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U.S. Border Crisis; Miami Beach Curfew Imposed; U.S. Rallies Against Asian-American Violence; COVID-19 Vaccination In U.S. Reaches 13 Percent; London Police Arrest 36 In Anti-Lockdown Protest; Thousands Rally At Anti-Netanyahu Demo; International Fans Barred From Japan During Tokyo Olympics; Vaccine Skepticism Raises Concerns In U.S. Military. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 21, 2021 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Asian Americans are coming together in mourning but also demanding change after a deadly shooting spree that shocked people around the world.

Very different protests are happening in many parts of Europe as people push back against new COVID restrictions.

Plus, we'll show you the dangerous journeys migrant children make to get to the United States and explain the outrage over what's happening to them once they get here.

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


BRUNHUBER: In cities across the U.S., the pain and shock are still raw from this week's deadly shooting spree here in the Atlanta area. People joined rallies across the country on Saturday to mourn those killed in three spas and to denounce violence against Asian Americans.

Authorities are still investigating the motive behind the shootings that left eight people dead, including six victims of Asian descent. The 21-year-old suspect from Georgia told investigators the shootings weren't racially motivated.

But community leaders and anti-racism advocates say the violence has added to fears Asian Americans already felt. Crimes against people of Asian descent in the U.S. surged with racist rhetoric since the pandemic started.

Some have been blamed for COVID-19. Meanwhile, we're still learning more about the victims of the deadly attack. CNN's Natasha Chen has that part of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four of the eight people killed were here at two different spas in Atlanta. The South Korean foreign ministry identified them as being of Korean descent, one a South Korean citizen who was a U.S. permanent resident. The other three believed to be Americans of Korean descent.

At the third spa location in Cherokee County, one of the victims was Xiaojie Tan. I had an opportunity to sit down with her family and talk about her story. She seemed to build the American dream for herself. She came from China to the U.S. to Florida as a nail technician, worked her way up, moved to Georgia, ended up buying businesses.

She was known as a very hard worker, sometimes working seven days a week, always saving her money and made quite the impression on her customers as being an incredibly friendly person.

I want to share something with you what her daughter said about the experience of Tuesday and waiting to find out the news about her mother. And after you hear from her daughter, Jami, you'll hear from Michael Webb, her ex-husband, talking about how fiercely she defended the legitimacy of her business.


JAMI WEBB, XIAOJIE TAN'S DAUGHTER: I was just hoping that it wasn't my mom, it's not my mom. So I was having this hope that maybe my mom got shot in somewhere else, like maybe on the arms or on somewhere, that it wouldn't be like took her life away.

MICHAEL WEBB, XIAOJIE TAN'S FORMER HUSBAND: She never knows what goes on behind closed doors. She made sure that she trained them. They had meetings every week. They had signage. She didn't allow locks on the doors.

She wanted to know where her employees were, who the client -- who the customers were she used to tell me a lot of times she would throw customers out because they would come in and think that they could -- could have sex.

And she would say, get out my business, you know, and she would throw them out. And so, you know, she was a strong mother hen over that business and the people that worked there, she protected it.


CHEN: I had to ask them how they feel about the designation of these attacks as a hate crime, which so many people have been debating. Michael Webb really wanted to make it clear that he wants to allow the investigators to complete their work, and that he didn't want to comment on that specifically.

But Jami did say that she understands where the Asian American communities' fear and anxiety is coming from. They are sensitive to that.

[04:05:00] CHEN: But they wanted to emphasize that they'd rather have the authorities make that call without making a statement on that ahead of time -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.


BRUNHUBER: As we learn more about the victims, hundreds rallied in downtown Atlanta on Saturday, demanding justice for them. Georgia's two U.S. senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock helped support the crowd. Senator Warnock also slammed a Cherokee County official, saying his earlier remarks about the suspect having a really bad day were out of line.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I'm not interested in whether or not he had a bad day.

Talk about a bad day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all have bad days.

WARNOCK: That kind of speech comes when you don't see the humanity of the people.

And so I just wanted to drop by to say to my Asian sisters and brothers, we see you.

SEN. JON OSSOFF (D-GA): This is Georgia. (INAUDIBLE). This is Georgia. Hatred and murder do not define us. We stand resiliently in defiance of hatred and murder. This is Georgia. This is love. This is compassion.

This is the best of us and this is what defines the people of our state and our nation, not those who kill or scapegoat or engage in racism or hate speech or hate crimes.


BRUNHUBER: In California, on Saturday, rallies were held across the state in response to the shooting rampage in the Atlanta area. It comes as legislation is being introduced in California to make it easier and safer to report hate crimes. CNN's Paul Vercammen is following both stories.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the sounds of a march behind me, the drums. This is Little Tokyo and there are 1.5 million Asian Americans or people of Asian American descent in Los Angeles County.

What leaders have been telling us, whether their roots are in the Philippines, Korea, China or Japan or other countries is, that they have been feeling this target on their backs during this wave of anti- Asian violence. But they say there's a remedy: the legislative process. One assembly

man is looking to pass a bill that would put in place a hotline, where Asians who might be culturally reluctant to report a crime can call the hotline anonymously.

AL MURATSUCHI, CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY MEMBER: One of the biggest problems in fighting hate crimes is that too many of the incidents are not reported. Many of the victims, they may be reluctant to deal with law enforcement. They may choose not to report incidents even when they're victims.

So we want to make it as easy and as safe as possible for people to even be able to report incidents anonymously. I mean, there are many people in the immigrant community, some that are undocumented. And so we want to make it as easy and safe as possible for people to report these incidents of hate crime.

VERCAMMEN: This vigil in Little Tokyo also focused on the treatment of Asian American seniors, particularly Japanese seniors in some retirement homes. There was an inordinate amount of deaths in two of these homes.

They also don't want to see Japanese Americans transferred or lose their place in any of the homes due to eviction. One thing is for certain, though, we're starting to see this community coalesce, this Asian American community in Los Angeles. And that was evident by what happened on the streets of Los Angeles today -- reporting from Little Tokyo, I'm Paul Vercammen. Back to you.



BRUNHUBER: Russell Jeung is the cofounder of Stop AAPI Hate and a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University.

Thank you so much for joining us. I want to start with the report by your organization, found nearly 3,800 incidents of bias over the course of the year during the pandemic through a self-reporting portal. Most of those incidents, I understand, were name-calling. Almost 70 percent of those incidents were against women.

I understand your wife is among them. Tell us what happened and what it says to you about the motives behind many of these incidents.

RUSSELL JEUNG, COFOUNDER, STOP AAPI HATE: Right. Thanks for having me, Kim.

Of the 3,800 cases, women were harassed 2.3 times more than men. People attack those who they think are more vulnerable. So my wife was running on a trail and someone deliberately blocked her path and then coughed in her face.

This is just an incident that's similar to hundreds of cases that we found, actually found so often in the reports that we created a special category for being coughed on and spat upon. It's a really debasing, aberrant behavior.


JEUNG: And people were asking, has the racism increased?

We weren't, you know, tracking whether people coughed on each other or spat on each other's face. But because of the pandemic, because of the fear and the anger and because people treat Asians now like objects, as outsiders, they feel free to attack us in such dehumanizing ways.

BRUNHUBER: The scale of the violence, is it increasing, I wonder?

Months before the horrible murders, I think in April, you said in an interview that the dangers of the stigma and vilification -- let me get the quote -- "could have genuine life-or-death consequences."

Do you feel that early warnings like yours about the seriousness of this issue have been ignored?

JEUNG: I think it was ignored. President Trump insisted on using the term "Chinese virus." The Republican Party in this campaign continued to scapegoat and blame China and bash China. And that China bashing opened the way for the bashing of Chinese people and those who look like them.

So there was dire warnings early on. Our worst-case scenario, that people would be so angry and have their anger directed towards Asians, that we would have something like a mass shooting, and our worst fears have been realized.

BRUNHUBER: And you firmly believe that there was a racial animus behind this?

JEUNG: I think race has place in a lot of ways people relate and perceive and target who they wanted to target. This perpetrator could have gone to any massage parlor, yet he chose Asian ones. He could have attacked anybody but he chose to attack Asian women. And that clearly has a racial and gender bias and seems clear.

Women were disproportionately impacted throughout the pandemic and they were disproportionately impacted in this shooting.

BRUNHUBER: I wonder, further complicating things, the ongoing tensions with China itself which we saw play out last week, when the secretary of state met China's top diplomat. More and more Americans list China as America's number one enemy. You've argued that that, in turn, affects how Asian Americans are perceived here.

JEUNG: Right. So American foreign policy in Asia actually translates into Asian American domestic policies, that how the U.S. relates to, say, Japan during World War II impacted Japanese Americans and led to their incarceration.

When the U.S. declared a war on terrorism, that impacted South Asians, Muslims and Arab Americans here in the U.S. So a U.S.-China cold war, a hard stance against China, portraying China as the enemy, makes Chinese in the U.S. the enemy. It's really dangerous for Chinese Americans and Asian Americans.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for joining us, Russell Jeung, we really appreciate it.

JEUNG: Thanks, Kim.


BRUNHUBER: We want to tell you about a one-hour special on CNN. Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera and Anderson Cooper will look at a disturbing trend, violent acts against people of color, also possible solutions to the problem, in "Afraid: Fear in America's Communities of Color." It airs Monday at 9:00 pm Eastern, 9 am Tuesday in Hong Kong.

Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, President Biden is scrambling to contain a worsening crisis at the southern U.S. border. Thousands of unaccompanied children have been taken into custody.

Plus, angry protests across Europe over new COVID restrictions. We'll have a live report from England just ahead. Please stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: The annual spring break for college students has turned into a nightmare for southern Florida. Miami Beach police say they made about a dozen arrests Saturday night after the city suddenly imposed a curfew.

The mayor says the city had to act because packed streets of partiers is more than the city can handle during the pandemic. He says many visitors chose Miami Beach because it is one of the few places in the country not closed by COVID restrictions.


MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FL: We have had very challenging spring breaks at other times. We're a city that is 92,000 residents but will sometimes have 200,000 to 300,000 people here.

The problem is that this particular time and I think it is because of the pandemic, almost no other destinations are open. So we have been beside ourselves. We're having issues not just on weekends but on weekday evenings.

We have been arresting many, many people every single day, more than most communities will arrest in a month or a year. It is just creating disorder and danger to our cops, to our arrestees, to bystanders. So we just had enough of it, frankly.


BRUNHUBER: Vaccinations in the U.S. are gaining momentum after an initially slow rollout.


BRUNHUBER: Right now an average 2.4 million vaccinations are administered every day in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 43 million Americans have now been fully inoculated.

That's about 13 percent of the population; 79 million Americans have received at least one injection. Top health experts say it is now a race to get as many people vaccinated before new COVID variants can take hold and cause another wave. Dr. Anthony Fauci, for one, is optimistic it can be done. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Vaccines are coming on really well. Between 2 million and 3 million doses per day are going into people. If we can just hang on a bit longer, the more people get vaccinated, the less likelihood there is going to be a surge.


BRUNHUBER: In Europe, vaccination efforts have taken a hit because of lingering controversy over the AstraZeneca vaccine. Even though European regulators have reaffirmed the drug is safe, many people are still convinced it isn't. CNN's Melissa Bell has our report.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The AstraZeneca vaccine, if it was offered to me today, I would not take it. I would not be vaccinated with it. That's it.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least some of the 8 million shelved AstraZeneca vaccines in Europe, once again, being put into arms and places like France, Germany and Italy. After the Europeans medicine agency declared on Thursday, it did not increase the risk of blood clots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not a doctor, so I asked my doctors, he said it was fine, i should do it so I followed his instructions.

BELL (voice-over): At this drive-in, the AstraZeneca vaccine was on offer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Listen to the experts, they say there is no correlation to those tragic events and the vaccine. So you need to trust them.

BELL (voice-over): The French prime minister, trying to instill exactly that, some trust. But getting the shots himself with the new poll showing that only 22 percent of French people, now, have confidence in it.

After it was suspended in several countries, its rollout ground to a halt in Italy on Monday. The very day that they entered a new partial lockdown.

BELL: Here, this vaccinations outside the airport giving the AstraZeneca vaccine. As we, arrived officials were given the word that there were no longer allowed to distribute it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were vaccinating around 200,000 people in Italy, per day. So this really slowed us down. We know we will need to recuperate with vaccinations but we may need to double the speed.

BELL (voice-over): By Wednesday, under the pressure of the third European COVID wave, the president of the European Commission, criticizing AstraZeneca not over safety but supply.

URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: We also know that AstraZeneca has, unfortunately, underproduced and underdelivered and this, painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign.

BELL (voice-over): For now, Europe's fully inoculated less than 4 percent of its population. Its aim, to get to 70 percent by September -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BRUNHUBER: New lockdowns and restrictions have provoked angry protests across Europe. Scuffles broke out in London, as police tried to get demonstrators to go home. Three dozen people were arrested.

Saturday's protests in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere were among the largest in months. The new restrictions were imposed due to fears of a rising third wave of infections. Let's go to CNN's Phil Black in Essex, England.

There were protests, anger, in the U.K.; in Europe, a stark contrast between what is happening in the U.K. and E.U.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kim. There is two pandemic stories playing out in Europe at the moment. One on the mainland continent where, as you have been hearing, there is a new grim phase of the pandemic underway, a new wave, where countries are locking down, tightening restrictions.

On top of that, there's added frustration among those living through it because there is a sense it did not necessarily have to be this way because the vaccines exist. They're out there but the European countries do not have sufficient supply to control and drive down transmission through vaccinations alone in the near future.

Meanwhile, just a relatively short distance away, across the English Channel here, it is a very different situation, where the vaccine program is rolling out pretty quickly. The U.K. government announced hitting a key milestone yesterday.

Half the U.K. adult population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. That's almost 27 million people. And crucially, that breadth in the rollout is now being reflected in key indicators.


BLACK: Things like hospital admissions and deaths, well, those numbers are now falling steadily. So on one hand, you have European countries locking down, tightening restrictions; France is doing that, Italy is doing that, Germany is talking about moving that way.

Here in the U.K., things are moving the other way. The government believes it is on track to effectively open up within just a few months and have every adult receive at least one dose by the end of July.

The mood here is very different. People are looking forward to pubs reopening and being able to take holidays, domestically at least; overseas, they hope. In Europe, leaders, they're really frustrated that they are not receiving the supplies they believe were promised.

And they are talking about perhaps even entering something like a vaccine trade war with the United Kingdom, inspired by the fact they believe there is injustice that the E.U. produced vaccines are moving into the U.K. But U.K.-produced vaccines under commercial contracts are not yet flowing into the E.U.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much, Phil Black in Essex, England. Appreciate it.

The second hardest hit country in the world now wants help to protect its citizens from the virus. Brazil says it is negotiating with the U.S. to buy spare vaccines. AstraZeneca shots are currently sitting in warehouses in the U.S., since regulators here have yet to give it the green light. Matt Rivers is in Rio de Janeiro.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rio de Janeiro is known for one thing, it may be here. Copacabana beach, which on a normal weekend, is packed with people. But as you can see behind, me it is empty right now. That is because Rio de Janeiro authorities have closed the beach, due to the surging number of cases and deaths, from the coronavirus.

There are other closed beaches in the area and what's happening here is playing out all across the country, with a terrible situation ongoing with the COVID-19 crisis in the country. According to a CNN analysis over the past 2 weeks, of all of the coronavirus deaths recorded, in the entire world, nearly one quarter of them have come from Brazil. From March 5th, to March 19th, nearly 30,000 deaths registered as part of the coronavirus here.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will get better anytime soon and in every other state across Brazil, ICU occupancy rates are at or above, 80 percent. Some of them are at or above, 90 percent. The vaccine situation doesn't look great, either.

Health ministry data says that roughly 1.5-1.6 percent of all Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against this virus. And to that end, Brazil's foreign ministry said on Saturday, they have been negotiating with the United States since March 13th to try and get their hands on any extra vaccine doses the United States may be willing to share with this country.

No word yet on any progress from those negotiations but what is clear is that those vaccines, are desperately needed in this country, where the situation with COVID-19 is, truly, horrific -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Rio de Janeiro.


BRUNHUBER: COVID vaccines have been proven to work.

So why are a large number of U.S. military members reluctant to get them?

Ahead, the unexpected fight facing the country's military leaders.

Plus, alone and detained at the U.S. border.

Why are so many children making the dangerous journey to America?

We'll have their emotional stories next.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

There is an alarming and growing number of children being held in U.S. custody at the southern border. New documents obtained by CNN show there are more than 5,000 unaccompanied children in the care of Customs and Border Protection. Hundreds of them are being held in jail-like facilities for several days longer than the law allows.

Many of the kids are going days without seeing sunlight or bathing. The influx at the border is putting pressure on the Biden administration. Officials admit they didn't anticipate this many people trying to get into the United States.

Some of those child migrants made dangerous journeys just to get to the U.S. border. CNN's Rosa Flores traveled with one group for the last few miles of their trek and shows us what they went through.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the South Texas trails used by thousands of migrants, like these unaccompanied teenagers from Guatemala, to make their way into the U.S. And sometimes they encounter Deputy Constable Dan Broyles as he patrols the border with Mexico.

Sixteen-year-old Kevin gets emotional as he shares that he's been traveling for a month, sometimes without food or water. His father waits for him in Pennsylvania.

Seventeen-year-old Denis voice breaks as he explains his grandma --

DENIS, TEEN MIGRANT: (Speaking foreign language).

FLORES (voice-over): -- who takes care of him stayed behind in his gang-ridden neighborhood. Border authorities in the Rio Grande Valley are encountering about 1,000 migrants a day, according to a federal source, many of them unaccompanied minors.

Evidence mothers and children are on the trail litter the landscape -- diapers, children's clothing and masks.

FLORES: Documents left behind by some of the migrants tell part of their story. In this case, it looks like a 34-year-old mom from Honduras and her 2-year-old son, they both tested for COVID before leaving their country and tested negative.

So what do you look for when you patrol?

DEPUTY CONSTABLE DAN BROYLES, PRECINCT 3 CONSTABLE'S OFFICE: Well, what I'm looking for is splashes of color that don't belong in the brush.

FLORES (voice-over): He also looks down the paths that lead to the river for signs of life.

BROYLES: This is an indication sign.

FLORES (voice-over): And he shows us the arrows posted by border authorities.

BROYLES: As you can see, that's a homeland security bag.

FLORES (voice-over): And this one that reads, "asilo," or asylum.

BROYLES: (Speaking foreign language).

FLORES: Walk to the bridge is two kilometers.

BROYLES: Is two kilometers, yes.

FLORES (voice-over): What bridge? The bridge near the Rio Grande where immigration processing begins.

This is as close as our cameras can get. Border Patrol is not granting media access, but with permission from deputy constables who patrol alongside federal authorities.

BROYLES: Precinct 3 Constable's Office is in charge of approximately 22 miles of international border.


FLORES (voice-over): We've got our eyes and ears on the ground.

FLORES: Did you come alone?

FLORES (voice-over): This teen says he paid a smuggler after a recent hurricane flooded his single mom's home.

FLORES: How much did you pay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

FLORES (voice-over): Or $2,500.

FLORES: How did you get the money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

FLORES: Was it a loan?


FLORES (voice-over): Broyles' job ends here when he sends the teens off to Border Patrol. For the teens, it's just another step in an already uncertain journey.

FLORES: I'm on the banks of the Rio Grande. The land mass that you see behind me is Mexico. The man in charge of this portion of the border is Precinct 3 Constable Larry Gallardo. And he tells me that there's a constant dual challenge here.

Downriver, the smuggling of people; upriver, the smuggling of drugs and the Border Patrol chief tweeting, there is no end in sight -- Rosa Flores, CNN, along the U.S.-Mexico border.


BRUNHUBER: As she mentioned, U.S. border authorities are overwhelmed. The Biden administration is scrambling to find more shelter for the growing number of migrant children in custody. Officials are planning to open another temporary shelter in Texas, in addition to a new facility that just opened in Dallas. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is in Dallas.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration is using a convention center in Dallas to accommodate the number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border alone. It is now being called an emergency intake site, outfitted with cots. Children will be provided medical services and books and games as they

work through the process to be relocated with family in the United States. This is one of the many steps the administration is taking to try to alleviate the overcrowding.

The number of children in the facilities has continued to tick upward over the course of time. So Health and Human Services departments working around the clock to try to find shelters for these children, including the site behind me -- I'm in Dallas, Priscilla Alvarez, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just signed a contract for $86 million to provide hotel rooms and processing services to migrant families. ICE says this will provide over 1,200 beds for migrant families as the agency waits for the cases to move through the immigration courts.

It covers COVID testing, health assessments and processing services. The Biden administration still won't call the situation at the border a crisis.

And even though the president himself promised transparency when he took office, journalists have been blocked from reporting on conditions inside detention facilities. We get more on that from CNN's Arlette Saenz at the White House.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to the border, he did so without any reporters on that trip. The Department of Homeland Security cited privacy concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason why the media was not allowed to accompany him on that trip to those border facilities.

But this follows a pattern from the Biden administration as this border crisis has been brewing. So far, reporters have not been allowed into those border processing facilities, where those unaccompanied migrant children are being held.

Many of these facilities not entirely fit to house children for long periods of time, as some of them are now. While Secretary Mayorkas was at the border, he was accompanied by some senators.

One of those senators on the trip, Democrat Chris Murphy, tweeted about the conditions that he saw.

He said, "Just left the border processing facility, hundreds of kids packed into big, open rooms. In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13- year-old girl sobbed uncontrollably, explaining through a translator how terrified she was."

This is certainly one of many scenes that is potentially playing out at these facilities but so far the media has not had access to them to see what is actually happening on the ground. The White House has vowed that they want to be transparent and are

working on ways to make that access possible at the White House. But so far there is no timeline just yet on when reporters will be allowed into those facilities -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Israel's prime minister is in the middle of an election battle. So thousands of protesters gather outside Benjamin Netanyahu's home. He's turning to a surprising group for new support, Arab Israelis. We'll show you how he's faring next. Stay with us.






BRUNHUBER (voice-over): We have some extraordinary video to show you here, an entire house swept away by flash flooding on Australia's eastern coast. The government declared a natural disaster in New South Wales. It is being called a once in a century event.

Heavy rains forced thousands to evacuate. New South Wales has already seen its March rainfall records broken and authorities expect the downpour to continue for several days. The prime minister says adults and children who have been affected will receive one-time disaster relief payments.


BRUNHUBER: Just days ahead of Israel's general election, thousands of protesters are showing they want Benjamin Netanyahu out as prime minister.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): They gathered outside his residence in Jerusalem on Saturday, waving flags, banging drums, blowing horns. Mr. Netanyahu is on trial for corruption. He faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, which he denies.

His critics also accuse him of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. The elections on Tuesday will be Israel's fourth in just two years.


BRUNHUBER: Apparently Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party is ahead in the polls but they're not expected to have a majority, so would need a coalition government with other parties. With the race, he's hoping to gain support from an unexpected group. Hadas Gold explains.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just last year a campaign video like this from Benjamin Netanyahu would have been unthinkable.

Abu Yair, literally the father of Yair, an Arabic language way of embracing the Israeli Prime Minister. Contrast that with this video from 2015. Stoking fear of Israel's 20 percent Arab minority to scare his Likud Party base to get out and vote.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The rule of the right is in danger. Their voters are moving in drove to the polling stations. Left-wing organizations are busing them in.

GOLD: This election is expected to be so close that one or two seats could determine who will be the next Prime Minister.


GOLD: That's why you are seeing a possibly surprising sight from Benjamin Netanyahu, campaigning amongst an electorate he was previously accused of deriving.

GOLD (voice-over): Netanyahu's Likud Party has new promises to these voters. Peace agreements with regional allies and a cabinet position for a special minister of Arab affairs.

TZACHI HANEGBI, ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER: We are surprised to see that it is working. It's effective. We really believe in cooperation with the Likud, so we went on with this strategy and so far, so good.

GOLD (voice-over): It may be working. A recent poll by Tel Aviv University found nearly 25 percent of Israeli-Arab voters thinking Netanyahu is the best candidate for Prime Minister.

In the village of Taybeh, the tension ahead of this election is evident on the streets were Jewish-Israeli protesters try to convince the locals to vote against the Prime Minister. One of them yells at passing cars that Netanyahu is a liar and that they need to kick him out. But he's interrupted by a local man, Asvarga Ismael (ph), who says there is no one like Bibi, only Bibi Netanyahu, there is no stronger than him.

Not everyone in Taybeh is a fan though. And for some the disillusion is spreads across the Arab parties as well. Mahmoud Amsha says that for the first time in his life he may leave his ballot blank.

MAHMOUD AMSHA, TAIBEH RESIDENT (through translator): You do not have to be very smart to see that we are disappointed. First of all, violent scribe's, the murder, the murder of also women and children. Second thing infrastructure. Third thing all of the unemployed people. You know what? I'm at home all the time because I don't feel secure. Shouldn't they care about me?

GOLD (voice-over): Dr. Ahmad Tibi, is a veteran of Israeli politics a Member of Parliament here for more than 20 years. He says it is foolish for an Arab voter to think that voting for Netanyahu will give him power to address Arab issues.

DR. AHMAD TIBI, ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER: Netanyahu is the problem, he is not the solution. He is a real rightist. Right ideology, with opportunism, but he is a rightist.

GOLD (voice-over): In such a small country, Netanyahu's success may hinge on whether he can convince just enough of these voters to forget the past -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Taybeh, Israel.


BRUNHUBER: There are concerns over military readiness as about a third of U.S. troops decline to take the coronavirus shot. Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, why vaccine skepticism is adding a new front to the war on COVID and how the military hopes to overcome it. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Overseas spectators won't be allowed at the COVID delayed Tokyo Olympics. The organizing committee says overseas spectators will be barred not just from events but Japan as a whole as the games are happening. The measure is necessary to ensure safe and secure games as the COVID pandemic rolls on.

Hundreds of thousands of tickets already bought will be refunded. The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23rd.

Bad news for the March Madness men's basketball tournament after an outbreak of coronavirus hit the Virginia Commonwealth University team. VCU was forced to withdraw after multiple members of the team tested positive.

The head coach says dropping out is heartbreaking for the student athletes, who dreamed of playing in the tournament. With the VCU forfeit, Oregon advances to second round.

Vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. military is fueling concerns about troop readiness. A large number of service members have declined to get the shot. And since the vaccine is authorized under emergency use, it is not mandatory. CNN's Oren Liebermann looks at how the military medical experts hope to calm fears and increase vaccinations.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the military's newest battlefield --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can roll up your sleeve for me, sir?

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- success is measured in doses. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, 2, 3.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Each needle --


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- a precision weapon from pharmaceutical companies instead of defense contractors.

LT. COM. JULIA CHERINGAL, NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER PORTSMOUTH: We have a vaccine. We have a tool. We have a manner in which we can help stop this pandemic in its tracks. But not everybody feels comfortable receiving the vaccination.

LIEBERMANN: Specialists Carol Gotte of the Maryland National Guard, health care worker herself, wasn't sure she would get the vaccine.

SPC. CAROL GOTTE, MARYLAND NATIONAL GUARD: Soon at first mainly because of how quickly to put the vaccine out. There were really no studies on the long-term effects of the vaccine so that had me concerned.

LIEBERMANN: It was concerned for her family that brought her around. But that hesitation is not uncommon.

SGT. CHAZZ KIBLER, MARYLAND NATIONAL GUARD: There were times when the thoughts crept in that I could possibly die from getting this vaccine or maybe I shouldn't get it and just talking to medical experts in the organization, people who are reputable, they put me at ease. They ultimately helped me turnaround my decision.

LIEBERMANN: Other service members still have their fears and concerns over the COVID-19 vaccine.

One soldier who spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity said my fear is reacting poorly to the effects of having dangerous reaction to put me out of commission, messes with my body too much. I understand the virus can do the exact same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is it, easy day.

LIEBERMANN: The military estimates two-thirds of service members eligible for the vaccine have accepted it but the number maybe even lower.

At Fort Bragg, an Army base with about 57,000 military personnel, the acceptance rate is just below 60 percent, an Army official said.

In the Washington National Guard, it's 39 percent. In the Nebraska National Guard, it's down to 30 percent.


LIEBERMANN: Two military health care sources that spoke with CNN said they're seeing an uptick in a rate of closer to 50 percent in the region's a cover. The domestic military base and overseas command. And as you go down the tiers from first responders to the general military population, the sources say the acceptance rate goes down.

GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I want to speak to you today about the coronavirus --

LIEBERMANN: Military leaders have had virtual town halls to answer questions, promote vaccination safety and availability.

LT. GEN. RONALD PLACE, DEFENSE HEALTH AGENCY: Speaking as a physician, the safety and effectiveness of the approved a vaccine is exceptional. Every passing week the evidence only grows stronger.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): But on social media, these posts have become havens for misinformation and conspiracy theories.

CAPT. KARL KRONMANN, NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER PORTSMOUTH: I think that is a huge battle. It's almost harder to fight some of these misinformation's that come from out of the blue.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): At the moment, demand is far outpacing supply.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone is coming in. It's something they want to get.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): And defense officials say they expect the acceptance rate to go up but it will take time.

LIEBERMANN: There are two opposing trends here to watch moving forward. As you go down in tiers of vaccination, from 1A, the most urgent vaccination, like health care workers and emergency personnel, down toward the general population, one of our military health care sources says the refusal rate goes up.

On the flip side, as the vaccine is out there longer, it becomes more widespread and troops see their peers getting it, as well as fears of long-term effects subsiding, officials expect the acceptance rate will go up eventually. The issue is, this isn't an eventually problem; it is a right now problem -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


BRUNHUBER: A group on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico got more than they bargained for this week.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): They were about 130 miles off the Galveston, Texas, coast, when, up ahead, they spotted scores of orcas, also known as killer whales. The captain says about 30 of them broke off from the larger pod and surrounded the boat.

They swam alongside the vessel for about 30 minutes and then apparently lost interest. But you can bet the fish tales from this trip will live on forever. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: I know orcas aren't fish but work with me here.

That wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in a moment with more news. Please do stay with us.