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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Touts Infrastructure And Spending Packages In Hometown Visit; Kidnappings Have Become A Common Occurrence In Haiti; CDC: Onions From Mexico Linked To Salmonella Outbreak. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 05:30   ET




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

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 31 minutes past the hour. It's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

President Biden is ramping up his public sales pitch for the Build Back Better agenda, expanding America's social safety net. But proposed cuts to draw support from Democratic moderates are prompting concern from lawmakers who worked for years on key progressive priorities. The president will be right here tonight at 8:00 for a CNN town hall.

ROMANS: Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before the House Judiciary Committee today. The DOJ is currently wrestling with several contentious issues, including enforcement of the January 6 committee subpoenas, voting rights, and the Texas new abortion law.

JARRETT: Seating a jury is proving to be a challenge in the trial of three white men who killed black jogger -- a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Arbery was shot last year after the men chased him down in their pickup truck. On Wednesday, the judge asked 19 potential jurors if they wanted to serve on the case. None raised their hands.

ROMANS: The NFL has agreed to stop using race as a factor in dementia testing. The practice had previously excluded former Black players from a billion-dollar settlement of concussion claims. Retired Black players can now be re-evaluated for concussion awards.

JARRETT: Smoke from wildfire may prove more harmful to people in the eastern U.S. than the west. A study shows about 75 percent of visits to the E.R. for asthma cases and deaths in recent years occurred east of the Rockies.

ROMANS: Today the team from NYU Langone Health will discuss a historic transplant. For the first time ever, a pig kidney has been transplanted into a human and not immediately rejected. Researchers say the transplant alternative could help thousands in need of new organs every year.

JARRETT: That's is incredible.

President Biden is hoping to use a CNN town hall tonight to help push his ambitious domestic agenda across the finish line. A public push is intensifying for a reworked vision to expand the social safety net.

ROMANS: Now, the final plan will be whittled down substantially from the $3.5 trillion the president initially supported this summer, but it still contains major investments in education and healthcare and the environment.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Christine and Laura, much of President Biden's focus over the course of the last 10 or 11 days has been the behind-the-scenes work on his sweeping multitrillion-dollar dual-pronged agenda. However, it is very clear there is also a public component here. White House officials very aware they need to sell this proposal not to just Democrats on Capitol Hill but the public as well.

And the president, as he went through a lengthy speech in his hometown of Scranton where he was born -- a lot of personal anecdotes there, but also a lot of delving into the details of the bill. And also, some optimism. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been declared dead on arrival from the moment I introduced it, but I think we're going to surprise them because I think people are beginning to figure out what's at stake.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Now, we are starting to get a sense of what the details of a final package could look like and it includes scaling back key elements of the child tax credit, one of the central components of this proposal. Democrats wanted it to be for four years. The proposal could have it down to one year, though fully refundable.

It would drop out entirely tuition-free community college.

Also, drop out a cornerstone piece of the climate part of the package, a clean energy standard which Sen. Joe Manchin has made clear he's opposed to. However, backfilling that to some degree. More than $300 billion in tax incentives and credits on the climate side of things. Lawmakers pushing for more on that front as well.


All in all, scaling back on several fronts, whether it's Medicare expansion, Medicaid expansion, subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, childcare, homecare. And yet, every single one of those pieces would be in the final proposal, and that's what the White House and Democrats want to focus on as they push forward towards a final deal.

Clear momentum that simply hasn't been the case for the last -- better part of the last several weeks now exists. Democratic leaders still pressing to close the deal on at least the framework, guys, by the end of this week.


ROMANS: All right, Phil, thanks for that.

OK, what makes the final bill and what doesn't. This affects you at home. It is not Washington politics; it's your kitchen table economics.

It's time for three questions in three minutes. CNN senior writer Tami Luhby covers health policy and the economy and she joins us this morning.

Tami, let's start with what we expect to stay in there -- at least most of it. The expansion of Medicare. If that stays how does that affect Americans and their wallets?

TAMI LUHBY, CNN SENIOR WRITER, (via Webex by Cisco): Right. Well, the expansion of Medicare benefits to hearing, vision, and dental is one of three components in healthcare that the Democrats want to do, and it's a very popular one.

Ninety percent of people in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll said that they think it's a top or an important priority. But it's also very expensive. A previous version of this bill pegged it at $358 billion.

But now, people think that Medicare covers everything -- it doesn't. And actually, you have 43 percent of people who have trouble seeing have not gotten an eye exam. And 75 percent of people who have trouble hearing haven't had it addressed. And 70 percent of people who have difficulty eating because of their teeth have not gone to a dentist. This is according to a 2018 Commonwealth survey.

And it's also very expensive. So, hearing, out-of-pocket, can cost $914 on average; dental, $874; and vision, $230. So, expanding these benefits would greatly help senior citizens but they're very expensive.

JARRETT: Yes, and it's universally popular -- at least historically --


JARRETT: -- it has been.

Something else that's popular is universal pre-K. That seems to be one of the things that's hopefully going to stay in the bill if progressives have their way.

How significant would this be for not only young families with young ones but isn't this part of what's going to get people back in work in the office?

LUHBY: Yes, this is huge. Childcare is a major problem in this country and having universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds would go a long way. So, it's both -- it's both helping them in terms of preparing children better for school, which is a key goal.

It would help their education, help them prepare for kindergarten. But it would also be a major savings for families because as we all know childcare is extremely expensive and it costs thousands of dollars for families. So having them in a public universal pre-K program would be greatly beneficial and, yes, help many women and families, and dads go back to work.

ROMANS: Yes, it's --

JARRETT: One of the talking points that I found striking though is the idea that people are paying more for childcare than they are for their rent or for their mortgages, in some cases.

ROMANS: Yes, it's really -- it's incredibly important. And there are conservative economists -- conservative economists who have said that every dollar spent before the age of five on pre-K is an investment.


ROMANS: It's not spending. It should be considered an investment.

Let's talk about the child tax credit. This has been incredibly important for poor families and for lifting children and families out of poverty. Help us understand, though, what's happening here. Maybe it could be extended but Sen. Joe Manchin wants it means-tested. Doesn't means testing it actually take away exactly who it was meant to help and the poverty was meant to aleve (ph)?

LUHBY: Yes, exactly. So, the child tax credit -- this expansion that the Democrats enacted in March is one of the cornerstones for the party's push to reduce child poverty in the country. And the enhancement of the credit alone is expected to cut child poverty nearly in half this year.

What it would do is -- well, what it has been doing this year is it's raised the credit amount to $3,600 for parents with children up to age six, and $3,000 for each child ages six through 17. It's also provided a monthly payment from July through December of either $250 or $300 per child, depending on their age.

But what's most important for -- in terms of poverty is that it has become fully refundable. In previous years it was only partially refundable and 26 million children either did not receive the full credit or received only a partial credit.


So, this has been very, very important. The progressives -- the progressives, of course, want to extend it permanently. But in the original bill, it looked like it would be for four years, but now it looks like it may only be for one or two years. But the original bill also would have extended the full refundability permanently. And, you know, we'll see what happens with that.

Again, it's an expensive measure. And what Joe Manchin is probably talking about with means-testing -- we don't really know because he hasn't provided details --


LUHBY: -- is previously, it required that families had some earnings. You had to at least earn $2,500 to get even a partial credit. But now that it's fully refundable that no longer exists and it looks like Joe Manchin want to bring that back. But experts say that, again, that means millions of children would be cut out.

JARRETT: Tami Luhby, glad you are all in the details. We really appreciate you laying it all out for us. It's a really important context.

ROMANS: Thanks, Tami.

JARRETT: Thank you, Tami.

LUHBY: Thank you.

JARRETT: Well, the fate of President Biden's infrastructure agenda is being closely watched everywhere, particularly in Virginia, the scene of a hotly-contested race for governor.

Today, Democrat Terry McAuliffe will join Gov. Northam to vote early in Richmond. McAuliffe is enlisting the party's heavy hitters to get out the vote and help him get over the finish line.

Vice President Kamala Harris will campaign with McAuliffe today. Former President Barack Obama joins McAuliffe this weekend.

ROMANS: We'll be right back.



ROMANS: U.S. troops in Syria targeted by a deliberate and coordinated attack using drones. It happened Wednesday at a U.S. airbase near the border with Jordan. U.S. Central Command says there were no injuries but a battle damage assessment is ongoing.

The region has seen heavy fighting in recent years between U.S. forces and ISIS. No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack.

JARRETT: It's been five days since 16 Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped by a violent gang in Haiti. Still no word about their conditions as a $17 million ransom demand remains on the table.

The same gang that took the missionaries has a history of abductions, including a French priest.

CNN's Matt Rivers spoke to him. He reports from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Looking into the suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets where the abduction of 17 missionaries has stunned many around the world -- but in Haiti, the event is not so shocking. Gang-related kidnappings here carried out by gangs, including 400 Mawozo, are brutally common --

FATHER MICHEL BRIAND, KIDNAP VICTIM: (Speaking foreign language).

RIVERS (voice-over): -- something French priest Michel Briand knows firsthand. We met him in a church compound in Port-au-Prince where he told us about the day that same gang took him and others back in April.

BRIAND: (Speaking foreign language).

RIVERS (voice-over): He says, "We had to go through Croix-des- Bouquets to get to a work event and on our way there we were intercepted by young men with guns. The gang forced our driver to follow them. That's when I knew we were being kidnapped. I just kept calm."

They were taken to a more rural area, at first forced to sleep outside on cardboard under a tree. Then they were moved to one abandoned house and then another in difficult conditions, to say the least.

BRIAND: (Speaking foreign language).

RIVERS (voice-over): He said, "It was like a dark hole -- like a prison cell -- the last place we were in, with no windows. At the beginning, they were giving us food once a day, but by the end, they stopped feeding us. They forced us to go hungry," he said, "believing it was a negotiation tactic."

RIVERS (on camera): A source in Haiti's security forces tells us that he believes these 17 missionaries could be going through a very similar situation right now somewhere several miles down that road -- maybe even more difficult by the fact that five of them are children with the youngest being just eight months old.

RIVERS (voice-over): It remains impossible to know how long the 17 missionaries will remain captive inside whatever location the gang has placed them.

For Father Briand, it was nearly three weeks in total. He says, "The kidnappers play with time. They test the nerves of their victims, especially when they are negotiating. So, the victims can't lose faith. They need to keep their hopes up. In our case, our faith was our best ally."

Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


ROMANS: All right, Matt. Thank you for that report.

Beware of bad onions. Red, white or yellow onions imported from Mexico have been traced to a salmonella outbreak in as many as 37 states. Nearly 700 people have been sickened and more than 100 hospitalized. The CDC says if you don't know where your onions came from, throw them


JARRETT: A 4-year-old Kentucky boy is being called a superhero after he slipped and fell off a cliff and miraculously survived. The boy was hiking with his parents in the Daniel Boone National Forest when he fell more than 70 feet. He struck several ledges, yet somehow emerged from the ordeal with only scrapes and bruises. Amazing.

ROMANS: One lucky little boy and terrified and relieved parents.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares have closed mixed here. And Europe has opened slightly lower. More trouble for Evergrande, the Chinese real estate giant has called off a nearly $3 billion deal, worsening its cash crunch as another payment deadline looms.

On Wall Street, stock index futures this Thursday morning look like they are narrowly mixed here. Stocks closed mixed Wednesday. The Dow closed up 152 points and the S&P 500 closed higher, below a record high.

Investors have a lot going on here. The latest Fed Beige Book report shows supply chain chaos, labor shortages, and uncertainty around the Delta variant all slowing economic growth.

Your next pint of ice cream is about to cost more, by the way. Unilever says it's hiking prices on Ben & Jerry's to cope with rising supply costs.

At the same time, oil prices are still moving higher, meaning more pain at the pump for drivers. The average price of a gallon of gas now $3.36 a gallon. That's up seven cents from last week.

JARRETT: Maybe that will incentivize me to give up some of that ice cream.


All right, a little sports now. The Braves pushed the defending World Series champion Dodgers to the brink of elimination.

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


You know, there's just something special about this Atlanta Braves team. They lost their best player, Ronald Acuna Jr., in July to injuries. It didn't even look like they were going to make the post- season at the time. But the Braves -- they traded for an entirely new outfield before the deadline and now a game away from the World Series.

And one of those guys they brought in, Eddie Rosario, came up big in game four last night against the Dodgers. He got the scoring started with a solo shot to left, then he came up to the plate again in the ninth with a chance to hit for the cycle. He needed a double -- hit another home run.

Braves win big 9-2. They can punch their ticket to the World Series in game five tonight on our sister station TBS.

All right, to the ALCS. Astros-Red Sox, game five. Second inning, Rafael Devers' bat shattered. A big chunk goes flying into the stands. But look at the one-handed grab by this fan. It was pretty great work. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, that's about all they had to cheer about all night long.

Framber Valdez pitching an absolute gem for Houston. Between innings -- look at him -- meditating in the dugout and it was working. Framber gave up just one run and three hits in eight innings of work.

Astros win 9-1 to take a 3-2 series lead. They can advance to their third World Series in five years with a win in game six tomorrow night.

All right, to the NBA where the Knicks opened their season with a thriller against the Celtics. Knicks up four with nine seconds left but Jaylen Brown hits a three. He had a career-high 46 in the game.

Then after the Knicks made two free throws, Marcus Smart hit the three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. The game would end up in double-overtime.

And Evan Fournier, a strong Knicks debut. This, three of his 32 points, gave the Knicks the lead and they would hold on to win from there 138-134. Spike Lee loving it courtside.

All right, to college football. The dream of an undefeated season for Coastal Carolina coming to an end last night at the hands of Appalachian State. Mountaineers' kicker Chandler Staton connecting on a 24-yard field goal as time expired, to beat Coastal Carolina 30-27.

Fans were pretty happy. You see them rushing the field to celebrate Appalachian State's first win against a ranked opponent since stunning Michigan back in 2007.

All right, former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich plans to take legal actions against the university after he was fired on Monday for failing to comply with the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Rolovich's attorney tells CNN that his client's dismissal was unjust and unlawful, and came after his request for a religious exemption was denied. In July, Rolovich posted on social media that he elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private.

CNN has reached out to Washington State for comment. But earlier in the week athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement that, quote, "Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well- being of the young men on our team."

And Laura, Rolovich was the highest-paid employee in the state -- his salary of $3.2 million. And he had a contract that ran through 2025. So --

JARRETT: And are they going to have to pay that out?

SCHOLES: No. He was actually dismissed --


SCHOLES: -- for cause --


SCHOLES: -- because he was no longer able to --

JARRETT: Well, there you go.

SCHOLES: -- fulfill his duties as head football coach.

JARRETT: Well, there you go.

SCHOLES: So, we'll see where that lawsuit goes.


All right, thanks, Andy -- appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Finally, this morning, former President Bill Clinton is recovering at home from an infection that kept him hospitalized for five days in California. The 75-year-old Clinton released a video statement last night thanking the medical team that treated him.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm on the road to recovery, but I want to remind everyone out there, take the time to listen to your bodies and care of yourselves. We all have work to do. I, for one, am going to do my best to be around to keep doing the most good I can for a lot longer.


JARRETT: Clinton says he's glad to be back home and thankful for the outpouring of support during this hospital stay.

Do not ignore symptoms. That is the lesson.

ROMANS: Yes. Listen to your body.

All right. A lawyer for the family of Brian Laundrie tells CNN the probability is strong that remains found in a Florida nature reserve belong to him.

JARRETT: And President Biden going all in with his public pitch for infrastructure, including a CNN town hall tonight.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" has all that, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Thursday, October 21st.

And we have major developments overnight in the death of Gabby Petito and the search for Brian Laundrie, and it all played out right here on CNN.

A lawyer for the family of Brian Laundrie tells CNN the probability is strong that remains found in a Florida nature reserve belong to him -- belong to Laundrie. That statement just part of a long series of claims that raise all kinds of new questions even as one chapter of this investigation might be coming to a close.

Now, Gabby Petito's body was found in Wyoming on September 19th after disappearing weeks before. Brian Laundrie's parents say they last saw him on September 13th but they didn't report him missing until four days later.