executive David McCormick and celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz could trigger an automatic recount.

RAY D'AGOSTINO, CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF COMMISSIONS, LANCASTER COUNTY: We want to make sure we have integrity, veracity and transparency. So, in order to have that in a process like this, we have teams of three people each.

JONES: Ballots remained to be counted across the state and in Lancaster County, about 22,000 mail-in ballots were misprinted with an incorrect barcode and are now being re marked by hand in order to be scanned. There would be an automatic recount if the margin is half a percent or less once the counting is complete.

LEIGH CHAPMAN, PENNSYLVANIA ACTING SECRETARY OF STATE: By next Tuesday, we'll have a good sense as far as whether or not there will be an automatic recount.

JONES: The now two-way fight for the Republican nomination will see a nasty primary battle extended. But without Kathy Barnette, the Conservative commentator who saw a late surge in the race, but fell short of her rivals in Tuesday's results.

KATHY BARNETTE, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: I'm so grateful. So, do not be discouraged. Because we have a country to save.

JONES: All three candidates align themselves with Donald Trump, but it was Oz who scored the coveted endorsement from the former president.

OZ: Three law President Trump Pennsylvania.

JONES: Even while votes were still being counted.

OZ: When all the votes are tallied, I am confident we will win.

JONES: Trump today encouraging Oz to declare victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to (INAUDIBLE) let's be honest.

JONES: The eventual winner will face current Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who cruised to victory from a hospital bed after suffering a stroke late last week and having a defibrillator implanted on Election Day.

GISELE FETTERMAN, WIFE OF JOHN FETTERMAN: Now you may have noticed I am not John Fetterman.The next senator of our great state. (END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: The ballot counting here in Lancaster is over for now. And we'll pick back up at 9:00 a.m. Thursday right around 4000 ballots still remain to be counted and officials expect to finish that count at some point Thursday. Athena Jones, CNN, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

CHURCH: Ron Brownstein is a CNN Senior Political Analyst and Senior Editor at The Atlantic and he joins me now from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us again.


CHURCH: Because of course, since we talked 24 hours ago we have all had time to digest the consequences of Tuesday's primary but still unresolved is the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary race where Trump endorsed candidate Mehmet Oz is struggling to stay ahead of David McCormick.


CHURCH: And now the former president is calling on Oz to declare victory. What do you make of that? And do you expect or who do you expect to come out on top in the end?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think it's essentially impossible at this point looking at the outstanding ballots, and we're not even sure exactly how many outstanding ballots there are. Although they may be more than we thought the Philadelphia Inquirer was told by state officials today than maybe 20,000 mail ballots to be counted. I think it's impossible to predict who has the upper hand. But I think what you can predict is that Republicans may very quickly be sailing into very choppy waters here.

Because, you know, it is entirely possible that Trump's choice, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is ahead on election night may fall behind in the recounts. And if that happens, I think there's every indication that Trump will make the same sort of, you know, baseless charges of fraud that he did in his own election. And we could easily be in a situation where in a couple of days, the titular leader of the Republican Party is accusing the senate presumptive nominee if McCormick goes back ahead of being there because of fraud.

So, this could get very ugly and unpredictable. I think very quickly if Oz does not stay ahead.

CHURCH: Right. That would certainly be extraordinary. We're going to of course, want to go to the GOP gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania now and while Donald Trump's pick, Doug Mastriano came out on top, that win has put a lot of Republicans on edge speaking out about the liability poses, and his likely last to Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro in November. Is Mastriano's loss of fait accompli do you think?

And if so, why did Trump endorsed this guy? And how do those actions impact Trump's credibility going forward?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, I don't think in this environment with 65 percent of Americans saying they're losing ground economically because of inflation and 75 percent saying the country is on the wrong track. You can't say that any Republican candidate is, you know, inherently doomed. But having said that, if there's anyone with kind of one step over that abyss, it is Doug Mastriano who is not only an election denier, not only someone who is kind of traffic with QAnon conspiracist and Christian nationalist, he's someone who wants to ban abortion without exceptions for rape and incest at six weeks.

Pennsylvania is not Alabama, you know, it's not Mississippi. I mean, that is a very hard proposition to sell at a moment when the Supreme Court is going to make it less theoretical and more practical, you know, potentially giving the states back the authority to do exactly that. So, I think it's a very hard sell and the fact that he won the nomination, even while there were so many doubts about his electability is a reflection of the changing composition of the Republican primary electorate.

In many ways, the culture war themes and, you know, outlandish charges of election fraud that he raised are very much in tune with the base of the party. And I think Trump decided that he wanted to get on this train because he knew the train was, you know, was coming into the station. And it was more about identifying himself with a winner than getting Mastriano over the finish line.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, some Trump-endorsed candidates won and some lost including North Carolina's Madison Cawthorn. And it puts Trump's kingmaker skills in the spotlight on that. A recent NBC News poll asked Republican voters, are you more of a supporter of the Republican Party or Donald Trump and found that 58 percent of GOP voters supported the party over Trump compared to 38 percent back on Election Day 2020.

Those supporting Donald Trump over the party stood at 34 percent compared to Election Day 2020 at 54 percent. So, what are those numbers tell you?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, you know, I think the clearest message out of the primaries this year, is that Trumpism is consolidating its grip on the Republican Party, even if Trump's personal influence may be wavering. So, it's not surprising to me that Trump is winning some of these races and losing some of these races. I mean, that's about what you can expect. And it's tougher for anyone to oust incumbents as we saw in Idaho last night with the governor of Idaho that Trump could not be and again, we're going to see next week in Georgia where his candidate to oust the Governor Brian Kemp is almost certainly going to lose.

On the other hand, we are not seeing candidates anywhere, running on redirecting the party away from the course that Donald Trump set. And in fact, in many of these races, we're seeing all of the candidates competing among themselves to see who in effect can be the Trumpist. So the kind of the bruising racial and economic ethno nationalism that Trump has imprinted on the Republican Party. I think that is here to stay in the near term and what you've seen in the last few days looking at the results of these primaries, even though Trump's personal record is kind of uneven you're seeing the voices in the party that wanted a different direction basically throwing up their hands in despair and saying there is simply not a constituency now in the Republican Party for changing direction.


BROWNSTEIN: Whether or not Trump himself is the, you know, actual nominee in 2024. It is highly likely watching these primaries that it's going to be someone in his mole.

CHURCH: Yes, he still has the influence there. Ron Brownstein, many thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CHURCH: A NATO military official says momentum has significantly shifted in favor of Ukraine. With the country's forces now on the offensive against Russian troops in several areas. There's even talk of Ukraine possibly being able to eventually retake Crimea and the portions of the Donbas-controlled by pro Russian separatists. But overall, NATO believes the war right now is at a standstill, with neither side expected to make major gains in the coming weeks.

Meantime, Ukraine says it has blown up more bridges over a strategic River in renewed efforts to prevent Russian forces from advancing in the Luhansk region. The Ukrainian counter offensive around the northern city of Kharkiv has driven Russian troops back to within 10 miles or 16 kilometers of the Russian border. CNNs Nick Payton Walsh is at the front line.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): Every inch of respite from Russian shelling here comes at grotesque cost. What once rained down on the second city of Kharkiv now lands here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give the distance, OK?

WALSH: Ukraine declared here Ruska Lozova liberated over two weeks ago, but it's never simple.

WALSH (on camera): These tiny villages, which before the war, were places you wouldn't notice driving through have now become the key battlegrounds to defend vital cities like Kharkiv.

WALSH (voice over): While the fight to protect Kharkiv still rages with every step fast and cautious because of mines. Russia's border is now just nine miles away.

WALSH (on camera): Did you ever think Russia only three months?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): To be honest, no. Quiet doesn't happen here. But that's good for the mood.

WALSH (voice over): But Russian troops are even closer.

WALSH (on camera): That's in the forest across the field over this wall that they say frequently at night Russian reconnaissance groups try and move in on the Village.

WALSH (voice over): The next tiny hamlet is being fought over. And this is where Kharkiv's defense cannot fail.

The U.S. is most effective gifts in some of Ukraine's youngest hands. Anton says he did not expect to be at war age 19, haven't been scared I asked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): Yes, but not a lot.

WALSH (voice over): Shelling here is a constant, even though everywhere seems to already have been hit.

This is a homegrown defense volunteers, software engineers, economists, funded mostly by our guide, a farming millionaire. Russia's brief occupation never planned to leave anything of value here (INAUDIBLE) on a van full of T.V.s for looting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They see that we live better and they do not even think then that something is wrong with them, not with us. You know, they think that because America gives us everything for free. And they hate us for that. And they rob us and they kill us.

WALSH (voice over): Men and women who have in three months learned courage only comes after knowing fear up close.

IVAN, UKRAINIAN MILITARY MEDIC: The most scare moment was on the field of the day of the war. I was at the medical center on -- at one of the posts in Kyiv and now coming together us and he told us that Russian special forces are going to come and try to attack us from behind. We were not trained to do this. We were not armed to do this. That was basically the most scary moment for me.

WALSH: You survived.


IVAN: Yes. We survived. Everybody made OK -- made it OK and I think that is the moment that that killed fear me.

WALSH (voice over): Scared. They hold back an enemy that's slowly proving as inept as it is immoral by placing incredible value on the smallest patches of their land.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Ruska Lozova, Ukraine.


CHURCH: Still to come. A new report is sounding the alarm about the state of the global climate and the effects of climate change. We'll have the details for you after the short break. Stay with us.


CHURCH: Well, a new report is sounding the alarm on the climate crisis. The World Meteorological Organization says the last seven years were the Earth's warmest on record and the world's oceans are being pushed to new heights. That report finds sea levels rose twice as fast in the nine years up to the end of 2021 than a decade earlier. The report follows a U.N. climate assessment which warned the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions or face catastrophic climate changes.


CHURCH: The U.N. Secretary General says it's time to act.


ANTONIO GUTERES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Time is running out, to keep 1.5 alive and prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis the world must act in these decades. The good news is that the lifeline is right in front of us.


CHURCH: Well, joining me now is Andy Sheppard, Professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds and the director of the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, this new report from the World Meteorological Organization paints a pretty grim picture of planet Earth breaking for new alarming climate records. What stood out to you in this report and of course, that conclusion that our only hope is to act now or face the consequences?

SHEPHERD: Well, it is a grim pitch, you're right. But I think, from my perspective, it's really important that we're certain that the change is happening. And we can be sure of that now and tell people about it. So, hopefully, they can act. The things that stood out to me, were some extreme events that happened in our weather systems, and they're driven by climate change. We've seen intense flooding in Europe and China.

We've seen increased forest fires in the U.S. and bleaching of corals in the oceans, in the Southern Hemisphere. But we also saw some really, really strange things in the cryosphere. We saw rainfall on the summit of (INAUDIBLE) for the first time ever. These are all things that haven't happened before with this intensity and it's really time to do something about it.

CHURCH: You mentioned that because you were recently in Greenland, won't you want to a field campaign? What did you discover on that trip that could perhaps be useful in efforts to mitigate climate change?

SHEPHERD: So one of the long standing problems we've had is separating out the effects of weather from climate. And that's been a source of confusion, misinformation, actually, for many decades, through my career, people have said, what we're seeing is just part of the weather cycle. And we haven't had a satellite in space to monitor the polar ice sheets that can really do a good job of distinguishing between changes in snow and ice.

And that's really weather and climate. And so we're testing a new radar system that the European Space Agency will fly in space towards the end of this decade, that will do that job for us for the first time. So, it's really important that we can -- we can be sure about the changes that we see. And when we tell people that they're related to climate, they can have confidence in that.

CHURCH: Yes. Very good point there. And of course, this latest report highlights the four key climate indicators that broke records in 2021. Greenhouse gas emissions, rising sea levels, warmer and more acidic oceans. So, mitigating climate change is critical of course, and this report comes just after the U.N. offered a five-point plan for transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

How quickly could that happen? And what role might high gas prices and of course, Russia's war in Ukraine play in offering more incentive to global leaders, to choose renewables over fossil fuels as they work to ban Russian energy imports, for instance?

SHEPHERD: Yes. I mean, that's a really good point. And it's a point well made, because I think people are aware now that there are real downsides to being dependent upon fossil fuels in the way we would not ever have if we really dependent on renewables. In my country in the U.K., we did effectively transition away from using gas, coal should I say, in about 30 years after the coal mines were closed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Just for purely economic reasons, this was not related to climate change. There wasn't a really strong motive to do this. It just happened for financial reasons. And, and we now no longer use coal. We still have some dependence upon hydrocarbons, oil and gas as well, but it shows how quickly it can be done in several decades without a real urgent press. So, I think it can be repeated around the world.

We just need to shift, I guess, government and public opinion in the right direction away from being concerned about how it might affect individuals economically, to thinking about the real costs that we're already paying for climate change.

CHURCH: We certainly have many incentives that before us to make that shift. We'll see if some global leaders do that. Andy Shepherd, many thanks for joining us appreciate it.

SHEPHERD: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, still to come. Wall Street had a really bad day on Wednesday, after a U.S. retail giant posted poor earnings. We will have a live report from Hong Kong on how markets in Asia are doing today. That's next.



CHURCH: Well, a dismal day for Wall Street as the roller coaster ride on the U.S. stock market continues. The Dow tumbled Wednesday more than 1100 points in its worst trading day since June 2020. The S&P was down four percent putting it on the precipice of bear market territory and the NASDAQ lost nearly 4.8 percent.

The sell-off began after retail giant Target reported a stunning 52 percent drop in profit for the first quarter, a day after Walmart's stock posted its worst day since 1987.

And CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong. She joins us now live with the latest.

Good to see you, Kristie.

So, after a dismal day on Wall Street, how are Asian markets looking right now, of course, futures?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Asian markets are really feeling that downward pressure, especially after U.S. shares posted its biggest daily decline in two years. Investors are just spooked by inflation, they're also spooked by weak earnings, especially what we heard from Target. You know, this is the latest big box retailer to come out with really poor earnings results, saying that its core lead profit fell a stunning 52 percent.

It blamed two factors. It blamed inflation, saying that consumers simply are not buying as many nonessential goods as before. It also blamed the situation with the global supply chain. And all roads, of course, lead back to China.

In fact, we heard from the U.S. treasury secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday, and she said that China's zero COVID policy and the ongoing lockdowns there may be playing a role in impeding the global supply chain.

Let's take one more look. Let's bring it up with the freshest data that we have right now of what the Asian trading day looks like at the moment. And it's been in the red all day. If we could bring up the data for you, you could see the Seoul KOSPI is down, one-third. Australia S&P losing about 1.7 percent. Nikkei down 1.9 percent. Shanghai Composite relatively flat. It had been trading a little earlier. Here in Hong Kong the Hang Send losing about 2.4 percent.

I should add that in China there has been a lot of concern about the growth prospect of China's tech industry, especially after Tencent, this is the mega tech company that makes the WeChat messaging platform, it's the world's biggest videogame maker, it reported zero revenue growth in the first quarter. Also, you know, for major, we're keeping an eye on U.S. futures to just get an inkling of what the trading day is going to look like on Wall Street in a few hours from now.

Earlier, we were seeing a bit more positivity. But take a look right now. S&P 500 futures down, two-tenths of 1 percent. Nasdaq futures losing four-tenths of 1 percent. The Dow futures down about two-tenths of 1 percent.

Over the last month markets had been hammered after the U.S. Federal Reserve had been giving out the signals that it would be regularly hiking interest rates by half a percentage point, all in a bit to tame inflation, which is at its highest level since the 1980s. But now, we're hearing from, you know, various analysts, including Nomura, saying that they anticipate the Fed to be more aggressive in its tightening going forward. In fact, they anticipate that they will be tightening or raising interest rates by three quarters of 1 percent in June and July.

I want to bring up the statement for you. This is from the head of global market research for Nomura Securities who says this, "We recognize Fedspeak has not outright endorsed a 75 basis point hike yet, but in this high inflation regime we believe the nature of Fed forward guidance has changed. It has become more data dependent and nimble."

The chief of commerce at Deutsche Bank says that the Fed could raise interest rates all the way up to 5 percent. And, Rosemary, that would be the highest level since 2006. Back to you.

CHURCH: Yes. Amazing. Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

STOUT: You're welcome.

CHURCH: And still to come, as a shortage of baby formula worsens in the U.S., the president invokes a decades old act to try and alleviate some of the pressure. We'll have the details for you on the other side of the break.



CHURCH: The U.S. government is taking a more direct approach to address the country's baby formula shortage. The House has introduced a pair of bills aimed at providing emergency funding for the FDA and ensure families using government support programs can still buy formula. President Biden also announced the government would be taking more control over the production of formula ingredients.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has more now from the White House.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden is invoking the Defense Production Act to try to alleviate the baby formula shortage, a major step as the White House has scrambled to try to address this issue, causing so much anxiety for American families. Now, the Defense Production Act is a 1950s era law that allows the Federal government to have more control over industrial domestic production. And what the president is doing is he is directing suppliers to provide the resources needed to manufacture formula, things like ingredients. Additionally, the administration is starting Operation Fly Formula.

The president sending a letter to the secretaries of agriculture as well as health and human services, telling them to utilize commercial defense department planes to try to import formula product from overseas into the U.S. The FDA earlier this week had already announced that they were making it easier for overseas companies to send their formula to the United States. But those approval processes are still under way.

Now, this comes as the administration over the past two weeks has really been scrambling to try to address this crunch that American families are feeling with lack of access in some areas to baby formula.

On Thursday, FDA commissioner Robert Califf will be up on Capitol Hill testifying before a House Committee, talking about the oversight of infant formula as the administration still faces so many questions about how the shortage came to be and the steps that they are taking to alleviate it.


Now, officials have said that they expect the shortage to really begin to gradually improve over the course of the next few weeks, but they have yet to offer a definitive timeline of when things will get back to normal. Arlette Saenz, CNN, The White House.


CHURCH: Officials in New Mexico say the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire has now destroyed more than 300 homes and almost as many other structures. It is the largest fire in state's history and has burned through more than 300,000 acres, or 122,000 hectares. Strong winds and low humidity are fueling the spread of the flames with the poor conditions expected to last through Friday. So, far, the fire is only a third contained.

For our international viewers, "World Sport" is up next. For everyone here in the U.S. and Canada, I'll be back with more news after a short break.



CHURCH: New York's attorney general is launching an investigation into social media sites used by the suspect in Saturday's racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, that includes the communications app Discord. Now, we have learned the alleged gunman used that site to reveal his plan in a private chat room just 30 minutes before the attack.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz spoke with one survivor about the terrifying moments inside the supermarket when the suspect started shooting.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Did you think you were going to die in the break room and you're hearing all these gunshots?


PROKUPECZ (voiceover): Jerome Bridges, an employee at the Tops Market was inside the store when the suspected gunman opened fire and ran for the break room.

BRIDGES: I thought to myself, he might come busting through the door. So, there is an old oak table back there that I put to the door with one arm and barricaded the door.

PROKUPECZ: You grabbed customers?

BRIDGES: Actually, I told the customers to get inside -- some customers to get inside the break room. I had to tell them to be quiet and just lay down on the ground because he was getting closer and closer to the back to the point where he was actually shooting at the displays.

PROKUPECZ (voiceover): According to posts on social media, the 18- year-old suspected gunman publicly revealed his attack plans on the communication app Discord shortly before the shooting on Saturday.

In a statement before CNN, a spokesperson for Discord says his online chat logs were visible to some people about 30 minutes before the shooting began, saying, "What we know at this time is that a private invite only server was created by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chat log." CNN analyzed the post shared on Discord and other social media sites, revealing troubling warning signs from the alleged shooter. They show the suspect made three visits to the supermarket in Buffalo in March, doing reconnaissance and writing about the activity inside the store, including how many black and white people were inside.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): You remember seeing him in March?

BRIDGES: Yes. He had on same exact clothes, them ugly green pants and them ugly green fatigues.

PROKUPECZ: And no one thought -- just no one thought anything of it or people did or --

BRIDGES: No, I didn't think nothing of it. I thought he was lost shopper. I didn't realize he was sitting up there scoping out the store for something like this.

PROKUPECZ (voiceover): Days after the massacre, Jerome Bridges can't bring himself to remove his name tag. The Buffalo, New York supermarket just a few blocks from his home was more than a job, he says.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): You still wear this?

BRIDGES: Yes. Because I'm going -- eventually, if they do decide to open up the store, I'm going back. I'm not going to let nobody scare me. We're all family.

PROKUPECZ: You lost them.


BRIDGES: Tonight, the New York state attorney general says she is launching an investigation into the social media companies used by the suspect to plan, promote, and stream his attack as authorities search for answers.

BRIDGES: He killed so many innocent people. Every night, I've been going in the house crying for hours and hours and hours.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): He could potentially face the death penalty.

BRIDGES: If he gets the death penalty, I will clap. I would be happy. Then everybody could go on about their lives knowing that justice was served because he wanted to be an idiot.

PROKUPECZ: Jerome Bridges tells us that his 15-year-old son was calling him on the day of the shooting while he was trapped inside that room, and that he was afraid to answer the phone because he thought the gunman would hear him. Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Buffalo, New York.


CHURCH: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts both coronavirus deaths and new hospital admissions in the United States will likely increase over the next four weeks. And even though cases are still much lower than during the Omicron surge this past winter, new infections have tripled in just the last month.

The CDC says nearly a third of all Americans now live in areas with medium to high levels of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the agency's director urged people in those communities to mask up.



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: In areas where community levels are high, everyone should be using prevention measures and wearing a mask in public indoor settings. In areas with medium COVID-19 community levels in yellow, individuals should consider taking prevention measures based on their own risks, like avoiding crowds, wearing a mask, increasing their testing, especially before gathering with others indoors. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: The White House COVID Response coordinator is touting the roll-out of the antiviral drug Paxlovid. Dr. Ashish Jha says the U.S. has seen a fourfold increase in the use of the medication in the past month, with some 20,000 prescriptions being given out every day.

Well, the Taliban have been chipping away at women's rights since they took over the country last August. They promised that girls would be allowed to go to secondary school, a promise that remains unfulfilled. But some Afghan girls whose right to an education has been snatched away by the Taliban are finding other ways to assert their independence. CNN's Christiane Amanpour spoke to some of them.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST (voiceover): Wednesday morning in Kabul, and we're going to girls' school through these plastic curtains and past prying eyes.

Yes, this fashion studio has become an alternate education facility, since the Taliban stopped girls from attending government high schools; 17-year-old Rokhsar wanted to be a doctor. Now, she's learning to be a dressmaker.

We're feeling very bad, she tells us. Girls are not able to go to school, staying home, doing nothing. We hope that this will change our life, so we can be self-sufficient, have a profession, learn, earn money to support ourselves and our families.

Neda wanted to be a professional soccer player.

AMANPOUR (on camera): You're 17. You have never known the Taliban government. Did you ever imagine that this would happen to you, that you would be prevented from going to school?

AMANPOUR (voiceover): No, never. We tried our best for our future. But it's a dark one now, because we're kept away from our schools.

Nageena Hafizi started this fashion business with her sisters four years ago. Today, she's running the resistance. When the Taliban slammed the door in their faces, she opened hers up to high school girls, aiming to have them sufficiently trained to earn a living and support themselves within six to 12 months. She does this for 120 girls and women across three locations.

AMANPOUR (on camera): You're helping them, but they all want to be doctors, or an athlete, or, you know, professionals. They want to go on to university. How do you feel about them having to be embroiderers or dressmakers?

AMANPOUR (voiceover): This is very upsetting, says Nageena. When someone is following their own dreams, it's very good. It's different when they're forced into doing something else. And it's a bad feeling, because most of these girls wanted to go to university, become a doctor, a teacher, an engineer. It's very difficult for them, and I know that they can't do any other work. So, at least they can learn the dressmaking profession for their future.

For the record, the powerful deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani told me that girls' public high schools would open again soon and that, of course, women have the right to work within the Islamic framework.

But 26 years ago, I had the same conversations about the same issues when the Taliban was first in charge.

AMANPOUR (on camera): A lot of people want to know what you're going to do about the women issue. What about women's education, girl's education, women working, widows who have no other way to support themselves?

SHER MOHAMMAD ABBAS STANIKZAI, FORMER DEPUTY TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I know that, especially in Western news media, it's the propaganda against us that we are against women education, which is not right. It is not correct.

AMANPOUR: But the girls can't go to school. We have been to schools here that are all closed.

STANIKZAI: We have just told them that, for the time being, they should not come to office and school, so -- until the time that we can come out with some sort of solution.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Even the youngest understand something is not right; 10-year-old Aziza (ph) complains about having to stay home all day.

We just do housework, cleaning, baking bread and sweeping the floors, she says.

FARANAZ, CIVIL ENGINEER: I love my work. It's my right to work. And I need to work, because I got education in this country, and the government spent money on me, and even my family. And I want to express myself to my society.

AMANPOUR (voiceover): Brave then, brave now. Only now, after more than two decades of progress for their wives, their daughters and their family incomes, so many more Afghan men support them.

Hajinor Ahma (ph) tells us not even 1 percent of Afghan people are against women working.

We don't want our people to grow up as if we're in a jungle. We want people to have culture, knowledge. We need food and work.


Back at the design studio, these classes are not only open to high school students, but to older women who are suddenly out of work, like 30-year-old Rabia, who's a teacher.

We feel suffocated, she says. Why can't we, in our own country, our own place, live freely, move freely? Wherever we go, whatever work we do, they put barriers in our way. We can't reach our goals in life. We're always afraid, whether the previous government or the Taliban's emirate regime.

Rabia comes here to retrain and, like many of the mothers and wives, to have some kind of social life, like Norjan (ph), whose daughter, Neda, wanted to become a soccer player.

When I'm really upset, she tells me, my husband says I should come here, so that at least I can meet others. My husband is so kind. We are all sisters here.

Christian Amanpour, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


CHURCH: And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news after short break. You're watching CNN.