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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ida Leaves A Trail Of Devastation From Gulf Coast To Northeast; Heavy Fighting In Anti-Taliban Stronghold Panjshir; FAA Grounds Virgin Galactic, Probes Branson's Flight To Space. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 03, 2021 - 05:30   ET




DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Now, Christine, a lot of these were probably overshadowed when the Democrats walked out of that regular session so they could block that election overhaul bill that adds new restrictions and criminal penalties to the voting process here in Texas.

Their six-week quorum ended last month and that bill did eventually pass out and went to the governor's desk. He has not signed it into law yet, Christine, but he said that he does intend to do so.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Dianne Gallagher. Thank you so much for that for us in Austin.

EARLY START continues right now.

Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Laura is off for the weekend. Thirty minutes past the hour this Friday morning.

Ida may be gone but the storm left behind a trail of devastation 1,500 miles long -- so powerful it partially reversed the flow of the Mississippi River. The system was relentless for days as rain washed away a Mississippi highway.

There was also flooding and road closures in Tennessee and Virginia. Maryland battered by a tornado. Thousands of people rescued in Pennsylvania, including 41 people on a school bus and throughout the state.


ELLIOT PALMER, BRIDGEPORT, PENNSYLVANIA: The water was raging so high I couldn't run straight to the street. I had to run up a fire escape. I winded up on a roof where they had to get a boat to rescue me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: New York and New Jersey, of course, massive, catastrophic flooding, devastating loss of life. Forty-six deaths in the northeast and 23 were in New Jersey. That's where we find CNN's Polo Sandoval. Polo, when you step back, people in eight states died from Hurricane Ida.

This week revealed a big reality. The U.S. -- it is not built for a climate crisis.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is certainly being described as a wake-up call by many officials, especially when you consider how many millions of people have been affected, particularly here, for example, in Bound Brook, New Jersey. It's quiet right now. Those waters -- those floodwaters -- they are receding and really, it's just that ominous alarm that you can hear to the downtown area here.

But when you sort of look at the wider picture here at the latest numbers, 39 storm-related deaths here in New Jersey and in New York. The NYPD reporting that a majority of those roughly 13 New York City deaths were those -- were people that were tragically caught in their basement. So that's certainly another tragic element to all of this right now.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia's authorities there have reported thousands of rescues yesterday, mainly, so it's going to be interesting to see exactly what happens there.

And then, New Jersey, as we mentioned, hit particularly hard. We heard from Gov. Murphy yesterday saying that they've seen at least 23 storm- related deaths in this state alone -- many of those from people who were caught in their vehicles here and others.

Yesterday I was in Elizabeth, New Jersey and had four people there that actually -- whose bodies were recovered from an apartment complex there after the waters receded.

But really, the biggest conversation that's happening right now is obviously around the issue of climate change. Mayor Bill de Blasio calling the storm, really, a big wake-up call for many. When you read some of those studies that have been recently published by climate experts, recently reading an intergovernmental panel climate study as well that's showing that these kinds of events growing or becoming more frequent.

You look at the fires in the west. You look at some of the droughts in the -- in the Midwest. And then, of course, these kind of tropical events. And when you read these kinds of studies, Laura and Christine, it's certainly concerning and that's what the big conversation is obviously about while so many people are picking up the pieces and not only mourning but also in towns like this, beginning the cleanup process.

ROMANS: Yes. You listen to -- you heard the New York governor and the New Jersey governor yesterday talk about resilient infrastructure. If we're talking about infrastructure spending and infrastructure rehabilitation, it's got to be resilient for the climate crisis. I think you're going to be hearing a lot more like that.

All right, nice to see you, Polo. Thank you.

The Biden administration tapping into America's emergency oil stockpile as the gas crisis in Louisiana worsens. It's one of the rare ways this White House can try to tackle inflation amid concerns about shortages leading to higher gas prices.

Now, tapping that strategic petroleum reserve -- the SPR -- it comes as two-thirds of gas stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge -- they are out of gas after Hurricane Ida. Now, drivers that can find fuel -- they face long lines up to nine hours.

Governor John Bel Edwards said there are currently eight refineries not operating in Louisiana. Two of those expected to come online in the next couple of days. Two more in the days after that.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: Even if that happens we're going to be at half of our refining capacity. And so, we continue to look for other solutions.


ROMANS: Regulators said Thursday more than 93 percent of the Gulf of Mexico's oil production is offline. Analysts as Gas Buddy -- that's a price tracker -- said tapping the SPR could ease pressure on the system. But tapping into the emergency supply, not a magic wand, especially with gas stations still out of power.

All right. Coronavirus cases this morning at levels the highest since January just as millions of children return to classrooms.


It's time for three questions in three minutes, and for that, this morning, so pleased to welcome Dr. Chris Pernell. She is a public health physician and a fellow at the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Pernell, sadly, lost her own father to coronavirus. So glad to see you this morning.

There's really important questions for parents right now. We're starting another school year -- another school year in a pandemic, this time with in-person classes in many places that were hybrid last year.

You say protecting kids takes a multilayered approach. What is that? Walk us through it.


Yes, I want people to remember that prevention is always multilayered and robust. And what I mean with the multilayered approach for kids is that we need everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated to be vaccinated. So, adults in the lives of kids, adults who work in school buildings, and children who are 12 and older.

Second, we need all persons indoors to be masked -- to be masked with masks that are worn properly and that fit properly. And third, we need to ensure that there's adequate ventilation in indoor spaces, especially those school buildings where we'll have children potentially who are under the age of 12 and unvaccinated.

And if I could throw on a fourth, it's hand hygiene or handwashing. You can't be safe enough.

ROMANS: Yes. I'm already putting the backpacks together for when school starts next week and I've got all these things in there. Multiple masks that fit and that are clean, handwashing --

PERNELL: Good job.

ROMANS: -- tissues -- everything ready for the own --

PERNELL: Good job.

ROMANS: -- like little personal safety kit.

You're involved in the effort to get children caught up on all of their childhood vaccines -- really important work. We know that the pandemic has put us off -- put children off on that timeline.


ROMANS: At the same time, we're still waiting for this vaccine for the coronavirus. Why is the vaccine for kids taking longer than it did for grownups?

PERNELL: Look, children are children. We all hear pediatricians say this. Children aren't little adults, they're children. That means that we need to ensure that the doses are safe in children and that those doses are effective.

We know that the FDA is requiring six months of safety data, whereas for adults, only two months of safety data was required. And also, the FDA has asked the drug companies to make those trials more robust. That a minimum of 3,000 children are in those vaccine or placebo categories.

So we want to get this right. And even wanting to get this right, I still think we need a clear roadmap for the public of what to expect. Will the drug companies submit by the early fall? Will a EUA be submitted by October? Those are the answers that parents need answered.

ROMANS: Daily COVID cases now the highest since January -- you know, something more than 99 percent of the people going to the hospital, Doctor -- they have not had the vaccine. This is still a crisis of the unvaccinated. If -- from your perspective, what's the breaking point here from hospitals? I hear hospital systems saying that they're putting off elective procedures so that they can have room space for these unvaccinated people coming into their E.R.s. What is the breaking point?

PERNELL: Look, I'm going to say that the breaking point actually are the staff. We talk about this day in and day out -- the emotional well-being of our staff. Those staff are beleaguered. Those staff are traumatized. We're in a pandemic that appears to never let up.

But the public can help with that. The public can help with that by being vaccinated so your likelihood of being hospitalized will drop significantly. The public can help with that by wearing masks in indoor spaces.

And states and the federal government has to understand the importance of mandates because we need to allow our hospitals to do what they are designed to do. But when they're overwhelmed -- primarily, their people and their resources -- that's when a tragedy gets worse.

ROMANS: All right, Dr. Chris Pernell. Thank you so much for your expertise this morning. We'll check in with you often, I'm sure, as the school year gets underway. Thank you so much.

PERNELL: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right, 39 minutes past the hour.

Six hundred people have now been charged in the January sixth insurrection and at least one of them still getting in trouble. Doug Jensen of Iowa, the QAnon supporter who chased Officer Eugene Goodman near the Senate chamber -- he was required to stay off the internet as a pretrial condition to stay out of jail. He couldn't do it. A court filing says Jensen was caught watching the pillow guy's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

And so-called QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley, best known for wearing a horned bearskin outfit during the attack, is said to plead guilty today. He's been charged with six federal crimes in connection with the riot.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: Overnight, heavy fighting between Taliban forces and an anti- Taliban group near Afghanistan's Panjshir province.

Nic Robertson is live in Islamabad. Nic, this region is believed to be the last anti-Taliban stronghold. Tell us more.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, this has been a fight that's been going on for about a week or so. There were negotiations towards both sides that seem to have concluded that they can't agree through talks.

It is a heavily defended valley if you will. It's a very long valley. It's strategically easy to defend but the Taliban seem to be putting enough forces into it to be pushing back this anti-Taliban group. Both sides are claiming victory as the reality is the fight for this particular valley -- the Panjshir Valley -- that the Soviets never conquered, the Taliban never conquered in the past is likely to go on for some time.

Its significance across the country is this time really to be a base for opposition to Taliban, but it doesn't really affect the rest of the country. It is fairly contained.

And we've seen people trying to flee Afghanistan at the border with Pakistan yesterday. A big crush of people -- one person actually killed in a stampede in an effort to get across the border.


In Pakistan today, the British foreign secretary is here and has been up to the border to take a look at it for himself. He's talking about having a conversation with the Taliban -- engaging with them -- not recognizing them as a government but waiting to see how they actually act.

And he says -- and this is what we're hearing also coming from the White House and the State Department -- the most important thing the Taliban need to deliver on at the moment is allowing that freedom of access for people who want to leave Afghanistan by plane or by road to be allowed to do that -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Nic for us -- Nic Robertson is Islamabad. Thank you so much for that. Keep us posted.

And this incredibly rare site in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. A group of women demonstrating for their rights in the country's third- largest city, Herat. That's right -- women demonstrating in Taliban- controlled Afghanistan.

They are demanding representation in government. Some say they are willing to accept wearing a burqa, essentially covering their entire body. The trade-off -- if their daughters can go to school.

Now CNN has learned some Afghan women were forced into marriages.

Priscilla Alvarez live in Washington for us. What can you tell us about the situation for women right now in Afghanistan?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Christine, these instances tell us just how desperate Afghan families and women were to escape the Taliban as they seized control of Afghanistan.

Sources tell me and my colleague, Jennifer Hansler, that some Afghan women and girls who are residing in an evacuation center in the UAE reported instances of being forced to marry outside of the Kabul airport, as well as instances of families paying tens of thousands of dollars to have women marry men who were eligible for evacuation or pose as their husbands. Again, all in hopes of evacuating Afghanistan as the Taliban seized power.

Now, the U.S. is relying on third countries to process and vet Afghan refugees. This came up and was revealed during some of the processing at an evacuation center, though it's unclear just how widespread this issue is. But it prompted enough concern for U.S. diplomats in the UAE to alert the State Department.

A source also tells me that guidance will be provided to those working at the center to identify any indicators of potential human trafficking.

But again, Christine, this really underscores the fear and desperation held among families in Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control.

ROMANS: All right, Priscilla. Thank you so much for that. We will continue -- the world will be watching.

All right.

This morning, the FAA is grounding Virgin Galactic's spacecraft after a report detailing potentially critical problems during Virgin's CEO Richard Branson's flight to the edge of space.

CNN's Kristen Fisher is live for us in Washington. What happened here?


Yes, so this looked like a picture-perfect flight. I'm sure you were watching. I was there on the ground. You couldn't tell anything from that vantage point.

But what we are now learning is that Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo had a problem during its descent. Specifically, the FAA says that it went out of its designated airspace.

And the reason this is so important -- think of it. If you're a commercial or private pilot -- if you go out of your designated FAA airspace or you're caught flying at an altitude that's higher or lower than where you're supposed to be, you get into a lot of trouble. And so, essentially, that's what the FAA is saying happened here.

According to the journalist who literally wrote the book on Virgin Galactic and spent years and years inside the company, two warning lights went off in the cockpit during the ascent of that flight and those two pilots on board were literally faced with a split-second decision.

They could either abort the mission, and that likely would have meant that Richard Branson would not have become the first billionaire space baron to reach the edge of space on board a spacecraft that he helped fund and develop, or the two pilots could have attempted to correct the course and make the trajectory a bit more vertical. And that's what they ultimately decided to do and they were able to course- correct, but not enough.

This is a glided descent, meaning wherever you end up at the very top is where you're going to start the descent from. You can't really change course. And so that's when the FAA says it went out of its designated airspace for about a minute and 40 seconds, which is significant when you're traveling several times the speed of sound.

Now, Virgin Galactic is now acknowledging that this did, indeed, happen. They say that a no point in time were any of the crew members or passengers aboard the spacecraft in danger. They say no one on the ground was in danger. No other aircrafts were in danger.

But they are acknowledging that something did happen, so they are now cooperating with the FAA. The FAA is investigating.

But Virgin Galactic now grounded -- prohibited from flying any more flights. And this is really significant, Christine, because just yesterday, Virgin Galactic announced plans to launch a new crew into space in late September or October.


ROMANS: All right --

FISHER: Christine.

ROMANS: -- Kristen. Thank you so much for that. Keep us posted.

All right, 50 minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on CNN business this Friday morning -- jobs day.

Looking at markets around the world, a mixed close there for Asian shares. But, Tokyo had a nice -- a nice advance. And European shares have also opened mixed. A big move in Japan after the prime minister said he will not be running in the upcoming election.

On Wall Street, stock index futures moving up a little bit after a record day for investors. The Dow finished up 131 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, all-time highs for both of those.

Weekly jobless claims fell to a pandemic-era low Thursday. Three hundred forty thousand Americans filed for first-time benefits. The big event today, that August jobs report. We'll see if the Delta variant has hurt the pace of the recovery or jobs growth. The forecast here, the variant and disruptions to the supply chain a major concern for big banks, meanwhile.

Morgan Stanley slashed its third-quarter GDP forecast to just 2.9 percent, citing pressure from bottlenecks in the supply chain and the end of stimulus-inspired spending. The bank expects 5.6 percent growth for the year. Still, strong growth but they're looking for something happening in terms of crimping the growth in the quarter because of the Delta.

Speaking of bottlenecks, General Motors will temporarily halt production at nearly all of its U.S. plants. The pandemic is affecting production of semiconductor chips overseas. GM said one plant in Texas, two in Michigan, and one in Kentucky will run next week. All its other plants will temporarily idle starting Monday.

The global chip shortage has hammered the auto industry for months now. Automakers have either had to temporarily idle production or build cars without all the parts as they wait for chips to finish the production. That's been keeping new car prices high and inventory tight.

All right, that's your business. How about some sports? Fourth-ranked Ohio State rallies in the second half to win its season opener.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


You know, this is the first big weekend for college football. Things getting started last night with 16 games on the schedule.

The big one, Minnesota hosting four-ranked Ohio State. And the Buckeyes were actually down at halftime but got things going in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud, a strike to Garrett Wilson there for a 56-yard touchdown, giving Ohio State a 24-21 lead. Then in the fourth quarter, Stroud -- the screen pass to TreVeyon Henderson and he's going to do the rest, going 70 yards for the score.

The Buckeyes go on to win that one by a final 45 to 31.

Meanwhile, in New York, U.S. Open organizers admitting yesterday they were not prepared for the flash floods that left many fans stranded on Wednesday night.


DANNY ZAUSNER, COO, USTA NATIONAL TENNIS CENTER: We possibly might have made mistakes along the way and we will look at every single thing we did to ensure it never happens again. But we do know that from 7:00 until when the fans left, the safest place for them to be was in our stadiums.


SCHOLES: All right. Fans that made it back to the grounds yesterday got to see one of the best shots in U.S. Open history. Jenson Brooksby somehow going to get to this ball right here, and because of the angle, was able to go around the net post and get it in for a winner. He was pretty pumped about it. Just an incredible, incredible shot.

He beat Taylor Fritz in four sets in a match that lasted four hours.

All right, Buccaneers' head coach Bruce Arian says his team is now 100 percent vaccinated against COVID-19. They're the second organization in the NFL to be fully vaccinated, joining the Atlanta Falcons. The league does not require players to be vaccinated but has strict protocols for those who are not. Brady and the Bucs going to kick off the NFL season next Thursday

against the Dallas Cowboys.

All right, finally, an amazing moment at the Tour Championship in Atlanta yesterday. Brooks Koepka putting for birdie on the ninth hole. Look at the butterfly just guiding the ball all the way to the hole before fluttering away. You know, Christine, I really wish this was on like hole 18 in the final round so we could have said this was maybe divine intervention for someone to get them --

ROMANS: It's like a --

SCHOLES: -- an extra stroke. So, wow, that's awesome.

ROMANS: I want to just -- I want to put it on a loop. It's like a moment of Zen when you're stressed out at work. Just watch the ball go right in with the butterfly.

SCHOLES: Yes, watch the butterfly. Watch it just guided it right in there.

ROMANS: I love it. All right. See, that's --

SCHOLES: A good moment for your Friday right there.

ROMANS: That's the good news I needed right there, Andy Scholes. Thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Have a nice weekend.

SCHOLES: You, too.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. I'll see you in a couple of hours on "NEW DAY" with the jobs report but have a great holiday weekend. "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 Friday, September third.

I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins back again. You brought a whole lot of news with you when you came up here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a very, very busy week.

BERMAN: Eventful -- eventful is one way to put it.

Look, these storms just devastating. This morning, the death toll is rising after the powerful remnants of Hurricane Ida battered the northeast with record-breaking rain and historic and deadly flooding. At least 46 people have now died across six states, many drowning in their homes and cars.

More than 20 million people remain under flood warnings this morning. The threat of flooding from rising rivers is expected to continue into the holiday weekend.

COLLINS: And officials say that more than 500 New Yorkers.