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New Day

Covid Update from Around the World; Ashley Peterson is Interviewed about her Carnival Cruise with Covid Cases; Juries Deliberate in Holmes and Maxwell Trials; Remembering Desmond Tutu; Taliban Dissolve Electoral Commission; Snow and Cold for Parts of U.S.; Covid Causes Disruptions in College Bowl Games. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 27, 2021 - 06:30   ET




JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: As Europe breaks records over the latest Covid surges, more than 2,000 flights are canceled across the globe today. In China, the city of Xi'an, with 13 million people, is under strict lockdown. An entire city is being disinfected.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., a bit of positive news. A surge that was followed by a surge in Covid vaccinations as well.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Barbie Nadeau in Rome, where surges in Covid cases pushed by the omicron variant are putting pressure on governments and health care systems alike across Europe. New Year's Eve celebrations will be subdued for a second year in a row.

In France, which logged more than 100,000 cases in a single day over the weekend, restrictions mean no fireworks for New Year's Eve in Paris.

In Italy, which logged an 11 percent contagion rate in testing over the weekend, outdoor gatherings in city squares will be prohibited.

Spain and Italy will also now require masks to be worn outdoors.

Elsewhere in Europe, spikes in cases have led to closures, cancelations and curfews as governments do everything they can to try to avoid locking down entirely.


As the Beijing winter Olympics draws ever closer, the government here, which sticks to a zero Covid policy, is taking no chances with the authorities in the ancient capital of Xi'an have begun disinfected their entire city after reporting more than 600 locally transmitted cases in the past two and a half weeks with officials there warning residents to close their doors and windows and not to touch any outside surfaces and plants. This after they have already placed the entire population of 13 million residents under a strict lockdown since last week.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I'm Salma Abdelaziz in London.

Three of the U.K.'s four nations, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, have enforced tougher rules post-Christmas to deal with the omicron variant. Still, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says no stricter measures are needed for England for now. The government is reviewing the data hour by hour as millions of people rushed in recent days to get their booster shot, to get their third shot. The national health service was giving out those booster jabs even on Christmas Day. On Friday, the U.K. recorded the highest number of Covid cases in a 24- hour period since the start of the pandemic.


AVLON: Meanwhile, Singapore is forcing strangers to share rooms during a 10-day mandatory Covid quarantine. Patients over 15 years of age have to room with a Covid-positive person of the same gender based on the severity of their symptoms. Even if they don't know each other. That's according to a spokesman from the Singapore Ministry of Health. Private rooms are available on request and where possible.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A Carnival cruise ship has returned to Miami with a number of people on board testing positive for coronavirus during an eight-day Caribbean voyage. The ship left Florida a week ago Saturday. And a Carnival spokesman said in a statement, there was, quote, a small number of people on board who were in isolation due to a positive test result and that all passengers were fully vaccinated and tested before this trip began. Yet the ship was denied entry at two ports, which led to some obvious frustration among some of those passengers.

Joining me now is one of them from that Carnival cruise ship, Ashley Peterson.

So, Ashley, you were double vaccinated. You've gotten your booster shot. But you said you felt it was a little bit like floating around on a petri dish, right?

ASHLEY PETERSON, SAILED ON SHIP THAT JUST RETURNED WITH NEW COVID CASES: Yes, it was. It started off -- the cruise started off kind of normal, and then, day after day, more and more people were testing positive. And, obviously, when you're at sea you can't go anywhere and get off the ship. So it kind of felt like we were kind of trapped not knowing how many people had Covid.

COLLINS: And how did you find out that other passengers had tested positive? Did the crews tell you, or how did you guys learn about that?

PETERSON: So, initially the cruise refused to tell us anything. We heard news reports from the news in Curacao that there was Covid on the ship. It wasn't until the next day when we were denied entry into Bonaire that the captain did say that there was a small number of Covid cases. But pretty much the passengers that we know that had Covid were basically posting on Facebook that they were Covid positive. So the --

COLLINS: Wow. So you found out from -- not just from the ship directly initially.

And so what happened once you found out that people had tested positive? You weren't able to go to some of those ports. But were people in their rooms on board or were they still acting -- you know, kind of going about their business?

PETERSON: I mean, I think it definitely was (INAUDIBLE). There was definitely plenty of people who were continuing their cruise like normal. I know, for me personally, I was spending a lot more time in my state room and staying in the outside areas of the ship and trying to avoid like indoor areas of the ship.


COLLINS: Do you think that there were enough precautions taken before you go on board given, you know, everyone was tested, people were vaccinated? But do you think enough precautions were taken overall in the whole process?

PETERSON: I mean, I thought so. That is why I booked this trip thinking that everybody was vaccinated, we all had to be tested. But the initial Covid cases on this ship started with the crew. And so I don't have -- you know, we weren't given that information of how often the crew is tested or when they're tested. And so -- and they weren't really enforcing masks until a lot of people started getting Covid and then they were kind of, you know, enforcing masks more. But at the beginning of the cruise, they weren't.

COLLINS: Does this experience make you think twice about booking another cruise?

PETERSON: Yes, I don't think I'll ever go on a cruise again honestly at this point.

COLLINS: Wow. Well, hopefully your next trip goes a lot smoother and we're sorry to hear about what happened on this one. But, Ashley Peterson, thank you for joining us this morning to tell us about what happened.

PETERSON: Yes, you're welcome.

COLLINS: Still ahead here on NEW DAY, we will speak live with Dr. Anthony Fauci about the omicron surge.

And also, coming up, what jurors will decide as both high-profile deliberations involving Elizabeth Holmes and Ghislaine Maxwell resume today.

Plus, former President Trump is getting backlash from right-wing circles over his push for vaccines, basically just saying what's true about them. Why conservative allies say he's, quote, too old to do his own research.

AVLON: And another vial voicemail, this time to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. I've got to warn you, the language is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You goddamn old senile (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You're -- you're as old and ugly as Biden. You ought to get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED): off the planet.


AVLON: How Congresswoman Dingell responded. That's just up ahead.



AVLON: It's verdict watch time as juries are set to reconvene today in the separate trials of Ghislaine Maxwell and Elizabeth Holmes. Maxwell is accused of sex trafficking, while Holmes faces criminal fraud charges.

Joining me now to discuss is criminal defense attorney Bernarda Villalona.

Thank you so much for joining us, Counselor.

So, what's your state of play here on the cases? Let's start with Elizabeth Holmes. Did she help or hurt her case by testifying, do you think?

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, you've got to think, Elizabeth Holmes was on the stand for seven days. Seven days of being grilled down by the prosecution. Seven days of her trying to plead her own case. And I think, personally, obviously she has helped out her case in the sense of, guess what, the jury's not back with a verdict yet. They're still contemplating her credibility, her believability and her intent.

AVLON: And how do you think the jurisdiction matters in this particular case?

VILLALONA: So, as you can see, the case of Elizabeth Holmes is out in California. So it's in the start-up place of California where people go there to invent things and that people start and they fail things, sometimes they succeed. So that jury pool is completely different. And that jury pool is used to people coming down to California and inventing things. So, I think it plays better for Elizabeth Holmes than if that case was, for example, in New York where we're like, woman, you were lying about what your product could do.

AVLON: Well, yes, invention, I think, doesn't always extend to fraud. So we'll have to see where the jury comes down on that.

Ghislaine Maxwell, let's switch over to that, in New York. Jurors have requested a transcript of all four accusers. So, what does that tell you?

VILLALONA: So it definitely shows that the jury's definitely studious about what they heard, what they see throughout the entire trial. So you know that the case boils down to those four victims that actually testified. So they're going back and forth as to the credibility and the believability of these victims. Was Ghislaine Maxwell involved? Did she groom these women? Did she assist Jeffery Epstein in procuring them to travel to engage in sexual activities and did she herself take part in these sexual activities?

AVLON: And one question I think folks who haven't been on a jury ask is, how difficult is it for a jury to go through 80 plus pages of instructions? Why is that key? What does it tell you?

VILLALONA: That is a lot of reading. You've got to think that there are attorneys that don't even understand criminal law let -- yet the plain old layperson from the community to be able to understand the jury instructions. You're talking about 80 pages.

For example, Kim Potter's case, where you're talking about the death of someone, those jury instructions were only 14 pages. But here you have 80 pages of jury instructions of how they're supposed to believe and evaluate the testimony of these witnesses and then apply it to the law, the charges that Ghislaine Maxwell is facing. It's very difficult.

AVLON: Well, and another difficult thing is the fact there's no video, no DNA, no statements. So, what does the jury have to rely on to determine guilt and how does the jury evaluate credibility in this case?

VILLALONA: Exactly. So, when we're talking about Ghislaine Maxwell, her charges are stemming from the 1990s to early 2000s. So, times were different. Technology was different. So in terms of these victims that testified, there was no video. There's no DNA. There's no statements by Ghislaine Maxwell saying, oh, I did it, or I procured these young girls to come and have sex with either myself or with Jeffrey Epstein.

So, what they have to do is evaluate the credibility, the believability. What's the corroboration? Why should I believe this victim, that this victim who got millions in the settlement, why should I believe her? Is there motive to lie? Is there any bias? Or is she coming here to tell the truth, to seek justice, because they already got their payout but still they're cooperating with law enforcement.

AVLON: And what do you think about the argument, the defense that Ghislaine Maxwell's team is making, that she's effectively been a scape goat in the Jeffrey Epstein scandals?

VILLALONA: Well, I think it backfired on her. And it backfired on her to the extent that towards the end of the prosecution's case, and I was in the courtroom for most of the trial, the prosecution brought out and put into evidence photographs, intimate photographs of Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein. At one point it was a photograph of Ghislaine Maxwell giving Jeffrey Epstein a foot massage.

So, it's like, throughout the entire trial, the defense tried to distance Ghislaine Maxwell from Jeffrey Epstein.


However, it was a bombshell moment at the time that the prosecution is like, look, here go the photographs, here are the receipts. So this person that supposedly is so far removed from Jeffrey Epstein, but look how she's engaging in affection and in love and how much interaction that they've have through the years, going to show you that she's willing to do anything and everything to have been able to satisfy Jeffrey Epstein.

AVLON: Well, that's a certainly loaded statement.

But, counselor, Bernarda Villalona, we thank you for your insights very much. We're going to have some big verdicts, potentially, coming up this week. Appreciate you.

VILLALONA: Absolutely. Thank you, John.

AVLON: All right, coming up, Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth and many others around the world paying tribute to Desmond tutu, South Africa's anti-apartheid hero. We're live with this and more on the life and legacy of this reconciling leader.

COLLINS: Plus, a message from the Taliban. There is, quote, no need for an election commission. What they just did when it comes to democracy in Afghanistan.


COLLINS: World leaders are mourning alongside South Africans this morning as they say good-bye to one of their heroes, a leaders in the fight against apartheid. Archbishop Desmond Tutu died Sunday at the age of 90, and the Nobel Peace Prize Laurette was widely known as a champion for human rights and one of the critical players in the country's struggle for equal rights and racial justice.


CNN's Larry Madowo joins us now.

Larry, of course, there has been this outpouring of tributes to him since we learned of his death.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kaitlan. And even those who didn't know about Archbishop Demond Tutu probably know some of his more famous quotes. For instance, he said, if you're neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. And that was his attitude in his opposition to apartheid in South African. This system of racial segregation that was legal in South Africa for so long. It earned him the Nobel Peace Prize back in 1984, a full decade before the system of apartheid fell in South Africa. And you've seen these tributes coming in from the pope, from the queen

of England, from President Biden and Jill Biden, from the Dalai Lama, from presidents and prime ministers, kings, and royalty, all around the world, because this is the kind of man he was, because after the end of apartheid, he did not stop talking about injustices wherever he saw them, whether it was Palestinian statehood or climate change or his opposition to the Iraq War. And that is why this is what it meant to South Africans.

COLLINS: And so what kind of legacy do you think he leaves behind? Of course you just talked about all the figures that are paying tribute to him, are talking about, of course, what he did in his life and what he accomplished. But what does that mean going forward and what does he leave behind, do you think?

MADOWO: What he leaves behind is a much more united South Africa than the one that he grew up in. He opposed apartheid. And yet, when he chaired South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he supported the idea of restorative justice instead of retribution and gave amnesty to the very same people who he opposed for so long.

And these tributes have meant so much to the people of South Africa. This was the president of South Africa last night in what he said. This is what -- how powerful it was.


PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICA: We acknowledge the tributes paid to Archbishop Desmond Tutu by people across the country and around the world. And I mean from many countries around the world. This is a testament of the broad reach of Desmond Tutu's enduring persona and enduring values. Our nation's loss is indeed a global bereavement.


MADOWO: Kaitlan, South African flags are flying at half-mast. And there's going to be a funeral service for the arch, as they called him, on New Year's Day. It's a big, big bereavement as the president there talked about.

And I have a quote to leave you with, Kaitlan. He said, his father used to tell him, don't raise your voice, improve your argument.

COLLINS: That's quite a memorable one.

CNN's Larry Madowo, thank you so much for joining us.

AVLON: And, in Afghanistan, the opposite of truth and reconciliation, where the Taliban have taken a swipe at more basic rights as they reclaim their tight grip on Afghanistan. CNN leaning they've dissolved the country's election commission alongside its ministries for peace and parliamentary affairs, saying, quote, there's no need for them.

CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon live in Turkey with more. ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this really is

such a tragedy for so many in Afghanistan who had, up until the Taliban's takeover, really believed in a very different sort of future for their country. But right now, it is very painfully clear that democracy is dead in Afghanistan. There aren't going to be elections anymore, at least not as long as the Taliban remains in power. At least that really does seem to be the case since they are saying that these systems that they have dissolved, whether it's the electoral commission or the two ministries that you mentioned there, the ministry of parliament and the ministry for peace, the Taliban saying they are no longer needed underneath a Taliban government.

And what this signals to the international community and to Afghans is that the Taliban very much is moving, it would seem slowly, in the direction of rule that they had implemented 20 plus years ago. Basic freedoms have been significantly eroded.

And for many Afghans, this just continues to be such a painful and bitter reality, especially given the hopes that they had had for their future prior to the Taliban completely taking over. And, quite frankly, from many Afghan's perspective, the complete and total abandonment of Afghanistan by the United States and by the international community.

AVLON: It's a tragic end to a tragic year for Afghanistan. As you say, democracy is dead in Afghanistan.

Arwa Damon, thank you very much.

The omicron variant pushing Covid cases higher during this busy holiday season.


Dr. Anthony Fauci joining us live with more on what you need to know.

COLLINS: And more college bowl games are now canceled over concerns about Covid. Who just dropped out and which fans will not be watching their teams play?


COLLINS: Snow and plunging temperatures are going to make for an icy and certainly white-knuckle ride to post-holiday destinations, from Michigan to Montana. This as record warmth heats up much of the south.

Our CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has the forecast.

Jennifer, what are we seeing out there?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kaitlan, quite a mess developing across portions of New England. Upstate New York later today will have ice falling -- mixing in with this snow. So we also have some rain developing across portions of the Ohio Valley, snow across the Great Lakes. And look at this, as you mentioned, winter storm alerts stretching

anywhere from North Dakota all the way to the northeast in New England. Even blizzard warnings in effect for North Dakota and portions of Minnesota.

Ice could accumulate through later today. Less than a quarter of an inch. But this could definitely create dangerous situations on the roadways for upstate New York, portions of Pennsylvania as well.

So, here's your rain and snow forecast. We could see several inches of snow, several inches of rain as well. So if you are traveling anywhere in the Ohio Valley, portions of the Midwest, it could be quite dangerous over the next 24 hours.

Also, quite a snowstorm developing across portions of the west with a lot of snow for the Sierra and Rockies.


COLLINS: It's not going to be a fun day of travel.


COLLINS: Jennifer Gray, thank you for that update.

AVLON: Ah, the dreaded wintry mix.

All right, two more college football bowl games canceled because of Covid and another is looking for a new team.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's "Bleacher Report."


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John. Well, for the second year in a row, the pandemic is affecting college football's bowl season which really heats up this week. Eighteen games were supposed to be played between now and Friday's playoff semifinals where, by the way, forfeiters are now on the table if there should be an outbreak within one of those top teams, like an Alabama or a Michigan.

Rosters are really severely depleted. The two games lost so far because of the recent surge are to this military bowl between Boston College and East Carolina and Wednesday's Fenway Bowl between Virginia and SMU.

The Hawaii Bowl was supposed to be played on Christmas Eve, but that was lost as well.

Covid-19 is also preventing the Miami Hurricanes from fielding a team in the Sun Bowl. Officials say they're hoping to find a new team to face Washington State in El Paso on Friday.

In the NFL, five teams clinching playoff spots on Sunday. The Chiefs earning the AFC West crown. The Cowboy's won the NFC East. And the defending champion Buccaneers wrapping up the NFC South. The Rams and Cardinals also clinching playoff firsts (ph).

The Vikings may have lost to the Rams, but they certainly won halftime, John.


This is a corgi race at U.S. Bank Stadium. Oh, and the dogs were wearing Christmas costumes with mini-Santa's on their adorable backs, by the way