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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

World Facing Two Weeks Of Uncertainty In Wait For Omicron Answers; Ukrainian President Says He Has Intel On Coup Planned For December 1-2; Student Dies After Taking Part In UNLV Sanctioned Boxing Match. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 29, 2021 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the vaccines will provide at least some protection.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell begins today in New York with the selection and seating of a jury. Maxwell is accused of grooming girls for sex with her former partner, the late Jeffrey Epstein who died in jail two years ago. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

ROMANS: Jury selection also gets underway this morning in Chicago in the trial of Jussie Smollett. The television actor is charged with making false reports to police claiming he was the victim of a hate crime. Authorities have asked the former "EMPIRE" star -- accused the former "EMPIRE" star of paying two men to stage the incident for publicity.

JARRETT: Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo will call on the House to boost funding for computer chips at a speech in Detroit today. Right now, a global chip shortage is slowing production of tons of products, like cars, electronics, and appliances.

ROMANS: Actor Matthew McConaughey announcing he is not running for governor of Texas as he had previously hinted. In a video message on Twitter, he says he will, instead, focus on the private sector. McConaughey is not ruling out a future bid for office, calling it a humbling and inspiring path to ponder.

JARRETT: And it is the first day of Hanukkah. The second gentleman lit the first candle at the national menorah ceremony to begin the holiday last night. Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or a V.P. dedicated the lighting to ending hate.

ROMANS: All right. The world is facing two weeks of uncertainty before scientists think they'll have the answers they need about the coronavirus Omicron variant. The World Health Organization says it's not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease but there are concerns it could be resistant to current vaccines.


DR. PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: How transmissible is this variant? How severe is it? And will the antibodies that are produced in response to the current vaccines affect it? And we won't know that last question for a couple of weeks.


JARRETT: Overnight, the WHO said that the overall global risk related to this variant is assessed as very high. It's because of all these new mutations. The more mutations could make it more transmissible and could make it easier to evade your immune system. The key word there is could. So, medical experts are urging caution.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think there's good reasons to think it will probably be OK, but we need to know the real answers to that and that's going to take two or three weeks.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE: There is concern but the sky is not falling. This variant does not appear to be causing worse disease than anything we've seen before. This is not the andromeda strain. But it's still critical to remember that the biggest crisis right now facing the United States is still that we've only vaccinated half the population.


ROMANS: Yes, and a winter surge of Delta, right? It's a tenuous time. Coronavirus hospitalizations in 16 states have increased by more than 50 percent in the past week compared to the week before.

But for a variant we know so little about, why so much concern and why so many travel bans?

Here's what former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The three critical questions right now is first, is this more virulent. So, to your question is this making people more ill, there's no indication that it is. And, in fact, there's some anecdotal information off of physicians in South Africa that this could be causing milder illness. Now, that could be an artifact of the fact the initial cases seem to have been clustered in younger people -- perhaps in outbreaks around the universities.

The second critical question is does this escape immunity, and this is the question that has people concerned. Because when you look at the genetic sequence of this new variant it has a lot of mutations that we know correlate with escape from immunity that's conferred by prior infection or by the vaccines.

But then, the third critical question is does that escape from immunity increase its transmissibility, and there's an assumption right now that it does. We don't have a firm answer to that question. But even if its ability to escape the immunity that we've acquired from prior infection or vaccines does make it more transmissible in certain circumstances, the question here is going to be whether or not a fully-boosted individual -- someone who has three doses of vaccine -- has good protection against this variant.

And right now, if you talk to people in vaccine circles -- people who are working on a vaccine -- they have a pretty good degree of confidence that a boosted vaccine -- so, three full doses of vaccine is going to be fairly protective against this new variant.


JARRETT: President Biden expected to speak later today on all of this.

And overnight, the U.S. joined the growing list of countries imposing travel restrictions on southern Africa. Health officials are closely watching the province in South Africa where this variant first emerged to get a sense of how cases are presenting there.

ROMANS: African officials are pushing back hard against these travel bans.

Eleni Giokos is live in Johannesburg for us. Nice to see you this Monday morning, Eleni.

The World Health Organization calls the bans an attack on global solidarity. You can see why officials in southern Africa would be irritated. Science so -- scientists so quickly released the warning about this new variant and then very quickly were shut down in terms of travel bans.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. You know, a very good morning to you.

I have to say I'm stuck in South Africa. I was meant to leave to go to my new home to Dubai and, of course, these travel bans have been so swiftly, so aggressively as soon as South Africa announced that it identified a new variant.

And the South African community and so many others within the scientific community have said that South Africa should be commended for its pioneering work within genome sequencing in the country. We even heard from the World Health Organization -- the Africa regional office -- saying that its stands by African countries and that travel bans should be lifted. That they actually don't benefit anyone in the value chain.

We even heard from the Malawian president saying that this is Afrophobia. It's not based on science.

Last night, the South African president said that he's highly disappointed. He said this is discriminatory. And he also said the G20 countries broke promises and commitments that were made. Take a listen to what he had to say.


CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: Now, these restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern Africa sister countries. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant. The only thing that prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine the ability to respond to -- and also, to recover from the pandemic.


GIOKOS: Low vaccination rates are a problem in southern Africa and Africa as a whole. The president also said vaccine inequities need to be a focus for richer countries as opposed to travel bans. We know the United States has been donating millions of doses to African countries that are included in the travel ban. That's one way, Christine, to help fight against the new variant. We don't know much about it yet but there is a hope that vaccine efficacy will be still in place despite the uncertainty.

ROMANS: Yes, getting shots into arms really critically important on the continent.

Thank you so much, Eleni. Nice to see you.

JARRETT: All right.

Also, this morning, a special session of the World Health Assembly gathering in Geneva. CNN's Larry Madowo is live in Paris with more on this angle.

Larry, the world has so much scar tissue left from the slow response to the Delta variant, so what is the E.U. doing to avoid a repeat of that?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Precisely because of that, Laura, the E.U. is saying it had to apply emergency brakes. That's why 14 other countries, including France -- 15 -- did restrict travel from southern Africa.

And so, right now, the European Union is in a state of high alert and maybe even mild panic as the Omicron virus spreads across the region. Let me give you some examples.

Six new cases reported in Scotland. That means the cases in the U.K. now up to between nine and 12. We've seen one case now reported in Austria. We've seen 13 cases reported in Portugal.

And the interesting thing about the six cases reported in Scotland is that some of them had no connection to travel. No travel history at all, so they didn't come from southern Africa. And that is a clue. It might mean that there are already more cases of the Omicron virent already across the European Union and maybe even in the U.S. -- just not detected yet because the genomic surveillance has just began. And as that happens, we might hear more cases from here in France or across the E.U.

Here, authorities say that they have eight possible cases, but it's only a matter of time. They think there are probably already cases circulating. And that is why the European Union says it is taking this very seriously -- watch.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: We are now in a race against time. Why that? Because we know not all about this variant, but it is a variant of concern. And the scientists and manufacturer need two to three weeks to have a full picture about the quality of the mutations of this Omicron variant.


MADOWO: Those travel restrictions came up really fast. In fact, in the Netherlands, over the weekend, several people who flew in from South Africa were stranded as authorities scramble to figure out what to do there.

Across the English Channel here, the U.K. has new restrictions coming into effect at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday. Anybody who comes in has to self- isolate until two days after and they get a negative test of a PCR test.

And also, the U.K. president of the G7 has called a special meeting of the G7 health ministers to figure out what to do with this new variant.

JARRETT: All right, Larry. Thank you for staying on top of that angle for us. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right, it's the most wonderful shopping time of the year, right? Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be the first test of how holiday shopping might be affected by the current chaos facing supply chains as we head into Christmas.


This also comes in the middle of a string of smash-and-dash robberies across the country. There were more this weekend. As many as 10 people robbed at a Home Depot in California Friday night, making off with hammers, crowbars, and other tools. And at least 30 stole electronics from a Best Buy in Burnsville, Minnesota on Black Friday.

Here is what a global retail consultant executive says.


BURT FLICKINGER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, STRATEGIC RESOURCE GROUP: Michael, about one-quarter of consumers we've seen in the last week -- east to west, north to south -- one out of every four is concerned and probably not going to the mall because of crime. One-half, to your good prior report, not going to the malls because of the pandemic. And the other one-quarter not going to the mall because they've bought early or more likely put off by the price gouging that's pervasive during this holiday season.


ROMANS: And this turned deadly. In Oakland, California, a security guard died after he was shot protecting a Bay Area T.V. news crew covering a smash-and-grab theft. Police say tac teams will support patrol officers who are responding to illegal auto stunt shows, armed caravans, and other violent crimes.

JARRETT: Some sad news to report this morning. The fashion world has lost a trailblaze -- the first Black artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and CEO of the line Off-White. Forty-one-year-old visionary Virgil Abloh lost his battle with cancer on Sunday.

In 2018, "Time" magazine named him one of the most influential people of the year. He also moonlighted as a deejay and partnered with rapper Kanye West on several fashion ventures.

In an Instagram post on Sunday his wife quoted him as saying, quote, "Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself."

We'll be right back.



JARRETT: The Biden administration is expected to restart the Trump- era 'Remain in Mexico' border policy this week. The controversial program forces migrants to stay in Mexico until their immigration cases are heard by U.S. courts.

Now, President Biden had suspended that policy at the beginning of his term and terminated it officially months later. But over the summer, a federal judge ruled that process violated federal law.

ROMANS: OK, it now appears Ukraine is facing threats not only from Russia but also from within. The Ukrainian president says he has intel indicating a group of Ukrainians and Russians is planning to carry out a coup against him this week.

CNN's Matthew Chance live in Kiev, Ukraine with more. What do we know, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of what evidence has been presented by the Ukrainian leadership, absolutely none, except that he described what he described as -- what he said was intelligence reports that a coup was being planned to basically overthrow his government in this country over the next couple of days. He said that the coup was going to be taking place on the first or the second of December, so just in two or three days from now. Now, I'm speaking to you from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, right now. We've come to speak to some government officials about what evidence they've got and, of course, to look at the security situation in the country.

The suggestion that there may be a coup is something that feeds into the ongoing concern in this country about the threat that Russia poses. And remember, President Zelensky, of Ukraine, said they had audio recordings of Ukrainians and Russians talking together plotting to overthrow the government here.

But it falls into these twin threats that are opposed at the moment by Russia. First of all, the overt military threat. There have been warnings from U.S. officials and others for some time now about a buildup of Russian forces near the border of Ukraine, possibly with the motive -- and they can't be sure -- but possibly with the motive of launching another invasion of Ukrainian territory. There are all sorts of alarm bells and concerns being expressed around the region.

But there's another threat as well -- a more covert threat by Russian- backed players to try and topple the Ukrainian government from inside, and that's what this warning of a coup talks to.

There's one other thing I think is worth mentioning, which is that Ukraine's richest man -- Rinat Akhmetov is his name. He's an oligarch, rich and powerful -- owns all sorts of businesses here. He was said by the president to have been linked to this coup. He has categorically denied any suggestion of that.

But again, that plays into this idea that the Ukrainian government is trying to curb the powers of rich and powerful businessmen in this country, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Matthew Chance for us this morning from Ukraine. Thank you.

Australia may be putting an end to unlimited online anonymity. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing new legislation to hold social media platforms accountable for users' defamatory online comments and abuse.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The online world shouldn't be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can just anonymously going around and harm people and hurt people.


ROMANS: The bill would require platforms to unmask trolls by providing a user's email or phone number if a complaint is filed against them.

JARRETT: Now to this tragic case. A student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas died just days after participating in a school- sanctioned charity boxing match hosted by his fraternity. Twenty-year- old Nathan Valencia died Tuesday, four days after his fight.


LACEY FOSTER, GIRLFRIEND: I remember in one of the fights someone said he literally like fell off. And then just during Nathan's fight -- like, you can -- you can see that he was just like trying to like get away to like catch a breath.


JARRETT: The family attorney says no professional referee was at that fight and medical help wasn't available either. Nathan's mother will be on "NEW DAY" in the 7:00 a.m. hour.


ROMANS: Just an awful story.

All right. The global supply crunch is now hitting where it hurts for the holidays -- alcohol. Craft beer may get much more expensive. One of the world's biggest aluminum can suppliers, Ball Corp., is hiking the minimum number of cans for smaller customers to about a million cans per beverage if you're a small craft brewer. That's not possible. It says it will raise prices by nearly half for some non-contract customers.

The U.K. could face a wine and liquor shortage because there aren't enough lorry drivers, as they call them in the U.K. They don't have the delivery drivers. The Britain's wine -- Britain's Wine and Spirit Trade Association is urging the government to extend work visas to foreign drivers to meet demand.

The beverage industry says it is taking up to five times longer to import alcohol.

And if you're more into waffles than wine, there's this. Maple syrup is in such short supply Canada is releasing nearly 50 million pounds from its strategic maple syrup reserves. Yes, that is a true thing -- the strategic maple syrup reserves. The problem is not syrup supply; it's way above-normal demand, up over 20 percent from last year.

JARRETT: I did not know that. Yes, I learn something new from you every day, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: It's a national commodity that is -- you must have emergency supplies of that.

JARRETT: All right, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers handing the Rams their third-straight loss in a battle of the Super Bowl contenders.

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


So, Aaron Rodgers -- he didn't practice all week after breaking his toe, but it didn't bother him against the Rams. Rodgers throwing for 307 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter. He's going to make a short pass to A.J. Dillon right here for the score.

And the third quarter was when this game was decided. Packers up 13. Matthew Stafford on a Rams drive -- going to get picked off by Rasul Douglas, and he takes it the other way for the score.

Stafford has thrown a pick-six now in three straight games. He's the first quarterback to do that since 2013. Rodgers, meanwhile -- he's thrown just three pick-sixes his entire career.

The Packers beat the Rams 36-28. L.A. now lost three in a row.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, has owned the Colts in his career 15-4 all-time going into yesterday's matchup. Brady and the Bucs down 10 at halftime but they mounted a comeback thanks to running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette scoring four touchdowns, including this 28-yard run, with 20 seconds left, to put the game away.

Bucs win 38-31 to improve to 8-3 on the season.

Check out what happened to Bucs' defensive tackle Vita Vea earlier in the game. His helmet got knocked off a little bit, then he gets drilled in the chin. His tooth came flying out. And Vea didn't seem too bothered by that hit, laughing it off there on the sidelines.

All right, and throwing four interceptions in the game, it's not funny unless you somehow win. That's what the Ravens did against the Browns on "SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL."

Lamar Jackson throwing three interceptions in three straight possessions in the second quarter. He had four for the game. Since 2015, starting quarterbacks were 0-37 when throwing four picks in a game. But the Ravens' defense -- it would hold the Browns to just 262 yards of offense.

Baltimore wins that one 16-10.

A stunner in college football. Saturday night, Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley said he would not be the next head coach at LSU. Well, that's because he's going to USC. Riley, one of the hottest names in coaching, making the announcement yesterday.

He had led the Sooners to four-straight Big 12 titles and made the college football playoffs three times. Recruits have already started de-committing from OU, including five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson.

Former coach Bob Stoops, who retired from football after the 2016 season, is going to coach the Sooners in the remaining bowl game this season.

All right. And finally, in the NBA, Steph Curry is putting on a show against the Clippers. Fourth quarter, Curry gets hit right here going to the basket. No foul was called and Curry was mad. He got a technical and that fired him up. Curry scoring 13 of his 33 in the fourth quarter.

And after this ridiculous three right here, watch what he does. He gives the technical sign.

Warriors win 105-90 to improve to an NBA best 18-2.

And you know, guys, I don't think I've ever seen a player give the technical sign like that and not actually get one.


SCHOLES: But, you know, props to the officials for letting that go because Curry is just so much fun to watch you don't want to see him ejected from the game.

ROMANS: Quick question. I mean, what does the tooth fairy give when you lose your tooth in a -- in a football game? Like, is that 10 bucks? Is it --

JARRETT: Oh, he should get more than 10 bucks.

SCHOLES: He needs something good for that because he laughed that off like it was nothing.

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

SCHOLES: If it was me, I would have been down for the count.

ROMANS: Yes. It's whatever's in the tooth fairy's purse or wallet when he goes to sleep.

All right, nice to see you. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Spoken like a true tooth fairy.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining -- I don't -- I have no intimate knowledge of that. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: In case Christine Romans' boys are up at 5:55 in the morning. 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 Monday, November 29th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

Major developments around the world as country after country takes action against the new, highly-mutated Omicron COVID variant. But it's hard to tell what's spreading faster, the --