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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

V.P. Harris In Singapore, First Stop On Southeast Asia Trip; House Intel Committee To Receive Briefing On Afghanistan; Vaccine Hesitancy In Kenya Causes Crisis For Hospitals. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 23, 2021 - 05:30   ET




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

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 32 minutes past the hour here in New York.

And happening now, Vice President Kamala Harris is in Singapore, the first stop on her trip to Southeast Asia. Any moment now, the vice president will speak to troops on board the USS Tulsa. Harris' trip overseas taking on renewed urgency following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

CNN's Ivan Watson joins us live. Ivan, what are you watching for today?


Well, you know, it was how the vice president would respond to the questions from journalists about the humiliating collapse of the U.S.- backed government in Afghanistan, and she refused to go off-script. She basically said that the U.S. is single-mindedly focused on this very difficult mission of evacuation right now. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened. But right now, there is no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children.


WATSON: Now, this trip by the vice president to Southeast Asia -- to Singapore -- she's just the latest in a number of top officials from the Biden administration to travel to these countries -- part of a bigger strategy that the Biden administration had, which was to try to get out of the decades of, kind of, war on terror wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and focus on great power competition with countries like China, the world's second-biggest economy. Kind of shoring up alliances with countries like Singapore, with whom the U.S. enjoys strong trade and actually, rotates warships like the USS Tulsa through the Changi Naval Base there.

But the events in Afghanistan have kind of overwhelmed that narrative and that strategy that the U.S. was trying to promote here. And one of the big questions is how do allies like Singapore react to the collapse of the U.S. plan in Afghanistan?

And the Singaporean prime minister provided the Biden administration some cover, pointing out that Singapore has sent troops to Afghanistan in the past, offering up a Singaporean air force plane to help with the evacuation effort, and saying that the jury is still out on U.S. credibility. It'll depend on how the Biden administration pivots in this critical region in the months and years ahead.


Back to you, guys.

JARRETT: Ivan Watson, thanks so much for that -- appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, more than 6,000 Afghans who were lifted -- airlifted out of the country have now arrived at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany. The air base, one of the largest outside of the U.S., is now a temporary transit point for these evacuees.

And that's where CNN's Atika Shubert is this morning. She joins us live. Atika, tell us about the process there. How long will these evacuees stay at the base?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're supposed to be here only for about two or three days. In fact, the agreement with Germany is that they will be here for no more than 10 days. And actually, we've already seen one flight going out this morning. A KC-10 took about 60 people to the United States.

But keep in mind, this base has a capacity of about 7,500 and as of this morning, we just found out there are now 7,100 evacuees here. Now, the key is whether or not they can mobilize a lot of the people to get to their permanent destinations.

We saw, for example, a United Airlines plane on the tarmac. We don't know if that will be taking evacuees out but certainly, civilian and commercial airlines are now part of that plan.

ROMANS: Tell us, Atika, about the Afghan woman who delivered a baby on a U.S. evacuation flight.

SHUBERT: Yes, it's an incredible story. In fact, what happened was a C-17 Globemaster -- those huge planes that carry hundreds of people -- radioed in to say that they had a mother deliver a baby. And the medical team rushed on board to find out she had not delivered that baby yet.

Take a listen to the interview we did with the captain and the labor- delivery nurse who helped deliver that baby safely.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when I evaluated the patient, we were past the point of no return. That baby was going to be delivered before we could possibly transfer her to another facility. So we were just opening our emergency equipment.

SHUBERT: What was the moment when you realized that we're going to be OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the baby came out screaming and we were able to put her directly on mom's chest and get her breastfeeding right away, I was like OK, we're good here.


SHUBERT: It was such an incredible moment there. And she said it was so chaotic at first. There were hundreds of people packed onto the plane and the mother was actually shielded from privacy by a number of Afghan women holding up their shawls. She said it was stressful but a beautiful sight in the end and mother and baby are doing fine. They are healthy at the local hospital.

ROMANS: So she had the baby on the plane on the tarmac after it landed, essentially.

SHUBERT: Exactly.

ROMANS: Unbelievable. Gosh, I just think of the -- just the humanity happening --


ROMANS: -- and all these people trying to get out of there.

Thank you so much, Atika Shubert, for that.

JARRETT: All right.

And in just a few hours, members of the House Intelligence Committee will receive what's believed to be the first in-person briefing for lawmakers on the situation in Afghanistan. Several congressional committees have pledged to investigate what went wrong as the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan, leaving Americans and Afghan allies in grave danger.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live for us on Capitol Hill. Daniella, good morning. What do you think they expect to hear?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, Laura, on what happened and what led to the collapse of this country, Afghanistan, at the hands of the Taliban.

You know, one of the major questions that lawmakers want to know is how the Biden administration misjudged the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan because of the U.S. intelligence assessment of the Afghan security forces. You know, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said last week that he saw no assessment that the Afghan military would give up the fight and the government would fall as quickly as it did.

So what went wrong with the U.S. intelligence assessment of Afghanistan? What led to this collapse?

And now, lawmakers have been working furiously behind the scenes with their offices to try to work to evacuate -- work with the administration to evacuate Afghan forces and Americans from the country. Of course, we've been talking about that for days and days. It's been an issue the White House has been dealing with. But look, lawmakers will undoubtedly have these questions when they get their briefing today.

You know, the House is back in session for a series of both these next two days, which is why this is happening in person rather than virtual. And, you know, this is just a series tomorrow -- the House -- all House members will get a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan also in person.

And we expect a series of committee hearings to happen in the next couple of weeks, including a committee hearing soon with the House Foreign Affairs Committee where Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are expected to testify.


But look, lots of questions leading up to this. This is, of course, still a developing situation. So the answers are also developing on this as well, which is why we expect many, many briefings, many, many committee hearings as we learn what went wrong in Afghanistan -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yes, this is -- this is certainly just the beginning.

All right, Daniella, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 40 minutes past the hour.

The spread of the Delta variant has corporate America's return-to- office plans on hold.

Apple has delayed its return to offices again, this time until January 2022. Last month, it changed its return date from September to October, now pushing that to January.

Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers won't reopen its U.S. offices until November first because of the Delta variant.

And last week, IBM announced it is temporarily closing its New York City offices because conditions in the city don't meet its health and safety protocols. IBM still plans to reopen offices on September seventh -- again, though, depending on health conditions in the city. What we're hearing from managers here, be patient and flexible. And the delay also has this added benefit. It's giving managers and companies more time to encourage or, in some cases, mandate their employees be vaccinated. So a little more time to get a safe working environment for people.

JARRETT: And that's a good thing, for sure.

All right. Andrew Cuomo expected to keep a low profile today, his final day as governor of New York. After more than 10 years in office, Cuomo is stepping down after a report by the state attorney general's office found he sexually harassed at least 11 women.

Moving vans were seen at the governor's mansion in Albany on Friday. Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to take the oath of office on Tuesday.

ROMANS: All right.

In Chicago, at least 41 people were shot and five people were killed over the weekend. The city saw two mass shootings. Six people were shot in a parking lot on the South Side Saturday -- one died there. And on Sunday, one person was killed and four others were shot and the West Side.

Police say two people were also stabbed in Chicago this weekend. One of those victims has died.

A programming note for you. Mass shootings, gun violence, and the NRA's role in setting U.S. law. Watch the CNN film, "THE PRICE OF FREEDOM," Sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.



ROMANS: All right. Major League Baseball was back in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League Classic. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


You know, this has become one of the coolest traditions in Major League Baseball. You've got two teams each year going to Williamsport to play a big league in front of all the teams that made it to the Little League World Series.

And this year, the Angels versus the Indians, and all the kids wanting to get an up-close look at Shohei Ohtani. He got mobbed for autographs when he got off the bus. And as you can see, he was signing a lot of them.

Now, a player from each Little League team getting to take the field and take part in the relay ceremonial first pitch before the game. That's also a pretty cool tradition.

Now, Ohtani didn't add to his league-leading 40 home runs, but the kids still loving the chance to see him up close.

The Indians ended up shutting out the Angels in that game, three to nothing.

Miguel Cabrera, meanwhile, making history in Toronto yesterday, becoming the 28th player to join the 500 Home Run Club. The 38-year- old, the first to do it since David Ortiz in 2015, and he's the first Venezuelan-born player ever to hit 500 homers.

Cabrera got a curtain call from the Toronto crowd and a fun celebration in the clubhouse.


A.J. HINCH, MANAGER, DETROIT TIGERS: Miggy, thank you for letting us be a part of this. We're going to remember this day for the rest of our careers.



SCHOLES: Cabrera also nearing another exclusive club. He's 45 hits away from 3,000.

All right, week two of the NFL preseason wraps up tonight with the Jags at the Saints. Yesterday, third-overall pick Trey Lance continued to try to make his case to be the 49ers' starting quarterback. The rookie Q.B. recovering from a shaky start, throwing two touchdown passes in San Francisco's 15-10 win over the Chargers.

Coach Kyle Shanahan declining to say, after the game, whether Jimmy Garoppolo or Lance will start week one against the Lions.

All right. And finally, just chaotic scenes at a French soccer match yesterday. A water bottle was thrown at Marseille's Dimitri Payet, so he threw it back at the Nice fan. Well, that's when fans started charging out of the stands and onto the field.

The scene lasted for several minutes. Security actually did a decent job of keeping this from getting too out of hand, and they got the fans back off of the field. The game was halted for about 90 minutes.

Nice players eventually came back on the field to try to continue the game but Marseilles' players did not. The team president saying the players didn't feel safe.

And Laura, with good reason, as you can see why because that --


SCHOLES: I mean, a mob of fans getting on the field -- yes, it's something you never want to see.

JARRETT: Yes, and they got out there pretty fast. I'm glad everyone's OK, though. SCHOLES: Yes.

JARRETT: All right, Andy, thanks so much -- appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: All right, some sad news to report this morning. Hall of Fame hockey player Rod Gilbert died Sunday. Fondly known as "Mr. Ranger," Gilbert earned the nickname while playing his entire 18- season career with the New York Rangers from 1960 to 1978. The cause of his death has not been released.

But the eight-time All-Star still ranks first on the Rangers' all-time goals and points list. Ron -- Rod Gilbert, I should say, was 80 years old.

All right. Vaccine hesitancy in Kenya is leading to a major crisis for the country's hospitals now. Kenya is currently battling its fourth wave of the pandemic and less than two percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Hospitals now being forced to turn people away because they don't have enough beds.

CNN's Scott McLean is live in Nairobi, Kenya. Scott, what is being done to combat some of this lingering hesitancy out there?


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Laura, yes. Of course, the government is trying to convince people to take the shot, but what really unfortunately seems to be changing minds at this point is the fact that hospitals are filling up or full already and people are dying.

Last week we visited one hospital a few hours north of Nairobi, which was full. It was turning people away. And even if you were lucky enough to get a spot inside that hospital -- well, they had no ICU ward. So if you were one of the four patients -- when we were there -- who had a real severe disease and was in need of an ICU, your chances of survival were not good. And so, every day for the past few weeks, that hospital has been sending at least one body away to the morgue.

Most of the people there were unvaccinated and not because they didn't have access to the vaccine, but because they chose not to take it. Of course, people in Kenya -- they've heard the conspiracy theories like people have in the West. A lot of people just don't know enough about it. And, of course, here, on top of that, you also have some local traditional tribal beliefs and taboos to contend with as well.

We also went to a local funeral services company -- several of them, actually, that they're running out of coffins and then told us that they're building them three times faster than normal. And in some cases, the number of staff has doubled just to try to keep up with the demand. And yet, even still -- even seeing firsthand the number of COVID victims needing these coffins, not all of the men building them were interested in getting the vaccine. A lot of the people we met around town, though, simply didn't know very much at all about the vaccine, and so most said that their minds were open to taking it if they had more information. That is good news for the government. But at this stage, the government, like many African countries, Laura -- it's simply worried about getting enough supply.

Kenya just got a brand-new shipment of the vaccine -- the Moderna vaccine -- from the U.S. And even with that brand-new shipment, it only has enough doses on hand right now to vaccinate about 3 1/2 percent of the population.

JARRETT: Yes, really tough to get people to take it when they don't have enough supplies.

All right, Scott, thank you so much for staying on top of this one for us.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Monday morning.

Looking at markets around the world to start the new trading week, Asian markets closed higher -- bouncing back, really, after last week's sell-off when China passed sweeping new rules about the collection and use of personal data. On Wall Street, stock index futures also leaning higher this morning.

And also new this morning, Bitcoin's price has surged about $50,000 for the first time since May. It's been really volatile there. Bitcoin fell back in June after China ramped up its crackdown on digital currencies.

General Motors is recalling another 73,000 Bolt EV and EUV electric cars in the U.S. and Canada. A battery manufacturing defect could cause the cars to catch fire. GM recalled about 70,000 Bolts back in July for this. The recall now covers electric cars from 2017 to 2022.

Now, GM recommends the owners set the cars to charge to only 90 percent until the batteries can be checked and replaced, if necessary. It also recommends that cars be parked outside right after charging. Don't put it in the garage.

Amazon changed the way people shopped, crushing the traditional department store model. Now "The Wall Street Journal" reports Amazon has plans to open department stores in the U.S. It's going to start in Ohio and California.

This would be Amazon's first step into physical retail, of course. It opened Amazon Books in Seattle in 2015. It bought Whole Foods in 2017. Physical department stores would allow Amazon to gain more customers who would rather shop in person, don't have credit cards, or shop online, and live in areas Amazon doesn't service.

JARRETT: All right. Finally, this morning, "Free Guy" holding steady at the weekend box office.


Scene from 20th Century Studio's "Free Guy."


JARRETT: The Ryan Reynolds film adding another $18.8 million to last weekend's haul to score the top spot again in its second week of release. "Free Guy" is the first Disney movie to have a theaters-only release in about a year.

And if you're scoring at home, "Paw Patrol" --

ROMANS: "Paw Patrol."

JARRETT: -- was number two with a $13 million take.

I cannot remember the last time I was in a theater. Have you gone since the pandemic?

ROMANS: I have. We saw "Black Widow" in the theater.


ROMANS: That's because my brother and two of my sons are really intense Marvel fans and so they had to see it on the big screen -- and it was great. But we have streams, too. We've streamed "Space Jam" and we've streamed other movies, so --

JARRETT: Yes, we do a lot of movies at home. I can't say I stay awake for any of them but we try.

ROMANS: Are you into "Paw Patrol?" Is your little guy in "Paw Patrol" world yet?

JARRETT: He's not quite there yet.



ROMANS: "Paw Patrol" will change your life.

JARRETT: It's coming.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.

ROMANS: "Paw Patrol."



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, August 23rd. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And we do begin with breaking news. A deadly firefight overnight at the airport in Kabul involving U.S., German, and Afghan forces, and an unknown gunman. A source says it began when a sniper fired upon Afghan guards helping to secure the airport, killing one of them. At this point, we're told no Americans were injured.

This comes after President Biden's national security adviser told Brianna about the threat of a terrorist attack -- the threat by the Islamic State.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The threat is real, it is acute, it is persistent, and it is something that we are focused on with every tool in our arsenal.