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Debate over Booster Shots; Louisiana Faces Flood Threat; Warnings of Violence in D.C. Hawley Holds up Nominees; SpaceX to Launch All-Civilian Crew. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A panel of FDA advisers will meet Friday to consider COVID-19 booster shots. Now, unlike the meeting they had back in December on the vaccine itself, the decision on authorizing boosters, not a slam dunk.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now with what this will look like.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, in speaking to people who serve on this FDA advisory committee that will be meeting Friday, their fielding is this could get quite messy and possibly quite contentious. There are many voices on -- you know, out there among experts saying, look, two doses works great. It keeps you out of the hospital. It keeps you from dying. Why are we giving people a third dose?

Let's take a look at what the data says.

So, there are U.S. and Qatari data studies suggesting, and I'm paraphrasing here, that two shots are successful at protecting against severe COVID-19. They do great at keeping you from getting very sick with COVID.

But, there's Israeli data that suggests two shots are less than successful at protecting against severe COVID-19. The Israelis say we are seeing people, a lot of people, a significant number of people, with two shots still landing up in the hospital.

Now, just to make things even more complicated, U.S. data, Qatari data, as well as Israeli data all show that there are breakthrough infections with two doses. You get two doses and there are people who are getting infected. One camp would say, who cares. So you get infected. You don't get very sick. Maybe you're home for a few days. That means the vaccines work. There's another camp that says, too many infections are bad. It promotes the spread of COVID and it could lead to more hospitalizations.

So, I had a discussion with an Israeli health official, Dr. Ran Balicer, and he said, look, in Israel we decided enough is enough, we're going to start a booster program. They started it about six weeks ago. They say it's going very well. Let's take a listen to my discussion with Dr. Balicer.


COHEN: You know, up until the booster shots, Israel waited for the FDA and for the CDC to chime in. But you guys just did booster without the FDA and the CDC chiming in.

DR. RAN BALICER, CHAIR, ISRAELI COVID-19 NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL: I think there was a different level of urgency felt in the two countries. Decisions by the FDA have been made and we could have followed them. But in the situation that we were at, it was obvious that action was needed urgently. Decisions need to be made.


COHEN: So, what we're going to find out on Friday is, do the -- do the FDA's expert panel, do they think there is an urgency here? Do they think that there needs to be a booster program in the United States?


BERMAN: We'll be watching it very closely. The discussion really will be interesting and complex this time.

Elizabeth, thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Louisiana is facing a major flood threat as Tropical Depression Nicholas slows to a crawl over the state, still reeling from the Hurricane Ida -- Hurricane Ida that struck it last month.

Let's go now to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

I feel like I keep coming to you and saying the same thing, which is, this area doesn't need any more rain, any more water.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. And this storm was really the storm that wouldn't follow any normal rules. First of all, some models had 40 inches of rain in Texas. That didn't happen. Then all of a sudden they said, no, no farther to the east and lots of rain in Louisiana. Well, it happened, some of it, but not a lot. And we're still going to get more. And even the center is way here in Texas and most of the rain is now into parts of Alabama and even moving into Florida at this hour.

This weather is brought to you by Servpro, making fire and water damage like it never even happened.

So let's get to it. Where do we go from here? Well, here's where the rain was for this storm and many of the areas that had 40 to 60 on the models, way up here, had nothing. And then the rainfall along the coast, somewhere in the ballpark between six and 10. But the problem is, as you said, the storm isn't going to move. In

fact, it's not even going to leave Louisiana. It's just going to sit there and spin. So even though the rain is to the east, it doesn't mean that more rain couldn't develop back here behind it. And that's kind of what I'm watching.


There's still a low pressure system out there. There's still a cold front up here to the north that will bring some rain to the northeast today and tonight. But then for the rain for the south, that's the real issue. How much do we really get? Where does it go? Probably 4 to 6 inches more in the very worst hit areas.


KEILAR: Yes, these things do not always follow the rules as we see.


KEILAR: Funny enough.

Chad, thank you so much for that.

And, up next, the Biden White House bracing for Saturday's right wing rally planned at the Capitol.

BERMAN: Plus, today is the day the all civilian space crew getting ready to orbit the earth just hours from now. We get a preview of what they'll see.



BERMAN: Developing overnight, the House sergeant at arms sending out a security notice to members and staff advising that fencing around the Capitol complex could go up as soon as today in response to the rally planned this weekend. There is a rally planned this weekend at the Capitol in support of the January 6th insurrection. Really in support of the people who took part in the January 6th insurrection.

Joining us now is CNN contributor and staff writer at "The New Yorker," Evan Osnos. He is the author of the new book "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury."

And the bookends for this book, Evan, are 9/11 and the January 6th insurrection, which is why I find this coming Saturday so interesting because, you know, there was an end point at January 6th in many ways.


BERMAN: But now it's being celebrated.


BERMAN: On Saturday. How does that strike you?

OSNOS: We're watching the process of how a lie becomes a myth. It becomes an enduring feature in a culture.

You know, this is sort of a fact that goes back years. One of the things that really strikes me is that you've seen people come to believe the idea that they don't have to be attached to the facts. And this didn't happen overnight. You know, I'm very mindful of the fact that we are living in a period in American life in which certain people have decided that reliable institutions, civic institutions, media institutions are no longer a source of information for them. They're going off on their own.

What you're seeing right now, with the preparations for this rally, is the idea that it is a metastasizing lie. It's taken on new forms just in eight months. And it's going to continue, I'm afraid.

KEILAR: So the lie becomes a myth. And it is enduring. And with that we've seen comes a threat, a threat of physical violence. How enduring is that?

OSNOS: Part of the problem here is that you're seeing them valorize people who committed violence in one of America's most sacred spaces, political spaces. And, you know, I'm struck by the fact that right now obviously the Biden administration is saying we're not going to get caught flat footed. They are putting out a lot of information about what they're doing. They say we are monitoring public information about hotel reservations, about applications for permits and things like that. But the broader fact is, and you've begun to hear the administration talk about this, they are concerned about this idea that there is a hard core, a small minority of Americans who are participating in a delusion. And some of it is about vaccine science and some of it is about the lies on January 6th.

BERMAN: I'm going to quote from this new book by Evan Osnos, "Wildland." You quote Hanna Oren (ph) in this, and I think it's so telling. You say what Hanna Oren called a peculiar kind of cynicism that settles into societies that allowed the substitution and total substitution of lies for factual truth to get through the day, she wrote, people eventually embrace the absolute refusal to believe the truth of anything. And you write, I first jotted down that line a few years earlier to make sense of my life in China. I had not expected it would become relevant once I came home.

OSNOS: Yes. I have to say, you know, I lived for a number of years in authoritarian countries as a reporter writing about places where people had sort of given up on the idea of reliable information. They had been lied to so systematically. And I came back to the U.S. And what I discovered was that there was a generation of Americans who had been raised over the last 10 years on things like the birther fiction, the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. And eventually that kind of morphed into things like pizza-gate. These absolutely crazy fantasies.

But what happens is that over time people get acculturated to the idea that they should, in a sense, make up their own reality. And what we're seeing with this September 18th rally is the idea -- it's a total invention that January 6th is something that should be valorized or celebrated.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about this other book, not the Evan Osnos, but this other book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. And the bombshell that's out right now from this as we await its publication, is that Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the time between -- well, really, in the time after January 6th, was in touch with his counterpart in China, trying to assuage any concerns of a jittery China because there was so much chaos. China wasn't the only country that was probably jittery obviously during this time.

OSNOS: Right.

KEILAR: But it -- the description, the characterization of this in the book is that Milley was essentially telling General Li (ph), don't worry, if we're going to strike you, I'm going to give you a heads up.

OSNOS: Right.

KEILAR: What are you look -- how are you absorbing this?

OSNOS: Yes. I think it's a couple of interesting things here.


You have to take a broader context for a second and think about it from the Chinese national security perspective. The first impression they got of Donald Trump is when Xi Jinping went to Florida in April of 2017 and Trump made a point of showing Xi Jinping, as he put it later, you'll all remember this, that over a big beautiful piece of chocolate cake he was firing missiles -- firing missiles on Syria.

The Chinese came away with a very distinct impression that this was a president who is not just impulsive, he was almost metabolic in his decision making and he was willing to do things that would shock them. Over the next three and a half years, they essentially had to chuck out the book on what they thought they understood about American presidents all the way up -- and, remember, we were in the period when you had the Four Seasons total landscaping debacle. Imaging looking at that from outside and saying, this is our adversary, a nuclear armed superpower, and we have to prepare for the idea that they may do something completely crazy. Milley was saying to them, do not think that they're going to be as -- that we are going to be unpredictable here.

KEILAR: It's a very, very interesting point. It's almost like watching an adversary having a breakdown in a way and wondering what kind of erratic behavior might come of it.

Evan, thanks for the conversation this morning.

OSNOS: My pleasure.

KEILAR: Up next, the Republican planning a disruptive stunt in Congress. Could it put U.S. national security at risk? BERMAN: And the all civilian space crew getting ready to orbit the

earth just hours from now. They look so happy.

KEILAR: Those are some sweet outfits, though, there.



KEILAR: Senator Josh Hawley, the Senate's king of no, threatening to hold up President Biden's State and Defense Department nominees unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary Lloyd Austin resign. The Missouri Republican argues it's because of their roles overseeing the chaotic exit from Afghanistan.

Lauren Fox is joining us now.

Look, there are a lot of positions that have not been filled. So these are potential ramifications of not allowing some of these through.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Let's go through what he is pledging to do right now, which is blocking civilian nominees from being approved for the Pentagon and the State Department.

Now, these nominees can get through with just Democratic votes, but what Hawley's role here really is, is that he can delay this process because, remember, in the Senate, you really need unification, you need all 100 senators to agree to move things along. And that's where this can get bogged down.

Ultimately, Democrats have the power to approve these nominees, but the struggle is how long is it going to take. And this is when some nominees can really die on the vine, not because they're controversial, not because they're problematic, but because it takes so much time to get through this.

Now, Josh Hawley may back off here, but he's basically saying that unless Blinken and Austin resign after those 13 service members were killed in Afghanistan, he's going to keep this up.

BERMAN: Yes, it just means delay for delay's sake.

Talk to us about the debt ceiling at this point. This means -- it's permission for the United States to basically borrow more money to keep the government running.

FOX: Yes.

BERMAN: To keep things moving. Republicans say they're all going to vote no.

FOX: Exactly. And, look, this is money that the U.S. has already spent. This isn't new money that we are talking about here. And Democrats are saying, this is the responsibility of everybody. This isn't just on us. Republicans, though, are saying, you guys are moving ahead with this $3.5 trillion bill and we don't want to be a part of that and therefore this is going to be on you.

Now, Democrats are trying to sweeten the deal and they're having some preliminary conversations about whether or not to attach this debt ceiling increase to something like government funding or disaster relief, which, if you're a Republican senator in Louisiana or you're a Republican senator in the state of Texas, that's really hard to vote against. And I asked, you know, Senator Cornyn and Senator Cassidy yesterday about this and they were a little bit vague because, you know, it's problematic if you go back home and say I voted against hurricane relief.

So, there is some strategy up here on Capitol Hill the Democrats are still working through. But, look, when McConnell goes to the mics day after day and says Republicans aren't going to help on this, you usually have to take him at his word. So we'll see where we stands in a couple of weeks.


BERMAN: Lauren Fox, thank you very much.

KEILAR: Even if Democrats don't like what they're hearing, they will take him at his word, right?

BERMAN: Yes. When McConnell says no, you should believe him, I would think.


BERMAN: All right, more on our breaking news.

The results from the California recall election are in. Landslide.

KEILAR: And what four space tourists will experience when they blast off into orbit today.



KEILAR: The countdown is on for the SpaceX Inspiration 4 mission with the first-ever all civilian flight crew. Four civilians will orbit the earth for three days. The 24-hour launch window beginning tonight before Inspiration takes flight. And CNN got a board -- got onboard a zero g flight just to get a sense of what this would be like.

Rachel Crane joining us live now from this historic launch pad, 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center.

Tell us, what is it going to be like, Rachel?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I want to point out that 39A behind my, this is the location that launched humans to the moon on Apollo 11, also the site where hundreds of astronauts were launched on shuttle to space and recently SpaceX restoring human space flight to American soil with their crew Dragon launches, all taking place here at 39A.

And, today, a new chapter in space flight will be opened once Inspiration 4 takes to the skies, becoming the first all-civilian crew to go to orbit.

Now, Brianna, I want to point out and emphasize that all civilian part, that means that no professional astronauts will be inside this spacecraft. No NASA employees.

And this crew, you know, when compared to the right stuff of the astronauts of the past is pretty much a random bunch. And two of the crew members won their seats via an online raffle. Haley Arceneaux, another crew member, she's set to become the youngest person to go to orbit. She's a cancer survivor. She even has a metal rod in her leg. So when she gets to space, she'll become the first person with a prosthesis to ever do so.

And the whole mission is being paid for by billionaire Jared Isaacman. He is serving as the commander.

And take a look at a little bit of the training that they went through for this mission, Brianna.


CRANE: Oh my goodness. Wow. I'm feeling like an astronaut, that's for sure.

Where are we and what are we going to do today?

MATT GOHD, CEO, ZERO-G CORPORATION: Here we are at Newark Airport and we're going to be going up in zero gravity on G-force 1 and you're going to get the same experience as people on the ISS have.

CRANE (voice over): Zero Gravity Corporation uses a modified Boeing 727 flying in parabolic motion to create multiple spurts of weightlessness. Richard Branson acclimated himself to zero gs on one before he went into space, as did the crew of Inspiration 4, the first all-civilian flight into orbit.

GOHD: You don't want your fist experience in zero gravity to be in space. And it's a very unique feeling. And this gives them the framework to understand it.


CRANE: I'm a little nervous.

We all know that flying on a rocket ship is dangerous. But how dangerous are these flights?

GOHD: There's no risk or danger in what we do.