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CNN NEWSROOM

AstraZeneca Shortfall In E.U. Vaccine Shipments; Spring Break Travel Soars As Restrictions Loosen; U.K. Reels Over Sarah Everard's Murder; Activists, Family Search For Justice For Breonna Taylor; NBA Players Lead Campaign For Voters Rights; Nuclear Lessons From Fukushima; Digital Artwork Sells For Nearly $70 Million. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 14, 2021 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Many states dropped COVID restrictions just in time for a spring break that could undermine the promise of vaccines.

Police in London face harsh criticism for these scenes from a vigil tied to a murder case that's striking a chord with women around the world.

And then protesters marking one year since the death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.

Live from CNN World Headquarters, welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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BRUNHUBER: OK, let's start with some good news. At least one in five adults in the United States is vaccinated. But spring break travel could undo this progress. You're looking at the scene Friday in Miami Beach, Florida.

People are packed together, not a mask in sight. More than 1.3 million people were screened at airports on Friday. It could add up to a new case spike. They're begging Americans to keep wearing masks no matter what local rules say. Here's Paul Vercammen.

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PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coronavirus restrictions are loosening up from coast to coast but one of the nation's top health experts is warning governors if there was ever a time to put on a mask, this is it.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I would just appeal to all of those leaders who have people's lives on their hands look at the data, take some risks with your political base if you need to but do the right thing.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Health officials are also deeply concerned Americans are letting their guard down by getting on planes in record numbers since the outbreak began and by clustering during spring break.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, HOUSTON: If you come to Texas, you would say, hey, the pandemic disappeared overnight. It is amazing. You go outside, all the clubs are packed, people not wearing masks, it's very disappointing.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): A key vaccine benchmark has been met in California so they will ease restrictions.

State officials announce they met their goal to vaccinate 2 million people in the hardest hit poor neighborhoods, teachers, agriculture workers and restaurant employees all eligible to get shots. The list expands to Californians with certain medical problems on Monday.

Also on the Golden State horizon, more reopenings of California movie theaters, museums, zoos, gyms and restaurants indoors on a very limited basis, the reason for restaurant workers to expect more tips, starting at midnight Sunday.

WAITER OROZCO, RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE: There were moments that we didn't have a lot of customers coming in, so you get frustrated sometimes. But right now, everything starts coming back with the vaccine and reopening, it feels more secure now.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): More good news on the vaccine front, the CDC says more than 100 million people have received a COVID-19 shot and age eligibility requirements dropping in many states. And AstraZeneca hopes to get emergency authorization approval for is vaccine at the end of this month or into of April.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The FDA scientists will review the data very carefully. They will get access to the complete file. And if they see any signs of any concerns, they're not going to give emergency use authorization to this vaccine.

VERCAMMEN: But in Mississippi, this memento is a touching and heartbreaking reminder that COVID-19 kills. Jeff Nabors suffered from heart disease, rushed to marry his sweetheart of 17 years.

SHERRY NABORS, WIDOW OF COVID-19 VICTIM: It wasn't what we had in mind, it was beautiful. It was beautiful and it was so touching and it was so perfect.

VERCAMMEN: But Sherry went from newly wedded to widow in days because of the virus that so far killed 500,000 people in the United States and counting -- Paul Vercammen, CNN, Los Angeles.

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BRUNHUBER: Joining me now from Los Angeles, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez.

Thank you so much for joining us.

As we heard there, the TSA reported the highest number of travelers in nearly a year.

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BRUNHUBER: Spring break just around the corner, tons of non-vaccinated young people will be congregating in many places that have lifted many of the COVID restrictions. It seems like a perfect storm.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It certainly is. When Texas lifted the mask mandate, I thought, wow. This is a perfect way to have young, drunk spring break people going to South Padre Island.

People that are young sometimes think they will not suffer from the virus. They're healthy and they will probably not have long-term complications. But they're breeding variants that get spread to the greater community. I think it will be a perfect storm and that it is very dangerous.

BRUNHUBER: You're one of the places, California, that had the most restrictions. On Monday they're going to reopen some things like movie theaters. California is just catching up to what other states have been doing for awhile.

But especially where you are, L.A. County, what do you think about reopening?

Is it about time or is it still too soon?

RODRIGUEZ: I'm always very cautious. I drove by this restaurant last week that had outdoor dining. And I was taken aback. Luckily the percentage of infectivity is around 2.2 percent. But people take this as a free pass to just go be reckless. We need to be cautious. We're definitely not out of it.

BRUNHUBER: Someone told me the other day, just because you can doesn't mean you should. Fortunately, the vaccines are going into arms more rapidly than ever. Some populations are harder to reach. Usually when we talk about vaccine hesitancy, we're talking about minority populations. But Georgia's governor referred to a different subset. Here is what we're seeing.

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GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): We are seeing vaccine hesitancy, really. As the pharmacists and I were talking about Macon south and a lot of that is dealing with white Republicans, quite honestly.

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BRUNHUBER: So the Biden administration acknowledged that the president and his officials may not be the best messengers to reach white Republicans. So what kind of messaging and from whom would be most effective to

reach them?

RODRIGUEZ: Unfortunately, so much about this pandemic has been politicized and weaponized. In thinking about this, there is no clear answer. I think that you need to, first of all, respect, believe and identify with the person that is speaking to you.

I used to think it was people that had celebrity. I now think it is people that have walked the walk, perhaps that have been involved in the process of making a vaccine. Maybe someone that lost a loved one. But someone that you can identify with. Republican to Republican, African American to African American or Hispanic to Hispanic.

You have to identify, respect and you have to believe what they're saying.

BRUNHUBER: That's all of the time that we have, thank you Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Kim.

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BRUNHUBER: Six European countries are calling on the European Union to guarantee equal access to COVID-19 vaccines. The leaders of Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, Latvia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic say there is an uneven distribution of vaccines in the bloc.

But the European Commission says it's a proportionate distribution process, based on population, and has been transparent.

So some nations are distribute doses based on various vaccination needs.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca says it is "disappointed" to announce a vaccine shortfall shipments to the E.U.

Let's bring in Cyril Vanier in London.

In terms of the vaccinations, the E.U. falling further behind the U.K. and the U.S. here. The shortfall and the conflict making things worse.

What's the latest?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim, it's been a bad week for Europe's vaccination effort. A sizable minority of European countries that no longer know whether they can trust the AZ vaccine. There has been some health issues, including a death in Austria, one in Denmark, one in Italy.

The European Medicines Agency says there is no causality that has been proven. There is no indication that the vaccination caused their death. But it has caused almost a third of European countries to put the AZ vaccinations on pause in full or in part, meaning banning just the one batch those vaccines were taken from. So there is that question and that cloud at a European level. And on

top of that, they announced that there will be shortfalls in deliveries of vaccines in the second quarter. That is April through June.

Remember the context here, AstraZeneca announced a significant shortfall of vaccine deliveries in the first quarter. European countries were hoping and expecting for it to get better in the second quarter after they publicly dressed down the CEO.

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VANIER: They put in measuring banning exports of vaccines made in Europe. Turns out that it is not changing anything. They're still going to get a big shortfall of vaccines in the second quarter.

And on top of that, as you mentioned, European unity fraying over the scarcity of the vaccine, many countries furious at the European Union, that the vaccines, in their words, are not being delivered equally.

BRUNHUBER: So many troubles happening at the same time. Cyril Vanier, appreciate it.

Much of Italy is preparing to lock down because of a new surge in coronavirus cases. Restrictions will go into effect on Monday. In red zones, non-essential shops will be closed.

Let's go live to Delia Gallagher in Rome.

Tell us how bad this new wave is exactly.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Italy and France are close in their numbers but the Italian government are more preventively avoiding a deterioration. They are seeing their daily case numbers rise on Thursday. It was a record number of over 25,000 daily case infections.

They seem particularly concerned about the variants. They say the variant first identified in the U.K. is now prevent, the Brazilian variant showing small clusters in Italy.

So those two things combined with the fact that Italy, like other countries, got a slow start on their vaccination programs. So the prime minister on Friday said he is aiming to triple the daily vaccinations currently happening in Italy.

They're currently vaccinating 170,000 people. They're going to bring that to 500,000 people. The COVID commissioner said yesterday that will be helped by the fact that they now have approval for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, requiring only one dose.

So they're really hoping to help get the numbers down but at the same time work on expanding and accelerating on the ground their vaccination program. That is key, Kim, and they're expecting by the end of the summer to have 80 percent of Italians vaccinated.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much, Delia Gallagher in Rome.

We'll have a live report from London just ahead, stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: The kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard in London was tragic. Then after a London police was charged in her death, public grief turned to anger as thousands of people held a vigil for her, where she was last seen on March 3rd. Police moved in and forced the rally to end.

CNN's Nina dos Santos is covering the story for us.

You're where those unbelievable scenes took place. Take us through what happened.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Yes, 13 or 14 hours ago yesterday evening, people congregated at this park in south London in the area where Sarah Everard took her last steps 10 days ago for an unofficial vigil that police had made clear should not go ahead because of COVID restrictions.

But people just came anyway to express their grief. They stood in solidarity. They were sad and silent. Once the sun went down, effectively the police started to move in and we saw scuffles between female protesters, being pinned down by male officers.

This scenes have prompted a national conversation about the consequences of toxic masculinity and toxic misogyny behaviors in this country and they've pitted the police against the very people they're supposed to protect.

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DOS SANTOS (voice-over): They came to remember a young woman whose life was cruelly cut short, only to be wrenched from their vigil by officers from the very force where her suspected killer served.

The death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, while walking home, has plunged Britain into a moment of reckoning on women's rights and safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Essentially, women have a curfew now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as it gets dark out, you either have to be with someone or you have to be home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're fed up of having to worry all the time and not feel safe. And this has just proven our fears to be true.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Sarah vanished March 3rd while walking from one residential part of the capital to another at around 9:00 pm. Her remains were found last week nearly 60 miles away. And a serving London Metropolitan Police officer has been charged in connection with her death.

DOS SANTOS: What shocked so many is both the randomness of what happened to Sarah and the relatability of the circumstances under which she disappeared. She was last seen walking along this busy street in South London after having been to visit a friend, who lived nearby.

It wasn't particularly late and this isn't a particularly dangerous area.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The vigil for Sarah had been organized by women in the neighborhood where she vanished but was canceled due to COVID regulations. Yet thousands still came.

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DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Their aim, to reclaim women's rights to walk where they want, when they want, without fear.

LUDOVICA ORLANDO, ORGANIZER, RECLAIM THESE STREETS: While maybe abduction is not as common as been said, being groped on a bus is. Being yelled at is. Being followed home is. And those are things that need to change because -- just because not all the stories don't end in tragedy doesn't mean they're not worth telling.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): On Twitter, women shared their stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can vividly remember getting harassed by a man who tried to assault me when I was 18.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On my walk home, a man in a car pulled up next to me to tell me I had --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was 13, a man followed me and my friends down the alley and flashed us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to know (ph). Tracy Kidd (ph), Nellie Staffer (ph).

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): In Parliament one lawmaker shared the names of women who were killed in the U.K. this year. Among them, six who perished the same week Sarah went missing.

For David Challen, who campaigned to overturn his mother's sentence for killing his abusive father, there's a lot men in Britain can do to better understand and aid women's plight.

DAVID CHALLEN, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It's time for misogyny to be recognized as a hate crime. These are offensive acts on a sliding scale that creates harm and violence and trauma for women throughout their lives. They all have it in common and men are blind to it.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The scenes of police, arresting masked women holding a vigil despite COVID rules, sparked anger nationwide. And politicians from all sides demanded an explanation. The Met said they hadn't wanted to act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people's safety.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Sarah Everard's family said their daughter was beautiful and bright, a shining example to us all. In the senseless tragedy of her death, many hope her memory may guide the way for other women towards a safer path home in the future and away from scenes like these.

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DOS SANTOS: As you see, Kim, this is something that is not dying down. People are continuing to arrive to pay their respects and lay down tributes. Among those tributes is a nod to the fact that today here in the U.K. is Mother's Day. Some of those signs that people were holding up yesterday evening were those saying "She was just walking home" and "It's time to educate your sons."

BRUNHUBER: So poignant. The Metropolitan Police under fire from across the political divide. The government is getting plenty of criticism here because of proposed new laws that seem to target protesters, leading to the situations like we saw last night.

What do you think the fallout of all of this will be?

DOS SANTOS: This was always going to be a difficult event for London's main police force to police itself. One of its serving officers, in one of the most sensitive parts of the police, the diplomatic protection unit, is the main suspect that has galvanized people across the whole of the country.

So for that reason, policing the event would always be a sensitive matter but overwhelmingly politicians, the mayor of London, except for Downing Street, have come down in widespread condemnation for how police came in to try to silence these protesters an hour or so after this vigil had begun.

It has prompted people like Sadiq Khan to say they have demanded urgent responses from the Metropolitan Police as to why the police decided to act in this way.

"The scenes at Clapham Common were unacceptable. It is clear that the response at times was neither appropriate or proportionate. I'm contacting the commission to get an explanation."

Also some leaders of oppositional political parties said the head of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, a woman, should, herself, resign.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you for all of your reporting there. Nina dos Santos in London.

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BRUNHUBER: Ludovica Orlando is the organizer of last night's Reclaim the Streets vigil and is joining us.

Thank you so much for being with us.

What happened last night, it's hard to believe, how did it get that far?

ORLANDO: We're very sad and actually quite angered by the sight of the police manhandling women at a vigil against violence. While yes, we did originally organize a vigil, we had to cancel it because they failed to work with us, despite what the high court ruling had guaranteed.

[05:25:00]

ORLANDO: They said that there can not be a blanket ban on vigils. So we were forced to cancel. So we see what happened last night as completely their responsibility to protect not only public order and public health but also our human right to protest.

The way we had planned the vigil was to be very COVID safe. We had a track and trace for COVID. We were going to have COVID marshals and we offered staggered times. But we were forced to cancel and we saw what happened.

And you know, of this week of all weeks, they should have understood that women needed a safe place to mourn and show solidarity. And they failed on all accounts last night. They could have spent that time they spent fighting with us to help us make a safe solution.

BRUNHUBER: Policeman manhandling women at this specific event was not lost on anyone. There has been pushback, do you think that spirit will translate into action on the issue of violence against women?

What do you think will come from this?

ORLANDO: I think this is all a conversation that the police and the government need to listen and realize that us women feel that the criminal justice system is failing us. And last night is a clear example of that.

Our first priority is to understand what happened last night, why they ignored us and why they don't want to listen to the fact that we could have conducted a safe gathering and vigil to, as I said, remember all women lost to violence. But we will be looking more into this and have discussions because safety was at the heart of everything we wanted to do. And clearly that was ignored.

BRUNHUBER: Abductions and murder of women are, thankfully, relatively rare. But a recent survey found that almost all British women have suffered from harassment. I'm surprised how unfortunately universal these experiences are. On social media, I have friends all over Africa, tweeting about their

own experiences. Is it -- at least one good thing to come from this, how this issue has resonated across the world?

ORLANDO: We really hope so and that was one of the reasons that we wanted to have this safe event for all women. We wanted to make a statement that, it doesn't matter what you wear, where you live, no matter the time of day, time or place. It is never OK to be harassed at home or in public spaces.

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BRUNHUBER: That was Ludovica Orlando, the organizer of the Reclaim the Streets, that we spoke with a short time ago.

It's been a year since Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky. Just ahead, what we're learning about a new federal lawsuit against the department involved in her death.

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BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to everyone watching from the United States, Canada and around the world.

Saturday marked one year since Breonna Taylor's death and it has become essential for Black Lives Matter protesters. Jason Carroll has more.

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JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A rally and march for Breonna Taylor, protesters who came out here heard from a number of speakers, including civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.

One of those who addressed the crowd was Kenneth Walker. You may remember him. He was Breonna Taylor's former boyfriend. For months, he faced charges of attempted murder for firing at those officers on the night of that botched raid.

Walker saying he acted in self-defense, saying that the officers never identified themselves; the officers saying that they did.

Well, this week a Kentucky judge dropped those charges. And Walker told the crowd how he felt about that.

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KENNETH WALKER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S BOYFRIEND: They dropped the charges against me and --

(APPLAUSE)

WALKER: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that's right.

WALKER: -- we got to keep going.

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CARROLL: Walker's attorney filed a federal lawsuit against the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, alleging that the officers violated his constitutional rights. The Metro PD responded, saying that they don't comment on pending litigation.

One point is very clear, from those who were out here today, they say their marching for justice will continue -- Jason Carroll, CNN, Louisville, Kentucky.

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BRUNHUBER: Joining me now from Los Angeles, retired LAPD sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She's the author of the book, "Black and Blue."

So a year on now, no one has been generally charged for Breonna Taylor's death. She has become a symbol of holding police accountable.

Are you surprised by this outcome?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: No, I am not. We've grown accustomed to officer not being held accountable when they use deadly force. This is yet another example. We one of the officers has been indicted but it has nothing to do with the murder of Breonna Taylor. It has to do with shooting into a dwelling of her neighbor. So, no, I'm not surprised.

BRUNHUBER: If anything positive has come out of this tragedy and the death of George Floyd, it's all of the police reform legislation that has been passed or is in the works. The City of Louisville has passed a Breonna's Law, that bans no-knock warrants. Other jurisdictions are looking at it federally, such as the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.

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BRUNHUBER: It does a bunch of things, banning chokeholds, removing qualified police immunity, bans some no knock warrants and so on. Many say these measures stop police from doing their jobs, is that true?

DORSEY: Let me tell you what I know since I did that for a couple years. None of this will stop a Derek Chauvin or any of his cohorts when they're out in uniform. These things have basically no teeth.

There is talk of ending no-knock warrants. That's a good thing; I don't say no to any of the legislation that they want to put forth.

But what happens when an officer violates this legislation? What happens when an officer is on that national registry, right?

I'm sure that the man who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks and Derek Chauvin, these people are on a list somewhere. If you don't have accountability or a real consequence, what's the point in creating the legislation?

BRUNHUBER: And that registry is supposed to keep bad cops from bouncing around from place to place and possibly doing these things again.

Are the police unions getting too much support?

DORSEY: I think that the police unions have a lot of strength. And certainly paying large amounts of moneys into campaigns for elected officials makes one understand why some may be hesitant to put forth legislation that's contrary to what a police union may want.

But you have a registry. You have a no choke-hold policy. Then when officers do it, what happens next?

What if someone uses a prohibited chokehold and we have then commissioner James O'Neal (ph) say that was an upper body seat belt restraint. We should look at decertifying those that are accused of malfeasance.

BRUNHUBER: You say you're skeptical about the Breonna Taylor and George Floyd settlements.

DORSEY: We have seen large settlements since 2014 for everyone who has lost their life at the hand of an errant police officer. First of all, it is taxpayer money. The department is not learning the lesson, the police officers are not learning the lesson.

So taxpayers shoulder the brunt of that financial settlement and the officers continue to live to offend again. In some cases, they're disciplined and maybe in other cases not so much.

What have you done to deter that bad behavior?

We're actually allowing them to pay us to kill us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: That was author and retired L.A. Police sergeant Cheryl Dorsey.

LeBron James is known as a fierce competitor on the court and now he is focusing on the political arena. In dozens of states, lawmakers are pushing new bills to restrict voting access. CNN's Don Riddell looks at how James and his new group are teaming up with the NBA to raise awareness and mobilize voters.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The world's top athletes

are rarely ones to rest on their laurels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Look what we did. Look what we made happen.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Victory laps are not their thing because they know after a victory, a bigger challenge is always coming. The top NBA players certainly know it but they're no longer just talking about basketball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is not the time to put your feet up.

RIDDELL (voice-over): That is the voice of LeBron James, who in 2020 helped launch the voters rights organization called More than a Vote.

Following President Joe Biden's ascension to the White House, a raft of Republican-led legislation is sweeping through 43 of the country's 50 states. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, it is legislation that Voting Rights activists say make it harder for minority citizens to vote in the future.

And that led James' group to launch the Protect Our Power Campaign.

LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: Continue to highlight and education people on what is going on in a lot of our communities with the voter suppression and things of that nature and obviously making sure that people don't think that the job is done.

[05:40:00]

RIDDELL (voice-over): Michele Roberts is the executive director of the National Basketball Players Organization. She has seen a marked rise in player activism since she was elected in 2014.

MICHELE ROBERTS, NATIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS ORGANIZATION: Our players have been historically active. But I don't deny that certainly in the last 18 months the temperature has gone up and their activism has shot up as well.

And we're anxious to be part of pushing back on these ridiculous efforts to suppression participation in our democracy.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Roberts speaks of the players' achievements with an element of maternal pride. As someone who was raised by a single mother in a housing project in New York, she can identify with the journey in life for many of them.

ROBERTS: Many of them had their lives saved by a Black woman as their sole caretaker. So the men that I work for, the notion of a Black woman being both confident and able to move mountains is something they grew up believing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We weren't supposed to be here. You made us believe. You're the real MVP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to thank my amazing mom. She is my hero.

ROBERTS: The ladies (INAUDIBLE) is, I will support them. And I think that is what parents do. But my support obviously is not simply because (INAUDIBLE) to be happy. I support them and their economics and their personal development. But I don't deny that I have, on occasion, said, oh, come on, baby.

And I know it's because I feel a little bit like a grandma (INAUDIBLE).

RIDDELL (voice-over): No parent should ever have a favorite child and Roberts clearly has a deep amount of respect and affection for all of the players she represents. But she knows that the work that LeBron James is doing off of the court is very special.

RIDDELL: What does he mean to you?

ROBERTS: He could simply be one of the most brilliant basketball players in the world and we would love him anyway. But he hasn't stopped there. He's built a school. He's put every ounce of his being behind this (INAUDIBLE) initiative. He speaks with complete "I don't give a damn attitude" to those that push back at him.

He's a phenomenal symbol of the current player. And he didn't have to do any of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The fight is just getting started.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Many athletes across multiple sports are now using their considerable platforms to fight for social change. But it is basketball players in the United States that seem to be leading the way. They know that it is more than a game and it's more than one vote -- Don Riddell, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: It has been 10 years this week since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. Ahead, some of the critical lessons learned.

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BRUNHUBER: Japan held memorials this week to remember people who are dead or missing from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. France is using that experience to improve its own nuclear sites. CNN's Melissa Bell explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In France, the future was long meant to be nuclear. The industry supported and promoted by successive governments in the name of energy dependence and carbon neutrality.

France is now the world's second biggest producer but at the country's 18 nuclear plants, changes have been made. The largely state owned electrical utility says 75 percent of all electricity comes from nuclear power plants.

BELL: (INAUDIBLE). It was crucial that all the right lessons be learned from Fukushima.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The team will be autonomous in case of accidents. Quite (INAUDIBLE) we have also some (INAUDIBLE). They also have some (INAUDIBLE) to eat (INAUDIBLE) they would be able to.

BELL: This is an exact replica of the command center in charge of the nuclear reactor. The extra people that had to be placed in the command centers, it's 10,000 extra hours of training.

BELL (voice-over): A new task force of first responders was always also created, equipped with satellite phones and even boats to make sure they can get to any of France's nuclear sites within 24 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mainly to bring air, water and electricity to any plant that might be in difficulty. That's what was missing, water to cool the reactors and electricity to power the systems that monitor and act on the installation.

BELL (voice-over): Outside, backup diesel engines have been placed in earthquake resistant structures high above any water levels. But the nuclear disaster of 10 years ago has also changed minds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fukushima was the shock that triggered some change, which were accelerated by driving forces. But we would surely be less advanced in that discussion if Fukushima had not triggered debate about France's dependency on nuclear power.

BELL (voice-over): Carbon neutral nuclear energy was long seen in France as a step in the right direction. But progress in renewable energies has led the government to lower the proportion of nuclear in France's energy mix to 50 percent by 2025.

Ten years on, France's nuclear plants may be safer than ever but the future looks less nuclear than it did -- Melissa Bell, CNN, France.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: For most of us, $69 million is a lot of money to spend on anything, much less art. But that's what this digital piece fetched in an auction house. Stay with us.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) BRUNHUBER: Last week, Christie's auction house sold a piece of digital

artwork for $69 million. It's the first NFT artwork to be sold at a major auction house.

What's an NFT?

It's a term you'll hear more often in the future.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): It's an online auction that the artist is sure to never forget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $50 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $69 million. I think it's probably means digital art is here to stay.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): $69,346,250: that's how much someone paid for this work of digital art that they will never be able to frame. Its sale left the creator at a loss for words.

WINKELMAN: I don't even -- it's -- I -- yes.

Mike Winkelman, who goes by Beeple, has become the third most expensive living artist on Earth after the sale of his work called "Every Days: The First 5000 Days." It's a digital collage of 5,000 images that took him 13 years to make.

WINKELMAN: I started doing a drawing a day. And after the first year of doing that, I noticed I had gotten -- I had learned a lot about drawing. So I thought maybe I could apply this to another medium. So I was like, what if I did a rendering of it?

And from there I just honestly kind of kept going.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Beeple's work was presented by Christie's as the first virtual nonfungible token or NFT artwork to be sold at a major auction house.

So just what is an NFT and how could it be worth so much?

In economics, something fungible can be replaced by thing equal and identical; for example, one dollar bill is essentially the same as another. Something nonfungible is one of a kind. An NFT artwork could be a GIF or music or a video clip.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is even looked to sell the first ever tweet as an NFT.

Now you might ask, why bother?

Can't anyone copy and paste it for free?

But an NFT is kind of like a certificate of ownership for virtual assets. It authenticates an artist's digital work as his or her own.

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GUILLAUME CERUTTI, CEO, CHRISTIE'S: It's very important to understand that this work, this art community, did exist before. But today, the NFT and the block chain technology together give these artists a safer marketplace, because their works, their digital works, can be proved as being unique and authentic through the block chain technology.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Just after the historic sale of his digital work, Beeple tweeted this, with the caption, "The next chapter."

The term masterpiece gaining new meaning in our increasingly digital future.

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BRUNHUBER: And Christie's revealed who was behind the astronomical purchase. The founder and the funder of Metapurse, the largest NFT fund in the world.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. "NEW DAY" is ahead for viewers in the U.S. and Canada. For international viewers, CNN's special "Think Big" is next.