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U.S. Restores Support to U.N. Palestinian Agency; Jordan's King Breaks Silence About Royal Family Fallout; Florida Governor Signs Executive Order Banning Vaccine Passports; Asia-Pacific Region Hurt by Slow Vaccine Rollout; IMF Suggests Some Nations Consider "Solidarity Taxes". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 8, 2021 - 04:30   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula newton and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

The Biden administration is reversing one of Donald Trump's major foreign policy moves. It's resuming financial aid to the U.N.'s Palestinian Refugee Agency. Now, a total of about $200 million will go toward the economic development and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and bolster COVID-19 recovery efforts. Secretary of State Tony Blinken says the more serves U.S. interests. CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem with reaction from the region, and there has been quite a bit of reaction. What does the policy change actually mean sustainably but also politically?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Paula, it's -- as you said it's a clear reversal from the Trump administration policy and it shows that the Biden administration is going to be approaching the relationship with the Palestinians much differently than the Trump administration did.

Because I'm sure you recall that under the Trump administration the official relationship with the Palestinians seized on December 2017, Palestinians cut off the relations after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And also during the Trump administration the U.S. cut funding to Palestinians. They also did things closed the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served Palestinians. So this is a clear change.

Now the reaction from the Israelis today has been slightly muted. They are not criticizing the Biden administration directly they are instead focusing their criticism on that agency on the UNRWA agency. The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement:

Israel's position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution. The renewal of aid to UNRWA should be accompanied by substantial and necessary changes in the nature, goals and conduct of the organization. Israel is critical of UNRWA. It all has to do with the right of return. UNRWA was created for Palestinians who either left or were forced out of their homes during fighting in the 1940s and the Palestinians say they have a right of return under U.N. law to return to their homes that are now in what is now Israel.

But Palestinians say it's not only those refugees but also all of their descendants who are eligible to return. For Israel that's a problem because that is now 5 million people and that could change of course the state of Israel as it is today.

The Palestinians and UNRWA for their part, have welcomed this decision from the United States, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying in a statement:

The aid package directed to UNRWA will contribute to providing education and health to hundreds of thousands of students and millions of people who live in refugee camps in Palestine and neighboring countries and the other economic and development aid to the Gaza Strip and to the West Bank.

But Paula, I think the most important part of this new announcement is just showing how the Biden administration will be approaching the relationship with Palestinians much differently. This is probably the biggest change for how the Biden administration is approaching this region, this situation with the Palestinians. It's a very notable move and I'm sure it will be one of more that we are expecting to be seeing in the next few weeks.

NEWTON: Yes, quite a change that people were predicting now that the Biden administration is in office. Hadas, I want to thank you for that update, appreciate it.

Jordan's king has now broken his silence about the royal family drama there following reports of an alleged plot to destabilize the country involving King Abdullah's half-brother Prince Hamza, a claim the prince has denied.

Jomana Karadsheh is live for us for Amman this morning following all of it. So Jomana, the king speaks now but he is not speaking with a lot of clarity I would say. Exactly what is he saying about his half- brother?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know, Paula, since those events over the weekend that have been very unsettling for the population in this country that has really never experienced anything like this in the country's recent history. They wanted to hear from their king. They wanted reassurance. They wanted to understand what has unfolded in this country.


So you know, hearing from the king was something they wanted to get, but I don't think it answered many of the questions that Jordanians have been asking about the details of this alleged plot and what happened. What they heard was the king telling them that this was, what he described as sedition. That it has been nipped in the bud as he said in this letter to the people. Not a televised address as some would have liked to see.

He also said that this challenge was not the most difficult or the most dangerous his country that is faced, but for him personally, he said it was very painful because it came from within our own home, as he said, and from outside the country. And said that he was shocked and angered by this, really backing the government's version of events here accusing his half-brother, Prince Hamza, of being part of this alleged plot to destabilize the country, something that the former crown prince has denied.

They didn't get the answers about the specifics of what happened, leaving a lot of speculation out there. You know, in recent days people have been wondering about the whereabouts of the former crown prince since those videos that were leaked over the weekend where he said that he was basically effectively under house arrest. And over the past couple of days there have been a lot of questions on social media, a trending hashtag where is Prince Hamza.

And the king seemed to address that in his letter saying that Prince Hamza is in his palace with his family, quote/unquote, under my care. Not very clear what that means but very clear message, Paula. The leadership in this country wants to put this situation, this crisis, behind them. They want to move on. Try and restore the image of this stable country that has been incredibly damaged over the past few days -- Paula.

And Jomana, we thank you for that live from Amman, Jordan for us, appreciate it.

Now violence is breaking out again in Northern Ireland. Protesters set a hijacked bus on fire and attacked police with stones in a pro- British area of Belfast. Dozens of officers have been injured in nearly a week of trouble now. It comes amid growing tensions over Northern Ireland's Brexit protocol and the union's frustrations over the frustration not to charge members of Sinn Fein for allegedly breaking COVID restrictions. The U.K. and Irish Prime Ministers have condemned the violence.

Boris Johnson saying the way to resolve differences is through dialogue not violence or criminality.

Now, Israelis paused for two minutes a short time ago to remember the terrible toll of the Holocaust. Sirens blared right across the country on this Holocaust Remembrance Day which honors the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was there laying wreaths at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. Six Holocaust survivors also each lit a torch in memory of those who were killed.

Myanmar's ambassador to the U.K. says he's been locked out of the London embassy by officials loyal to the military. Now the ambassador tried knocking on the door Wednesday but got no response. He was called -- he has called for Aung San Suu Kyi's release from detention after the military seized power in Myanmar. In the past hour, a spokesperson for the ambassador urged the U.K. not to recognize the military's envoy.


MYANMAR AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.'S SPOKESMAN: We have full faith in the U.K. government not to recognize the military counsel of Myanmar, and not follow the military counsel request to install (INAUDIBLE) changing affair, but to stand with the democratically elected government of Myanmar and its people, people of Myanmar.


NEWTON: Now, a debate is under way in the U.S. about whether people need proof of a vaccination in the form of a vaccine passport. Already the governor of Florida is taking steps to ban such a thing. The arguments for and against that's next.



NEWTON: There's a new divide and a growing debate in the United States over so-called vaccine passports as millions of Americans get vaccinated each day. There are some who believes proof of vaccination is needed to safely get back to normal. But not everyone agrees, including the governor of Florida. Randi Kaye takes a longer look.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar in Delray Beach, Florida customers are returning and with them talk of so-called vaccine passports. Owner Rocco Miguel has been vaccinated and would like others to do the same, but he's not in favor of requiring it in his restaurants for staff and customers. For him, it's about freedom of choice.

ROCCO MANGEL, OWNER, ROCCO'S TACOS AND TEQUILA BAR: Requiring people to have a vaccination card to come into the restaurant or a vaccination app or a passport, I think it infringes on their rights.

KAYE (voice-over): That tracks with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' view, it's part of why he issued an executive order banning vaccine passports in the state of Florida. DeSantis has dismissed vaccine passports in the same way he did many other measures during the pandemic, like mask mandates and lock downs, all in the name of protecting rights. And in this case, privacy.

KAYE: Do you think you'd get more business or see more business if a vaccine was required here?

MANGEL: I think quite the opposite. If we required it that would be a perception of that we're trying to govern them.

KAYE (voice-over): DeSantis argues that vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination. KAYE: According to the executive order, businesses here in Florida are prohibited from requiring customers to provide documentation certifying a COVID-19 vaccination or post transmission recovery in order to gain access to that business.

KAYE (voice-over): DeSantis' order puts him at odds with those who believe they were included in the order and are planning for or at least considering requiring a vaccine passport. Like the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

JUDY LISI, CEO, STRAZ CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS: It's really critical to our reopening and eventually to get us to 100 percent capacity.

KAYE (voice-over): CEO Judy Lisi says she's surprised by and disappointed with the governor's decision.

LISI: If you think about mass gathering places like theaters and stadiums and arenas, we're sitting right next to each other. So it becomes really important to have a vaccine program as an option for our guests, and for our artists.


KAYE (voice-over): At Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, proof of COVID-19 vaccination was going to be mandatory for staff and students come the fall semester. But when I alerted the University's CEO to the governor's executive order banning vaccine passports --

GEORGE HANBURY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIV.: I will change whatever is necessary to comply with the law and to the governor's executive order.

KAYE (voice-over): The popular South Beach Wine and Food Festival may also now have to change its plans to require proof of a vaccine or a negative COVID test to enter next month's event.

LEE BRIAN SCHRAGER, FOUNDER, SOUTH BEACH WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL: We'll be constantly re-evaluating up until the last second, but for now, this is the plan we have in place and the plan that I hope stays in place.

KAYE (voice-over): Back at Rocco's Tacos, Rocco Mangel says he doesn't think a vaccine passport would make his restaurant any safer than it already is.

MANGEL: People make a choice and people need to make hopefully a choice that they're not going to put other people at risk.

KAYE: There is real concern with these bans on these vaccine passports and the attitude against them that we could see a spike in vaccine hesitancy. You may recall this poll from last month from NPR/PBS and Marist showing that about 47 percent of those people who supported Donald Trump were against getting a vaccine. So there is concern that that attitude could actually delay or maybe even prevent us here in the United States from reaching herd immunity. So as more and more Republicans here in Florida, and of course the

governor in Texas as well and other areas speak out against these vaccine passports and make it a wedge issue with the Democrats, we could see a rise in vaccine hesitancy.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.


NEWTON: Maharashtra, India's worst hit state is facing a vaccine shortage as that country deals with a surge in new COVID infections. In Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Thailand cases are up more than 50 percent compared to the previous week. And for the second day in a row, South Korea is reporting its biggest daily jump in infections. It's just one of the many countries in the Asia-Pacific region now struggling to keep the virus under control. CNN's Blake Essig is live for us this hour in Tokyo. And I know you've been following all of this in region and beyond. And really, Blake, it seems to be a stark reminder that in most parts of this world, you know, this pandemic is just getting started.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Paula. But for the Asia-Pacific region, this region was the first to bear the brunt of the coronavirus 15 months ago. So when you talk about the virus variants that are kind of running rampant across this region, the pandemic fatigue has absolutely set in and has really played a role as to why we're seeing that case count accelerates in so many different places.

Governments across the region have limited restrictions allowing people to gather in places. There have been festivals, we had the cherry blossoms here that were blooming over the last two weeks and going to the river and looking at them you just see hundreds -- I mean, thousands of people gathering to look at these cherry blossoms. And again when you've got virus variants, you know, the pandemic has not gone away. And the virus variants running rampant you're just giving the opportunity for this virus to spread even faster and that seems to be the case what have we're seeing in Japan.

3,000 cases today, that's the highest case count in two months. India, there was nearly 127,000 cases reported today, another 700 in South Korea. The Philippines is also struggling, Pakistan, Bangladesh, I mean really all over this region countries are struggling to contain the virus. And really part of the problem too, is that the vaccine is not as readily available as places like in the United States and United Kingdom.

Here in Japan .2 percent of the population has been vaccinated. In South Korea and the Philippines it's less than .1 percent, and in India the vaccine factory of the world it's .8 percent, so less than 1 percent of the entire population that has been fully vaccinated. So while this pandemic has been going on for 15 months, it really is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, and surprising, really, that mass vaccination hasn't taken off more in some of those countries you just mentioned. Blake, thanks so much for the update, appreciate it.

Now the L.A. County Sheriff's Office has revealed the cause of Tiger Woods's car crash. We'll tell you how fast the golfer was driving and why apparently he did not hit the brakes. Stay with us.



NEWTON: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says Tiger Woods's car crash was caused by excessive speed and his inability to navigate the curve in the road. Now, the golf legend suffered serious leg injuries when the SUV he was driving ran off the road and rolled down a hill back in February. The sheriff's department says the speed limit is 45 miles an hour, but Woods was going 87.


CAPT. JAMES POWERS, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The data recorder also recorded braking. There was no evidence of braking throughout this collision. It is speculated and believed that Tiger Woods inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal causing that 99 percent rating on the accelerator pedal.


NEWTON: Now the sheriff had earlier said it was an accident and Woods would not face charges. He is recovering at home.

Now, also recovering from COVID-19 will likely be the biggest economic challenge of the coming years and a truly global one at that. The IMF is now suggesting some countries put special so-called solidarity taxes on those who can afford them to help level the playing field. John Defterios is live for us from Abu Dhabi to explain. And this is part of a larger effort, right, to introduce global taxes for the post-pandemic world.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes, Paula, we have talked about this in the past because it's a very painful road to recovery economically.


And the International Monetary Fund is making recommendations here. This is not policy but suggesting they should come in the form of higher taxes at the higher end of personal income and even corporate levees for a period of time like we saw in Germany during the reunification in 1990-1991 and that process of spending here. Their saying, the IMF, that inequalities have risen of course because of the pandemic and it's necessary to take action, particularly in the developed economies. Let's take a listen.


VITOR GASPER, DIRECTOR, IMF, FISCAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT: Preexisting inequalities have made COVID-19 worse, but at the same time COVID-19 has aggravated inequalities. Such a vicious circle threatens to open a seismic crack in the social fabric.


DEFTERIOS (on camera): And that's the same view in the United States. The U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is pushing for a minimum tax here for corporations around the world of 28 percent. That's the same level they put in because of $5 trillion of U.S. spending and there's support through the OECD and developed economies like France and Italy.

They're also targeting, Paula, which I think is interesting, companies like Apple, Google, Amazon which park some of their earnings in the tax havens around the world and don't bring it back on shore to the United States. And I remember during the money laundering legislation that was eventually pushed through the OECD it was the U.S. leading the way. There is a lot of momentum here post-pandemic that's for sure -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, and they'll want to seize on some of that momentum going forward given the economic recovery that is still ahead. John Defterios thanks for that, appreciate it.

And that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I am Paula Newton. "EARLY START" is up next.