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W.T.O. Meeting on Whether to Waive Vaccine Patent Rights; India Reports Record Number of New Cases, Deaths; Nepal's Hospitals Struggling with Severe Shortages; Two American Students Convicted of Murder in Italy; Centrist Yair Lapid Tasked to Form Next Government; FAA: Violent Incidents on Airplanes Increasing; Chines Rocket Debris Expected to Crash into Earth Soon. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 6, 2021 - 04:30   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The U.S. now says it supports relaxing international trade rules so that drug patented can be legally shared with the rest of the world. The World Trade Organization has been meeting on the issue today, but a final decision could be months away.

So this map here illustrates the lopsided vaccine distribution around the world. Granting access to vaccine patents could help fix the inequity by allowing countries with fewer doses to make their own generic versions. But the heads of America's pharmaceutical trade group says doing that would create confusion and encourage counterfeit vaccines.

India is struggling to get through a brutal second wave of COVID infections, but the country's top scientific adviser is now joining others warning a third wave is inevitable. In just the past 24-hours India has broken its records for the most daily cases, more than 412,000, and the most deaths, just shy of 4,000. A new university model predicts a total of 400,000 fatalities and almost 50 million infections by mid-June. That's basically double the current numbers.

All right, let's head to Delhi, India and CNN's Vedika Sud. Vedika, those projections obviously frightening. What's the latest?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Well Kim, let me reiterate what you just said. So according to that study and projections, what this essentially means is we are 20 million-plus right now as I speak with you and those numbers could be double and more by June 11th. That also means the deaths we're facing right now, the highest India has ever seen in a 24-hour period, will be almost double.

And this comes at a time when India's already battling a huge crisis. We've been reporting from the ground, telling you how there has been a lack of supplies in Delhi and other places. Now if there is a partial lockdown, according to this projection, those numbers could come down. So if there's a 15-day lockdown, those numbers will come down. If there's a one-month lockdown, those projection numbers will come down further.

But the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it amply clear there will be no national lockdown. Yes, there are partial lockdowns and complete lockdowns in some states if their call to take. And if that wasn't worrying enough, Kim, here's what's even more worrying. What the health ministry said to the people yesterday through a press conference.


K. VIJAYRAGHAVAN, PRINCIPAL SCIENTIFIC ADVISER TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: Phase three is inevitable given the high levels of circulating virus. But it's not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur. Hopefully, incrementally, but we should prepare for new waves.


SUD (on camera): We should prepare for a new wave when we aren't prepared enough for the one that I'm seeing as an Indian and all my fellow countrymen are seeing at this point in time. This is so worrying, Kim, for India.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Vedika Sud in Delhi, thank you so much.

Health experts say the misery in India may be a preview of what is yet to come across South Asia where cases are already way up. And with only a small fraction of people vaccinated in the region, the potential for human catastrophe is high. Nepal is where the virus seems to be picking up the most speed. It's once again hit a daily record for new infections. And the big fear is that its outbreak will soon mirror India's. CNN's Anna Coren has the story.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a hospital in Nepal city of Nepalgunj, wedge up against India, people are fighting for their lives. Nearly 300 beds are filled with COVID patients. And health officials fear the catastrophe unfolding across the border could be heading to Nepal.

DR. PARAS SHRESTHA, SR. PHYSICIAN, COVID-19 ICU WARD OF BHERI HOSPITAL: There are lack of doctors, the main power, we have no more beds left now in the hospital. So, it's very hard to manage the patients.


COREN: Santosh Oli, lost his 21 year old daughter, Anisha to COVID. Now, his wife is infected and battling for her life in ICU.

OLI (through translator): It's been 7 days since I lost my daughter. She was beautiful and very active. Doctors, nurses, and everyone loved her. COREN (voice-over): Her death now one of many. According to the hospital, up to four people die from COVID here each day. Frontline workers are not immune. Dozens of medical staff have also been infected.

SHRESTHA: I'm really worried that I might get infected with COVID.

COREN (voice-over): This hospital is one of only two assigned for COVID patients in Nepal's Baitadi district, which has been seeing around 400 new cases a day. Of the 4,000 active cases, UNICEF says 90 percent of the people are in home isolation.


The government blames the poorest border with India as the reason for the spike. Jamunah, is one of 13 border crossings currently opened for Nepali's returning from India. Up to 1,500 people are making the crossing each day.

DR. SAMIR KUMAR ADHIKARI, MINISTRY OF HEALTH JOINT SPOKESMAN: Once this is -- were increasing in India, there's really a cases being in total in Nepal. It's hard to stops all the mobility within the two countries.

COREN (voice-over): The government says initially districts along the border saw a spike in cases, but now they are exploding throughout the country of almost 30 million people. Nepal has seen a rise of more than 1,200 percent in average daily COVID cases, since mid-April.

And nearly 40 percent of the country's cases come from the capital. In an effort to curb the spread, authorities imposed a two-week in Kathmandu last Thursday. But before the lockdown went into force, thousands fled the city to return to their villages. An exodus health officials believe could spark a national emergency.

ADHIKARI: It can carry the viruses to the village, and they can spread the virus to the senior citizens in the village.

COREN (voice-over): From Nepal's already struggling health system, officials fear this surge in COVID cases could be detrimental.

SHRESTHA: If the number of cases are going to readily increase, the health system in hospitals will collapse.

COREN: For Santosh Oli, he has little time to mourn his daughter. As he prays for his wife's recovery, it's his three month old granddaughter and her future that he now must focus on.

Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


BRUNHUBER: Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has been sentenced to another ten months in jail for taking part in a Tiananmen Square vigil last summer. The event is held every year to remember the 1989 crackdown. But the police banned the event in 2020 citing the coronavirus outbreak. The 24-year-old was among 26 activists charged with participating in an unauthorized assembly. He and three others pleaded guilty. Wong was already serving a 17-month jail sentence for his role in two other unauthorized assemblies during the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

An Italian court has convicted two American students of murdering an Italian police officer in a botched drug deal in 2019. A jury found the men guilty of stabbing the officer at least eight times when he tried to recover a stolen backpack from the accused. The men claim it was self-defense. They have been sentenced to life in prison. The strictest punishment under Italian law. Our Barbie Nadeau is in Rome at the scene of the crime. So bring us up to speed on this story.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well today begins these life sentences for these two men, age 21 and 20 from California. They've got to serve the first two months in isolation. Now both of the defense lawyers say they will appeal the sentence and the judge has about 90 days before she has to deliver her motivation or her reasoning.

When they read the verdict in the courtroom last night around 11:00 local time, there were gasps. Visible, either the emotion by the parents of these two young men. But you also had the widow there, and she feels, though her journey is just beginning in terms of the life she has to go on without her newlywed husband. He had just come back from his honeymoon. She spoke after the verdict and she feels that justice has been served. Let's listen to what she said.


ROSA MARIA ESILIO, WIDOW OF MURDERED OFFICER (through translator): This verdict is the result of a long and painful process that will not bring Mario back to me. It will not bring him back to life, and it will not give us back our life together. Today is the first step towards a new justice. And Mario will be an example for those who need justice.


NADEAU (on camera): And you know, she attended all 50 of the hearings. Many times she held a picture of her slain husband. It's a very emotional time for everyone involved, and her journey is probably the most difficult -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much, Barbie Nadeau in Rome.

A centrist leader of Israel's opposition is now in the political spotlight. Israel's president has tapped Yair Lapid with the daunting task of ending two years of political gridlock to form a coalition government. He'll be working with Parliament members who are evenly divided for and against Benjamin Netanyahu. Hadas Gold explains from Jerusalem.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has taken the mandate from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and handed it to one of his rivals, as Israel tries to see who, if anybody, can form the next government.

President Rivlin gave the mandate to Yair Lapid, he's the leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid, which won the next highest number of votes in the March elections. Now Yair Lapid has 28 days to try to show that he can form the next government.


But even if Yair Lapid is the one that is able to form the next government, that doesn't necessarily mean he will actually be prime minister right away. In order to be able to form the unity government he says Israel needs right now, that will unite parties from the left to the right across the political spectrum, he will likely offer the first round of being prime minister to Naftali Bennett, the head of a small right-wing party called Yamina, that only won 7 seats in the last election in March. But has now become a key player in deciding who would be able to form the next government.

Yair Lapid said that after two years of political paralysis Israeli society is hurting and a unity government is not a last resort, rather something that Israel needs at this time. Now Yair Lapid may have a tall task still trying to unite a group of disparate political parties who may be united in how they feel about Benjamin Netanyahu but there are still a lot of issues that they do not agree on.

If Yair Lapid succeeds in forming a new government, then he will be the one to oust the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history. But if Yair Lapid fails in forming next door in the next 28 days, the Israeli president can send it back to the Israeli parliament asking them to nominate a new candidate. If that fails, then Israelis may be heading toward an unprecedented 5th election.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


BRUNHUBER: Up next, temper tantrums on airplanes. Passengers who get rude and violent are facing massive fines. We'll tell you how much their outbursts are costing them.

Plus, big chunks of debris from space are heading towards earth. When will it land and where -- most importantly -- will make a world of a difference? Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Peloton is recalling all of its treadmills and making an apology. The company says it was wrong to fight the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's request to pull its Tread Plus. It's also adding the tread model in the voluntary recall. That's some 125,000 machines in all.


The commission urged customers with small children and pets to stop using the machine immediately. It says one child died in an accident linked to one of the treadmills and reports at least 70 injuries. On Thursday, shares of Peloton were down nearly 15 percent.

Well air travel is down, but passenger incidents are way up. Before the pandemic flight crews reported one unruly passenger every few days. In the era of mandatory mask wearing they are dealing with several a day. As Pete Muntean reports those rude and sometimes violent flyers are coming up against the Federal Aviation Administration's zero tolerance policy.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: The FAA just announced four new fines against unruly passengers. The punishment includes fines up to $35,000 even possible jail time. And yet the number of problem passengers just keeps going up.

MUNTEAN (voice over): It is the newest issue facing pandemic-era air travel, flyers flying off the handle. The Federal Aviation Administration has received 1,300 reports of unruly passengers in the last three months alone. CNN obtained federal reports of four new cases where passengers are accuse of berating, grabbing, and hitting flight attendants.

One report alleges a passenger on a February JetBlue flight, threw everything from insults, to food, to bottle of illegal booze, causing the flight to turn around. He is now facing a $32,000 fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we all do some messed up things and we know that alcohol gets in us.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): A California woman apologized after video surfaced of her jumping the ticket counter in Miami. The FAA says reports of unrulily passengers use to come in every few days. Now it says flight crews are calling in issues multiple times a day. FAA administrator Steve Dickson instituted a zero tolerance policy in part because of problem passengers travelling to the Capitol riots.

STEVE DICKSON, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: We will not address these cases through warnings or counseling.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The FAA says it's even investigating an Alaska state senator who was banned from Alaska Airlines for refusing to wear a mask, though she claimed to have an unspecified exemption.

In another now case, the FAA fined a combative passenger on a January flight $16,000 for allegedly hitting one of the flight attendants with his bags. The head of the largest association of flight attendants says help from the federal government is essential.

SARA NELSON, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS-CWA: It means everything to have that backing and to send a very clear message to travelers that these are the rules, and these are these consequences if you don't comply.

MUNTEAN: This uptick is disproportionate to the number of people flying right now which is still way down compared to before the pandemic. Of those 1,300 reports, the FAA has now assessed fines in 13 cases and the agency acknowledges there is still work to do.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.


BRUNHUBER: South Carolina is one step closer to allowing executions by firing squad. The state's House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that allows firing squads to carry out death penalty sentences. The bill also changes the default method of execution to electrocution if lethal injections can't be given. It comes as the state is having trouble finding the lethal drugs. South Carolina's governor says he intends to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Space junk falling from the sky. It could happen over the next few days as a big section of Chinese rocket falls back to earth. We'll have the latest on what we're learning, next. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Mission accomplished. For the first time ever, SpaceX's starship Mars prototype has nailed its landing. The SN-15 rocket launched from south Texas Wednesday soaring straight up ten kilometers before descending safely on to a landing pad. It's the fifth spacecraft of its kind to attempt such a landing but the first to actually stick it. The earlier prototypes ended in disappointing and spectacular explosions during their landings. Starship is the launch vehicle SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes will carry the first human to Mars one day.

A massive piece of space junk is set to re-enter earth's atmosphere this weekend. Debris from a large Chinese rocket is careening out of control, and the U.S. says it's tracking it. Space agencies around the world try to avoid leaving big objects in orbit that could fall back to earth but not this particular rocket.

CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins me now. Pedram this thing isn't small. So on the scale of yan to sprint to your bunker, how worried should we be about this?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I'm not sure about the level of concern. I don't think it's that concerning but it is pretty impressive for its size and, of course, if it ends up over a place that's populated, it will be a much bigger story. We'll break down what the possibility of such an event are.

But when you take a look at space junk, there's plenty of it, some 9,000 tons of it orbit junk orbit our planet. That equivalent to about over 700 school buses there as far as the weight is concerned. And of course, anything from a decommissioned satellites, to say portions of spent boosters that are orbiting our planet. Tools, put it together, the shells of all this equipment, it's all out there. And of course, every so often you get something that's a little bit larger.

Even in the past of course we've had meteors approach our planet and they're typically pretty small but come in at an oblique angle so the vast majority of what's in place there is going to burn up in the pressure from the heat from our earth's atmosphere.

But when it comes to satellites and things such as rockets, they actually come in as a far less -- far direct angle, as opposed to an oblique angle, which really allows for less of that to be burnt up, especially when it's larger in size. And again, when you're talking about one of this magnitude, largest and heaviest to re-enter our atmosphere since 1991, and about 20 tons there. So it's equivalent to about the weight of says 15 sedans. So we're talking about a large- scale feature upon entry.


So when it comes to where this ends up, top five for the largest there upon entry and where tends up here, the estimates at this point for the orbital path, pretty wide area of coverage from Los Angeles to New York City, south to Mexico City, Sao Paulo, eastward to Madrid and even farther to the east around Beijing and on into Sydney. All of these areas could be points of impact. Of course we know, over 70 percent of our planet is composed of water. So 3 out of 4 chance this ends up over the open waters.

But traveling about 18,000 miles per hour. So that's why officials are saying you're not going to know exactly where this ends up until the final hours on approach some time Saturday or Sunday. Then we'll calculate where tends up. Because it's just a small variation here for an object that's orbiting our planet 15 times a day, a small variation will put us thousands of miles in a new location.

Of course, we had another satellite -- another rocket piece I should say, that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about a year ago. Went over at one point over Los Angeles. And another point over Central Park a few minutes later. But up being deposited into the Atlantic Ocean. And it's really important to note when you take something like this, about 10 percent of our planet's surface, Kim, is actually inhabited by humans as far as surface area is concerned.

And this particular object, it's not going to be one impact point as a lot of people believe it to be. It's actually going to be scattered about -- kind of equivalent to say a small airplane crash debris field. But it's going to be scattered about an over 100-mile distance of land or water. So it's not one impact point but a wider area of impact -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, I noticed Atlanta was in that radius that you showed there, so I'll be casting a new nervous glances up to the heavens this weekend. Thanks so much for that. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, appreciate it.

Even though it's probably not appropriate to party like a rock star because of COVID, of course, well you can now at least drink like a queen. Queen Elizabeth II or rather her estate, has launched two types of beers. An Indian pale ale and a bitter. The Sandringham Estate in Eastern England where the Royal family usually celebrates Christmas, say the brews are now on sale at the gift shop. Cheers. That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "EARLY START"

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