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Midnight Deadline to Form New Israeli Government; Peru More Than Doubles COVID-19 Death Toll; Mental Health Expert Weighs in on Naomi Osaka's Plea; China Fighting Latest Outbreak in Country's South; Moderna Seeks Full FDA Approval for its COVID Vaccine; U.S. Air Travel Skyrockets over Memorial Day Weekend; U.S. and Allies Fly Over All NATO Nations in Show of Unity; Niger Seeks Weapons and Funding to Fight Militants; Brazil is New Host of COPA America 2021 Tournament. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 2, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm John Vause for CNN NEWSROOM, live from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Ahead this hour: The end could be nigh for Israel's longest serving prime minister for the diverse coalition of political parties inching closer to forming a unity government, united only in their animosity for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Peru's government more than doubled the official COVID-19 death toll, leaving it with the world's worst death rate.

And the power of no. By dropping out of the French Open, Naomi Osaka has forced a back-down by grand slam organizers, now promising to address mental health concerns, but is this too little too late?


VAUSE: Good morning, Jerusalem, where it's just gone to 8:00 a.m., across Israel where the sun could be setting on Benjamin Netanyahu's time as the country's longest serving prime minister.

A diverse group of political rivals have put aside a significant party differences, and in the coming hours, they could announce an agreement to form a unity government, what is essentially an anti-Netanyahu coalition. The leader of the centrist opposition, Yair Lapid, has been working with Naftali Bennett, the head of a small religious nationalist party, trying to form a bloc which controls at least 61 seats in the Knesset, to oust Netanyahu.

They have about 16 hours left now before a midnight Wednesday deadline. Beyond that, any deal would still need parliamentary approval by the Knesset. We have more now from journalist Elliott Gotkine in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Intense negotiations with members of this putative anti-Netanyahu coalition here in Israel are continuing. They haven't really stopped since Sunday.

I spoke with a source who is involved in the coalition negotiations, he tells me that there is a 60 percent, that's six in 10 chance that they will continue conclude their negotiations today, and that Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition party Yesh Atid, will thereby be able to go to President Reuven Rivlin and to the speaker of the Knesset and tell them, I've done it, I have got together a coalition that will be able to command the support of more than half the lawmakers in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

Once that happens, the speaker of the Knesset who by the way, is an ally of Prime Minister Netanyahu, he is from the same party, he then has a maximum of one week in which to convene the Knesset to hold a vote on whether this coalition can come into effect.

Now they say the week is a long time in politics in the best times, this next week could feel like an eternity to certainly the members of this putative coalition, and Israelis want to see come into effect. You can bet your bottom dollar that in that time, from Prime Minister Netanyahu will be doing everything possible to try to persuade potential waverers, certainly among the right-wing parties that would be part of this governing coalition, to try to persuade them to see the error of their ways, to either reject joining this coalition, or to resign or to do something that would undermine.

You can see more protest outside the homes of these right-wing lawmakers that are potentially going to go into this collision agreement as well.

But certainly one thing is clear, after 12 consecutive years of Netanyahu being in the prime minister of Israel, we are closer than we have ever been to seeing him leave office.

Elliott Gotkine, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: For more this hour, we're joined now by Yaakov Katz, editor in chief of "The Jerusalem Post".

Welcome back.


VAUSE: Perhaps the only play left for Netanyahu, I guess it is to try and stall an agreement for being reached, to form a unity coalition. To try and run down the clock until the midnight deadline on Wednesday.

There's another option, an opinion piece at Haaretz argues, under the headline, Israel slipping away, Netanyahu could bring Capitol insurrection to Israel, a reference to January 6 in Washington. Some kind of uprising there, apart from option A, which seems unlikely, option B, which seems even unlikelier.

Is there any way forward here for Netanyahu at this point?

KATZ: Well, John, there's option C. Option C, and this is also been thrown around, is that maybe he'll do a last -- try to push a last ditch bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities.

But I mean, look, I think all of those options they might exist but I don't think the real, right? Israel has strong democratic institutions that would prevent something like that from happening, whether it would be an attack on Iran at the last second, or hopefully some sort of Capitol insurrection, maybe a Knesset insurrection if we do the Israeli version.


Netanyahu's real strategy right now is he can't prevent the parties led by Bennett and Lapid and everyone else from coalescing together and informing the president later tonight that they have found a way to form a government. What he could then try to do though is postpone the vote on swearing in parliament, and then in that week, that he can somehow buy some time, he could then tried to peel away some of the members of the right-wing flank of that new coalition.

I'm not sure he'll succeed, I think what we saw was the crossing of the psychological barrier by Bennett and his party, saying, we're ready for this unity government, those are the people who are most vulnerable. If they're not coming over to Netanyahu side, he might be out of options.

VAUSE: OK. So let's assume that this announcement comes the next couple of hours, there will be unity government. The unity is only in acrimony towards Netanyahu. So can this coalition survive for any significant period of time before it fractures?

KATZ: Well, that is the question that a lot of Israelis are wondering, or predictions that it will last just a few months, maybe half a year, maybe a year at the most. But I think that if -- if Netanyahu sticks by what he's been saying, what close associates of his have put out that he will remain in the opposition and he'll become the leader of the opposition, he'll be the glue that will stick together and keep this government together, right, because he'll be out there in the opposition, he'll be this constant threat that reminder that he's still there. If they fall apart, and their government doesn't stick it out, he'll be there to come right back in, swoop in and take over the country again.

So, actually, the best gift this government would be Netanyahu's thing on as leader of the opposition. His interest by, the way and staying on as leader of the opposition is he doesn't want to let go of the mantle of his Likud Party. He also feels that as the leader of the opposition, he has some standing publicly, and that will help him through his corruption trial, which is ongoing as you know, John. So, altogether, I think both sides have an interest in seeing Netanyahu stay on as head of the opposition.

VAUSE: But will be legal troubles he's facing actually surpass any possibility of some kind of political comeback for Netanyahu?

KATZ: You know what, it's difficult to say, in Israel what we discovered of the last two and a half years of more repeated elections is that anything is possible in Israeli politics. So, I can't rule out anything. He still is very popular, right?

Think back to the March 23rd vote, his trial had already begun, we knew that he was going to be on trial, we knew that he's under indictment for bribery fraud, and breach of trust. And still, he received 30 seats from the Israeli electorate. It's over 1.2 million people who voted for, and that's astounding, right? And they did so because he's strong, they did so because they see him as the leader that they need to kind of shift it through, steer them through these stormy seas here in the Middle East, with all the challenges that Israel faces from Iran, to Hamas, which you saw the recent flare up in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, they want him.

And those people I think will continue to cling to him. By the way, he's playing the victim ticket, right? The victim card.

He's saying, I'm the victim of this judicial persecution, I'm the victim of this coalition that's coming together of right, left, center. They're all about, me they want to bring me down.

So, he makes the narrative about himself, that keeps himself in the spotlight and keeps his supporters I think behind him.

VAUSE: Very quickly, possibility of, you know, an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran. Netanyahu did speak in a very stark terms about the relationship between United States and Israel, the relationship with Iran. Here he is.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If we need to choose, I hope it will not happen, between friction with our great friend the U.S. and getting rid of an existential threat, getting rid of an existential threat will prevail.


VAUSE: So willing to sacrifice, doing damage to the U.S. relation to end a threat from Iran.

Will Naftali Bennett, the incoming prime minister, assuming to be the incoming prime minister for the next 12 months at least, will he have a very similar sort of outlook in terms of Iran as Netanyahu has?

KATZ: I think that Bennett would do two things. One is that he's going to be tough on Iran. He's against the return to the JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal. By the way, everyone in that nuclear deal pretty much is, who's coming together, from the right, from the left, and from the center. It's unanimous across the Israeli political spectrum.

But I also think that Bennett is going to show the Israeli electorate that he can get along with the Biden administration. He can get along with Democrats and Republicans. That's something that Netanyahu has had difficulty in the recent years, ever since his speech in Congress against Barack Obama back in 2015.

Naftali Bennett, if he's prime minister, together with Yair Lapid, who will be the alternate prime minister and foreign minister, they were going to want to show that they can get along, with both sides of the aisle in the United States.


So, it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Israeli-U.S. relations are definitely one of the pillars of Israel's diplomatic power, and military strength in the Middle East. They will need to do a lot to retain that.

VAUSE: Yaakov Katz, it is always good to have you with us, sir. Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you.

VAUSE: The number of new coronavirus infections worldwide has been declining now for five weeks. And the daily death toll is falling down for a fourth week, according to the World Health Organization.

And in the U.K., reporting no daily COVID deaths for the first time since the pandemic began. Experts are warning a third wave could be coming.

New infections in India, down more than 25 percent this week. The daily death toll has declined for the first time since March.

But across Africa, daily cases up more than 20 percent. That's after plateauing for a month.

The official pandemic death toll in Peru has been revised upwards by a lot. In fact, it's more than doubled, an admission of sorts that COVID-19 has been far more deadlier there than the government wanted to believe. And that came as a surprise to almost no one. Most had suspected as much for months.

We have more now from CNN's Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For a long time, as they buried their dead in staggeringly high numbers, Peruvians knew the fight against the coronavirus was being lost in their country. But only now it is the true scope of the government's failure to respond to the pandemic coming into clear view.

On Monday, Peruvian health officials acknowledged that they had vastly undercounted the victims of coronavirus, and that a reexamination of the death toll should show that nearly instead of 70,000 COVID fatalities, there are more than 180,000. At more than 500 deaths per 100,000 people, Peru's pandemic mortality rate now stands as the highest in the world. Peruvians waiting outside of hospitals for beds and oxygen for their

loved ones said, they have lost faith in their leaders.

I don't know if the government lies to us or tells the truth, she says. We had that problem. There are dead being taking out a loss for every day. They go to the hospital every day and we don't know.

Peruvian health officials said they arrived at the new figures by combining different systems, tracking deaths and looking at the overall increase in fatalities, compared to recent years. Government officials said, they did not try to cover-up how many people actually died.

We consider that it is our duty to make this updated information public, she says, not only as part of our commitment to transparency, but also to fulfill our obligations as a state.

The revised death tolls unlikely to generate renewed confidence in their government, among Peruvians and could influence who will lead the country as Peru goes to vote on Saturday in a tight runoff presidential election. The vast discrepancy in the death toll may just be one symptom of an overwhelmed health care system that did not have enough oxygen cylinders testing kits or doctors.

We believe that this occurs because their health care system does not have the necessary conditions to care for patients, he says. There is not been government support with oxygen, with ICU beds, we do not have enough vaccines at the moment.

The pandemic is still raging in Peru, and across much of the rest of Latin America, whereas of the middle of May, only 3 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Whatever the full figures are, the true toll of the pandemic of this region will likely never be known.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN.


VAUSE: Well, the cargo ship which has been on fire for almost two week anchored off the coast of Sri Lanka is now sinking. Governor officials say emergency measures are in place to try to prevent environmental damage from leaking oil to a nearby delicate lagoon and surrounding wildlife. For now, it seems to breathe washing up onshore. The ships operators would only say there are concerns about the amount of water in the ships haul.

Well, still to come, Naomi Osaka pulling out of the French Open has caused an uproar in the tennis world, but she has powerful supporters as well. How the reaction to her decision has evolved.

Plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was trying to speak out and to help empower people to speak out, to help these stigmatized affect mental health issues are out there. We all are deserving and compassionate about them, and just a lack of support is really surprising to me, because it really was an opportunity for us to start a conversation.


VAUSE: And there may be world-class athletes, but they to struggle with mental health issues as well. More on that when we come back.



VAUSE: It says a lot one of the world's best tennis players decides to sit at one of the most important tournaments of the year, rather be forced to talk to the media. World number two Naomi Osaka's decision to exit the French Open for mental health reasons has rattled the tennis world.

Her sponsors thought and other top athletes from inside and outside tennis are coming to her defense. And the organizers of the Grand Slam tournaments now showing a little understanding.

But there are other players including Rafael Nadal and retired pro Annabel Croft who said speaking to reporters, it's all just part of the job.


ANNABEL CROFT, FORMER PRO TENNIS PLAYER: If an actor and actress signs up to a big film, they're expected to promote that film for the money that they will receive to be taking that part. I guess musicians would be the same. So, you know, I think it was shock for everybody in this circumstance, because when we first saw her onto the scene, she was very shy.

Most of the press used to dread interviewing her because she didn't give more than two word answers and she looked at the floor, and then she became a very, very engaging, very quirky, very humorous. And she appeared to really enjoy bantering with the press, the press absolutely loved her.

So, this announcement that she gave, just ahead of this French Open wasn't really a big shock to the tennis world, and to the media in general.


VAUSE: "WORLD SPORT's" Patrick Snell is with us live following the story.

I kind of get that attitude, it's part of the job. But there's nothing worse than an athlete who doesn't want to be in one of his news conference is give you those sort of yes-no answers and looks out of the floor.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yeah, you're spot on, John, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

I mean, look, this has been a courageous stance, no question from Naomi Osaka. I think attitudes have changed, John, since she did come out on Tuesday, revealing in this is the crux for me. The mission is she suffered bouts of depression since winning her first Grand Slam title, life transforming, John, first grand slam title in 2018 when she beat the USA Serena Williams in New York City.

Since then, her life let's be honest, it has simply never been the same since. Everyone has one of a piece of it when it comes to media access and it has come to this. I'll say it again, it has come to this. She has had, though let's be fair, let's bounce it out, an overwhelming show of support by and large from across the supporting spectrum. The world of golf, from basketball, we have Steph Curry, of course from tennis, the men's top rank player, Novak Djokovic, calling Osaka, calling her very brave, and adding that he hopes she comes back strong.

More reaction, this just shows, John, how emotive this whole issue is because reaction continues to come in support of Naomi Osaka. Coming to us on Tuesday here at CNN, the American great Chris Evert saying, look, some media does indeed need to take a good look at itself moving forward.

Take a listen.


CHRIS EVERT, 18-TIME MAJOR WINNER: Some of the press is not tennis press. They're tabloid press or they're bloggers, or, you know, they have nothing to do with tennis.


They just want to talk about other things besides tennis.

And I think it should be primarily after a match, should be about your tennis. I think that, you know, somehow, they -- everybody has to talk about a solution to make this a healthy environment for the players, to go into and a comfortable environment. Because we're all in this together to promote the sport.

The other thing that we have to remember is, Coco Gauff, 17 years old. A lot of stars now are teenagers. A lot of the great players are in their early twenties.

You know, this isn't -- this isn't football. This isn't golf. You know, this isn't race car driving. We're not talking 35, 40, 45-year- old man or women. We're talking youngsters.

So I think the press have to take a stand, have to kind of go up another level and have some respect.


SNELL: Chris Evert there with strong, powerful words, and not holding back, and very relevant, indeed.

John, back to you there.

VAUSE: Patrick, thank you. "World Sports' Patrick Snell's there with all the details. Thank you.

For more, we're joined this hour by Dr. Andrea Bonior, professor of psychology at Georgetown University, a clinical psychologist and author of "Detox Your Thoughts: Quick Negative Self Talk for Good and Discover the Life You've Always Wanted."

Dr. Andrea Bonior, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: The French Tennis Association issued a brief statement on Monday, saying how sorry and said they are for Naomi, and adding this: We remain very committed to all athletes well-being and continually improving every aspect of players' experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we've always tried to do.

There was a brief mention there of also wishing Osaka a quick recovery, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of recognition here about mental health issues, which is dealing with and in some respects came across almost dismissive. How do you see it?

BONIOR: I agree, I think it's also not taking responsibility for the role that they had in this whole situation. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that this really was an opportunity that seems messed. She spoke out, she was vulnerable, she was courageous.

She spoke out about her struggle. She tried to do the right thing. She was going to pay the fines, not participate with the media. And they still came back and doubled down, said that wasn't okay.

And so, I think it really doesn't seem to reflect their actual actions. They can -- they can speak here about supporting her, but I think this was generally a situation where they had the opportunity to do something great and to truly be supportive of mental health issues. And instead, all they did was talk and not actually show action.

VAUSE: You know, there's been a significant amount of support for both players, current and retired as well within tennis, including Pat McEnroe. Listen to this.


PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER TENNIS PLAYER: Hey, you make all this money. Hey, if you can go out there and play tennis at a high level, how could you have mental health problem. Well, guess what? You absolutely can.

You see in other former great athletes deal with this type of issues and still be able to perform at a high level. It's not about performing necessarily on the tennis court or on the pitch or on the basketball court. And it's not about how much money you make, and that's I think what a lot of people don't quite see.


VAUSE: So, how do you explain that just because someone has the talent and the good to play world-class tennis, that doesn't mean they can deal with being grilled by a bunch of reporters and a news conference, a day after, day after, day.

BONIOR: Yeah, no one is immune to the anxiety or depression for that matter, which Naomi Osaka has mentioned that she suffered from. And it's hard to fathom because we hold athletes up on a pedestal, in terms of when they accomplished these incredible physical feats. We think that they must have it all together mentally.

But a lot of time, the extreme pressures they're under actually make them more likely to suffer from anxiety. Social anxiety and performance anxiety when speaking to groups of people are very common across the world and it's no surprise that they would be common in the athlete population as well, especially given the criticism and the way that they have to be exposed to such, you know, at high expectations and the negative talk and the judgment about them. It's almost a wonder that any of them actually feel okay.

A few years ago, back in 2018 there is a very telling moment to news conference, here it is.

VAUSE: Yeah, it's a pressure cooker and there's -- it says a lot of pressure on these very young athletes at the very stages of their career. But I mean, we heard back in December during an interview with "Vogue", Osaka was quoted as saying, off the court, if I was ever thrown into a situation where I had to speak in front of 100 people, I feel like I would start shaking.

And then a few years ago, back in 2019, there was a very telling moment during a newes conference at Wimbledon. Here it is.


REPORTER: Naomi, has it been difficult to get used to the new level of fame that you have, you pretty much become a global superstar over the last 12 months winning in Australia and New York?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. We have to leave that there.



VAUSE: It's clear that she was struggling. She walked in here earlier to talk about issues and struggling with depression and how she was essentially didn't know it was happening. She just didn't have the energy that she needed to play.

So, it seems as someone is watching, and that includes the people who run professional tennis. There are plenty of signs that this moment was coming.

BONIOR: Plenty of signs, and to not accept her willingness to talk about it, and to do some good, you know, I see that is a mental health professional as such a missed opportunity.

VAUSE: That was part of my conversation with professor of psychology and author, Andrea Bonior.

Now, Hong Kong's June 4th Museum which documents the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown is now under investigation by authorities. The museum opened 10 years ago, but is now closed until further notice after allegations it never received the appropriate permits. Just days ago, a Hong Kong appeals court ruled in favor of a ban on the candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square protest.

Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, the latest COVID outbreak in China has prompted authorities to take some drastic measures, live to Beijing for the fight to contain this new outbreak.

Also ahead, how the technology use in Pfizer and Moderna's COVID vaccine could revolutionize medicine as we know it.


VAUSE: Health officials in China have reported 13 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday. The new clusters are in Guangzhou, where authorities have sealed off parts of the city to contain the spread. A growing number of neighboring cities are also issuing stay-at-home orders.

Across the province, officials have reported more than two dozen new confirmed cases in the last week.

CNN's Steven Jiang live in Beijing with more on this.

You know, 13 may not seem a lot, but in China, it is, and they're taking fairly harsh measures.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right. This is a relatively small number, but, of course, alarming by Chinese standards because the government here, especially officials at the local level, really want zero cases in their jurisdiction.

That's why, you know, you've seen the prompt response. They have taken a page from their familiar playbook, including mass testing in the city, millions have been tested, as well as locking down areas designated as high risk and -- or medium risk.

But the difference between now and what happened when COVID first hit China, of course, is precision because that's the word they're after these days.

When you look at how they did their lockdowns back then, it was locking down entire cities or even entire provinces. Now, gradually, that became city, neighborhoods or townships. And now, in Guangzhou, they were only designated to several residential buildings as high risk areas.


So the people affected by these lockdowns in terms of these strict stay-at-home orders is still relatively small. So they're trying to strike balance between rapid containment and minimal disruption.

But the key here and -- or the most important urgent task at hand for them is to trace the origin of this case because the first case reported in Guangzhou was a 75-year-old woman. She had no travel history. So they are still not sure how she contracted this virus.

But of course, given Guangzhou's status as a bustling international hub many people had speculated she contracted from someone who had arrived in China from an infected area probably India, because officials have confirmed that this is the Indian variant that is thriving in Guangzhou.

But we still don't know yet. That's something they're looking into and that's a very important part of their containment strategy, John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang, live in Beijing.

Well more countries could soon have access to China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine after approval by the World Health Organization for emergency use.

The two-dose vaccine will be added to the WHO's global COVAX program which is facing severe shortages after India suspended its vaccine exports. An independent panel of experts recommends the Sinovac vaccine to anyone age 18 or over.

Moderna is applying for full approval in the U.S. for their coronavirus vaccine. Now the second company after Pfizer to seek that approval. Both vaccines use messenger RNA technology which is now being tested to treat HIV, cancer and other autoimmune diseases.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how the approach could drive the next wave of health care innovation.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As I sat there waiting to get my COVID vaccine last December, I remember thinking just how ordinary and extraordinary this moment was at the same time.

It wasn't just that the vaccine had the potential to protect you and me and end this pandemic, but also the possibility that this vaccine's technology could fundamentally change medicine.

It all starts with this tiny strand of genetic material known as messenger RNA, mRNA. It's made in our bodies all the time directing ourselves to make different proteins. And it's also the backbone of Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. In this case, instructing our own bodies to first, make the coronavirus' signature spike protein which then in turn prompts our immune system to create antibodies to that spike protein.

Think of it like this. It's essentially turning our bodies into our very own vaccine making machines.

DR. DREW WEISSMAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Once you've got the sequence, it's a one step reaction to make RNA.

DR. GUPTA: Dr. Drew Weissman (ph) began investigating the potential of manipulating mRNA in the mid 2000s.

DR. WEISSMAN: Back then, they were thinking of using it for vaccines, for therapeutic proteins --

DR. GUPTA: Fast forward two decades, and these ideas are a reality. And they are growing. Moderna is now testing that technology for cytomegalovirus that's the leading infectious cause of birth defect in the United States.

Another company CureVac is utilizing the technology for a potential rabies vaccine. And everyone is seemingly focused on flu. Currently, it takes about six months to develop the flu vaccine. Meaning researchers have to make an educated guess on what's going to be the major flu strain circulating next season even before the current flu season is over. An mRNA flu vaccine could shorten that timeline to about a month.

What you may not know is, much of this began with a love story. A husband and wife team of doctors Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci.

I spoke with them months ago from my podcast "CORONAVIRUS FACT VS FICTION".

What is the future now do you think of mRNA technology?

DR. OZLEM TURECI, BIONTECH: It is a very versatile technology. You can also use it to combine multiple antigens, for example of cancer.

DR. GUPTA: So, remember that idea of turning your bodies into vaccine making machines? Well, they are now in the early stages of doing that for cancer. But instead of the spike protein for coronavirus, they find cell markers for an individual's cancer and essentially train the immune system to fight it.

It is highly specific and very fast. It's this agility that Pfizer's also now relying on to fight potential new variants of the coronavirus.


MIKE MCDERMOTT, PRESIDENT, PFIZER GLOBAL SUPPLY: Our goal is to do it in three months, to able to develop a new variants, get it through production and bring it to patients. DR. GUPTA: In a year where so much went wrong, it is worth truly

celebrating the things that went right.

MCDERMOTT: Three million doses pumping through here.

DR. GUPTA: Mike McDermott of Pfizer, got a little emotional when I asked him to reflect on the moment.

MCDERMOTT: As a kid, my dad worked for NASA. He worked on the Apollo program. And the day when we shipped the first doses out of this site is it rushed over me, like that was my moment. That was our moonshot.

DR. GUPTA: A moonshot that we were not only incredibly lucky to witness --

(on camera): By the way, as a surgeon I'm also a little bit afraid of needles.

(voice over): But to actually experience ourself.

DR. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

(on camera): You were really good.


HOLMES: U.S. air travel surged this past Memorial Day Weekend, up more than 400 percent up compared to a year ago. This might be why. There's more than 135 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. clearly stands out compared to other countries.

Are CNN's Pete Muntean reports, airlines are hoping that means a return back to a busy travel season for the coming northern summer.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here at Reagan National Airport which was a ghost town a year ago. And now the TSA says it screened 1.9 million people at airports across the country on Monday. Compare that to the same day back in 2020 when only 350,000 people flew nationwide.

The air travel record of the pandemic set only back on Friday when 1.96 million people flew. All of this means that air travel just reported the busiest five-day stretch of the pandemic, 8.97 million people.

It is an early kick off to a rebound for the summer travel season. Airlines cannot wait for this. And Delta Airline since it will fly 90 percent of its capacity this summer.

You know the story not just about air travel, AAA predicted that 37 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend. About 34 million of them traveling by car. Those numbers really not all that far off from where we were back in 2019, pre-pandemic. People tell us they are excited to get back to a bit of a return to normal. One thing still not normal, you have to wear a mask even if you are fully vaccinated across the transportation system as mandated by the federal government. Planes, trains, buses, boats and also here in terminals.

Pete Muntean, Reagan National Airport.


VAUSE: A joint show of strength between the U.S. and NATO and it comes just weeks ahead of a highly anticipated summit between Russia and the United States.

An exclusive look at the operation, that's next.

Also, the battle against an insurgency in Africa's Sahel region. Niger's president outlined what's needed to restore stability.



VAUSE: Well, a show of unity in the skies over Europe, as U.S. and NATO fly bombers over all 30 NATO countries in a joint operation. This may also be sending a message to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin amid rising tensions.

We get more now from CNN's Nic Robertson with an exclusive look.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): -- 27,000 feet over Scotland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're clear to contact, ready sir.

ROBERTSON: Flying at 275 knots with British fighter jets for company. A U.S. Air Force B-52 long range Stratofortress (INAUDIBLE) refueling on a flight from Spain before returning to a NATO mission, Operation: Allied Sky taking aircraft within sight Russia.

(on camera): It's part of a large scale NATO mission involving more 20 NATO members flying over into states (ph). And in part, it's a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(voice over): Two weeks ahead of President Biden summit with Vladimir Putin, it's a timely statement that they're still backing Biden's diplomacy. And puts NATO wings in the skies close to wear a Belarus fighter jet forced a civilian passenger plane to land. Arresting a Belarusian dissident and his Russian girlfriend raising tensions.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be meeting with President Putin in a couple of weeks in Geneva. Making it clear that we will not -- we will not stand by and let them abuse those rights. ROBERTSON: The U.S. Air force, KC 135 Stratatanker took off from

southern England, half an hour ahead of the refuel. Both tanker and bomber Cold War aircraft, older than their aircrew.

But where the east-west tensions climbing just as relevant is when they were built.

CAPT. TODD BERGLUND, U.S. AIR FORCE: It is interesting I mean, over generations of pilots have been able to fly it. It's updating every once in a while. But she's reliable. It's working. So no real need to change a whole lot.

ROBERTSON: The mission, according to NATO commanders, intended to demonstrate what they call credibility of common defense and enhanced readiness. For captain Todd Berglund, a six-year tanker veteran and it's crew, this day like all others in the Stratatanker, nothing left to chance.

BERGLUND: We have to be at a certain place on time, With the right amount of gas all the time. So, a little bit more pressure but you know, we do it so often. It's just, it kind of becomes a habit pattern. And this is our profession. This is just what we do.

ROBERTSON: How much big NATO missions like this face Putin is hard to measure. In a few weeks in Geneva when they meet, Biden will be able to judge.

Nic Robertson, CNN, somewhere over the U.K.


VAUSE: The world's largest meatpacker and most recent high profile victim of ransomware says it's making significant progress after a cyberattack which U.S. officials say, can likely traced to Russia.

JBS Food say operations in north America and Australia were targeted.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has the very latest now from Washington.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration is accusing Russian ransomware attackers of being the latest attack on critical infrastructure. This time meat processing. JBS Foods, one of the biggest food companies in the world says it is the victim of an organized cyberattack against its I.T. System.

According to the American Farm Bureau JBS processes just under a quarter of the U.S. is meat production. The White House isn't accusing the Russian government, but cyber criminals.

Still they make it clear that they see it as Russia's responsibility to crack down on these malicious actors.

The White House deputy press secretary Kareem Jean Pierre (ph) said in a statement, quote, "The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.

Remember the ransomware hackers that attacked the Colonial Pipeline recently were also form Russia. that That cause dash shortages and long lines up and down the East Coast of the United States.

Another White House official told me that the President was briefed on Monday about this attack and he told his administration to take any necessary measure to address any impact on supply or prices.

So that is clearly a major concern of the Biden administration. Now, the White House also says there are multiple federal agencies coordinating their efforts, monitoring the situation.

The USDA is speaking regularly with the JBS Foods leadership. And JBS is getting is getting technical help from the cyber agency CISA. Neither JBS, nor the white House, have said what the ransom demand is. Nor has the company said what's working and what's not.

But a number of their production facilities appear to have been shut down. We've seen Facebook posts in Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin, saying the production is not happening and other services are also not working.


MARQUARDT: So this is yet another reminder of how vulnerable critical infrastructure around the world is to malicious hackers.

Alex Marquardt, CNN -- Washington.


VAUSE: Well, the partner of British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft's son is facing manslaughter charges in Belize. Authorities are investigating Jasmine Hartin's role in the shooting death of a police superintendent.

His body was found in the water of a pier in San Pedro with a gunshot wound to the head. Lord Ashcroft's son Andrew is a well-known developer in Belize. It's not clear if he and Hartin are in fact married.

A Belarusian opposition actor stabbed himself in the throat during a court hearing Tuesday in Minsk. The images are disturbing, although a local human rights watchdog group says his wounds are not life- threatening.

That group goes on to say that Steffan Latypov harmed himself in court because authorities had threatened his family if he did not enter a guilty plea.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more details and once again, a caution, his report contains some disturbing images.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some troubling scenes in that courtroom in Minsk as the activist Steffan Latypov stabbed himself in the neck while he was on trial.

And all this happened after Latypov's father actually gave witness testimony. And then it was then that Latypov himself started speaking and he said that he had been pressured by the authorities. That they had threatened to go after him but to also go after his neighbors and his family as well.

It was then that he stabbed himself in the neck. And one of the things about those trials in Belarus is that very often, the defendant is in some sort of cage. In this case, he then collapsed inside that cage and workers in the courtroom went inside and got him out.

He was then carried on a gurney outside. And a human rights group said that he was actually in surgery on Tuesday, but that luckily his wounds were not life-threatening.

Now all of this of course, causing big uproar amongst the Belarusian opposition. The opposition leaders Svetlana (INAUDIBLE), she called this state terror. The opposition has been calling for tougher action against the Belarusian regime against Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus.

Of course, all of this also coming after government of Belarus forced that Ryanair jet to land to then get the journalist and activist Roman Protasevich off that plane and arrest him and his Russian companion as well.

The Belarusian opposition is saying that they demand tougher action against the government in Minsk, especially of the Biden administration. And certainly that's also something that a lot of opposition activists are going to be looking at when President Biden meets with Vladimir Putin.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Berlin.


VAUSE: Well, the threat of a second devastating volcanic eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo is haunting survivors of an earlier disaster.

Scientists in the city of Goma says a second eruption remains possible. It could happen with very little warning. Experts have continually reported seismic activity after a nearby volcano erupted almost two weeks ago.

Hundreds of thousands of people are forced to flee their homes, many do not know if their homes remain standing.

The presidents of France and Niger are calling for international help in their fight against terrorists in Africa's Sahel region. In recent years, this vast area has seen a sharp increase in the number of wars coups, militant attacks on civilians. And on Monday, the French President Emmanuel Macron says French troops alone cannot bring peace to the region. And Niger's leader wants allies to contribute weapons as well as financial assistance to help end the violence.

CNN's Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The cheers were also a relief.

Democracy has survived in attempted (INAUDIBLE) just two days before Mohammed Barzoum was inaugurated as Niger's new president.

Neighboring Chad is now in the hands of the military following the death of its president on the battle field. As is Martin (Ph), after a coup last August and then the ousting by the army of both the president and the prime minister.

In the more than million square miles Sahel region, many fear that democracy has been crumbling under the weight of an insurgency fueled by the weapons that flowed south from Libya after the 2011 civil war.

MOHAMED BARZOUM, NIGERIAN PRESIDENT: The terrorist who are roaming the Sahel now are armed with weapons that no non-state groups has ever had access to before. Now, these young terrorists are using M80s the exactly the same game they used to use Kalashnikov, (INAUDIBLE) or it isn't a weapon made to use by one person but that is how it is being used.


BELL: President Barzoum believes the problem is strictly a military one. With the right weapons he says and more financial support form the rest of the world the terror threat can be dealt with by regional armies and stability restored. Partly he says because the Islamist threat in the Sahel is not endemic, but imported.

BARZOUM: You know, the leaders who are in Iraq or in the Maghreb of these two organizations, of ISIS and the AQIM today seem to focus on the Sahel, which is the soft underbelly of the world's long fight against terrorism.

BELL: For now though, that war is not being won. Attacks have been on the rise, and democracies on the back foot as armies take control.

BARZOUM: War is very expensive. Our allies must support this effort because after all, we're fighting on behalf of everyone.

Today the rebellion's center of gravity has shifted and it is in the Sahel because we are the most vulnerable. But if we're left on our own, our vulnerability will only increase. This enemy who is our common enemy will get stronger and be a problem, not only for the African continent on which it continues to advance but fort the whole of humanity BELL: President Barzoum says it is now up to the rest of the world to help pay for a fight that he says can and must be won.

Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.


VAUSE: Well, in the midst of one of the world's worst COVID outbreaks, Brazil is now trying to pull a hosting duty for South America's largest football tournament. the very latest on that and why.

That's next.


VAUSE: Well, Joe Biden is the first sitting U.S. President to pay tribute in person to the victims of the Tulsa race massacre, one of the worst acts of racial violence in American history.

The president traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma on Tuesday to mark 100 years since the atrocity which until recent years had mostly been overlooked in the United States.

The president outlined new federal efforts to battle racial inequality, including housing discrimination as well as plans to bolster minority-owned businesses.

President Biden also recounted details of that massacre, that devastated Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood, saying little hell was given.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was not a riot. This was a massacre. It's one of the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history. As soon as it was happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory.


VAUSE: the greenwood district encompassed more than 35 blocks of entirely black-owned businesses that became known as Black Wall Street.

On May 31st, 1921 tensions with neighboring white residents boiled over and the neighborhood was burned to the ground.

Brazil is now the last minute host for footballs COPA America 2021 tournament. This comes after Colombia and Argentina were stripped of the honor. The decision to move the tournament to Brazil has drawn a lot of criticism.

CNN Brasil Isabella Faria explains from Sao Paulo.



ISABELLA FARIA, CNN BRASIL: The soap opera may be coming to an end, but the work is just getting started. 12 days before kickoff, Brazil confirmed it will host the COPA America tournament. A day after saying negotiations weren't over, the presidential chief of staff Luiz Eduardo Ramos confirmed on Tuesday evening that the soccer matches will be played in Brazil, more precisely in three states -- Mato Grosso, Rio de Janeiro, Goias and the capital city, Brasilia.

The minister also said on his Twitter feed that the matches will be disputed without spectators. Earlier in the day, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gave his first statement about COPA America, saying as far as the federal government is concerned, the championship will happen in Brazil.

But not everyone is excited about hosting the event in the middle of a pandemic. COVID-19 has killed more than 465,000 people in Brazil. And experts warn that the arrival of travelers from neighboring countries could cause even more risks as variants proliferate. The decision to play in Brazil came after Argentina and Colombia were stripped of their hosting rights in recent days.

Brazil has experienced hosting massive football events like the World Cup in 2014, and the most recent edition of the COPA America in 2019. But now the country has only 12 days to get ready.

The tournament, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19 outbreak is scheduled to kickoff on June 13th. It will feature 10 South American nations with a final schedule to be played on July 10th.

Isabella Faria, CNN Brasil -- Sao Paulo.


VAUSE: Well it seems calls to cancel this summer's Olympics and Paralympic games are growing louder. Organizers of the Tokyo Games continue to insist athletes and officials will be kept as safe as possible. All measures are being taken.

And for one British Paralympian, that's good enough.


ALI JAWAD, TEAM GB PARALYMPIC POWERLIFTER: The sport has been very versatile throughout the pandemic in terms of staging events and making sure that athletes can qualify.

And I feel like the games can go ahead safely, but obviously like, the decision is out of my hands. And it's up the IOC and the IPC to make sure that the playbooks are good as possible but also athletes have a responsibility to make sure that their actions you know, kind of reflect everybody around them, too.

So I guess as athletes we're there to adapt and make sure we're ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: And the athletes continue to arrive. Australia's Olympics softball team among the first. Now in Japan for training ahead of the games. The Olympics start in just over seven weeks. The Paralympics just after that in August.

Thank you for watching this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.

I will be back with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM in a moment. Stay with us.