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Nine Killed in Mass Shootings This Weekend; Reported Leak at Chinese Nuclear Facility; Bennett Replaces Netanyahu; Delta Variant Causes Concern. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired June 14, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: There's been, sadly, just a staggering rise in gun violence across the U.S. and it led to another tragic, bloody weekend. At least nine people are dead, dozens more injured after eight mass shootings in six states, pictured there.

Some of the youngest victims, an 18 month old and a four-year-old, children. This year alone there have been more than 270 mass shootings. By CNN's definition, that's a shooting that leaves four or more people shot, that's excluding the shooter. Those numbers are up roughly 40 percent from this time last year, 65 percent higher than this point in 2019.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has more.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A dangerous surge in gun violence is putting cities across the United States on edge this morning. In Atlanta, a security guard was shot in the stomach outside the Lenox Square Mall.

DEPUTY CHIEF TIMOTHY PEEK, ATLANTA POLICE: They approached him with the gun, and so from there the investigation will tell us exactly what transpired.

JIMENEZ: Here in Chicago, police are searching for two gunmen who opened fire into a group of people standing on a sidewalk on the city's south side Friday, killing one woman and injuring nine other people.

It happened just moments after another mass shooting in downtown Austin, Texas, where people say one of the 14 people shot from their injuries died Sunday afternoon. Authorities say they arrested one person in connection to the attack but are looking for another.

[09:35:05] MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: Just a horrific event. And it's becoming something that all too often is being presented.

JIMENEZ: And since Friday afternoon, at least nine people are dead and 47 others injured after eight mass shootings in six states according to gun violence archive data.

Dallas Police are investigating a shooting outside an apartment complex on Friday that left five people injured, including a four- year-old girl. And on the same night in Savannah, Georgia, authorities are searching for who's responsible for a shooting that left one person dead and at least seven others wounded, including a two-year- old and a 13-year-old.

CHIEF ROY MINTER JR., SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, POLICE: There were a few people who were standing in front of the residence and there was a vehicle, a dark color or possibly red sedan, that rode by and fired rounds into that crowd.

JIMENEZ: In Cleveland, three men were killed outside a Cleveland gas station Saturday morning. Later that day, at least four were hurt in a shooting in Cincinnati, including two children police say were in critical condition.

LT. COL. MIKE JOHN, CINCINNATI POLICE: Anytime you have somebody struck with gunfire that age, it's going to be critical. But specifically the eight-year-old is in very, very bad shape.

JIMENEZ: The deadly surge in gun violence as the nation paused to remember the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre five years ago.

President Joe Biden announced the site will become a national memorial and called on Congress to approve gun control legislation, writing in a statement, there is more we must do to address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms, mass shootings, and daily acts of gun violence that don't make national headlines. Some local leaders also calling for action, fearing gun violence will only continue to rise.

MAYOR VAN JOHNSON (D), SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: The reality is, in Georgia, we can't be mad that guns are everywhere when Georgia law allows guns to be everywhere. We not only need to have stronger gun laws in Georgia and nationally but what we also need to have is to teach our young people better decision making.


JIMENEZ: And as part of these investigations moving forward, part of this is trying to clear through some of these cases. And we just got word now, just a few moments ago, that two 15-year-olds are now in custody out of Atlanta for that shooting outside the Lenox Mall, allegedly responsible for that shooting.

But highlights some of the difficulties departments and communities are up against in places across the country, not just to try and stop these shootings before they happen, but to try and stem the pace that we have already seen 2021 get after that is much higher than in 2020 that was already seeing elevated murder rates. And as we've seen, Jim, the stakes of this fight are as high as human life.

SCIUTTO: And part of it is a cycle, right, because a lot of these shootings are retaliation for prior shootings. And then you get in this whole revenge cycle we saw with New York City police last week. A story we're going to stay on top of at CNN.

Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

CNN has learned the U.S. is assessing report of a leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant. We're going to have much more on this CNN exclusive. That's next.



SCIUTTO: A CNN exclusive this morning and one you'll want to keep an eye on. The U.S. government is accessing a reported leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant after a French company that owns part of that plant warned of, quote, an imminent, radiological threat. That information is coming from U.S. officials and documents reviewed by CNN. The warning accused the Chinese safety authority of raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the facility in order to avoid having to shut it down.

CNN's David Culver joins me now from Shanghai.

David, how are plant officials responding to these very serious allegations? And are those officials now contradicting the French company that part owns this plant?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what we're seeing play out right now, Jim. And publicly they're putting out a calming statement that suggests that this is under control, that they're working through what they consider to be a performance issue and that they hope to have it resolved soon. That's coming from the French company, Framatome, that co-operates this plant with the Chinese company, the state owned company.

And it's all rather concerning for folks who really aren't getting the information that they want. It's something that we are used to seeing here, and that is a lack of transparency.

Let's set the scene of where exactly this is playing out because this is another concerning matter. This is in southern China, Guangdong province. That province alone has 126 million people. The small city, as it's described, has about a million people.

That's Taishan Nuclear Power Plant that you're looking at right there. And it's about 80 miles from Hong Kong. And so the concern going forward is that if this is, as it's been described by that French company, an imminent, radiological threat, then something needs to be done, one would assume, rather quickly. Now, how do we know it's described as such and why is it different

from this public display of downplaying the event? Well, that's according to sources that spoke to Zachary Cohen, our colleague in D.C. And they suggest over three different memos to the U.S. Department of Energy that this is a situation of leaking fission (ph) gas, which is a natural by-product of some of these nuclear reactors. And it's one that is most concerning because they accuse, as you point out, Jim, the Chinese of raising the limit, so as to continue operating it.


But it goes back to something you and I talked about over and over, and that is this lack of transparency that brings more concern because it is, according to nuclear experts, something that perhaps could be resolved quickly. We just don't know the severity of it. And that is what puts it all in question.

SCIUTTO: Yes, well, lack of transparency and sometimes outright lies.

David Culver, thanks so much for following.

For the first time in 12 years, Israel has a new prime minister. Naftali Bennett was sworn in, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 year grip on power. He also served in the late '90s. After being replaced, Netanyahu attacked, he left office with this warning.




SCIUTTO: It was a raucous session in the Knesset there. Lots of shouts, accusations going back and forth, members removed.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem.

And you were there yesterday, Hadas, watching this all play out. I mean it is a remarkable change for that country and for this politician who faces his own legal troubles now.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's hard for some people in Israel to believe that somebody other than Benjamin Netanyahu is now prime minister of Israel.

Since 2009, he has held such a strong grip on power here. And the transition was not smooth. As you noted, yesterday, in -- during that parliamentary session, as Naftali Bennett was trying to give his speech, certain members of parliament were even kicked off the floor because they were being so disruptive.

But, ultimately, this new coalition government was voted in by that vote of confidence, a razor thin majority. They had no room for maneuver there. But they were ultimately voted in, sworn in, this new coalition government, the most diverse in Israeli history. It includes far left parties through the center, to Naftali Bennett's right wing party. And for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab Israeli party sitting together.

But that diversity also lends this new government a bit of fragility. But Naftali Bennett speaking, promising to the Israeli people that this government will simply just work after more than two years of political dysfunction.


NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We are at the beginning of new days. The hardships, not an exaggerated word in this case, of forming a unity government are behind us. But now the citizens of Israel, all of them are looking up at us and we must deliver.


GOLD: But, Jim, Netanyahu is not going anywhere. Friend or foe, marvel at the 71-year-old's seemingly boundless energy. And he is now the leader of the opposition and he has already been promising that he and his allies will topple this new government that he calls fraudulent very quickly.


SCIUTTO: Still facing prosecution for corruption charges, too. We'll see how that pans out.

Hadas Gold, thanks very much.

And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to push back plans to lift lockdown restrictions in his country due to the spread of the highly contagious delta COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in India. We saw how much devastation it wreaked there. Lockdown restrictions were originally to end in the U.K. on June 21st, but the opening up could be delayed for up to four weeks. Imagine the disappointment there.

Joining me now, Dr. Megan Ranney, she is emergency physician at Brown University.

So, Megan, the delta -- Dr. Ranney, I should call you, you earned it, the delta variant is causing an enormous amount of concern in a number of countries, not yet in this country.

Is it just a matter of time before we see it prominent here?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's exactly right. This delta variant is more transmissible, so it's easier to catch it, and it appears to make people sicker more quickly than other variants of COVID that we've seen already. It is starting to be on the rise here, and it is just a matter of time.

The one piece of good news is that if you are fully vaccinated against COVID, all the data so far suggests that the vaccines that we're using here in the U.S. are protective against this delta variant. So this is your chance to go out and get a vaccine if you don't want to catch this new variant.

SCIUTTO: That's great news. And yet, sadly, we have an enormous disparity state by state in terms of vaccination rates here. If you look at northern states and, frankly, there's a political divide, red states versus blue states. But a lot of states in the northeast, they're going to meet the 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated by July 4th. In some states down south, I mean, it's a fraction of that, maybe a third, a third of the population.

So what does that mean for the delta variant? Does it find sort of welcoming ground there to spread?

RANNEY: It sure does. You know, many of us have been worried about those southern states over the summer regardless because folks go inside during the summer. It's hot.


RANNEY: You want to go somewhere where it's air conditioned. Those low vaccination rates period put them at higher risk. And add in the delta variant to it, it's exactly where I expect to see it start spreading.

You know, it makes me so sad that this virus has been politicized and that the vaccine, like masks before it, have become something political. This is pure science. It works. It's safe. It's something that can protect you and get us all back to normal. I hope --

SCIUTTO: That's the thing, it helps -- it helps you and your families, right? I mean that's the issue. We have the news today that the Novavax vaccine, like Moderna and Pfizer before it, has an enormously high efficacy rate of 90 percent.

RANNEY: Isn't that terrific. So now we have yet another vaccine that has shown to be both safe and effective.


And, PS, it's effective not just against the OG COVID, but also against that alpha variant, the B117 that was identified in England originally. It is another great vaccine that is able to be stored at normal freezer temperatures. You know, whether we'll use it much here in the U.S., we'll see, but it's certainly going to be a game changer for the rest of the world.


Folks, listen to Dr. Ranney. If you're not doing it for your neighbor, do it for yourself and your family. It works. The vaccines work.

Dr. Ranney, thanks so much.

RANNEY: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, President Biden is meeting with NATO leaders this morning as we learn new details about how he is preparing for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva. We're going to be there. We'll have new details, next.



SCIUTTO: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.