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Europe Poised to Welcome Back American Tourists; Study: Children, Young Adults Behind England Case Rise; Olympic Organizers Considering How Many Spectators to Safely Allow; State Media: Kim Admits North Korea Faces Food Shortages; New U.S. Federal Holiday Commemorates the End of Slavery; Birthplace of Modern Day KKK Prepares to Mark Holiday. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 04:30   ET



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

Many Americans are vaccinated and eager to travel and Europe wants their tourism dollars. Anytime now the EU is expected to lift restrictions on U.S. travelers even those who aren't vaccinated. Our Melissa Bell is covering this live from Paris. Melissa, a huge development for travelers and for the hard hit tourism industries there, but there are still some asterisks before Americans can book their ticket. Take us through the decision we're expecting.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Essentially what's happened now is that EU ambassadors have agreed and EU will formally announce later today that they are placing not only the United States but a number of other countries on a list of safe countries. That means that the epidemic is sufficiently under control in those countries that citizens of those countries should be allowed to move freely once again and to come into the European Union.

But of course, Kim, it's important to remember that it is still down to member states to decide exactly what the requirements should be. So for instance, here in France vaccinated Americans can come already if they have a negative PCR test as well. Unvaccinated Americans still needed a reason, a necessary reason to prove why they had to travel. That essentially is what's going to go away.

Then it will be up to countries to decide what they need for vaccinated Americans, perhaps just the vaccination proof, but most importantly it means that non-vaccinated Americans are going to be able to come back to the European Union, perhaps with a negative PCR test, that will be announced country by country. But we've been hearing from the French foreign minister on French radio this morning and he said, look, we need American tourists back and this is a question of boosting the economy.

So much of Paris is once again open, the restaurants, the bars, but everyone will tell you the taxi drivers, the waiter at the cafe, the restaurant owners, the hoteliers, that what's now missing are tourists and specifically American tourists. This is the most visited city in the world. You can imagine that without those crucial American dollars drawn from that tourism industry it's been a long, hard winter for a lot of businesses -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Melissa Bell reporting from Paris, thank you so much.

Turning to the U.K. now where a new study says children and young adults are causing exponential growth in coronavirus cases in England. Researchers found new infections in those age groups were doubling every 11 days. CNN's Phil black is tracking this story for us from London. Phil, it all comes down to this Delta variant, right?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So Kim, as this Delta variant spreads rapidly there is growing evidence that it is spreading most rapidly among age groups in the population that have little to no vaccine protection including children. And this is at a critical point in the country's vaccine rollout where they have moved backwards through ages from oldest to youngest and vaccines are now open to everybody over the age of 18.

But the next key policy decision is do they keep going? Do they move on to vaccinating children as some countries including the U.S., Israel, France have either decided to do or are doing. And the government here is waiting on some advice from an independent expert panel. But in the public discussion there is a common expert view and that is that ethically this is a tricky decision to make right now. That the calculation between risks and benefits isn't clear because you are talking about children who generally do not experience COVID- 19 as seriously as adults do. So if you decide to proceed you are choosing to expose them to a new vaccine in order primarily to protect older people.

Now the countries that have decided to proceed, like the U.S. they're very clear as to why they have done so. They believe it does protect children some of whom do experience severe COVID-19, some of whom do experience long COVID as well. It protects their families. It prevents outbreaks in schools.


So safeguards against further disruption to education and it adds to the overall pool of immunity which is crucial for slowing the spread of the virus. Now, all of these are really important considerations for the U.K. as it grapples with this third wave fueled by the Delta variant.

There is however, one other argument for not proceeding with children in this country at this time where the uptake among adults has been very high and that is the hope that by just focusing on adults you can hit a critical threshold of immunity in the population which would then protect children anyway. That is the hope. No one knows for sure and so for that reason it is possible that the government's expert panel will say let's hold fire for now, wait for more safety data out of countries like the U.S. where millions of adolescents have now been vaccinated. And then only proceed in the future if we are confident it is safe and necessary -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, it's an interesting debate. Phil Black live in London, thanks so much for that.

Tokyo Olympic organizers are trying to decide how many spectators they should allow into the Olympic venues or whether they should let anybody in at all. They're especially worried about that Delta variant we were talking about, the one which was first identified in India. CNN's Selina Wang is in Tokyo. Selina, so what are medical experts saying about allowing spectators in?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, Japan's top COVID-19 adviser said that it would be, quote, desirable to have no spectators at the Olympics. But Kim, the question is are Olympic organizers going to take that advice? The government has said that in places where there are no COVID emergency measures in place they will have a cap of 10,000 people at large scale venues.

But the declaration in Tokyo and other parts of Japan while it is expiring on June 20th they then shift to a quasi-state of emergency. Now none of these declarations are hard lockdowns but they do require some businesses to close down early.

But, Kim, for the spectators that may be allowed in the stands it's not going to be the normal celebration for an Olympic fan. They are asked to socially distance themselves, to go straight from their homes to Olympic venues, to eat alone if they can, no partying or drinking in the streets. Take a listen to what the official had to say.


HIDEMASA NAKAMURA, TOKYO 2020 MAIN OPERATION CENTER CHIEF: And during travel -- so please keep safe distance away from everyone except for your family members. And no group drinking and eating in the venue. So if you are eating you need to eat alone, at least you shouldn't be facing the same direction as your friends -- of your families.


WANG (on camera): These restrictions are an attempt to avoid a rebound of COVID-19 cases here in Japan. Olympic officials said that they're concerned about the Delta variant. In fact, they just announced new restrictions on athletes coming from India. They will have to quarantine and be tested daily for seven days before arriving in Japan. And Kim, we've been talking about the lackluster vaccine rollout here in Japan, we are just weeks away but still only 6 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, not good. CNN's Selina Wang in Tokyo, thanks so much for that.

While possible food shortage is looming over North Korea. Still ahead a stark admission from the country's leader and real life problems for the residents of Pyongyang.

Plus President Biden signs into law a new U.S. federal holiday recognizing the end of slavery. So we will take you to the birthplace of the modern day Ku Klux Klan to see how people there, plan to celebrate Juneteenth. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Residents of Pyongyang are telling CNN that food prices have risen sharply in recent months. Saying the cost of some locally produced items have doubled or even tripled. They spoke after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called the food situation tense according to state media. The United Nations predicts that food shortages are coming later this year. Kim also gave his assessment of the Biden administration and hinted that how he made a deal with the current White House.

Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul, South Korea with more. Paula, so Kim Jong-un unusually forthright about this crisis. What's behind this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Kim, he's certainly very blunt earlier this week at the workers party meeting saying that the people's food situation is now getting tense. Now he has talked about the food issue before, but certainly not in these stark terms. And it is in keeping with what we have been hearing from experts, from sources on the ground as well over recent months. That the combination of a bad harvest in some cases last year due to typhoons and flooding, followed by the COVID-19 restrictions, the border has being shut since January 2020, so nothing has been getting in whether from China, through trade, or humanitarian aid. And then of course on top of that you do have the sanctions.

So this is not unexpected but it's certainly key that the leader himself is pointing out just how dire the situation might be. Now, as you said, we did hear from the United Nations earlier this month saying that they estimated the food gap of what North Korea could grow and what they could actually need could be about 860,000 tons, the equivalent of more than two months of food.

Now North Korea doesn't usually meet the expectations and the needs of its own people, but it is -- it does accept imports and humanitarian aid in many cases so that can plug up the gap. Without that option this time around, though, the United Nations has said that there could be lean harsh times from August to October of this year.

So there is certainly a concern. And residents in Pyongyang have told me that they have seen these prices increasing. Prices of potatoes, for example, have tripled in Tung Yo market. This is one market in Pyongyang that's well known amongst locals and among foreigners and tourists when tourists are allowed into North Korea. So certainly the story on the ground as well is that the prices are going up and it is becoming more difficult for local residents to get by.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, a very serious situation for many people there. Turning to the leader, any more details on Kim Jong-un's health? I mean, there's been lots of speculation. Any more clarity there? HANCOCKS: No, and there wouldn't be, Kim, unless Kim Jong-un himself

decided that he wanted to address the issue of his weight and that's highly unlikely to happen.


The speculation will continue for months and years as long as he is in power every time there is a weight fluctuation I have no doubt. But it is clear that he has lost some weight over recent weeks, but the reason for that we simply don't know. And it's one of those cases when it comes to the North Korean leader's health we won't know unless he decides that he wants the world to know and that's highly unlikely.

BRUNHUBER: All right, the mystery continues. Paula Hancocks reporting from Seoul, thank you so much for that, appreciate it.

The quest to make Juneteenth a national holiday is now complete thanks in large part to the work of a 94-year-old woman, but she says the fight isn't ending there. Listen to this.


OPAL LEE, JUNETEENTH ACTIVIST: It's not a black thing. It's not a Texas thing. None of us are free until we're all free.


BRUNHUBER: The special moment the so-called grandmother of Juneteenth received from President Biden. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Saturday here in the United States will be marking the newest federal holiday and it's one as powerful as the woman who championed its cause. 94-year-old Opal Lee is the force behind the effort to make Juneteenth is national holiday.


It commemorates June 19th, 1865, the day when enslaved people in Texas learned President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier which freed them. Now fittingly Lee was in the room when the U.S. President Joe Biden signed the legislation creating the holiday, even getting a standing ovation from the president. And she spoke to our Chris Cuomo earlier and says the mission still isn't over.


OPAL LEE, JUNETEENTH ACTIVIST: Juneteenth is a bridge to freedom. It's not a black thing. It's not a Texas thing. None of us are free until we are all free and we're not free yet. There are too many disparities. Homelessness, joblessness, health care. All of these things need to be addressed and they don't just affect black people, they affect all people. And if we work together to dispel them, what a great country this would be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: The new holiday has special meaning for the small Georgia town where the modern day KKK was founded and where controversy over remembering the Civil War looms large to this day. CNN's Martin Savidge has that story.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 80-year-old Gloria Brown remembers when hundreds of men in white robes would descend on her town each summer.

GLORIA BROWN, STONE MOUNTAIN RESIDENT: As a little girl, they looked like a white ghost, you know, these certain things that ghosts and -- they looked like a white ghost.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Crosses would burn on the nearby mountain tops. Brown's father, a World War I veteran reassured her one day things would be different.

BROWN: He said that that will change.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): He was right. This weekend Stone Mountain, Georgia, birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan holds its first Juneteenth celebration honoring the end of slavery.

CHAKIRA JOHNSON, MAYOR PRO TEM, STONE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA: We'll have a dance group, and African dancers, a life DJ. We will have vendors and food. And then we will end the night with fireworks.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Deputy mayor Chakira Johnson is excited to show off how much it's different in the village of roughly 6,300, now 78 percent black.

JOHNSON: It is our hope that people will see us for who we are today and recognize that, you know, things have changed. We may not be perfect, but we are not who we used to be.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): But the celebration is not without controversy. Thanks to the town's neighbor. You see the entire village sits in the shadow of the largest Confederate monument in the United States, a carving on the side of the mountain in Stone Mountain Park. With its Confederate name streets, Confederate flags and three-acre mountainside homage to the myth of the so-called Lost Cause, a twisted reinterpretation of the South's defeat in the Civil War.

To many, it's a giant reminder of the old Jim Crow South and the village has nothing to do with it.

SAVIDGE: You have no say as to what goes on and with the park does?

JOHNSON: No say. Zero say.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The controversy was sparked with a protest group the Stone Mountain Action Coalition which described themselves as a movement dedicated to a more inclusive Stone Mountain Park, requested a booth at the village's Juneteenth festival to pass out fliers about the park. The village said no because it was a celebration.

GABRIELLE ROGERS, CO-FOUNDER, STONE MOUNTAIN ACTION COALITION: They wanted a day without politics, a day without disturbance. And that is not what we stand for.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): It's not the first time Stone Mountain village has been caught up in the middle of anger over Stone Mountain Park.

Last summer, leftist anti-racist groups and armed far-right militia members came to town in a tense face-off over race, politics and the mountain memorial.

Marita Davis Johnson is a commissioner in the county that encompasses Stone Mountain Park. She's no fan of the monument.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): But Johnson also spearheaded the effort to make Juneteenth a county holiday and believes it is a time to be celebrated by everyone.

JOHNSON: Just like we celebrate the 4th of July for the freedoms of people in this country, I think it is also important to celebrate Juneteenth for the freedoms of black people in this country.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Gloria Brown's father wasn't the only one to predict a different day for his town. So did another man in 1963. In his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King said in part, let freedom ring from the snowcapped --

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: ... snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): This weekend in Stone Mountain Georgia, that dream will seem closer than ever, even as they celebrate in the shadow of the confederacy.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Stone Mountain Village, Georgia.


BRUNHUBER: Two of the biggest names in tennis pulled out of Wimbledon plus golf, soccer and much more. CNN's Patrick Snell has our minute in sports.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Well day one of the U.S. Open in San Diego seeing a 90 minute morning fog delay at Torrey Pines with a knock on effect that round one still not complete. The USA's Russell Henley leading after a 4 under 67, South African's Louis Oosthuizen also 4 under but he has two holes still to complete when play was suspended.

Spanish tennis legend Rafa Nadal saying he won't be competing at either Wimbledon or the Tokyo Olympics after what he calls the always demanding clay court season. While Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka -- who withdrew from the French Open having cited concerns over mental health -- will take some personal time with friends and family according to her agent but will be ready for Tokyo 2020 but won't play at Wimbledon.

At Euro 2020 Denmark's national team taking to the field to play for the first time, this since Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during play last Sunday in the tenth minute of the match against Belgium. The game stopped in tribute to the Danish number ten Eriksen, who remains in hospital, everyone coming together there for a minute's applause.

And at the Copa America in Brazil, Neymar, the star turned as he leaped the host a 4-0 win over Peru. Scoring one to move within nine now of great Pele's all-time mark for the national team. On that note it's back to you.


BRUNHUBER: And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "EARLY START" is next.