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Hala Gorani Tonight

Taliban Says Frozen Funds Belong To The Afghan People; CDC Vaccine Advisers Discuss Booster Shots; German Voters To Choose New Chancellor; Closing Arguments In R. Kelly Trial; U.S. Suspends Use Of Horse Patrols In Texas Border Town; U.S. Deports 1,400 Migrants To Haiti From Texas; Taiwanese Officials Say Chinese Military Aircraft Entered Its Air Defense Zone. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN in London on this Thursday, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Scenes of chaos and

scenes of confusion as the American President Joe Biden faces a major migrant challenge. We are live at the Texas-Mexico border and in the

Haitian capital this hour.

Plus, CNN's Nic Robertson sits down with a Taliban political commander and asks him whether the issue of women's rights could impact the country's

economy. Did he promise anything and will he keep those promises? And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is meeting right now to discuss those

COVID booster shots. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join me live later in the show. But the question is, do healthy adults need boosters? I'll be asking

him that question, so stay tuned.

The U.S. is trying to quell mounting criticism over the way it is treating migrants at its southern border. Officials say they are temporarily

suspending the use of horse patrols in the area after backlash from scenes like these. You see border agents on horseback aggressively confronting

Haitian migrants as they tried to cross. This was just a few days ago. The White House called scenes like these concerning, and they are promising an



JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So what he has asked all of us to convey clearly to people who understandably have questions, are passionate,

are concerned, as we are about the images that we have seen, is one, we feel those images are horrible and horrific, there is an investigation.

The president certainly supports overseeing by the Department of Homeland Security which he has conveyed will happen quickly. I can also convey to

you that the secretary also conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we would no longer be using horses in Del Rio. So, that is

something -- a policy change that has been made in response.


GORANI: You're sensing really the White House here on the defensive following the release of those images. The U.S. is also pushing back

against criticism from its own envoy to Haiti. He resigned over what he called inhumane deportations. The State Department says he mischaracterized

the matter and defended its approach.

So far, the U.S. has removed 1,400 migrants from its border with Mexico and flown them back to Haiti in the past five days. Many have denounced the way

they've been treated. We're covering every angle of this story. We'll get to Melissa Bell, she's in Port-au-Prince in a moment -- on exactly what

happens to these migrants once they touch down in Port-au-Prince.

But right now, Matt Rivers joins me from Mexico near the U.S. border. And many of these migrants will be well aware of what's going on, on the U.S.

side, and that there are risks of deportation. Why are they telling you that they're still risking the crossing at this stage, Matt?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, I think a lot of people here, Hala, just don't really know what to do. I mean, put yourself in

their shoes. You know, you can't just walk up to an immigration official on the U.S. side or here on the Mexican side if you're a Haitian migrant and

say, hey, how do you think this is going to work out for me?

Where am I going to go if I talk to you here? Am I going to get put on a plane back to my country? Can I stay here? What's going to be the result of

an immigration proceeding if I get put into that? You know, those are questions that we can't get.

And so, if you're a Haitian migrant who's struggling with a language barrier, perhaps, it's an impossible question to answer. And so, what ends

up taking the place of that is basically educated guesses and guesses based on what's happened to those who went before them. So, essentially, you've

got a decision being made by Haitian migrants here at the border.

Do they stay on the Mexico side or do they go across to the U.S.? What they can do, at least, for the moment, is go back and forth. I mean, you see

this rope behind me that's strung between both sides. That's still up, and there's border patrol agents, I mean, you can zoom past me.

Look at the border patrol agents there on the other side. You can see just a wall of law enforcement vehicles there on the U.S., you can see border

patrol agents. You can see Department of Public Safety state troopers, they're letting Haitians cross back and forth, at least at this point. So,

what they're doing essentially is they're allowing Haitians to come to the Mexico side, pick up supplies, food, water, which is actually really easy

to get here and bring it to the U.S., which is where Haitian migrants are telling us it's a lot harder to get some basic needs.

That's what's happening at this point, Hala. But in terms of what these people decide to do, each person is making an individual decision because

they risk being deported here, they risk being deported there. There's a big law enforcement presence here in Mexico, just like there is in the U.S.

It's kind of an impossible decision for many people, and you know, they have one of two options, stay in Mexico or try their luck in the United


GORANI: So, what happens once they're in the U.S.? Because we saw scenes of thousands of migrants sleeping under bridges and in very rough conditions,

and we have video of that to show to our viewers. What did they tell you about why they think it's a better idea to go there now? Because it's in

their right to ask for asylum and to make an application for asylum on the U.S. side.


RIVERS: It is in both places as well, Hala, you can do that here in Mexico as well. I think what they've also been hearing though is that there have

been hundreds of Haitians that, after having gone through at least that initial screening process by border patrol, they have been allowed to go

into the United States pending a future hearing.

That is something -- you know, that's news that's made it back to Haitians here just like the news of these deportation flights that I know Melissa is

going to talk about. You know, both things are like what they're having to weigh here, and that's not an easy situation for them.

What you do here is say, OK, if we can stay in a country, we'd rather stay in the U.S. So there are a lot of migrants who are basically rolling the

dice and saying, OK, we hope that if we talk and say the right things to immigration officials in the U.S., that we can be let into that country.

There are plenty of people though. There are dozens if not hundreds of people just up the river bank from where we are here in Mexico who have

said, look, we're going to stay in Mexico because we think we've got a better chance to stay here long term.

GORANI: All right, Matt Rivers, we'll get back to you in a little moment. Matt Rivers is on the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border there

surrounded by desperate Haitian migrants who would, you know, rather risk it, cross the water into the United States, go back and forth with

supplies, and Matt was saying that border patrol officers are allowing them to do that.

Let's go to the White House because we're trying to connect with Melissa Bell, obviously, she's in Port-au-Prince, sometimes you have some technical

issues there which we're experiencing, but we'll get to her as soon as we possibly can.

Let's talk about Joe Biden's dilemma here, Jeff Zeleny, because these images of border patrol officers on horseback basically whipping Haitian

migrants and pushing them back, that just was a very bad look for the administration.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Without question, and the White House has described those images as horrific. And

in fact, it has prompted a change of policy, at least for the short term, the border patrol officers will no longer be allowed to operate on

horseback to really try and not replicate those horrifying images that we've seen in recent days.

And really -- you know, some top allies of this White House, congressional Democrats are essentially saying the Biden administration is no different

than the Trump administration. We saw Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, comparing this to slave trading.

So we pressed the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki just a short time ago at the daily press briefing here, what exactly are the differences? And

she said of course, there are many differences between the Biden administration and the Trump administration, but the fact is, they are

operating under similar principles in terms of removing these Haitian migrants who have come here.

And there are many questions about, yes, some of them have come into the U.S., others, many of them, thousands perhaps still underneath the bridge,

and there does not seem to be a sense of urgency here. And perhaps, surprisingly, President Biden has said nothing about this publicly.

A president of course has the power of a bully pulpit, the power of a presidential megaphone to talk about the atrocities and -- of the kind. And

he has said very little, if anything, publicly about this. So, it certainly is one of many challenges, if not crises for this administration. But,

oddly, there simply is not much public furor from this building, from this White House, from this president, Hala.

GORANI: And you have the U.S. envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigning because of what he called inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants as well. Any

reaction to that from the White House?

ZELENY: Yes, I mean, certainly, this is a very major development earlier today when the top envoy did resign. This is the highest level. The first

real resignation of conscience, if you will, during this Biden administration. We saw it happen often during the Trump administration, at

the end when people would resign saying they don't agree with the president --

GORANI: Yes --

ZELENY: This is the first time, so this is a big deal. The White House is saying, look, that they're trying to downplay this. They say they have

other envoys, although they have not named anyone in place. They said, you know, people certainly have their ability to speak up. And they say they're

trying to contain this, and, again, pointing back to the fact that trying to ease conditions on the ground there and not use other horses and things,

but really there's not much beyond that, that they are saying. There's not much they can say.

It's a bad look, quite frankly, here in the U.S. and certainly around the world as the world indeed is watching.

GORANI: A quick last one because as you mentioned, the world is watching and we're on CNN International here. But --

ZELENY: Right --

GORANI: Why is there so much backlog? I mean, why -- what's the simple answer to why 5,000 Haitians are sleeping under a bridge right now? Why

aren't they processed?

ZELENY: Look, I think -- I'm not sure there is a simple answer, but one of the longer answers is it's just part of the overall influx of immigrants,

migrants that come across the southern border.


COVID-19 certainly slows down processing. This is all happening when many facilities and detention centers were already filled to the brim. So there

simply is not the ability to process things very quickly here. So, some of it might be COVID-19, others, there simply is not the capacity to deal with

all of this here. So, I'm not sure there is a simple answer here, but I'm not sure there is much of one at all. The administration says they're

trying to work through this. But we'll see if they actually can accomplish that.

GORANI: All right, Jeff Zeleny live at the White House, thanks very much. So apologies --

ZELENY: Sure --

GORANI: We're going to get to Melissa Bell when we're able to connect with her in Port-au-Prince -- been perfectly transparent with our viewers, we're

having issues connecting with her. This happens, it's live television. But in the meantime, I want to give you a sense of what it's like if you're a

Haitian migrant on the border and you've crossed a countless number of countries and you crossed the Rio Grande and you finally make it to that

bridge, and you hope you're going to be able to apply for asylum and you're deported. What happens when you land in Port-au-Prince? This is the story

of one such migrant. Listen.


EDDY TEVERME, DEPORTED FROM U.S. TO HAITI (through translator): When we arrived in the U.S., the authorities put us on a bus and sent us to jail

and said we would be released in two days. They put chains on our feet, around our stomachs, and our hands. They put us in cars and took us to the

airport. There were Haitians working on the plane who told us not to resist because there were many soldiers on the plane, and they warned us that

otherwise we would be mistreated.


GORANI: All right, so that just kind of gives you a sense, a very short clip there of the experience of one Haitian migrant. Let's move on to this

story. It will take time and require, quote, "action", that's the French foreign minister, that's what he's saying, that there is no quick fix for

the broken trust between the U.S. and France after his meeting with the Secretary of State of the United States a short time ago on the sidelines

of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The crisis talks between Jean- Yves Le Drian-Antony Blinken were organized after their leaders spoke by phone on Wednesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden appeared to try and smooth things over with his French allies after a furious reaction from Paris following last week's

announcement of a new security pact between the U.S., the U.K., and Australia that leaves France out, and that led to the cancellation of a

submarine contract between France and Australia. Let's get analysis from Paris. Christine Ockrent is a French journalist and joins me now live.

Christine, thanks so much for joining us. So, have they kissed --


GORANI: Have they kissed and made up, the French and the Americans or is there still work to be done?

OCKRENT: Well, as you -- as we all know, it's hard to kiss by phone. But officially, the crisis is over, but of course the bruises are still

bleeding on the French side, and especially after listening to President Biden at the U.N. Assembly talking once again about the wonders of

multilateralism, and you know, the United States relying on its allies and on the -- on European allies in particular.

And so, as you said, the French foreign minister told Antony Blinken earlier today that words are nicer, but of course, now let's see what

happens. What is interesting in the communique that both presidents issued yesterday after their conversation is the mention of European defense as a

way also to reinforce NATO.

And, you know, after the Kabul fiasco and after this submarine plot, which is what -- how we feel it has been conducted during the G7 meeting last

June, the French being totally out of the loop, it's interesting -- it will be interesting to see how in Europe, in the EU proper, we Europeans have

come to realize that of course now, the pivot to Asia is total, and Europe has become marginal in Washington D.C.'s strategic map. And so we have to

take consequences.

GORANI: So, does this -- what does this say, though, about France and Europe's role in -- strategic role in the Indo-Pacific? Because we know

that Emmanuel Macron; the French president desperately wants strategically to be considered a vital partner, an important country when it comes to big

decisions like, you know, how to counter China, for instance.


What does it say about France and Europe's real role here?

OCKRENT: Well, France is indeed a Pacific power because of Caledonia and also Tahiti. So -- and, you know, the French marine goes there quite often.

But, of course, the deal with Australia had to do with conventional submarines and for all sorts of reasons. Canberra has now tilted towards

nuclear propulsion submarines.

So it's a different strategy all together. And I think that at the Elysee, people understand that the obsession in Washington, and it was true also of

the previous administration, is now China. And so, we in Europe, we will have to decide how we follow or not this obsession.

And of course, we have different economic and commercial reasons to try and maintain the kind of dialogue with China. That's very much what Macron has

in mind, sort of third way -- and he's also of course now cultivating India. And he talked to the Indian Prime Minister Modi.

And so, yes, France will try and stay in the game, but of course, we in Europe, we have now two major processes or two major issues to tackle. One

is what to do with NATO now that the U.S. is pressing NATO also to consider Asia as its target, which is really not at all what the Trans-Atlantic

treaty is about, and also China, of course.

GORANI: All right, Christine Ockrent, always a pleasure, thanks for -- so much for joining us from Paris. There is a lot more to come this evening.

It is crunch time for China's Evergrande. Speaking of China, millions of dollars in interest payments are due, and that's just a fraction of what

Evergrande owns. Will China's government step in, and will European and American markets continue to panic a little about all of this?

And also ahead, talking with the Taliban. Our Nic Robertson interviews a key figure about the future of women's rights in Afghanistan. We'll be

right back.



GORANI: Taiwan says 24 Chinese military aircraft entered its Air Defense Identification Zone Thursday morning. The air incursions come one day after

Taiwan officially applied to join a free trade agreement among 11 countries around the Pacific Rim. Beijing says it firmly opposes the move.

It is getting down to the wire for Evergrande; the Chinese property giant is on the hook to creditors for $300 billion. Two big interest payments are

coming due. Evergrande saw its shares surge nearly 18 percent in Hong Kong after it reached a deal on one of them.

But here's the thing, the other nearly $84 million payment is due today. And even though, Evergrande has a month to pay up, it's not clear if it

can. CNN's David Culver is in Shenzhen, China.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Just behind me here, this is the headquarters for Evergrande; the property behemoth based right here in

southern China, Shenzhen. You can see outside the building actually, there are several different security guards posted on all different quarters.

We even looked and there was a security check to get in, and that's because in recent days and weeks, the company has seen a lot of protests not only

from folks who are potential homeowners, having invested a lot of money hoping to actually have a home built by Evergrande or one of the companies

it's invested in, but also some of those who work for the company, they too have invested their money.

So, going forward, the question remains, how will this company be able to navigate these uncertain times? Well, the chairman has said that they will

emerge from this darkness, and he's trying to put forward a lot of confidence in doing so. And even on Thursday, the company has said that

they will actually go forward with repaying one of the interest payments on a domestic bond.

However, there's still a lot of looming uncertainties and unknowns with regards to other payments. One thing that cannot be overlooked in all of

this is the underlying context involving President Xi Jinping directly. A lot of these efforts are not just targeted towards one company, but rather

the business industry as a whole and several different sectors at that.

What we're seeing play out is a steering and a reigning in of some of the excessive profits. Goes back to the early years when President Xi Jinping

took office here and really started cracking down on corruption.

It seems to be that during this, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and its founding here in China that President Xi Jinping is

once again trying to purify the party. It's uncertain if the central government will step in to help this massive real estate company as it

works to navigate through these very challenging times that have caused ripples in markets around the world. David Culver, CNN, Shenzhen, China.


GORANI: Well, some great actors are said to have the ability to disappear into their role. But in China, an actress has disappeared from the

internet, you'll now struggle to find a trace Zhao Wei's movies or TV work anywhere online in China, though she has been spotted in person. Ivan

Watson explains what's going on.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine one of Hollywood's biggest celebrities erased from the internet in a single night. That's

basically what happened to Zhao Wei; one of China's most successful actresses. A star of Chinese television and film, Zhao was also a wealthy

entrepreneur who bought vineyards in France and acquired a stake in one of China's biggest film studios.

(on camera): That all changed one night in August when Zhao suddenly inexplicably disappeared from the Chinese internet. Her movies and TV shows

removed from streaming sites, her social media accounts erased.

JENNIFER HSU, RESEARCH FELLOW, LOWY INSTITUTE: To imagine that someone's name, history is eliminated from the internet. It shows the power and the

infrastructure of China's internet architecture and who really is in power. It is the Chinese party state.

WATSON (voice-over): China experts say the canceling of Zhao Wei is part of a much bigger crackdown now underway in China.

WEN ZHAO, INDEPENDENT CHINA ANALYST: The whole entertainment industry was targeted by Xi Jinping.

WATSON: Canada-based analyst Wen Zhao argues there's only room for one real star in today's China, Chinese President Xi Jinping.

ZHAO: Xi Jinping deliberately eliminates any independent social influencers that might be out of his control.


He wants to take control over everything.

WATSON: This Summer, Beijing issued new rules, cutting back the activities of China's wildly popular celebrity fan clubs. Other regulations Beijing

says are aimed at restoring morality, banned male celebrities from appearing too effeminate on TV and limited minors to three hours of online

video games a week. Meanwhile, the government introduced a new subject to the curriculum for students of all ages from elementary school to

universities, Xi Jinping-thought, an approach that some say echoes the cult of personality of Mao Zedong, the founding father of Communist China.

ZHAO: People have only one voice to be heard, only one leader to worship.

WATSON: In recent months, Xi also cracked down hard on China's huge tech and private education industries, wiping out trillions of dollars in market

value from some of China's biggest companies. As Xi pushes for so-called common prosperity and a more level economic playing field while shaping

people's minds to his world view.

So where does that leave people like this canceled actress Zhao Wei? She appears to have recently re-emerged in several photos that went quickly

viral. The glamorous actress almost unrecognizable in a humble T-shirt and shorts. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, the Taliban say Afghans are more at ease now that they're in control. The Taliban political commission member speaks to

our Nic Robertson just ahead. Plus, the CDC is deciding whether to recommend Pfizer booster shots, we'll talk about why the U.S. is planning

for three potential doses, why other countries barely have enough for one. We'll be right back.




GORANI: If you want to know what life is like under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the answer you'll get depends on whom you ask.

If you ask the Taliban themselves, of course, they'll give you a rosy picture, people feel more secure and at ease under their new government.

However, if you ask women or minorities, you'll probably not get the same answer. CNN's Nic Robertson talked with a Taliban political commission

member, Anas Haqqani, asking him about women's rights and more.


ANAS HAQQANI, TALIBAN POLITICAL COMMISSION (through translator): Those who raise this issue are the ones who don't want peace, unity and national

unity in Afghanistan.

They make the excuse of women and the rights of minorities to try to damage the system. We, praise be to God, have religious principles as well as

national traditions. The rights Islam has given to women cannot be found in any religion or nation.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Is Afghanistan at risk over the issue of women, of not getting its accounts unfrozen?

HAQQANI (through translator): The frozen money is the people's right. It doesn't have anything to do with the government and politics. It is the

nation's right, a poor nation. With frozen money, they cannot make us copy and bring their culture here. It is in contradiction with our history,

beliefs and traditions.

ROBERTSON: This is the coming big issue for the Afghan people.

Is the money coming or is the money not coming?

HAQQANI (through translator): We will not give up on our people's rights. We will do our utmost effort for the right of our people, the same way we

did in the past 20 years. This is the right of the people. This is not the right of Biden or the right of the United States government so they can

seize it to freeze it.

ROBERTSON: How long do you have before the economy really starts to hurt?

HAQQANI (through translator): If the world thinks that they can put a lot of pressure on us through this matter, that we will accept what they wanted

us to accept during the war, this is a very wrong thinking of them.

(INAUDIBLE) is not in the hands of Biden, Europe, Russia or China. Thanks God, we are not panicking about this hardship. This is our affair with God


ROBERTSON: When will you consider the war with America to be over and finished?

HAQQANI (through translator): The policy of the Islamic Emirate is that we want positive diplomatic relations with the entire world, including the

United States. Now it is up to them.

However, now the money freezing issue and other issues, this is inciting war, this is breaking relations. The Islamic Emirate want positive

relations with all. Yesterday, we introduced an envoy to the United Nations, too, Mr. Suhail Shaheen.

It means that we are ready for every positive relation that support peace and security and it is not in contradiction with our principles, religion,

faith and national traditions.

ROBERTSON: How quickly do you need that international recognition, the Taliban government?

Weeks, months?

How long?

HAQQANI (through translator): If the world wants peace and security, it can be achieved in one day. It is beneficial to them and it's beneficial to us,


If they don't want peace and security and they want people here to face hardship and problem, then certainly it may take time. However, this is in

the best interests of everyone to be achieved urgently.


GORANI: Nic joins me now live from Kabul with more.

And, of course, we're talking here about a group that has gone from fighting and insurgency, that has been designated as a terrorist group,

that is now governing a country.

I mean, what's the transition been like for them?

ROBERTSON: They're still in the middle of it. I think there was chaos in the beginning. There's still, to a degree, chaos. We're beginning to see

each individual minister begin to sort of put out positions.

There is sort of a regular press briefing from the foreign minister. We heard from the defense minister, the son of the Taliban Mullah Omar, Mullah

Yaqoob, the defense minister, today saying, sort of calling for discipline amongst his troops and calling for them to be held accountable if they're

involved in summary executions and disappearances of their people.

So you get a sense that there's a little bit of control but, realistically, to govern the country, they don't have the technocrats for it.

I think one of the interesting things about listening to Anas Haqqani is he's on the political commission. But his brother is Sirajuddin Haqqani,

who has got a $10 million FBI bounty on his head for ties to Al Qaeda, connections to terrorism.

The Haqqanis are the most powerful family in Afghanistan at the moment. So when you talk to Anas Haqqani, the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, you're

getting into a real insight into the way that they're thinking right at the heart of the Taliban.


ROBERTSON: Really at the seat of the government. And one of the things I asked him about, essentially, the relationship with the United States and

what are they going to do about the bounty on his brother's head, who's now the interior minister.


ROBERTSON: Your brother has an FBI bounty of $10 million on his head.

What are you going to do about that?

HAQQANI (through translator): The Islamic Emirate had an agreement with Americans in Doha. We are part of that agreement. The blacklist, about

which a commitment was made there, that it would be eliminated, the U.S. must fulfill that commitment.

ROBERTSON: So the Americans have broken a promise to take the bounty off your brother's head?

HAQQANI (through translator): In the Doha agreement, there were two sections. One was the international blacklist and the other one was the

U.S. bounty blacklist, the FBI one. The Americans have made a promise about both of these lists.

ROBERTSON: And will you allow the United States to have drone strikes inside Afghanistan against ISIS-K or against Al Qaeda?

HAQQANI (through translator): We do not need anyone's help in this matter. It is the duty of our government. We can never give this permission to the

United States to come here and do this on their own free will. We ourselves are sufficient for this.

ROBERTSON: As an independent government, will you work with the United States on counterterrorism issues?

HAQQANI (through translator): These principles have been determined in the Doha agreement. The United States has not been given the permission to come

here to do this work. It can reach an understanding with Islamic Emirate regarding some issues in the light of its principles.


ROBERTSON: And I think, at the end there, he gives an indication that, if they do have a relationship with the United States in the future, then the

United States might actually get what it wants, some kind of cooperation from the Taliban on counterterrorism but we're such a million miles from

that, with so many uncertainties here, I think it's far too soon to know which way this government's going to go, how effective they'll be about

governing, how much support they'll have from the people.

At the moment, people are living here, as you say, part in fear, part in trepidation, part hoping things can stabilize but not knowing, for the last

40 years that really what actually stability can look like, they just haven't really had that certainty for such a long time.

GORANI: All right, Nic Robertson live in Kabul, thanks very much.

Right now, the CDC's Vaccine Advisory Committee is meeting to discuss those coronavirus booster shots in the United States though it's a topic

discussion around the world. Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for a third Pfizer shot; not for

everyone, though, only for people ages 65 and up and other vulnerable groups.

The CDC needs to give the green light in order for them to be officially administered. The advisory group will hold a vote next hour.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now.

Because this is obviously a topic that is of interest to people around the world. In countries where booster shots are now authorized, for instance,

in the United Kingdom, and in other countries where they are considering them, what is the scientific backing for giving people a booster shot at

this stage of the pandemic?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the scientific rationale -- and admittedly, Hala, there's been some back and forth on this

-- but the scientific rationale is, what more protection does a booster offer?

And if it does offer more protection, to whom?

Is that offering the most protection?

The good news is that the vaccines seem to be working very well in terms of protecting people against severe illness. What they found when they looked

at the data was that of the people that ended up with a breakthrough infection that's severe enough to land them in the hospital, who are they?

And what they found is that it was primarily people over the age of 65; 70 to 80 percent of those with a breakthrough infection are over the age of


But they want to also include people who are at risk of severe COVID and people who have lots of different exposures. You can see the list there.

But health care workers, teachers, grocery store workers, people who are working in homeless shelters. That's sort of a broad list.

They got to define, for example, who specifically is at high risk. But once you start to look at the numbers here, Hala, and add up all those people,

there's 45 million people who are over the age of 65 alone.

So Pfizer gave out some 22 million doses by six months ago. Many of them are going to be eligible for this booster. This is what they were

specifically looking at here, in terms of where does the greatest benefit lie.

And you can see at the far right, that's the 65 plus group. You can see how much of a -- how many hospitalizations were prevented as a result of

boosters in that particular age group. I think that's what really swayed their thinking.


GORANI: What is the level of protection in a population that has received three jabs?

GUPTA: I'm sorry, the level of protection of three jabs or two?

GORANI: Three.

GUPTA: Three, so when you look at the overall amount of antibodies that are produced, which is what they're primarily looking at, they found that

antibody production can go up tenfold, for example, in people who receive these boosters.

What does that translate to?

Potentially about a thirteenfold decrease in hospitalizations. And also they say a decrease in overall cases, that it should decrease the spread of

the virus as well among the people who get these boosters.

Again, none of that's to say that the vaccines aren't working as they are with the two shots. But for some people, they say it could be even better.

GORANI: But I wonder, so long as a vast, crushing majority of people aren't vaccinated and you have still a sizeable population of people refusing the

vaccine altogether, can we ever see an end to the pandemic?

I mean, I know ever at some point we will.

But in a future that we can foresee, if we don't get more vaccine hesitant people jabbed?

GUPTA: I completely agree. This has been one of those things, as I think Dr. Tedros put it at the WHO, it's like giving another life preserver to

people who already have a life preserver, while there are a lot of people who don't have any flotation device.

In the United States, about 45 percent of the country is still not vaccinated. They make up the majority of people in the hospitals with


So, right, we're adding a lot of protection around a smaller group of people, while the real problem for the United States and for the world is

simply getting people a first shot. In the United States, the problem is lack of demand; whereas in many places around the world, it's lack of

supply. So there's lots of different counterbalancing problems here.

GORANI: Yes. And a quick last one on pregnant women, because there appears to be evidence now that the babies of pregnant women, when they are born,

have COVID antibodies.

Pregnant women who were vaccinated during their pregnancy. But I was speaking to someone who was pregnant, who received two jabs and she told

me, among her circle of pregnant friends, she was the only one because there is so much concern among pregnant women that it could hurt the baby.

But the evidence seems to be, the medical evidence seems to point toward in favor of pregnant women getting vaccinated.

GUPTA: Yes, this has been really interesting to follow. In the beginning pregnant women were not part of the original clinical trials and I think

that led to some trepidation. Subsequently, there's been lots of studies looking at the use of these vaccines in pregnant women. There seems to be

no negative effect on fertility.

That was a concern. What I think this new study shows, which is very interesting -- and there's been other small studies that have shown this --

if you give the vaccine, especially during the second half of pregnancy, how they framed it, the idea that the pregnant woman not only has

antibodies, these proteins to help fight an infection, but some of those antibodies can also cross the placenta and provide protection to the

newborn baby.

This is very interesting because newborn babies and young children in general do not have access to authorized vaccines right now. So it's one of

the only ways you can provide some natural immunity for the baby as well. So it's a small study.

But I think we can say pretty certainly now, based on other studies, there's not a concern about giving the COVID vaccine to a pregnant woman.

There might even be some benefit, beyond the pregnant woman herself, to the baby.

GORANI: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent, as always, a pleasure talking to and always an education for me. Thank you.

Coming up, Germany is gearing up for a new era in politics ahead of this weekend's big election. An unlikely frontrunner has emerged.

Who is he?

That story is ahead.





GORANI: Well, yet another vigil for yet another murdered woman in London. This one will be held in the U.K. on Friday in remembrance of 28-year-old

school teacher Sabina Nessa.

She left home early Friday night on a 5-minute walk to a nearby pub. The walk was five minutes. Despite that, she never arrived. Her body was found

the next day. The case comes six months after the murder of Sara Everard, leading women to question their ability to move freely and safely in the

U.K. or, frankly, anywhere else.

London mayor Sadiq Khan called ongoing violence against women a national epidemic. He says it is time to, quote, "make misogyny a hate crime."

Germans are heading to the polls this weekend. It is a tight race for the candidates running to fill the shoes of longtime leader, Chancellor Angela

Merkel. But one likely contender, a mild mannered sort of everyman has emerged as the frontrunner. CNN's Fred Pleitgen met up with Olaf Scholz for

this report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It might not look very exciting but this is a rally for the frontrunner in

Germany's election campaign. Olaf Scholz speaks softly, has no catchy slogan and, yet, is ahead in the polls.

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN SOCIAL DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE: I'm a Social Democrat. The people know this. But they know that I'm a very pragmatic man, that I want

to rule the country with all (INAUDIBLE), having in mind what is necessary for such a big country in Europe.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): After 16 years of Angela Merkel, Scholz, who is the finance minister in Merkel's cabinet, is trying to pull off a win by

appearing to be very similar to Angela Merkel. And his no-frill style seems to be resonating with voters.

PLEITGEN: Only a couple months ago it seemed as Olaf Scholz had no chance of winning the upcoming election. But now he is firmly in the lead and

could be well on his way to becoming Germany's next chancellor.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Folks at this rally outside of Berlin say they believe Scholz would govern with a steady hand, just like Merkel has.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He appears very confident in what he promises.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, one thing is his experience certainly and what he has achieved in the past.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But not everything Olaf Scholz has done in the past as finance minister is viewed positively. He faced criticism after failing

to detect the impending bankruptcy of electronic payment firm Wirecard and was recently questioned by a parliamentary inquiry committee, investigating

about allegedly not following through on a money laundering investigation, which he denies.

His main rival, Armin Laschet, who is actually from Angela Merkel's party, accuses Scholz of wanting to move Germany to the left and possibly

cooperating with the left-wing Socialist Party.

"You have to be clear because the people don't want the leftists in a federal government and tonight once again you have not been willing to be

clear," Laschet said. But Scholz told me Germany would not seriously change its domestic or foreign policy if he wins.

SCHOLZ: The trans-Atlantic partnership is important for us and is important for the United States. And I'm willing to make -- to work very hard that

this will be a strong base for our international politics.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Olaf Scholz's personal popularity is much higher than his party's popularity. And while his Social Democrats are currently

polling in first place, the race to succeed Angela Merkel is far from decided -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Germany.


GORANI: And a programming note, join me for CNN's special live coverage of the German elections. We'll have live results and reaction as they come in,

with our reporters in Germany and expert guests.

That's Sunday, it starts at 11:55 am Eastern. That's five minutes before 6:00 pm Central European Time, right before the results are out, right here

on CNN.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, R. Kelly's trial in New York is about to wrap up. He's accused of being sexually and physically abusive

toward women and underaged girls. A live update on the case is next.




GORANI: She was one of the most recognizable faces of the 1990s, part of the so-called Big Five top supermodels. But now Linda Evangelista says a

cosmetic procedure has left her permanently deformed. Those are her words.

In an emotional Instagram post, the former model says she was brutally disfigured after undergoing a procedure called cool sculpting five years

ago. Evangelista said she's had two surgeries to try to correct it but they did not work. She suffered, she says, a cycle of deep depression and has

all but disappeared from the public eye as a result.

Some of her famous peers have come out in support of her, applauding her openness and her courage. So one of the things she said was that this

procedure was designed to remove fat cells. But it did the exact opposite; it actually added fat cells. So that's one of the issues that she has faced

and she is very, very upset and distraught about it.

R. Kelly's trial is almost over. His defense will potentially start its closing argument today. The singer has been on trial for about five weeks

and he's facing multiple charges, including racketeering and sex trafficking. He's pleaded not guilty to all of them.

The prosecution began its closing argument yesterday. It is trying to convince the jury that R. Kelly, who was once a major name in R&B, used his

fame to abuse girls, boys and women. Jean Casarez is in New York where the trial is happening.


GORANI: So talk to us about how this trial is wrapping up and which way it seems it's going at this stage.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here is the latest. The prosecution has just concluded their closing arguments, 6.5 hours. That is a long closing


And the prosecutor concluded by saying it is now time to hold the defendant responsible for the pain he inflicted upon his victims; convict him. It is

the defense turn for their closing argument. That should take hours. And then the judge has hours of instructions to read to the jury. And then they

will start deliberating.

You know, this is a racketeering case, a criminal enterprise case. And according to the prosecution, it began as a business enterprise, with the

agents, the producers, the handlers, the assistants to R. Kelly, number one, promoting his music and promoting his brand.

But it was much more than that because the whole point of this business enterprise was criminal in nature. It was to entice young women and minors,

to sexually exploit, kidnap and sexually assault them once within the entourage of R. Kelly.

So what happened was, according to the prosecution, these young women and minors, that R. Kelly would specifically select himself, they would be

flown to venues, concert venues, his studio, his home. And the young women have testified in this trial, saying -- and there is a pattern here -- that

they were put in a room that was locked.

They had to ask permission if they wanted to use the restroom or if they wanted a bite to eat. They had to wear baggy clothes unless they were with

R. Kelly. They had to hang their head. They could not look at any man.

They also were required to say that he was daddy, to his face, daddy. That is what they had to call him. Here's one example.

There was a former radio intern that, in 2003, testified that she was asked by R. Kelly, would you like to interview me?

Well, you can imagine she had to be thrilled by that so she was summoned to his studio in Chicago. She testified that once she got there, she was put

in a room, she realized it was locked from the inside. She stayed there for days, no food. Finally she passed out. She got a meal. She woke up.

And R. Kelly was adjusting his pants. And the worst of all, child pornography. The prosecutor is asserting that these minors were forced to

engage in video productions.

GORANI: All right, Jean Casarez, we'll keep following that case. And we'll get back to you when we have a verdict. Thanks so much.

And thanks for watching. I'll be back in a few minutes on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. So stay with me.