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Migrants Held at Belarus Centers; FDA Considers Boosters for All Adults; Biden Weighs Boycott of Olympics; Tom Harris is Interviewed about Times Square New Year's Eve; Holiday Shopping in Jeopardy. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Migrants on the Belarusian side fighting for their lives, throwing rocks and trying to overrun guards to make it into Poland and then beyond. All of them have been pushed back by water cannons.

Matthew Chance is at a refugee reception center now in Belarus.

Matthew, why don't you explain what's happening.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Yes, you remember those really desperate scenes that we've been reporting from the camp on the border in the freezing conditions. There's very little in terms of facilities.

Well, that camp is now being slowly emptied out by the Belarusian authorities and they're bringing the migrants here to this huge facility which is about a mile back from the Polish border. It's indoors and it's heated, which is a massive upgrade to the situation they were in. And the people have been given, you know, blankets as well. Big duvets like this. They've been given new clothes to keep them warm. Pillows. They're being given one hot meal every day. And there's tea, hot tea -- watch out -- there's hot tea and bread being given out and biscuits and things like that. And so it's a -- it's a much better situation for these migrants than the one they were in previously.

Now, of course, you know, the Belarusian authorities have been accused all along of orchestrating this crisis to put pressure on the European Union and exploiting these vulnerable people for political ends. And I think you have to remember that, you know, this could have been done earlier. They could have set up this kind of facility earlier. They didn't have to push them right to the border. Some circumstantial evidence, if you like, about the culpability of the Belarusian state.

The big question now, though, of course, is, you know, what's going to happen to these people? Because they're still being told there's a possibility that they could go to Germany, that they could enter the European Union. But there's been no indications by the Poles that they're going to open those barricades, or from the Germans that they're prepared to open some kind of humanitarian corridor. Belarusian officials are saying that decision in Germany has not yet

been taken. But the fact is, if these people are not given some kind of -- a passage into the European Union, they will, most likely, be deported back to their country of origin, which in the case of the vast majority here, these are Iraqi -- the majority of people say they're from Iraqi Kurdistan, John.

BERMAN: What's their plan, Matthew? You know, they know that they're being caught in the middle of this right now, but how do they intend to move on going forward?

CHANCE: Well, it's -- I'm not sure they have the answer to that. I mean, look, they're -- they're just driven by, you know, hope. They're taking a chance, taking a gamble that they're going to be able to, you know, get out of this facility and somehow find a way into a new life in the European Union.

I spoke to one woman earlier who I'd met previously in the camp with her son, who's got problems with his legs. He needs an operation in Germany, she said, because doctors in Kurdistan are not capable of carrying out the operation. She's just over here somewhere here. She's got a new coat. She's got a bed. She's got a mattress. And -- but she -- and she's still holding out hope that her family could still get to Germany.

But, you know, behind the scenes, what we're sort of understanding from the Belarusian authorities is that, you know, they've moved to ratchet down the tension. They've brought these people here. They've moved them back from the border. There are still about 600 or 700 people at the border, by the way. So there's 1,000 people here. Six or 700 now still at the border in those outdoor camps.

But I think the plan for the Belarusians hasn't been made public yet, but I think their plan is to try and get them into the European Union through legal means or else to deport them back to their own countries.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance, thank you for being there and showing the world what's going on. Important.

So, the White House considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. This would be a huge slap in the face to China. What it means for diplomacy, what it means for the games.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And talk about getting no satisfaction. The Rolling Stones are getting more flack, this time from the front man of The Who.



BERMAN: So this is a big deal and a potentially big change. Coronavirus vaccine booster shots could be made available to all adults, all of us, by this weekend. The FDA says it is currently reviewing Pfizer's request to authorize its booster for everyone 18 and older. And it is hold -- and it's not going to hold a meeting of outside experts, which means the decision could come at any time.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Up until this point, it has just been for specific groups. Now they're saying perhaps it could be all adults. Why?


So the reason why is that there's more and more evidence that immunity wanes from the vaccine about six months after you get your second shot. And there's been a lot of back and forth about this data and that data has changed over time and the data is coming from various places, especially from Israel, where they have a lot of experience and keep very good track of these kinds of things. And the reason why, again, immunity wanes and also cases are going up.

Let's take a look at a map of the United States. You can see here that 21 states are in red. Red is bad. Red means that cases are going up. Yellow means they're stable. Green means they're going down.

And if you take a look sort of at the nation as a whole, if you put all of this together, you can see, if you look to the far right of this next chart, it's going slightly up. I mean it was just at the end of October that we said, finally, after the summer of delta, the cases are finally going down at the end of October. Now we see them going back up. That's why we see this call for boosters.


So, again, expecting to hear from the FDA either today or tomorrow and then from the CDC on Friday.


BERMAN: It is a mixed bag, as Anthony Fauci says, around the country. You know, some places doing better, some places doing worse. And there are also just different approaches as we learn more and more people get vaccinated. D.C., the mayor of D.C., announced they're going to lift the mask mandate indoors on Monday. What does that tell us?

COHEN: So that tells us that some places are feeling like they are able to do that. But here's a little twist, the White House is saying, we're keeping our mask mandate even though we're in the District of Columbia, even though we're in the city. And so I think that's what we're going to see more and more of is that really, at the end of the day, cities can do what they want. Places of employment and other places can also do what they want. And they can say, well, you know, we're going to listen to the CDC, which is what the White House says, and we're going to keep our mask mandates. So I think we're going, you know, talk -- Dr. Fauci talked about a mixed bag of cases. I think we're also going to see a mixed bag of different kinds of requirements.

BERMAN: The D.C. mask mandate going away in a few days. File that under news for Brianna Keilar.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: Thank you, Elizabeth.

And American officials may be absent from next year's winter Olympics games in Beijing. The Biden administration considering a diplomatic boycott of the games in response to China's human rights abuses.

Joining us now to talk about this is Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst and columnist at "The Washington Post." He's the reporter who broke this story.

OK, so, just to be clear here, Josh, you're a little further along on this. You're saying that this appears to be very much underway, this announcement. We, at this point, are reporting that there is no consideration, but this is under consideration.

So what would this look like?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, Brianna. My sources tell me that the decision is all but made and that within the next couple of weeks, the president will approve the consensus of his senior staff to implement a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. It's a serious but measured move to signal U.S. government displeasure with Beijing's human rights abuses, including the genocide against Uighur Muslims without impacting U.S. athletes and their ability to compete in the games.

It's a move that was supported by people like Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney. And it's kind of a half measure. It's a -- it's a compromise. It won't back the activists who are calling for a full boycott completely happy and it won't satisfy the Chinese Communist Party, which doesn't want any protests or mention of its genocide at all.

But I think for the Biden team, it's a way that they can signal that they're standing up for human rights. At the same time, they're not completely boycotting the games, like Jimmy Carter did in 1980. And I think this sends the message that Beijing won't be able to burnish its international legitimacy with the Olympics without somebody at least mentioning the fact that there's genocide going on there.

KEILAR: So, it sends a message. How is the message received by China?

ROGIN: Well, to be sure, the Chinese government doesn't like it and they're not going to like it. And, you know, we saw just last -- just this week that President Xi and President Biden made an agreement to improve relations, to ratchet down the tensions. And this flies in the face of that. And that's complicated because the U.S./China relationship is complicated.

So, yes, the Chinese Communist Party is sure to be angry, but, you know, the only other option is to look the other way on genocide, which is something that no U.S. government could really do. So, you know, if they don't really like people mentioning the genocide, I think the best way for -- thing for them to do would be to stop the genocide. Other than that, I think people are going to continue to protest. KEILAR: Josh, what can you tell us about this missing tennis star. Her

name is Peng Shuai. She leveled an accusation of sexual misconduct by the former vice premier Zhang Gaoli. And then that post goes down within a half hour and she seems to have disappeared.

ROGIN: Right. Well, this is a part of a pattern, two patterns, actually. One of, you know, famous Chinese celebrities disappearing, which is weird and awful. Any time they say something that doesn't match with what the government wants them to say, they're punished severely. They lose their careers. Sometimes they're erased from the Internet altogether.

But also we can see this in the context of some brutal and nasty infighting at the top ranks of the Chinese government. You can be sure that the fact that her post was allowed to exist at all is a sign that one faction, one of the other factions, allegations aired and then they were erased.

So there's a lot of nonsense going on inside the top level of the Chinese government. There's a lot of human rights abuses. There's a lot of -- sort of weird politics that we can't really understand. But, you know, none of that should sort of distract us from the fact that when we have a big event like the Olympics, we want to celebrate our central oneness of humanity. We want to give our athletes the chance to represent our country. At the same time, we can't let this distract us from the fact that there are real, serious human rights violations going on that affect not just the victims of those violations in China, but all people in the world who believe in human rights. And so that's a complicated thing. That's a problem in the U.S./China relationship that won't be solved any time soon. So, it's just something that the Biden administration, and the rest of us are going to have to get used to.


It's a -- it's a complex relationship where we have to cooperate with China, but also stand up for the things that we believe in. It's not going to be easy.


Josh, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

ROGIN: Any time.

KEILAR: Coming up, why are lawyers for the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery still fighting against black pastors being in the courtroom. We'll have the latest from the trial.

BERMAN: And, do you want to party like it's 2019? This New Year's Eve, the folks from New York City's Times Square say you can with a big if. It must involve balloons.


BERMAN: Party news. You can ring in the New Year in New York City's Times Square as long as you are vaccinated or can show a recent negative PCR test.


Joining me now is the president of the Times Square Alliance, Tom Harris.

Tom, thank you so much for being with us.

How are you going to check if people are vaccinated?


So, the New York City Police Department always has a checkpoint for people coming into Times Square on New Year's Eve. We're going to add one more moment to that checkpoint, and we're going to check the vaccination status of those coming in.

BERMAN: What's the hope for how many people you put in Times Square?

HARRIS: Pre-pandemic, we had hundreds of thousands of people in Times Square for New Year's Eve. We are going to be ready for those hundreds of thousands of people this year.

BERMAN: Is that what you want?

HARRIS: We would love that. We would love for people to find safe ways to -- to go back to their -- or not to go back, to full forward to our new norm. And we're looking to do it in a safe, responsible way in Times Square, which is why we have the vaccination requirement

BERMAN: And your medical experts are telling you that this is safe? Obviously being outdoors is a huge benefit when it comes to Covid.

HARRIS: Yes. We've seen the professional ball teams come back without a vaccination requirement. We looked at that. But we have an obligation to the cast of our event, to the crew of our event. We are putting on a dozen shows in Times Square for the whole world to watch. So we have an obligation to the cast, crew, and to the crowd to make them as safe as possible.

BERMAN: Any other difference besides the police checking for vaccination proof or proof of PCR? Will there be any difference for the people who are standing around for the, whatever, 12 or 14 hours that they have to in advance?

HARRIS: No, they shouldn't see a difference. And just to be clear, the Times Square Alliance and our co-organizers, Countdown Entertainment and One Times Square will be doing the vaccination checks, not the New York City Police Department

BERMAN: All right, Tom Harris, happy New Year. Thank you so much for delivering this news.

HARRIS: Happy New Year to you, too, John. Thank you. BERMAN: A new lawsuit filed on behalf of the Astroworld victims, calling for $750 million in damages. New details on who could be held liable?

KEILAR: Plus, you have heard of this global supply chain crisis. So which products will likely be out of stock for the holidays? We have a list and we'll see, hopefully it doesn't match up with yours, but maybe it will.



BERMAN: A new development in the Astroworld tragedy. A lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 125 plaintiffs seeking more than $750 million in damages. The suit has been filed against Apple, Travis Scott, Drake, Live Nation and others. And it's just one of 140 other lawsuits also filed since the festival that left 10 people dead and hundreds injured.

KEILAR: The dreaded out of stock message is stacking up on sites all over the internet as a global supply chain meltdown causes product shortages and price hikes ahead of a -- the all-important holiday shopping rush. Experts are advising you to start buying now.

CNN's Tom Foreman is with us on this.

I know a lot of people, perhaps myself included, won't heed that advice, but that's what we should be doing.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what we ought to be doing. Here's -- the good news of this, look, yes, worries about inflation, worries about worker shortages, that sort of thing. The good part is, there is a lot of retail demand out there, a really key element in getting the economy truly up and roaring again. The question is, can we meet the demand?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to come meet Santa?

FOREMAN (voice over): Over 2 billion times, that's how often the words "out of stock" came up as researchers tracked just 18 different product categories online in October. That's worse than last year and much worse than two years ago. Among the hardest hit items, according to Adobe Analytics, electronics, jewelry, clothing, homewares and pet supplies. The trend has been driven in large part by months of people sitting at home shopping online in the pandemic. And the holidays are amping it up.

JONATHAN GOLD, VP OF SUPPLY CHAIN AND CUSTOMS POLICY, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: The demand for the products, as well as the materials to make those products, is just far outpacing the available supply of those products and materials, as well as what's needed to move those products through the supply chain to the -- to the consumer.

FOREMAN: Imported goods are especially vulnerable. Not only are manufacturers and shippers navigating a maze of periodic shutdowns. But even when their cargos arrive, they are piling up in ports waiting to unload.

Rosemary Coates is a supply chain expert.

ROSEMARY COATES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RESHORING INSTITUTE: There is a shortage of truck drivers, there's a shortage of warehouse space, and workers all along that supply chain. So this is not, you know, a snap your fingers and organize a solution.

FOREMAN: That means, for consumers, the day after Thanksgiving could be more like bleak Friday with some products hard to find and prices rising.

Best tips, shop early. If you see what you want.

GOLD: Buy it now.

COATES: Buy it. Definitely. Buy it now.

FOREMAN: And have faith. Just like many retailers that the holidays will wind up happy anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you ready to fly to grandma's?



FOREMAN: Retailers met at the White House recently trying to corral the supply chain grinchiness but the problems are so endemic and so worldwide, experts think we won't see anything like normal until sometime after the holidays, perhaps in time for Christmas 2022.

KEILAR: Really?


KEILAR: It's interesting. You said in the break that that -- one of those folks, those experts you spoke with, said, I've spent my entire life trying to explain to my family basically what I do, the work I do on supply chains.


Now they know.

FOREMAN: Yes. Now we're all learning about me. And, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some internet shopping.

KEILAR: All right. You go ahead. Go do it, Tom Foreman. Thank you so much.