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More Democrats Call for Biden to Step Down from the Presidential Race; Indian Authorities to Launch an Investigation on the Crowd Crush; General Elections Begins Today in the United Kingdom; Japan Releases New Yen Banknotes After 20 Years; Overseas Americans Celebrate Fourth of July. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching "CNN Newsroom" and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, a fight for survival. The Biden campaign races to reassure supporters that the U.S. president is still in it to win it, even as more Democrats publicly call for him to step aside.

Hurricane Beryl continues its destructive and deadly path, roaring through Jamaica, now headed toward the Cayman Islands, as it churns toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and possibly Texas.

Plus, a new study suggests popular weight loss and diabetes drugs could be linked to a rare form of blindness.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from Atlanta, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. And we begin at the White House, where U.S. President Joe Biden is publicly fighting to save his bid for re-election. But CNN is learning that privately, Mr. Biden has acknowledged the next few days could be critical.

One senior official indicating that serious doubt is setting in even at the highest levels of the administration. Representative Raul Grijalva is now the second House Democrat to publicly call on Mr. Biden to leave the race. A number of congressional candidates fear they could lose in November if the president remains at the top of the ticket.

President Biden will take part in a pre-recorded interview with ABC News, which will air Friday night. On Wednesday, he made his case in several radio interviews.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I had a bad night. And the fact of the matter is that, you know, it was I screwed up. I made a mistake. That's 90 minutes on stage. Look at what I've done in 3.5 years.


CHURCH: The White House insists Mr. Biden is absolutely not stepping aside, but it's struggling with other questions about the president's health. CNN's MJ Lee reports.


MJ LEE, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Joe Biden trying to save his teetering reelection campaign. After keeping a limited public schedule for days following his disastrous debate performance last week, the president emerging to try to reassure panicked supporters.

Biden rallying his campaign staff on a call telling them, quote, "I'm running. I'm the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one's pushing me out. I'm not leaving. I'm in this race to the end."

But this as CNN is learning that the president has privately acknowledged this week that the next stretch of days will be critical to whether he can save his candidacy. An ally who spoke with Biden on Tuesday telling CNN that the president was chastened and blamed himself, not his staff, for his poor debate performance.

BIDEN: With the COVID, excuse me, with dealing with everything we have to do with.

LEE (voice-over): The ally saying Biden is clear eyed about what it would look like if his efforts to save his campaign were to fail. The polls are plummeting, the fundraising is drying up and the interviews are going badly.

Meanwhile, the White House struggling to answer a barrage of questions about the president's health and medical records.

LEE: If now is not the time for full transparency, when is?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have been one of the most transparent administration when it comes to medical records.

LEE (voice-over): The White House also confronting questions about Biden's new explanation for his halting debate performance, jet lag and fatigue from two foreign trips, despite having had nearly two weeks back in the states before the CNN debate.

JEAN-PIERRE: When he travels abroad, it's a pretty rigorous travel. We get tired looking at him doing his meetings and traveling.

LEE (voice-over): The White House ad campaign had previously blamed a cold.

JEAN-PIERRE: I was so focused on the cold and that's what I kind of leaned into and talked about. But yes, his schedule did have something to do with it. It was the schedule and the cold. LEE (voice-over): One of Biden's first major tests coming on Friday

when he sits down for an extended TV interview. Biden also beginning to call Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries and Chris Coons.

LEE: And President Biden hosting a group of Democratic governors here at the White House Wednesday night. A few of the governors coming out afterwards to tell reporters that they had had honest conversations about the need to defeat Donald Trump and the path forward in the 2024 campaign. And one of the governors, Tim Walls of Minnesota, said that the group was all in on pledging their support for President Biden.


This was a large group of governors. So we will see whether that is in fact the case, that every single one of the governors that met with the president Wednesday night is in fact all in.

MJ Lee, CNN at the White House.


CHURCH: Ron Brownstein is CNN's senior political analyst and the senior editor for "The Atlantic." He joins me now from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So President Joe Biden is fighting for his political survival after days of mounting pressure to step aside following his dismal debate performance last Thursday. Calls from big donors and elected Democrats for Mr. Biden to be replaced are getting louder and more public. Can he survive this mounting pressure?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, there are a lot of Democrats, the Democrats skeptical of Biden, who have been, I guess, optimistic is the word that he cannot survive this pressure, that ultimately he will be convinced or compelled to make the choice to get out of the race. But that is not entirely clear. I mean, you know, his -- his language today was surprisingly defiant.

There are still very few Democrats in the inner circle of the party who are willing to say publicly what I think many, many of them believe privately, which is that the president's performance in the debate is not something that he can recover from, in part because he went into the debate trailing and needed to improve and instead lost ground significantly, according to the polls, but also because the debate, you know, didn't come out of nowhere. It reaffirmed for many voters one of their deepest concerns about -- about Biden going forward, which is that he's too old for the job. I mean, in that "New York Times" poll today, not only did Donald Trump have his biggest lead ever, you know, at any point, I think, since he became a national figure, but 74 percent said they thought Biden was too old to be president. 84 percent of people under 45 said he was too old. Over 80 percent of the people voting for third party candidates, which is presumably his best option for growing the votes or acquiring the votes he needs to overtake Trump. So there are -- there is a lot of anxiety in the Democratic Party. Not everyone believes that Biden is doomed. But I think that is, you know, the dominant view is that it is almost impossible for him to recover from this. And people are still uncertain what he is going to do.

CHURCH: So if President Biden fights on and survives these next few days, as he is saying he will do, is the race for him essentially over? Has he already handed victory to his rival Donald Trump if he decides to remain in the race?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, look, I mean, Donald Trump survived the Access Hollywood tape in 2016. So, you know, it's hard to say in American politics that it's over until it's over. And in fact, part of the problem that Biden's critics have is that when Donald Trump said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes, he wasn't really only speaking for himself. He was speaking to some extent for both parties. We are so dug in at this point that full scale collapse is, you know, not really a possibility anymore.

What Biden, what the Democratic strategists and elected officials and donors and advocacy group heads who I've talked to in the last few days are concerned about is, as I said, Biden went into this debate trailing. He was the one who needed to shake up the dynamic, needed to change the trajectory of the race.

And if he stays in the race, it is hard to see what could allow him to not only overcome the new damage that he's done, but even if he does that, what is now going to give him the boost that the debate was supposed to do to overcome the initial deficit that he faced?

Rosemary, I am aware of post-debate polling done by Democratic or liberal groups in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states that he almost certainly needs to sweep to win that has him down six to seven points this week. And, you know, that is a very, very big hill in a country as polarized as ours.

CHURCH: Yeah, those are tough numbers. And Ron, one of the biggest Democratic donors, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings told the "New York Times" Wednesday that President Biden needs to step aside to allow a more vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump. Is Kamala Harris that person if Mr. Biden does decide to step down or is there another candidate better placed perhaps to do that?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, this is a dynamic that I think is surprising and is moving very quickly, which is that I think if President Biden does step down there, many of the same people who are worried about his viability are also concerned that Harris cannot win either.


And then in particular, she would struggle to win enough white working class voters to hold on to those three critical states in the Rust Belt, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But despite those concerns, I think she has the opportunity if Biden steps down to consolidate this race much more quickly and comprehensively than would have seemed possible. You know, there's a demand side. There is an opening in theory, because I think, as I said, there are a lot of Democratic strategists and activists who are concerned that she can win.

I'm not sure there's a supply side opposition to her in that it may be that none of the other top tier candidates, potential top tier candidates, like the governors of Illinois and Michigan, Pennsylvania and California, will view it as viable for their own long term future to run against the first woman of color who has been on a national ticket, what that would mean to their future relations with black and female constituencies in the Democratic Party. So it's possible and maybe even likely at this point that if Biden gets out, the party will consolidate behind her to a much greater extent than seemed possible only a few days ago. That is something that has clearly moved quite a bit in the last few days.

CHURCH: Ron Brownstein in Los Angeles. Many thanks for your analysis. Appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: Donald Trump appears to be showing relative restraint as he watches President Biden's candidacy self-destruct. CNN's Kristen Holmes has more.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the better part of a year, former President Trump's allies have been floating this idea without any merit that Biden would not be at the top of the ticket, that eventually he would step down and be replaced by another candidate. Now that they're actually facing a potential reality with this, they're trying to figure out what exactly that looks like and whether or not that's a good thing. And not everybody thinks it is.

I talked to one GOP pollster who said he'd rather go with the devil he knows than the devil he doesn't know. And along those lines, we know the campaign has spent millions of dollars in modeling, advertisement, as well as data trying to create a campaign that runs against President Joe Biden and no one else.

But if you talk to the campaign, they say this is going to be decided on the issues, not on anything else, not on who the candidates are. This was a direct quote from one of the senior advisers. They said the issues are the issues and that's what people care about. Every person on the potential list has been complicit in the decisions of the Biden administration.

Obviously, they're saying that whoever is at the top of the ticket, they will try and link to Biden's administration, particularly the economy, inflation, immigration, crime, all things that Donald Trump pulls ahead of Joe Biden. But it is certainly an interesting time. They say they're not going to change any of their strategy in terms of what they do for data modeling or start anything new until they see how this plays out.

Kristen Holmes, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: U.S. forecasters say Hurricane Beryl is bearing down on the Cayman Islands with strong winds, dangerous storm surge and damaging waves. The center of the storm is by Grand Cayman Island and it weakened a little while ago to a category three with 125 mile per hour winds, that is about 205 kilometers per hour. Forecasters warn it's still very dangerous. So far, Beryl has killed at least eight people across the Caribbean.

Hours ago, the hurricane pounded southern Jamaica with slightly stronger winds, torrential rains and storm surge of about nine feet. The storm knocked down trees and power lines and damaged buildings. And Jamaica's prime minister says the country isn't out of the woods yet. He warns heavy rainfall from the passing storm will likely still cause flooding, landslides and road damage.

And we're starting to see the scale of the damage that Hurricane Beryl left behind in Jamaica and across the Caribbean. Patrick Oppmann shows us.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hurricane Beryl left Jamaica with intense winds and heavy rain as it passed to the south of the island.

This is the strongest hurricane to hit Jamaica in years. And the island's government responded by declaring a seven-day period where the island will essentially be a disaster area. They said that a curfew would be in place throughout the day on Wednesday and urged people to be off the streets and as well said that security forces would help maintain order as the island began to pick up following the storm's path.

The images coming out of the Windward Islands where Beryl hit are just stunning. Roofs are gone throughout much of the islands there. People lost livelihoods, their boats and the destruction is widespread.

The fear of course is that it's early in the season. Beryl is only the second named storm and many people who have been hit by this storm will still be recovering when very likely more storms will be on the way.


Beryl is the strongest storm developed, first category 5 storm developed this early in a hurricane season since hurricane seasons have been recorded and it really looks and feels like a storm that you would encounter later on in the season.

Beryl is not done yet. It is expected to continue impacting the Caribbean as it head towards the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico. So while this storm has already created a lot of destruction unfortunately there is more to come.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN Havana.


CHURCH: And video continues to come in showing the damage left by hurricane Beryl but now we are getting a look at the ocean when the storm was at its strongest. This drone video was captured on Tuesday by a vessel off the Puerto Rico coast when Beryl was still a category five hurricane. The storm's powerful winds produced waves more than six meters tall or 22 feet. The vessel is part of an observation project by NOAA and the company Sail Drone.

Well still to come, a glimmer of hope for a ceasefire and hostage deal in Gaza, Hamas responds to an Israeli proposal, the latest on the negotiations next.

And police in India launch an investigation into the deadly crowd crush at a religious event. What they're saying about the organizers.




CHURCH: Israel and Hamas appear to be on the brink of a framework agreement for a ceasefire and hostage deal. That is according to an Israeli source familiar with the negotiations. But a deal is still not finalized nor is it assured.

Israel says it's evaluating the latest response from Hamas after it was delivered by Qatari and Egyptian mediators. Hamas says it dealt with the proposal quote "positively" and repeated its demand for a complete ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Israeli officials believe the latest response from Hamas will enable the two parties to begin negotiating the specific details of a deal. Israeli negotiators are set to meet with the country's political leadership, including the Prime Minister over the coming days to decide on next steps.

So let's bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks who's been following developments for us from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you Paula. So what more are you learning about this proposal?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Rosemary at this point we know that it will be the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who will make the decision as to whether or not to take this to the next phase of negotiations. And this is what will be happening we understand from an Israeli source over the next few days. The negotiators have been looking at Hamas' proposal or answer to the Israeli proposal and they will decide whether or not they believe that a deal can be done.

Now we have been here before of course there have been a number of times when it appeared as though a deal may be close. What we're hearing at this point at least is no immediate rejection from any Israeli officials. We've heard in the past Benjamin Netanyahu calling some of the Hamas responses delusional. So at this point there's been no immediate response. We understand from Mossad as well that they are looking through this counter proposal carefully.

From Hamas' point of view they said that they have given their answers to the mediators in Qatar and in Egypt and they are hammering home the point again that what they want is a complete ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.

Now what has changed this time as opposed to previous times when talks have stalled is that the Israeli military has almost completed its operations in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. This has been something that appears to have been hanging over this complete withdrawal of troops and a permanent ceasefire in the past.

We've heard Mr. Netanyahu saying that there will not be a complete ceasefire until Hamas is destroyed but we are hearing from the Israeli military certainly that it's not necessarily possible to completely destroy Hamas but that they do believe they are close to ending their operations at least in Rafah. The Prime Minister as well saying that it doesn't mean the end of the war he said but it potentially means the end of the intense fighting.

So I think the hope at this point Rosemary is that -- that Israel certainly is in a very different position than when previous counter proposals were suggested by Hamas and we do know as well we've heard from the Hostage Families Forum that they strongly push the government to accept this deal. There have been thousands on the streets of Israel over recent weeks and months and we've heard from the forum themselves saying if the Israeli government does not accept this deal at this point there won't be thousands on the street there will be millions on the street. So certainly we have been here before as I say there will be a lot of caution with this as well but given it had been stalled for many weeks this at least is something happening at this point. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Indeed. And Paula tensions seem to be ramping up between Israel and Hezbollah with another round of strikes overnight. What more can you tell us about that?

HANCOCKS: Yes, so the past couple of days have been completely particularly tense on that particular border. I mean we've been seeing for months these cross-border attacks but it happened when Israel assassinated a senior Hezbollah leader. The Israeli military saying that this was a leader who was in charge of many of the launches of missiles coming from the southwest of southern Lebanon onto Israeli territory. So they say that they did carry out a strike against that individual killing him. Following that on Wednesday we did see about 100 missiles and projectiles being fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory.


We don't know at this point how many were intercepted and how many hit their mark. We do know from the Israeli side though that a number of fires had to be put out in northern Israel following those barrages and then we understand from the IDF as well saying in retaliatory strike they then hit the particular areas where they believed those launches were coming from. So it really does show that the tensions between Hezbollah and Israel are not calming down. In fact in the past couple of days they have become even more intensified, really raising the concerns that there could be a second front opening up and an escalation of what we have seen so far. Something which countries around the world have said they do not want to see and something which many believe Israel and Hezbollah do not necessarily want to see as well but it is an ongoing concern. Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, our thanks to Paula Hancocks for that live report from Abu Dhabi.

Well police in India are investigating Tuesday's deadly crowd crush at a religious festival. It happened as female devotees rushed toward the stage to touch the feet of the preacher who led the event. That preacher is now being sought by police as part of a special investigation into the incident. Police have accused the event organizers of culpable homicide attempting to cover up evidence and providing false information. The organizers have not yet commented.

CNN's Ivan Watson has details. We want to warn you though viewers may find some of the video in this report too graphic.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This wasn't supposed to happen. Victims wheeled past as grieving relatives arrive at hospitals looking for missing loved ones.

What was meant to be a time of prayer ended in tragedy in northern India Tuesday afternoon after a religious gathering turned into a deadly crowd crush. It claimed more than a hundred lives. Most of the victims, women and some children.

UNKNOWN (through translator): As soon as the function ended chaos ensued. Any person who fell could not get up. Everyone was crushed to death.

WATSON (voice-over): Authorities say organizers issued permits for around 80,000 people to attend the event but as many as 250,000 may have showed up.

ASHISH KUMAR, HATHRAS DISTRICT MAGISTRATE, INDIA (through translator): There was a sudden commotion due to overcrowding and excessive humidity.

WATSON (voice-over): A government official said attendees may have fallen into an open sewer and on top of each other as they tried to reach the self-styled godman who led the prayer event.

A day after the disaster Subhash Lal waits outside a main hospital here to collect the body of his mother 65 year old Samdati Devi.

My son arrived first and said dad your mother is no more he says. If there was no carelessness he adds then people would not have died like this. Police are accusing the event organizers of culpable homicide and covering up evidence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed condolences to the victims' families. But deadly incidents like this happen all too often in India. In January 2022 at least 12 people died in a crush at a shrine in Jammu in northern India.

Authorities say they'll pay compensation to families of the victims of this week's tragedy. Cold comfort for people who've suffered a sudden and shocking loss.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHURCH: And we'll be right back.




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: President Joe Biden will host a 4th of July barbecue for members of the U.S. military and their families today. The Commander-in-Chief insists he is staying in the presidential race despite his disastrous debate performance.

The latest "New York Times" poll shows Donald Trump pulling even further ahead of Mr. Biden 49 percent to 43 percent. The President hosted a group of Democratic governors at the White House on Wednesday. They say Mr. Biden was honest and open about his poor debate showing, but he is still fit for office.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is dismissing calls for her to replace Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee. One source tells CNN the mandate for Harris campaign staff is to remain firm, stay in line and keep the focus on the Biden-Harris ticket. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has our report.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE-PRESIDENT: The stakes of this race could not be higher.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It turns out perhaps they could be, particularly for Vice President Kamala Harris.

Those chants of four more years suddenly ringing a bit differently for a vice president at the center of a crisis consuming the White House and President Biden's reelection campaign.

As the Democratic chorus grows louder for Biden to step aside a week after his fumbling debate performance, Harris is at the center of it all, playing the role of loyal running mate.

HARRIS: Joe Biden is our nominee. We beat Trump once and we're going to beat him again, period.

ZELENY (voice-over): Even as she privately considers whether she'll soon have to pick one of her own if Biden passes the Democratic torch four months before Election Day. But that remains a big if, with signs of a Biden-Harris ticket suddenly not so obvious after all.

Harris is in something of a historic holding pattern, leading the charge and defending the president moments after the debate to Anderson.

HARRIS: I got the point that you're making about a one and a half hour debate tonight. I'm talking about three and a half years of performance in work that has been historic.

ZELENY (voice-over): A careful balancing act of proving loyalty, yet trying to maintain credibility.

Her future is at the heart of a conversation among Democrats, where respect may run deeper than consensus over the party's next steps.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): I think she's a talented woman and someone who should be in the mix. But this is not a matter of just passing the mantle to her.

ZELENY (voice-over): If Biden makes the decision to step aside, senior Democratic advisers tell CNN, he is expected to immediately throw his support behind Harris and ask delegates to do the same. Former presidents and party leaders will be asked to follow suit in hopes of avoiding a contentious fight.


A more open race, advisers hope, would be for Harris' running mate, with a focus on leading Democratic governors. Harris has long taken a leading role in prosecuting the case against Donald Trump.

HARRIS: Let us be very clear about who is responsible. Former President Trump handpicked, handpicked three Supreme Court justices because he intended for them to overturn Roe.

ZELENY (voice-over): A new CNN poll finds Harris within striking distance of Trump in a hypothetical matchup, 47 to 45 percent, a race within the margin of error with no clear leader. Harris' stronger showing against Trump is built upon her standing with women. 50 percent of female voters back Harris over Trump compared to 44 percent for Biden against Trump. And among independents, 43 percent backing Harris, just 34 percent for Biden.

As we talk to voters like Maureen Glynn in Wisconsin, Harris' name often comes up when Democrats express concern about Biden's age.

MAUREEN GLYNN, WISCONSIN VOTER: Even if something were to happen to Biden, I have every faith in Kamala Harris. And I think that Biden or Kamala Harris has a sense to follow a qualified and good cabinet of leaders and as a team that they can run the country well. ZELENY: Vice President Harris is literally waiting in the wings. Should President Biden make a decision to step aside? Of course, that is his choice alone to make. But the campaign is called the Biden- Harris campaign for a reason.

She's been raising money for it. She, in fact, owns half of it. So the political infrastructure and campaign war chest is hers. Should she become the Democratic presidential nominee?

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Last hour, polls open for Britain's crucial nationwide general elections and voting is now well underway. Let's bring up these live pictures. You're looking at these images from a polling station in London where we've seen a little bit of an increase in foot traffic there. It's about 90 minutes or so into voting, 8:36 in the morning. So that might explain why it seems pretty quiet. Presumably that will pick up a little bit more.

Voters will have until 10 p.m. local time to cast their ballots. The key player is British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is head of the Conservative Party. He has actually cast his ballot. He did that a little earlier. And the Labour Party is led by Keir Starmer.

Now, be sure to watch CNN's special coverage of the U.K. election anchored by Issa Soares and Richard Quest. That starts just before 10 p.m. in London and that is just before five in the afternoon here on the U.S. East Coast.

When we come back, Japan releases its brand new Yen banknotes and there's something different about these bills. We'll explain.




CHURCH: Japan is debuting its redesigned banknotes this week. It's the country's first new currency in two decades. The shiny, freshly printed yen bills are designed to fight counterfeiting. And as CNN's Hanako Montgomery tells us, they are sourced from an unlikely location.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Along the winding paths of Nepal's Himalayan peaks, thrives a key cash crop for one of the world's wealthiest economies, Mitsumata. This small yellow plant is essential for making Japan's bills, but shrinking farming populations and climate change means it can no longer be sourced locally.

Instead, it's found in abundance in Nepal's highland regions, a chance discovery made by Kanpou Incorporated, a company that produces paper for the Japanese government.

TADASHI MATSUBARA, PRESIDENT, KANPOU INC. (through translator): The profits from the Mitsumata are used to build elementary schools, to offer better education to children and hair salons in the village.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Tadashi Matsubara's company first went to Nepal for a charity program to help farmers dig wells. But after discovering Mitsumata in the mid-90s, growing wild as far as the eyes could see, they taught farmers how to cultivate the crop turned cash, transforming the local economy, Matsubara says.

MATSUBARA (through translator): I really think that Nepal contributed to Japan's economy. As cash is fundamental to Japanese economy, without Nepal, Japan would not function.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): And as Japan unveils its first new bills in 20 years, the demand for the plant skyrockets.

MONTGOMERY: These are Japan's brand new bills. They're the first to have 3D holograms of historical figures to prevent counterfeiting and have tactile marks for the visually impaired.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): The new bills arrive as cash-loving Japan pushes for more digital payments. In 2023, nearly 40 percent of transactions in Japan were non-cash. But it still trails far behind neighboring China, where it's almost completely cashless.

In Japan, where cash reigns king, this vital crop from the Himalayan hillside is key to filling its wallets.


MONTGOMERY: So even though Japan's money does not grow on trees, unfortunately, parts of it do grow on bushes in Nepal. Rosemary.

CHURCH: That seems to be the case. Fantastic. Hanako Montgomery, many thanks for joining us live from Tokyo with that report.

Well, popular weight loss and type 2 diabetes drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy have been linked to an increased risk of a rare form of blindness. That is according to a new medical study published Wednesday.

The authors found that about 10 out of 100,000 people taking the medications may experience the problem. It's a form of optic neuropathy that can result in sudden painless vision loss in one eye. The risk was found to be greatest within the first year of taking the medication. The drugs manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, did not respond to a request for comment on the study.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is a board certified internal medicine specialist and a viral researcher. He joins me now from Los Angeles. Always good to have you with us.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST AND VIRAL RESEARCHER: So glad to be back. Thank you. CHURCH: So it appears weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy may

cause a higher risk of developing a rare form of blindness in some people. That's according to a new study. But doctors say this shouldn't deter patients from using the medicines to treat diabetes or obesity. What's your reaction to that guidance and indeed to this new study?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all, this is a very reputable study in a very reputable journal, the "Journal of the American Association of Ophthalmology," eye specialist.


And what they did is they looked at 16,000 people in the Boston area, and they then looked even at a subset of that 17,000 people who were either diabetic or overweight. And then they looked to see who was on Wegovy and Ozempic and who was not. First of all, it's an observational study, so it doesn't prove cause and effect.

But what it did show was, for example, in the people who were on Ozempic, they had 17 out of 200 people, four times higher, four times higher than the people that were diabetic but not on Ozempic. They had this very serious eye disease. What this eye disease is, is basically lack of blood flow to the optic nerve and causes blindness.

So the people that were taking Ozempic were four times more likely, at least it appeared, to have this eye disease. It's not cause and effect. It doesn't prove it. But I think it's something that should raise some red flags and this should be studied. So I think physicians that say, hey, this doesn't mean anything, I would take that with a grain of salt. If you have problems already with your vision and you want to start on these medications, I think you should take pause.

CHURCH: OK, that is good advice. And of course, the problem for so many people who need Ozempic to treat diabetes and extreme obesity is that they're competing with celebrities and the wealthy who are using the drug specifically to lose weight. Sometimes they're not necessarily obese. What -- what is your message to -- to them? And of course, what health risks might they face taking a drug like this that other people need much more than they do?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, that's a very important point. I mean, in my practice, we're seeing people just come and just want it, even though they don't really need it or basically qualify to get it.

So that is something that, for example, studies like this may curb that enthusiasm, not to coin a phrase. And what I say, it's very dangerous right now. And there's a lot of black market use of this medication -- of these medications.

CHURCH: Yeah, and of course, we're also hearing that there are fake versions of these weight loss drugs. Now, we've also been hearing nightmare scenarios of some users of Ozempic being constipated, experiencing paralysis in their intestines and other medical issues. Why is that happening to some people and not necessarily to those taking Ozempic to treat diabetes? RODRIGUEZ: Well, well, it is happening in people that are using it to

treat diabetes. But let me explain Ozempic and Wegovy. Wegovy is based is the same medication as Ozempic, but branded for weight loss. It works in two ways. One, it changes a hormone in your -- in your brain called glucagon-like protein, which basically regulates your insulin, decreases your hunger. But the second way that it works is that it slows your stomach from emptying. Therefore, you feel fuller. But it also has been shown to have now paralysis in other parts of the intestine.

Did you know that, for example, now here in Los Angeles, anesthesiologists will not operate on you if you're on Ozempic or Wegovy unless you've been off of it for two weeks because there's so much aspiration of stomach contents.

CHURCH: And talk to us about what other risks exist in using Ozempic for life. I mean, some people I've spoken to intend to take it for the rest of their lives, and it's really just to control their weight. What do you say to them?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all, what I say to them is that we don't know what's going to happen. And that's one of my biggest, you know, disappointments with this medication being approved so early. These studies were just one or two year studies. And yes, obesity and the secondary complications of that heart disease, diabetes is probably America's biggest problem.

But what I tell these people is we still don't know what may come down the line. Remember Fenfen? Everybody loved Fenfen. You know, you lost weight on Fenfen. Wow. A few years later, you found out that it caused heart issues.

So it is good for some things. It is good for people that are morbidly obese and really need to lose weight. But it is not a stopgap. And one thing that I am seeing, there's a certain anorexia, maybe psychological, that develops with people that now see themselves thin, are getting positive reinforcement from everyone around them, and they don't want to let go. This, by all terms, by all definitions, is basically an addiction.

CHURCH: Yeah. And proceed with caution. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, thank you as always for talking with us. I Appreciate it.

RODRIGUEZ: My great pleasure.

CHURCH: Well, today is Independence Day here in the United States, but how is it being celebrated by Americans overseas?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Rosemary, we are about 65 kilometers away from the heart of Seoul, South Korea, but you would never know it looking around us. We are inside the largest U.S. military base. When we're back after the break, we have big Fourth of July energy here. We will tell you how the soldiers are celebrating.



CHURCH: Barbecues, fireworks and pool time, just a few popular ways people in the United States celebrate Independence Day. But how do Americans overseas spend the Fourth of July?

Well, let's go to CNN's Mike Valerio, who's in South Korea. He is visiting Camp Humphreys, which is known as the American Army's home in Korea. So, Mike, how are the soldiers there celebrating?

VALERIO: Well, you know, Rosemary, I think that is the amazing thing. People here are celebrating exactly how they would be if they were back home in the United States, if they were in Atlanta, where you are, if they were in Lincoln, Nebraska or in Los Angeles, where my parents are watching right now. Happy Fourth, Mom and Dad. And that is certainly the remarkable element of this tableau. We're about 65 kilometers away from the heart of Seoul, South Korea, about 40 miles, plus or minus. And you see all of these American flags. We got a splash pad over my left hand shoulder.

We got American barbecue over my right hand shoulder. But it's mixed in with Korean barbecue. We have K-pop music that's playing.


And that certainly is this Fourth of July quintessential American tradition, with a little bit of a very unique American twist here on Camp Humphreys. Again, as you mentioned, the largest U.S. overseas military base. We have about 40,000 people who are connected to the U.S. Department of Defense.

So it's important for a lot of these families who have left America for the first time on their first appointments, who are having kids, young babies who have never experienced a Fourth of July tradition like you and I have, to experience this right here at Camp Humphreys.

So what we are expecting for the rest of the afternoon in about an hour, Rosemary, I'm not sure if you remember Hoobastank, but 2003, their hit single, "The Reason," they were essentially the anthem of my freshman year, Selmers High School, New York, Spring Fling, the anthem of a lot of millennials growing up, going through high school. They're going to be here a couple of meters behind us playing live in about an hour. We're going to hear some more K-pop groups. And then the grand finale, we are hoping, Rosemary, that the monsoonal weather holds off and that we have fireworks around 8:45 local time.

We're experiencing Fourth of July about 13 hours ahead of our friends and family on the East Coast. But it certainly is such a similar and remarkable experience. It's such a great feeling to be experiencing right here at Camp Humphreys, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, you are clearly in your element. Mike Valerio at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. Many thanks and have a great celebration.

And here's wishing all our American viewers a happy and safe Fourth of July. I appreciate you spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. "CNN Newsroom" continues next with my colleague Max Foster. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)