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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.S. Sending 3,000 Troops To Help Evacuate Personnel In Afghanistan; FDA Approves Third Vaccine Dose For Immunocompromised People; Britney Spears' Father Says He'll Step Down As Conservator. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Whitney Wild. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

All right, time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

Number one, the Pentagon sending 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to help partially evacuate embassy staff and local U.S. allies from Kabul. The move highlights the stunning speed of a Taliban takeover of much of the country. It comes just weeks before the scheduled final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

ROMANS: A third vaccine dose for some immunocompromised Americans now authorized by the FDA. A recent study by Johns Hopkins found that vaccinated immunocompromised people are 485 times more likely to end up in the hospital or die from COVID compared to the general vaccinated population.

WILD: Add San Francisco to the list of major cities issuing a vaccine mandate. Starting August 20th, people who are 12 years and older will have to show proof of vaccination at indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, as well as at large events with at least 1,000 people.

ROMANS: Severe weather across the Midwest leaving more than 900,000 customers without power on Thursday -- nearly 800,000 of them in Michigan alone. Customers in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana also without power after heavy rain, strong winds, and intense thunderstorms knocked down trees and powerlines.

WILD: Severe weather in Turkey, too. The death toll now rising to 27 as rescue efforts continue after severe flash flooding began Wednesday. Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated, five bridges have collapsed, and much of the flooded area remains closed to vehicles.

ROMANS: At least five people shot and killed in Plymouth, England. The suspect was also found dead at the scene. According to a member of Parliament, at least one of the victims was a child. Police say the shooting is not terror-related but they are not providing further details. It's the worst mass shooting in more than a decade in the U.K. where gun laws are very strict.

WILD: Developing this morning, the city of Herat has fallen to the Taliban, with the exception of the Army corps base. The Taliban now controls 14 provincial capitals. That's out of a total of just 34. That includes Kandahar, the city's -- the second-largest city in the country.

To help evacuate embassy personnel, the administration announced Thursday it is sending 3,000 additional troops there.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're mindful that the security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan. And as I said before, our troops will, as always, have the right of self-defense. But this is a narrowly-focused mission to help with the -- to help safeguard an orderly reduction of civilian personnel.


WILD: Jasmine Wright is live in Washington, D.C. So, Jasmine, this situation has gone from bad to worse. It is now becoming what seems like a dire situation. What is the White House's response to this rapidly escalating problem?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Whitney, President Biden signed off on that order to withdraw the U.S. Embassy personnel, sending in now 3,000 troops to aid in that effort to create what they call a core diplomatic presence.

Now, remember, we are just a little over two weeks away from that August 31st date when President Biden identified that would be the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, effectively ending that two-decades-long war. And make no mistake about this, Whitney. This is going to be a part of President Biden's legacy and he seems very resolved in his decision.


On Tuesday, he told reporters that he did not regret this decision and, quote -- he said, "We spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. They've got to fight for themselves."

And these latest gains by the Taliban have just really bolstered the president's decision, sources have told CNN. But the question still remains, Whitney, is how do you keep American personnel and American interests safe.

So our own CNN's Phil Mattingly reported yesterday that President Biden was briefed by Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin and National Security Jake Sullivan, on Thursday, about the options, and President Biden eventually signed off on that order to withdraw that personnel. And Biden also spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, trying -- asking him to pursue diplomatic efforts.

But really, Whitney, the president is starting -- is going to start his postponed vacation today. We'll see him going from Wilmington to Camp David, so we may not hear him from on this. But the White House has been trying to tell folks that even though we may not see the president and we may not hear from the president that he has been really closely engaged following the details -- Whitney.

WILD: Jasmine Wright live in Washington. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right

The FDA has authorized an additional COVID vaccine shot for immunocompromised Americans. The FDA changed its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, allowing people with certain conditions to receive a third dose.

So far, the extra dose is only authorized for those with severely compromised immune systems. These are people who are like organ transplant recipients.

A CDC committee is set to meet today to discuss booster shots and vote on whether it will recommend a third dose for the immunocompromised.

WILD: All right, it's time for three questions in three minutes, so let's bring in Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, chief of hospital medicine at the University of Alabama Birmingham. Good morning to you. Thank you so much for joining us on this extremely important topic.

So the first question we have for you this morning is how critical is it for people who are immunocompromised to get this booster shot? And how critical is it that the FDA said -- okayed it, basically?

DR. KIERSTEN KENNEDY, CHIEF OF HOSPITAL MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM (via Webex by Cisco): This is very important. I mean, I think if you look at the patients that we have in our hospital, the vast majority are unvaccinated. But of those that are vaccinated, it's that population.

It's the patients that, like you mention, are transplant recipients and are on immunosuppression meds, that have cancer and are on active chemotherapy, or that have some sort of rheumatologic issue like lupus or arthritis and they've having to take chronic steroids. Those are the people whose immune systems can't mount a robust response normally and so they need that added layer of protection.

ROMANS: Who should be up for the next booster -- the COVID booster, do you think?

KENNEDY: Well, obviously, the people that are immunosuppressed, but I think anyone else that has multiple comorbidities that put them at increased risk of breakthrough infections. Those are the people that we need to try to target.

ROMANS: Let's talk about what's going on in Alabama. Right now, hospitalizations are rising. Five percent of ICU beds are available. Here's what an Alabama nurse had to say -- listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're angry. We're angry that it's back. We're sad, we're scared, we're tired. Until we get enough people vaccinated to protect us all from this -- I mean, we're just going to continue to see this revamp its ugly face over and over and over again.


ROMANS: It's just so frustrating. How come the message is not getting through when healthcare professionals are pleading with people? These are lifesaving interventions, quite frankly -- the vaccine and mask- wearing. Why is it not getting through?

KENNEDY: I don't know. It defies logic. I mean, she went through all of the emotions. We are confused.

We have never been in a situation where the public has questioned even the validity of a disease. I've never had a patient tell me diabetes isn't real, you know?

But these are also the same patients that when they're sick, they show up to the hospital and they trust us then. They want us to take care of them then. And so, we don't quite understand why we can't reach them before it gets to that place. This is like watching people in a line running and jumping off the cliff and you're just yelling on the side -- yelling stop and no one will listen to you.

WILD: It's crazy. I think there's this kind of strange logic where people think well, it's not going to happen to me as if they can somehow control whether or not --


WILD: -- they get coronavirus by doing things other than get the vaccine. That's the only way you can control that.

ROMANS: When -- and when I hear about hospitals that are having to move pregnant patients to other -- to other hospitals or other facilities to make room for COVID patients, or you hear about elective surgeries that are being postponed so that an elective disease now, which is COVID, can be treated instead. It's just -- it just defies all kinds of logic and common sense.

Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, thank you so much for stopping by today. Chief of hospital medicine at the --

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: -- University of Alabama Birmingham. Thank you so much.


All right, to census news. Big census developments here. America has never been more diverse or multiracial. Brand-new 2020 census data show non-Hispanic white Americans continue to be the most prevalent group in every state except for California, Hawaii, and New Mexico, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In California, the Latino population has officially become the largest racial or ethnic group in the state for the first time.

Here's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hey, Christine. Hey, Whitney.

Look at that -- a whopping number -- 331.4 million people in the U.S. That's what the census found. Most of these people are non-Hispanic white people, but look at some of the movement among other groups out there.

Hispanic or Latino groups out there -- look, look -- huge growth there in that pink line, moving way up -- so much so that even though white people are the majority or plurality almost everywhere, no longer true in California or New Mexico where this group has now become the largest group in those areas. And in other places they're making a lot of movement, too.

Look at this -- a surprise in the census this time. Almost 50 million saying they are some other race -- a mixed ethnicity of some sort, in many cases. That is a huge increase. It doesn't necessarily mean there has been a huge change because some of this represents the way the census has allowed people to self-identify this time. So you have to take it with a bit of a grain of salt but still, it is a trend that is very interesting to watch out there.

And what does all of this mean? Well, as you move forward it means that congressional districts around the country can be changing and will be changing. That's what the census is all about. That determines how many districts you get and how many votes you get in Congress in your state.

So there are places that are going to lose some of their influence in Congress. And then there are places like Florida, for example, that will pick up some new seats there, and Texas as well. What's important about those states? Well, they're big battlegrounds of a sort now. Yes, they tend to vote red but there are big, strong blue strongholds there that could also make a big difference.

The bottom line is the minute these numbers came out the race was on from the party leaders rushing forward to say how do we draw new districts to maximize our voters and minimize the other side. This really matters and that's where all these dry numbers turn into real political action -- Christine, Whitney.


ROMANS: All right, Tom Foreman. Thank you for that. To the supply and demand mismatch in the booming U.S. economy now. Just a day after prices for consumers moderated slightly, another key measure of inflation hit a record high. U.S. wholesale prices rose 7.8 percent over the last year, the biggest 12-month increase ever.

Stripping out the volatile food and energy sectors, prices still rose a sharp 6.1 percent over the year. Prices rose nine-tenths of a percent just from June to July.

Now, the Producer Price Index measures prices paid by businesses. It's not the consumer prices -- this is what businesses pay. And the increases are then typically passed on to shoppers. They either raise the prices for you or maybe the package shrinks just a little bit, so you're getting less for the same price.

Wholesale price increases have fed growing concerns about inflation as the economy roars back to life. Prices for airlines, hotels, hospital outpatient care, and wholesale machinery all rose in July.

Investors have worried higher inflation will force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates earlier than expected. The Fed chief Jerome Powell has said again and again prices are rising quickly but the situation is only temporary.

WILD: That's the hope.

ROMANS: That's the hope but we will have to see.

All right, a turn of events for singer Britney Spears. What her father intends to do as the battle over her conservatorship continues.






ROMANS: Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas says the U.S. faces a serious challenge at the southern border. The Biden administration has taken steps to try to stem the flow of migrants. Still, illegal border crossings in July were the highest they've been in more than two decades.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We are encountering an unprecedented number of migrants in between the ports of entry at our southern border. It is critical that intending migrants understand clearly that they will be turned back if they enter the United States illegally and do not have a basis for relief under our laws.


ROMANS: Meantime, court documents reveal the parents of 337 migrant children separated at the border during the Trump administration have still not been found.

WILD: Here's the latest update in the Britney Spears story. Her father, Jamie Spears, says he plans to step down as his daughter's conservator. Jamie Spears' attorney says there are no actual grounds for suspending him or removing him from that role.

Stephanie Elam has more from Los Angeles.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Jamie Spears says that he doesn't think that there's any grounds for his removal as conservator of his daughter's estate. He's indicated that he will step aside and help her current lawyer find a new conservator. That said, he said he doesn't necessarily believe that it is going to be in the best interest of Britney for him to step aside at this point, but he also believes that a very public battle with his daughter would definitely not be in the best interest.

For their part, Mathew Rosengart, who is Britney Spears' new current lawyer, says that this is vindication for his client and that they plan on continuing their investigation into Jamie Spears' behavior while he has been the conservator of her estate. They even claim that he has profited millions of dollars while in this position and that they continue to investigate that.


If you remember back in July when Britney Spears was part of a hearing in court about this very issue, she said that she wanted to press charges against her father, and she says that he is guilty of conservatorship abuse.


ROMANS: All right, Stephanie. Thank you so much for that.

The huge Dixie Fire in Northern California has now burned more than 515,000 acres. This fire, now the single-largest in state history, is 31 percent contained. It has destroyed more than 1,000 structures -- nearly half of those structures are homes -- and more than 14,000 are still under threat.

Three first responders have -- responders have been injured fighting this fire. Warm and dry weather is expected through the weekend as firefighters fight this blaze.

WILD: Dangerous record heat is baking the U.S. on both coasts now. Nearly half of the country is under a heat alert. Soaring temperatures could last through the weekend.

Here is meteorologist Tyler Mauldin. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TYLER MAULDIN, AMS METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Yet again this summer, we're talking about dangerous record-breaking heat. Today we have nearly 80 million people under heat alerts. If you live in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., this includes you.

In fact, New York and Philly, you're under an excessive heat warning because the humidity combined with this heat will make it feel like it's close to 110 degrees. Washington, D.C., your high today close to 100 degrees. You're going to top out at 97. That's nearly 10 degrees above average. New York City, you're going to top out at 95 degrees today.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just give it a couple of days and we'll be below average. Look at that temperature on Monday. That's going to feel really nice. Seventy-nine, not too bad.

Across the Pacific Northwest, yet again, we are seeing excessive heat alerts here as well. Temperatures here are going to get close to 100 degrees. Portland will top out at 99.

But it's not just on the bookends of the country. Here in the middle of the country we're going to see it, too. Nearly 100 degrees in Dallas today.


ROMANS: All right, Tyler. Thanks so much for that.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this Friday morning. Looking at markets to end the week, Asian shares closed slightly lower. Europe has opened slightly higher. And on Wall Street, stock index futures are leaning up a little bit here.

It was another record-high day for investors despite that news about higher prices for producers. The Dow closed up about 14 points after being down for most of the day, but that was just enough to hit a record high. The S&P 500 also hit a record. The Nasdaq managed a slight gain, breaking a losing streak there.

Facebook has joined the growing list of companies delaying return-to- office plans as the Delta variant surges across the country. Facebook said Thursday U.S. employees will not be required to go back to the office until January 2022. The new date will also apply to some countries outside the U.S. Last month, Facebook said it will require employees to be vaccinated.

Last week, Lyft said it was delaying its reopening even further to February of next year.

More people are heading back to the most magical place on earth and that's good news for Disney. Disney sales grew 45 percent to $17 billion. It was the first quarter. All of Disney's global theme parks have been open since the start of the pandemic. Its streaming service, Disney+, now has 116 million subscribers after reporting slower growth at the end of May as more people got vaccinated and pandemic restrictions eased.

It's unclear how surging cases in Florida will affect park attendance from here. Last month, Disneyland Paris began requiring guests to show proof that they'd been vaccinated or a negative coronavirus test before they could enter that park.

WILD: TikTok is making some security changes. No more late-night notifications for younger teens. It's part of a series of safety measures, as I had mentioned.

Accounts for 13- to 15-year-olds won't receive notifications after 9:00 p.m. Notifications will be disabled after 10:00 p.m. for teens who are 16 and 17. Those older teens also will have to opt-in to enable direct messaging if they want it. Users who are under 16 don't have access to direct messaging.

Users are required to be at least 13 to create a TikTok account. Still, Christine, that seems really young to me.

ROMANS: Oh, and I guarantee you there are a lot of kids who are not 13 who have a TikTok account. I mean, lots of little kids --

WILD: Yes.

ROMANS: -- are using TikTok.

I'm glad to see some of those age-appropriate security measures, but a lot of this has to do with parents, too, keeping on top of this. I didn't know that those TikTok accounts were even giving notifications after 9:00 p.m. --

WILD: Right.

ROMANS: -- you know? So that's something that I wasn't even aware of. And I'm pretty good on the kid device security --

WILD: Yes.

ROMANS: -- but they're -- they are kind of already lapping me -- my kids -- on being able to use the devices better than I can.

WILD: This is actually -- I have little kids. They're four, two, and 10 months. And so anytime a story like this comes up I ask parents for their advice so I have a long lead time to prepare.

ROMANS: Exactly.

WILD: But I don't think it's that long. That's the thing I'm worried about --


WILD: -- that we're going to have to deal with this when she's like eight or 10, and that's four years from now.

ROMANS: I will say, my advice is wait as long as you can before you really, like --

WILD: Yes.

ROMANS: Some people get the kid the iPad at two years old. I'd just wait as long as you can.


ROMANS: As long as you can.

WILD: OK, that's good advice.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

WILD: I'm Whitney Wild. "NEW DAY" is next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Friday, August 13th.

And overnight, a major announcement from the FDA that will have a direct impact on millions of Americans -- authorization of a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. So it's not for everyone yet, just the immunocompromised.