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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Restrictive Texas Abortion Law Takes Effect; Years of Recovery Ahead for Louisiana; Biden Defiantly Defends U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A near total ban on abortion in Texas, the biggest blow yet to Roe versus Wade.


BRYAN ADAMS, DIRECTOR OF FIRE SERVICES, JEFFERSON PARISH: It's probably going to be a three, four, five-year process to put it back where it was.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Years of recovery lie ahead in Louisiana. Millions face sweltering heat with no air-conditioning.

CNN is on the ground in the Gulf.

Hello, everyone. It's Wednesday, September 1st, a new month. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We have reports this morning from Louisiana, Pakistan, and the White House as only EARLY START can.


And we begin with the big breaking news overnight. Millions of women across the state of Texas will wake up this morning to a near total ban on abortion. As of this very moment, as soon as your doctor finds a fetal heartbeat, you cannot get an abortion in Texas.

There is no exception for rape or incest. If your doctor goes ahead with it anyway, he or she risks getting sued in federal court for up to $10,000 not by the government, but by anyone who simply doesn't like it. It's not just the doctor that performs the abortion who's on the hook in court. It's the clinic staff. It's even the Lyft driver who takes you to the clinic. He or she could be sued. Now, this is all happening because the U.S. Supreme Court failed to

rule on an emergency request to block the law before it went into effect late last night. The justices may still put it on hold, but for now, abortion, even as early as six weeks, before many women even know that they are pregnant, is effectively banned in Texas, just a monumental ruling here.

Not a ruling, I should say, by the Supreme Court, deciding not to act here. The law of the land in Texas. Just an enormous decision.

ROMANS: Certainly, a landmark moment here for roe v. Wade, in particular. What's interesting about this is the architects of this law have crafted it using all the failures of the heartbeat bills before them. These bills have failed again and again and again. They have written it in such a way to address the concerns of the courts ahead of them.

JARRETT: They've taken it out of the criminal realm, right? Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was effectively illegal in the United States. States could ban it. They've taken it out of the criminal realm, put it in the hands of just anybody who wants to sue over it, and by doing that, they have effectively shielded themselves for all of the challenges.

ROMANS: So, this is a vehicle for a private citizen to bring up a suit against another private citizen who drove a friend to an abortion clinic?

JARRETT: Absolutely. That's the law of the land in Texas.

ROMANS: We'll see where it goes from here.

All right. To Louisiana now, it could be years before parts of Louisiana recover from Hurricane Ida. Grand Isle, among the hardest- hit areas, officials say it will be four or five years to restore the town, 40 to 50 percent of the homes are gone.


ADAMS: I've never seen it look like this. It's decimated. The people are very sad. A lot of people have lost their homes, talking about they don't know whether they'll be able to go back or not. They don't have the money to go back, can't afford to go back.


JARRETT: Power officials say 9 percent of customers who experience outages now have power back in Louisiana and Mississippi. They could see some power come back in New Orleans today, either by restoring the transmission lines or from a temporary stand-alone grid.

ROMANS: In Hammond, Louisiana, the Salvation Army is providing free food in Plaquemines Parish, water, groceries, gasoline medical displays have been depleted.

Damage from the storm forcing some college universities to close for now. Tulane University began evacuating students to Houston. The campus will be closed and all classes canceled at Tulane until September 12th.


TULANE STUDENT: I'm a freshman.

REPORTER: What's this like to deal with this in terms of your first year on campus and everything that's going on?

TULANE STUDENT: It was terrifying, because no one really knew the severity of it. It was kind of downplayed a lot and then it just all of a sudden was coming towards us and no one really knew what to do, I feel like.


JARRETT: Laplace, Louisiana, also badly damaged here. Whether you're looking from the air or from the flooded ground.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to go back and get the supplies. Need that gas. Whoo. Tired. This water's nasty.


JARRETT: CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the ground for us in Laplace with more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, some of the smaller communities surrounding New Orleans were the most severely impacted by Hurricane Ida. The eye of the storm passed through here. We're in the town of Laplace, just west of New Orleans.


The electricity is still out. There are major power lines still down in some of the major roadways of the city and there is still no water in many of the businesses and stores are just simply unable to operate at this point.

Very few gas stations have reopened. We've seen long lines for gas stations here so far. And local officials are telling residents that it is going to take weeks for things to get back to normal here. So, they're really bracing residents to be in for what could be a very long and hot several weeks, as they work to get things back to normal here.

But local officials say that there have been no storm-related deaths caused by the storm and the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ida. So, that is a definite sliver of good news. But people here really bracing for what is going to take a long time to get things back to normal here in the smaller communities surrounding New Orleans -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Ed, thank you for that.

The U.S. fighting climate disasters on multiple fronts this morning. Hurricanes in the south, drought and wildfires in the west. More than 53,000 people are facing evacuation orders in California because of the Caldor Fire. It's already burned 200,000 acres. Officials there say today is a critical day.

CNN's Dan Simon is in South Lake Tahoe.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, we are looking at a potential worst-case scenario, with the fire pushing towards the Lake Tahoe region. This community of South Lake Tahoe has completely emptied out with people heeding the evacuation orders. You can see just how smoky it is, but also how empty it is.

Keep in mind, this is a very popular tourist destination, both if then the summer and the winter. We spoke to a resident who was packing up her belongings as she was getting ready to hit the road. Take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all packed up, getting ready to go to Reno. We have friends in Reno, so, we'll figure it out.

SIMON: What's going through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, everything we're leaving, our hotel, our whole town, our jobs, everything.

SIMON: California officials have been predicting a very challenging and active wildfire season. This Caldor Fire is the number one priority in the country and there are concerns that embers could send this fire in different directions including towards the Lake Tahoe region, and the race is on to save this and other communities nearby -- Christine and Laura.

ROMANS: It's one of the most beautiful places in the country and it's just thick with smoke and people really concerned there.

JARRETT: All right. Still ahead for you, President Biden trying to refocus the nation on issues here at home, but will loose ends from ending the war in Afghanistan slow his domestic agenda? That's next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I refuse to send another generation of America's sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: In what may be one of the more consequential speeches of his political life, President Biden there with a full-throated defense of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The president is trying to move past the chaos and the tragedy of the last two weeks and mark the end of two decades of failed notions of American nation-building abroad.

ROMANS: He tried to shift the focus from questionable decision making during the pullout to the broader point that he ended a war three predecessors could not.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports from the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christine and Laura, President Biden delivering his speech he's been thinking about and wanted to give for really more than a decade or so, ending America's longest war. This is, of course, not how he would have imagined it. Of course, the frenetic and chaotic and deadly exit from Afghanistan has colored all of this.

But he did give a full-throated defiant defense, more than we've ever really heard him do at a speech on Tuesday here at the White House, really defending his strategy, why he did not start withdrawing Afghans and Americans sooner.

BIDEN: Now some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner. And couldn't this have been done in a more orderly manner? I respectfully disagree. Imagine if we had begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and criminal of the government. And it still would have been very difficult and a dangerous mission.

The bottom line is, there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, and threats we faced.

ZELENY: And the president making clear for American citizens, he says, there is no deadline. They will continue to work with the Taliban and these American citizens to get them out of Afghanistan, should they want to leave, some 100 or 200 or so. Of course, how does this work? That is very much an open question.

This is a diplomatic mission, not a military mission, but the U.S. government says they do have some leverage against the Taliban. Some of that's financial, some, of course, just in terms of reputation and prestige, as well.

But President Biden went on to deliver a full-throated defense of his decision to withdraw troops. He's clearly wanted to end this war for so long. And this is what they said in defense to that criticism. BIDEN: We're left with a simple decision -- either follow through on

the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren't leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. That was the choice. The real choice, between leaving or escalating. I was not going to extend this forever war.

ZELENY: But the president also boiled down this decision to one that he inherited.


It's not that the war was lost on his watch. Of course, that had happened some years ago. He talked about the long history of this war, really the triumphs of defeating and killing Osama bin Laden and the tragedies of failing to defeat the Taliban.

But the president did make clear the fight against extremists there is not over. He talked about over the horizon types of security. That means basically having drones in the sky with eyes on Afghanistan -- much like in Yemen and Syria and other places.

But the question, of course, remains, what happens toe Afghanistan? How does the Biden administration and U.S. government start forming a relationship, if they do, with the Taliban? As of now, the U.S. is not recognizing them as the official government. But the president also made perfectly clear that any threats against the U.S. will be responded in kind.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much for that at the White House.

A secret date, call centers and clandestine trips to the U.S. airport. This all part of the secret U.S. agreement with the Taliban to escort Americans trying to leave the country. CNN has learned U.S. Special Operation forces helped guide Americans through this process.

JARRETT: That's right. The operation so bizarre and unusual, even some of the Americans who benefited from it were in disbelief.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Islamabad, Pakistan, for us.

Nic, good morning. Is this a sign that the two governments might wail be able to work together? Or was this sort of just a short-term fleeting cooperation?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC: You know, I think from a Taliban perspective, it was a necessary evil for them to get rid of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. They recognized that the quickest way to get U.S. military personnel how far the country, who had come in to sort of get Afghans and U.S. diplomats out of the country was really to help facilitate that process.

Where it goes forward from here is a different place entirely. The Taliban said that they still want to have a U.S. diplomatic presence inside Afghanistan. They recognize the need for that going forward. But fundamentally, the Taliban don't want any involvement with the U.S. government.

Yes, they've made political and diplomatic connections with them, sort of negotiating this withdrawal over the past couple of years. Yes, they make tactical facilitations on the ground. But the next phase is going to be new territory. Although the main interlocutor from the Taliban side, who met so many time with the ambassador and met also, we understand, reportedly, with Bill Burns, CIA chief, those kind of conversations, I think, behind the scenes, we could expect to still continue. Pragmatically, practically, what do they deliver? That's just not clear.

ROMANS: Nick, you're there in Pakistan. It shares a border with Afghanistan. What's in store for these refugees that we have seen crowding the border, looking for safety, fleeing Afghanistan? What happens for them next?

ROBERTSON: You know, for refugees arriving here, it's going to be a tough time. The government is hosting what they call evacuees. The only people coming from Afghanistan who are getting into Pakistan are ones with the right documentation. That said, the Pakistani government has facilitated thousands of humanitarian diplomats and international workers fleeing Afghanistan in recent weeks.

But for average Afghans, those big lines we've seen at the border have really been as a result of Pakistan closing the border through COVID measures or COVID reasons, rather, but also the sort of current security situation. That's open again now. The reports from the borders from the UNCHR, at least, the U.N. refugee agency, that there aren't massive numbers of Afghans trying to get into Pakistan today. But what happens down the road all depends on how well the Taliban manage Afghanistan.

If the economy -- and it was fragile already, if it breaks further, then definitely Pakistan can expect to see more refugees turning up on its border. That's deep concern for them. They hosted several million of them back in the late '80s and early '90s. They don't want to do that again. They say they have reached the limits of their generosity. And speaking with Pakistanis on the street here today, they're also very concerned. They don't want that hit on their economy. And they also don't want the potential for terrorism spilling over the border, either.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson in Islamabad, thank you so much for that, Nic. Talk soon.

All right, 20 minutes past the hour. Want a new job?


Get the vaccine. Companies increasingly making it part of the job listing.


Help wanted, with an asterisk. More employers are requiring new employees be vaccinated. Job postings requiring the coronavirus vaccine soared 90 percent in August. That's according to the job site Indeed.

Full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine has pushed some companies towards requiring it. Why? The delta variant is twice a contagious and more likely to land unvaccinated people in the hospital. That stay in the hospital is disruptive for your company and costly.


The vaccine, of course, is effectively free, but a stay in the hospital costs anywhere from $22,000 to almost $50,000 if you end up on a ventilator. These are based on Medicare cost here. And a number of companies already put vaccine mandates in place to return to their offices. This has been a trend we've been seeing all spring.

For many, a vaccine mandate is a logical step to avoid the quarantines and expensive testing regimes. It may be easier to mandate these new employees, don't even apply unless you're vaccinated. Companies are still struggling with how to get their hesitant staffs to get the shots.

What I'm hearing mostly is they're trying to disincentivize making it harder for you. That means you're going to have to pay the penalties. You're going to pay the cost of testing. You're going to be unpaid if you're out because you're in quarantine and trying to reward those employees who are vaccinated.

JARRETT: I wonder if they had done all of this weeks ago instead of waiting. There had been study after study, poll after poll that showed that there was a core number of people who didn't want to get the vaccine.

ROMANS: You know, they showed so much -- companies showed so much patience for the -- I would say, the uninformed and vaccine hesitant. That patience has run out.

JARRETT: Yep. A little programming note here for you. Twenty years after the September 11th attacks, we remember the heroes, victims, and survivors.

CNN Films presents "9/11" this Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. on CNN.