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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Last U.S. Flights Leave Afghanistan As War Ends; At Least Two Killed And One Million Without Power After Ida Slams Louisiana; China Imposes Tight Restrictions On Video Game Playing For Kids. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired August 31, 2021 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Barton Memorial Hospital was forced to evacuate all of its patients. And the U.S. Forest Service says all national parks throughout California are now closed starting today through September 17th.


Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START, Tuesday edition. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 30 minutes past the hour here in New York. It's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

The last U.S. military planes have left Afghanistan, officially marking the end of America's longest war. Celebratory gunfire could be heard on the streets of Kabul overnight. A Taliban spokesman insists he wants good relations with the U.S. and the world. We get more from the Pentagon in just a moment.

ROMANS: Hurricane Ida leaving behind devastation and neighborhoods underwater in Louisiana. Rescuers have already saved hundreds of people across the state.

In Mississippi, two people are dead and several others injured after torrential rains washed away a highway.

JARRETT: The European Union is recommending a halt to unvaccinated Americans visiting its member countries. European officials would like to see a mandatory quarantine in place for unvaccinated travelers as well. As of now though, the recommendation is not binding on E.U. members but countries could add new restrictions.

ROMANS: Misinformation about your health could be declared a public health crisis. San Diego County officials will consider the first-of- its-kind proposal today. The action plan would be able to identify and label misinformation, stop its sources, and invest in programs to increase resiliency against it.

JARRETT: Are bans on masks discriminatory? Civil rights investigators at the Department of Education say bans on school mask mandates in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah could put disabled students at greater risk for COVID. All five states are led by Republicans.

ROMANS: The FBI reports hate crimes rose to a 12-year high in 2020, propelled by a growing number of attacks targeting Black and Asian people. It is the sixth time in seven years that hate crimes have increased. Since 2014, reported hate crime attacks have risen almost 42 percent.

JARRETT: A woman who accused former New York governor Andrew Cuomo of groping her has been interviewed by the Albany County Sheriff and D.A.'s offices. Brittany Commisso claims that the incident happened last year when she worked at the governor's mansion. Cuomo has denied the allegations.


JON STEWART, HOST, WRITER, PRODUCER, DIRECTOR, ADVOCATE, "THE PROBLEM WITH JON STEWART": What the hell happened to my face? Why would I go back to a visual medium? I could have done a podcast.


ROMANS: Oh, and it's in H.D.

Jon Stewart returning to T.V. six years after leaving "THE DAILY SHOW." His new show, "THE PROBLEM," will be a deep dive on current affairs. It will stream on Apple TV+ beginning September 30th and there will be a companion podcast.

You look great, Jon. You look great.

JARRETT: H.D. is not easy on anybody, let me tell you.

All right. America's longest war is over after nearly 20 years. Now the battle begins for Afghanistan's future. President Biden must deal with doubts over whether the Taliban will keep their promises for women, for inclusiveness, and to not prosecute Afghans who supported the U.S. or the ousted government.

ROMANS: The Biden administration says it's committed to helping Afghans and Americans who still want to leave.

CNN spoke to one woman left behind.


SARA, AMERICAN CITIZEN STILL IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: I just found out that they left and I was just silent for a little while. And I just walked around the rooms and I saw the young kids are sleeping and they have no clue what happened this morning -- that the last flight is gone and we are left behind.

It's heartbreaking to see that with all this -- what's going on, no one heard this -- that we are in danger and we need to be safe. It's just heartbreaking. I don't know -- I just don't even know what to say to you.


ROMANS: The Taliban have warned that an American president -- presence after today is a red line. But, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. and its allies are working to reopen the Kabul airport as quickly as possible to help Americans and Afghans who still want to leave.

CNN's Oren Liebermann reports.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Laura, one minute before midnight -- one minute before August 31st, 2021, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan came to an end, marking the end of nearly 20 years of war -- of the military mission, of the military presence in Afghanistan.

The last flight on the ground there -- the C-17 that took off just at that time -- the last two Americans in-country at the airport, top ambassador Ross Wilson, as well as Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne that had largely taken over operations as Kabul international airport. When their C-17 left -- one of five to leave the country at the end there -- that was the end of the U.S. presence.

There were no Americans on those flights. That's because the ability to bring Americans into the airport had ended 12 hours earlier because of the need to wrap up and the -- and the process around those final flights.


There were some 6,000 American citizens brought out as part of this evacuation within the last 18 days. The Pentagon and the State Department acknowledging there are between 100 and 200 Americans who still want to get out.

GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. But I think if we'd stay another 10 days we wouldn't have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out and there still would have been people who would have been disappointed with that. It's a -- it's a tough situation.

But I want to emphasize again that simply because we have left that doesn't mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and Afghans who want to leave -- they will not be denied that opportunity.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): The U.S. also left behind quite an array of military equipment, including the C-RAM system -- counter rocket, artillery, and mortar system that was activated only one night before to defend the base against incoming rocket fire.

There were also aircraft left behind, as well as Humvees and other vehicles left behind. That was disabled or demilitarized in the words of Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command who oversaw this operation. He says that will not be usable by the Taliban.

Regardless, that didn't in any way diminish from the Taliban's celebrations -- celebratory gunfire in and around the airport as well as a statement from the Taliban on Twitter when the U.S. flight departed -- that last flight -- saying that Afghanistan now had its independence -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Oren, thank you for that.

To the Gulf now as the Louisiana communities hit hard by Hurricane Ida could see power outages lasting for weeks, but residents there are trying to count their blessings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It actually is a blessing that it fell to the side instead of straight down the middle because that's where the bedrooms are. And my son and my wife's bedrooms are on this side. If it had of fell across straight through it probably would have crushed the whole house and probably crushed us with it.


JARRETT: Hospitals are trying to keep patients stable. Governor John Bel Edwards says the Corps of Engineers is already on the ground there identifying additional generators that can bring those hospitals -- can bring to those hospital locations.

But now this crisis is compounding the coronavirus crisis in hospitals.


DR. MARK LAPEROUSE, E.R. MEDICAL DIRECTOR, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Patients that have been home on oxygen with COVID -- as their power is out, they run out of oxygen. So then they come here because they don't have power and they're looking for oxygen.

DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF NEW ORLEANS: For me, it's like a one-two punch to the gut. And the thing is that the same doctors who now have been here for well over 24 hours working nonstop through the hurricane -- those are the same doctors that have been stressed to their limits taking care of children with COVID over the past couple of months.


ROMANS: That's what we are asking of our health officials -- healthcare providers.

Louisiana's largest healthcare system says a lot of campuses are using generator power and are stable and progressing well. ICUs in Louisiana are 88 percent full. And in neighboring Mississippi, which was also hit hard by Ida, there are only nine ICU beds available --


ROMANS: -- statewide.

JARRETT: On top of it all, a heat advisory in effect for New Orleans and the surrounding area, making conditions unbearable for millions without power in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

Let's get the forecast from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. So, Pedram, how hot are we talking and what should we expect over the next 24 to 48 hours?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Laura, we're looking at temperatures close to 103-104 degrees. That is what it's going to feel like outside in and around New Orleans, into Baton Rouge. That is incredible heat if you've got air conditioning. Now, you take the elements out, of course, and put the air conditioning out and you're talking about dangerous and oppressive temperatures in place there.

But here we go. The storm system about 350 miles north of where it made landfall on the Louisiana coast, crossing into the state of Tennessee. But even on the southern fringe of it -- look at this -- thunderstorms beginning to develop on the back side of this. The last couple of frames of this satellite you see it -- the red contours there right over portions of New Orleans -- and that's where we're seeing some additional storms on top of the 12-plus inches that have come down across southern Louisiana.

Really, an incredible amount of rainfall in an area that we've noted upwards of a million-plus customers still without power. Again, heat advisories with heat index values that will reach about 103 to 104 degrees.

But the system, even though it's a tropical depression now, has plenty of moisture left in place.

And, in fact, how about this -- upwards of a 1,200-mile stretch of land from Louisiana into Cape Cod where we have flood watches that have been prompted because of the tremendous amount of rainfall this system will continue to dump as it migrates farther to the north and east. And guess where it ends up? Right in your backyard across portions of the major metro cities of the northeast from Boston and points south into Philly and New York. These are areas where we could see as much as three to four inches of rainfall.

And really important to note when you get heavy rainfall on top of natural ground, about 90 percent of it is absorbed. Ten percent becomes runoff. You put that into a major city, 55 percent of it becomes runoff. So flooding is going to be a major issue here.


JARRETT: Pedram, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right, defy DeSantis, you won't get paid. Two Florida school districts now facing funding cuts for defying Gov. Ron DeSantis and requiring masks in schools.

The state is withholding funding for Alachua and Broward counties equal to the monthly salaries of school board members. The penalty continues monthly until each school board complies with DeSantis' order despite a court ruling last week that found the order was without legal authority.

JARRETT: And a third conservative radio host who railed against the vaccine has died of COVID. Sixty-five-year-old Dick Farrel was a right-wing host in West Palm Beach, Florida. He passed away earlier this month. When COVID landed Farrel in the hospital for three weeks, friends say he began urging everyone to get vaccinated before he died.

Anti-vaccine radio host Marc Bernier of Florida, and Phil Valentine of Tennessee have also died from COVID-19 this month.

And several court cases involving high-profile Capitol riot defendants have suddenly come to a halt because their lawyer is sick with COVID. Prosecutors believe attorney John Pierce is hospitalized but his law firm isn't commenting on this. He, too, took a public position against vaccines before becoming infected.

ROMANS: All right.

Goldman Sachs is warning of a looming eviction crisis. Seven hundred fifty thousand households -- 750,000 face eviction this fall and winter unless Congress acts or states unlock the billions they have already been allocated to pay landlords. They've got the money.

Last week, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration's ban on evictions, saying further action -- that's got to come from Congress. It can't come from the administration.

As many as 3 1/2 million households are now behind on their rent. They owe $12 to $17 billion to landlords. The frustrating part, Congress has allocated $25 billion to cover the loss and pay these landlords but states are sitting on it. Only $4.5 billion has been paid out and there is another $20 billion available, too.

An eviction crisis would not only mean families out on the streets, it could affect the economy recovery and how we respond to the pandemic. And Goldman Sachs --

JARRETT: What are they doing with that money?

ROMANS: I don't know and I have been asking states about this for weeks and weeks now. They just either haven't gotten around to it or they're still --

JARRETT: Haven't gotten around to it?

ROMANS: -- or they don't have the method to --


ROMANS: -- pay it, or they don't have the systems, or they're overwhelmed by the unemployment benefits. I don't know why but the money is there and they haven't deployed it.

JARRETT: Christine Romans is going to get to the bottom of it for you.

ROMANS: We'll be right back.



ROMANS: President Biden will address the nation today about the end of the war in Afghanistan. The administration facing a growing number of crises as the White House tries to keep the president's top priorities in focus.

Our Phil Mattingly has more this morning for us from the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Laura, the last U.S. military plane departing from Kabul just one minute before that August 31st withdrawal deadline was certainly a moment of exhale here at the White House, particularly when that plane left that airspace. But it also just underscored just how many challenges the White House and President Biden currently have on their plate.

Afghanistan -- while U.S. military personnel are out there are still hundreds of American citizens who want to get out that are still in the country. Now, a huge diplomatic effort underway to try and address that.

The president is grappling with a category four hurricane that hammered the Gulf Coast, a huge component of what the White House has been focused on over the course of the last several days, even amid the extraordinarily tense situation happening on the ground in Kabul.

You have economic issues. You have the COVID resurgence driven by the Delta variant. You have so many things that are on the president's plate.

Keep in mind, August was supposed to be a month where the president sold his legislative agenda -- an agenda that had taken several huge steps forward towards Democrats trying to get it across the finish line in the month of September. Instead, August has turned into a month of crises.

It's something I asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki about at the White House briefing. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You have to rely on strong and capable team members, and you have to -- you have to be nimble enough to adapt quickly. But I think we would argue this is actually government working to do our best to function as best as we can.

Is it tough? Yes. Are the days long? Yes. Is it always going to be perfect? No. But this is exactly what government is supposed to be doing.

MATTINGLY (on camera): And guys, there's no question from the White House perspective the last 15-16 days weren't what they expected. They were certainly caught on their heels. They were absolutely rattled to a person by the loss of 13 U.S. military personnel.

But given the scale of everything that's on their plate, one thing you hear repeatedly from them is this is why were elected. They were elected because they could show that government could work. And that's what they're going to have to do in spades in the coming weeks -- guys.


JARRETT: Phil, thank you for that.

It's getting close to game over for kids in China who are fans of video games as the government is tightening the reins on the fun.

CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing with the details. So, Steven, what are the rules here, and when does it all start?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU SENIOR PRODUCER: So, the government is now limiting playtime for minors -- those under 18 -- to just one hour between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. during weekends and public holidays only.

Now, remember, this is not the first time they have tried to do this. Back in 2019 they already limited playtime for minors to just 90 minutes per day. And also, they have long required real-name registration and logging for all games.

But apparently, not enough, according to officials. Because they say they keep receiving complaints from parents around the country saying that the gaming addiction problem has severely affected their kids' ability to learn, their mental and physical health, and also causing social problems.

So not surprisingly, this latest move receiving cheers and the support from many parents, including some outside of China, including some American parents on social media platforms.


But the effectiveness of this kind of policy is very much not proven and also some say this is yet another example of the ruling Communist Party here trying to reinsert itself into every aspect of people's private life for political and ideological purposes, especially for the younger generation.

Remember, just in the past few weeks, they have banned afterschool private tutoring. They are now cracking down on so-called celebrity worshiping culture for the youth. And now this, leaving many asking what are young Chinese people supposed to do now during their spare time -- Laura. JARRETT: I mean, the fact that they limited it even to the hours is just amazing. I would have a hard time seeing that here in the U.S. All right, Steven -- as much as Christine Romans might want it for her children.

ROMANS: Look, I asked the boys last night -- I said look, we're going to do this. We're going to implement this Chinese rule and they -- and democracy ensued and they voted me out --

JARRETT: And they looked -- you are crazy.

ROMANS: -- three to one, even though I really get, kind of, two votes.

JARRETT: So much for that.

ROMANS: I know.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world on this Tuesday morning, Asian markets closed higher even after data showed China's factory activity slowed in August. Investors also watching tech share there amid Beijing's scrutiny over that online gaming addiction, as the government says.

On Wall Street, you can see stock index futures also moving higher here. It was a mixed start to the week for investors. The Dow closed 55 points lower. The S&P and the Nasdaq hit record highs again -- highs again.

The consumer confidence report -- that comes out at 10:00 a.m. eastern. I'm going to be watching that to see if the Delta variant is weighing on how consumers feel about things.

JARRETT: Well, the Saints' season opener in New Orleans now in jeopardy after Hurricane Ida. Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


The Saints are scheduled to kick off the season on September 12th against the Green Bay Packers, but where that game is going to be played is still up in the air. With much of New Orleans still without power, it's unclear whether that game can be played at the Superdome.

The team has been operating out of Dallas since Saturday. There's no timeline for their return home yet. Coach Sean Payton says that they haven't heard anything from the NFL yet but they will have a plan B.

Six-time Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan told reporters his focus is keeping his family safe during this storm.


CAMERON JORDAN, DEFENSIVE END, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: As long as they are OK, for me, then whatever has happened to our house, whatever has happened to our property in New Orleans, that's just materialistic and cannot -- can just be blessed that we have our health, and we'll go from there.


WIRE: Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson is donating $1 million to Hurricane Ida relief efforts and opening up the team's facility to FEMA to help support their work in New Orleans. This isn't the first time she's rallied for the city in the state of Louisiana. Benson and her late husband Tom were integral in helping the city rebuild following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Meanwhile, Saturday's game between number two Oklahoma and Tulane has reportedly been moved from New Orleans to the Sooner's campus in Norman, according to multiple outlets. Tulane officials tell CNN nothing's been finalized yet. Tulane's football team relocated to Birmingham, Alabama for practices ahead of the hurricane.

Reigning U.S. Open champ Naomi Osaka opening her title defense with straight-sets win over Marie Bouzkova.

A fun moment during the match. Naomi couldn't get a handle on a bug that was bugging her and neither could this ball girl. She looked like a cat trying to paw at a laser pen for a good 15 seconds. You can hear the crowd getting into it. Finally, she decided to end the chase for good.

After Osaka's win, she explained why she went over to thank a young fan and she revealed what she gave to her.


NAOMI OSAKA, DEFENDING U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: I just heard her when I was playing my match and she was so cute. So thank you for cheering me on.

In the Olympics, we got, like, little pins that we were supposed to pass around to other players. You know, like trading pins. And I wasn't there for a long time so I have a couple in my bag left over. But yes, I thought it would be like a nice little memory.



WIRE: Something that will not be forgotten.

Naomi Osaka had this good Instagram post about how she's found a good mental space. She's feeling much better after --

ROMANS: Great.

WIRE: -- a mental struggle. She's seeking her fifth major title at the U.S Open.

JARRETT: Oh, that's so nice.

ROMANS: Good for her.

JARRETT: That little girl is going to remember that forever.

ROMANS: I know.

JARRETT: That moth was not so lucky.

ROMANS: Sometimes the little gestures -- to the little girl, not to the moth --


ROMANS: -- are the most important things.

All right, nice to see you.

JARRETT: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: Good to see you.

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

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



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, August 31st. I'm John Berman here with chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Great to see you.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for having me. It's nice to be in person.

BERMAN: A lot going on today. Brianna is off.

President Biden will address the nation this afternoon to mark the end of America's longest war. This photo, which we saw first overnight, shows the very last American service member to leave Afghanistan.

In all, 123,000 people were taken out of the country -- 123,000 in about 2 1/2 weeks -- an unprecedented evacuation mission. But as many as 200 Americans remain in the country.