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Iran Election; Tornado Destroys Dozens of Homes in Alabama; COVID-19 Delta Variant Becoming Dominant Strain; Brazil Passes 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths; Vaccine Supplies Dwindle in African Countries; Policing in America; Well-to-do Community Residents Seek Secession from Atlanta; North Korea Food Supply under Stress; U.S. Federal Holiday Celebrates the End of Slavery. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 20, 2021 - 03:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi. Welcome to CNN wherever you are in the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Coming up --



CURNOW (voice-over): From partying in the street to statements of condemnation. Reaction to Iran's presidential election.

Outrage in Brazil as the country reaches a milestone in coronavirus deaths and protesters have a message for the president.

Extreme heat in the West. We'll have the forecast for the severe weather across the U.S.


CURNOW: Great to have you along. Washington has acknowledged Ebrahim Raisi as the next president of Iran. They denounced the election as fundamentally undemocratic. Nearly everyone who might have challenged him was disqualified.

The U.S. State Department said Iranians were denied their right to choose. The Iranian government said the conservative chief justice won over 60 percent of the vote. But it was the lowest turnout in more than 40 years. Fred Pleitgen has more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Conservatives celebrating a major victory that could shape the political direction of this country for a long time.

Ebrahim Raisi, a man very close to Iran's supreme leader, will soon take over as president.

"With the help of God and with the help of Sajid Ebrahim Raisi, he we will do a good job," this man says.

While turnout was historically low, Raisi managed to garner more than 60 percent of the vote, the interior ministry says.

PLEITGEN: Raisi won his landslide victory in the presidential election. His followers are putting on a show of force. (INAUDIBLE) not everyone is celebrating after moderates suffered (INAUDIBLE).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): While some shops in this market have already hung up Raisi posters, others questioned the election after many candidates were disqualified by Iran's guardian council in the run-up to the vote.

"Before the voting, everyone knew the new president would be Raisi," this woman says.

And this one adds, "All the four candidates are the same. It makes no difference to me. The elections have no effect."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be pushed to move toward lift the sanction. Our people are in the very high pressure of economic pressure.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The transfer of power is already being prepared. Raisi has already met outgoing president, the moderate, Hassan Rouhani, and said he is focused on the task ahead.

"I hope I can live up to the trust that the people have placed in me during my term," he said.

For many, that means getting the Trump-era sanctions lifted and reviving the Iran nuclear agreement, all to jump-start the ailing economy.

TRITA PARSI, QUINCY INSTITUTE FOR RESPONSIBLE STATECRAFT: There is a tremendous amount of continuity and very important foreign policy issues, such as the JCPOA, are not set by the president alone or the foreign minister. It requires much greater degree of systemic buy-in.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): One thing both moderates and conservatives agree on is that Iran's struggling economy is the country's top issue. Now Ebrahim Raisi will get his shot to bring it back on track -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


CURNOW: International reaction to Raisi's victory ranges from pro forma congratulations to outright condemnation. Two of Iran's most immediate neighbors offered words of support for the incoming president. Turkey's president, sending a letter sending -- saying, he wished "for

the spirit of cooperation between our countries to continue to strengthen."

And Iraq's leader said, quote, "Iraq truly looks forward to strengthening its relations with Iran and works to have even closer brotherly and friendly ties that link the two nations through their historical, cultural and social bonds."


CURNOW: But Amnesty International wants Raisi investigated for crimes against humanity.

They say, "As head of the Iranian judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a spiraling crackdown on human rights, which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained."

And Israel, too, condemning him as the most extremist presidential figure yet and said his election, quote, "makes clear Iran's true malign intentions."

Holly Dagres is a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council and she joins us from London.

Holly, lovely to see you. Great to have you on the show. Tell us more about who this president is; a hardliner, an ultra-conservative cleric, as we have been reporting.

What more do we know about him and his political legacy?

HOLLY DAGRES, SENIOR FELLOW, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, Robyn, Ebrahim Raisi was not a household name until the 2017 presidential election, which he ran as a hardline rival candidate to incumbent president Hassan Rouhani.

He actually lost to him with 60 million votes. And from then on, we really saw his ascent in the Iranian government. He was made Iran's judiciary chief. And what we are really seeing is that this protege of the supreme leader is being groomed possibly as a supreme leader in waiting, once the supreme leader passes.

So this is part of Khamenei's legacy. Ayatollah Khamenei has envisioned a young and pious government. And with Raisi, at 60 years old, he sort of fits that area, when you look at the lineup of clerics in the government. So by having Raisi as president, he is one of the branches of government that will, all, be hardline led.

CURNOW: And then, with that in mind, for domestic politics, what does, then, that mean internationally for this Iran nuclear deal?

DAGRES: Well, the reality is that Ebrahim Raisi does not have a lot of international experience; none at all, if anything. But when it comes to the Iran nuclear agreement, we have heard him say that he supports the agreement. And, of course, this is in part because the supreme leader backs the

nuclear accord. So right now, we have actually seen the slow walking of the nuclear talks in Vienna. And it became clear that this was related to the outcome of the election, which, of course, everyone knew what was going to happen.

But what -- what it's leading a lot of analysts, like myself, to believe is that they're probably trying to wait for Raisi to take office so they can give him this win and for him to put under his belt.

So it's something to give to the Iranian people, sanctions relief, which is something Iranians very much want because of the shambles their economy is in.


CURNOW: Our thanks to Holly Dagres there.

In the U.S., opposite sides of the country are taking hits from two opposite weather patterns. On Saturday there were a number of tornadoes that injured at least three people in Alabama.

In the Southwest, it is dry. On top of an extreme drought, more than 30 million people are under excessive heat warnings or advisories just this weekend. Some cities are seeing temperatures near record levels.



CURNOW: It's certainly concerning what is going on in the U.S. Lakes, rivers are going dry. Crops are being burned by scorched sun. Power plants running out of water to make electricity.

All of this is caused by worsening droughts. This is going on around the world. The United Nations said it could only be a preview of what's to come with no clear solution in sight. Here's Michael Holmes with the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It is commonly known as the hottest place on Earth. Tourists, posing for photos in Death Valley, California. The numbers on the thermometer, saying it all. It's a scorcher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are from Michigan, so this is extremely hot for us. And we have a ton of water in the car, Gatorade. And we aren't going to do much.

HOLMES (voice-over): An alarming snapshot of a growing global crisis, affecting not only the American West but countries all around the world. A U.N. official tweeting that drought could be the next pandemic, only

with no vaccine to cure it.

The warning, not just for poor nations but developed ones, too, with population growth changing rainfall patterns from climate change and overcultivation, just some of the factors contributing to drought.

Without enough water, this farmer in Jordan says, he has no income.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The problem is that we don't have any water. Look at this tomato. If there was water, it would have been bigger and I could've sold it for a good price.

HOLMES (voice-over): The reservoir, so low in this hydroelectric dam in Ivory Coast, it has struggled to provide enough power to nearby cities; although, fortunately, heavy rain finally started to fall last week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I am cut off from noon until 6 pm. I have no air conditioning, I have no light. I can't even serve coffee. I can't do anything.

HOLMES (voice-over): Sometimes, the land itself buckles from dry conditions. Giant sinkhole increasingly cracking open in Turkey, the results of farmers tapping into groundwater to irrigate crops, which weakens the soil.

Lake beds in Taiwan, turned bare and brittle, after it suffered the worst drought in its history, when no typhoons directly hit the island last year.

Ominous signs from all over the globe, for the world without enough water is not a sustainable one -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


CURNOW: Still ahead this hour, Brazilians turn out to demand the resignation of Bolsonaro.

Plus a new COVID-19 warning for Africa with 100 percent increase in cases in several countries.





CURNOW: Welcome back.

The U.S. hit a positive milestone in fighting coronavirus, administering 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days. But the spread of the Delta variant could threaten the progress. At least 80 countries have reported cases of the variant. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains why the

variant is causing so much concern. Sanjay.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So we are at that 300 million doses administered mark and that's obviously a very notable number here in terms of overall immunity in the country.

It's not the 70 percent nationally that we wanted but if you look at the amount of immunity from the vaccines and also add in the amount of immunity coming from people being naturally infected, we are probably at functional herd immunity or soon to be there.

So we see the numbers coming down; hospitalizations, deaths, all good news. The big question, really, is about the variants.

And I think it is interesting to look around the world at these variants and see how much of an impact they're making. If you look at the U.K., for example, I think there is a story here that is important, that you can see in the graphic.

At the end of January, it was primarily the Alpha or the U.K. variant that was dominant in the U.K., understandably.

What happened over that time period?

The numbers came down, overall, which was good. But at the same time, the Delta variant started to enter the scene there. You saw the numbers pop back up and that was obviously primarily people who had not been vaccinated.

So that is the concern here. We know this is a much more transmissible variant. The U.K. or Alpha variant was 50 percent more transmissible than the strain before that. And this is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. So you get an idea.

In Scotland, there was a study showing that those who were infected with the Delta variant were also more likely to be hospitalized. So this does appear to be more transmissible and more serious also.

So that is why there is so much attention on this.


GUPTA: If you look at the effectiveness of the vaccines, if you take a look there, you can see that Alpha or Delta, you get a lot of impact, a lot of protection from these vaccines and that's why the message remains the same, to go out there and get vaccinated.

It is also worth pointing out that, as you can slow down the spread of the virus, overall, through vaccination, through immunity, you are going to be less and less likely to actually develop mutations that are problematic, that will create more variants that we continuously worry about.

So no matter how you cut it, whichever way, the message remains the same, to go get vaccinated.


CURNOW: Thanks so much for that, Sanjay.

Meantime, Brazil has hit a somber mark and more than half a million people have died of COVID there. The death toll is twice as high as it was six months ago. That's a sign the mortality rate is actually accelerating.

Thousands of Brazilians marched in the streets across the country to protest Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic. We have more on that.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Saturday, Brazil became just the second country in the world after the United States to cross the grim threshold of over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths.

The South American country reported over 2,300 new COVID-19 deaths on Saturday and over 82,000 new cases. That brings the total number of cases reported by the Brazilian health ministry since the beginning of pandemic to over 17 million cases.

And as Brazil marked this milestone, thousands of protesters took onto the streets to demand the impeachment of the president, Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the pandemic. Major Brazilian cities such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Recife all reported large-scale and peaceful demonstrations as did the country's capital, Brasilia.

And Bolsonaro himself did not address either the COVID-19 deaths nor the protests when he attended an aid event (ph) earlier on Saturday.

But his communication minister, Fabio Faria, did so on social media, attacking the government's critics for not focusing on the millions of vaccine doses delivered, he said, by the government and even cheering for the virus, according to the communications minister -- and for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


CURNOW: Here's a look at the trend lines in terms of coronavirus deaths. As you can see from this map here, the U.S. just crossed 600,000 souls. India is approaching 400,000. Just devastating numbers.

We're also seeing worrying trends out of Africa in many cases as well. Some countries like Libya and Sierra Leone have gone up more than 100 percent. One WHO official calls it quote, "very, very concerning." He also says positive cases aren't always detected and more contagious variants are putting the continent at risk.


DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The brutal reality is that in an era of multiple variants, with increased transmissibility, potentially increased impact, we have left vast swaths of the population and the vulnerable population in Africa unprotected by vaccines in context where health systems are already weak.



CURNOW: Well, Dr. Salim Abdool Karim is director of Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and joins me now.

Doctor, hi, lovely to see you, again. I am so glad that you are joining us because I have a lot of questions. I do want to get your reaction to the WHO comments there. Certainly, raising the alarm about the state of infections on the continent.

How concerned are you?

DR. SALIM ABDOOL KARIM, CENTER FOR THE AIDS PROGRAM OF RESEARCH IN SOUTH AFRICA: Good day, Robyn. And good day, to all of the viewers. I am deeply, deeply concerned. When one looks at the situation, globally, there are about 20 vaccinations per hundred people in the world. In Africa, it's tenfold less.

We have just over two vaccinations per hundred people living on the continent. So our vaccination rates are really way, way too low. And the challenge, right now, in Africa is that many countries are all ready and raring to go and give vaccinations. But there are no doses available.

The big problem has been that most countries in Africa have depended on COVAX. And COVAX was getting its main supply from India.


KARIM: From the Serum Institute of India, that has stopped supplying vaccines because they are redirecting it to India, itself. So you can see, it's a huge challenge in Africa.

CURNOW: So how -- how much of a backlog do you think there is there?

KARIM: Well, we've got a lot of catching up to do. There is a need to get vaccines into the continent to bring that up so that at least 20 percent of our population can be vaccinated, you know, within the next few months, because many countries in Africa, roughly one out of four countries, about 14 countries in Africa, already, in the third wave.

So the sooner vaccines can arrive, the better. So I was very pleased that the G7 has made that commitment. And several companies are, also, now, making commitments to make vaccines available. But a lot more needs to be done.

CURNOW: Let's talk about where you are, now, South Africa. Of course, it's also my home country. It should have one of the continent's most developed health systems. But I am hearing that it's difficult to find beds in places, like Johannesburg.

How worrying is the situation in South Africa, right now? KARIM: So South Africa went through a pretty bad patch, in the second wave. The second wave started rising at the end of November, driven, principally, by a new variant, called the Beta variant. And that went through the country.

And the second wave was much worse than the first wave. And so, much of the country has recovered from that second wave in January. And we have spent the last three months at low transmission.

However, the situation has changed. Over the last three weeks, cases have been rising in three or four of our nine provinces. And in the economic heartland, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are, the cases have been rising rapidly.

As of today, the cases, the seven-day moving average of cases is now higher in the third wave, than it's ever been in the first and second waves.


CURNOW: Dr. Salim Abdool Karim speaking to me a little bit earlier. Thank you so much for that.

The coach of Uganda's Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan. But he's not showing any symptoms. It's certainly the latest hurdle in the pandemic of the delayed 2020 games.

On Saturday officials canceled all public viewing event. Tokyo's governor says some of the venues will be used as vaccination site instead. The Japanese government has been criticized for moving forward with the games even though they're in a fourth wave.

Next up on NEWSROOM, gun violence is on the rise in the U.S. But some police officers say efforts to reform law enforcement could impact public safety.

One group taking up arms says the rules are different for them. We'll explain.





CURNOW: Welcome back to all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is 31 minutes past the hour. I am Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for joining me.

Last year's mass protests against police brutality prompted many U.S. cities to look for ways to reform their departments. But amid a recent surge in gun violence, law enforcement advocates say changes could impact their ability to keep the public safe. Here's Josh Campbell with more on that. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (voice-over): After a year of scrutiny over controversial police use of force incidents, some cities are starting to limit what officers can do. This as several major American cities are starting to see a surge in violent crime.

In Chicago, following the police pursuit and shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, the city's new foot pursuit policy means officers can pursue a suspect who committed, is committing, is about to commit a crime, not based solely on the person's response to police presence.

In parts of Philadelphia, as part of a three-month pilot program, police have new rules for quality of life violations, things like urinating in public, panhandling or smoking marijuana. The rules, police should have them to stop or move on before detaining or questioning them.

All of this comes on the heels of deaths like Daunte Wright, Mario Gonzalez Arenales and George Floyd. Advocates say they never would have happened if officers hadn't been on the scene in the first place.

MELINA ABDULLAH, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: If we talk about police's violence workers, right, to a hammer, everything is a nail. We don't always need a hammer.

CAMPBELL: But law enforcement advocates see it differently.

PATRICK YOES, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: When there's no consequences for breaking a law, then more people are going to break the law that's the reality of it.

CAMPBELL: They warned violent crime could continue to surge, if cops are hamstrung by new policies or choose to be less proactive out of fear of punishment.

YOES: Now more than ever, violence is skyrocketing and law-biding citizens are expecting police to do the job.

CAMPBELL: Still reformers say removing a badge and gun from certain calls could lead to less violent outcomes.

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: They need more mental health professionals, we have those individuals on standby and law enforcement officers are not called to handle scenarios where they have not been trained.

CAMPBELL: But some policing experts warn that could backfire if not handled confidently.

ROSA BROOKS, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR, FORMER RESERVE OFFICER: How much confidence do you have for instance in the Department of Child and Family Services in any given city that they're often train wrecks as well in all kind of ways.

CAMPBELL: Until cities find solutions and fund them, police leaders say they'll have to continue to fill the gap.

CHIEF MICHEL MOORE, LOS ANGELES POLICE: Much as an emergency room doctor is called upon for all types of medical emergencies because the absence of the specialist not being there. They may not get the best emergency room doctor but that special need but you'll get somebody who can do the best that they can.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Josh, thanks so much for that.

A well-to-do community here in Atlanta is pushing to break away and become its own city. Buckhead residents have talked about going their own way for decades now but a recent surge in crime has reignited the issue. Critics say breaking away would further divide the majority white community from the rest of the predominantly Black city.


CURNOW: One city council member whose district includes part of Buckhead spoke to CNN.


HOWARD SHOOK, ATLANTA CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: People are complaining and fearful and anxious everywhere. We're down hundreds and hundreds of police. We're having a big debate, as most American cities are, about reimagining law enforcement and you know, what does law and order mean, what should it mean. And so I think a lot of things hang in the balance.


CURNOW: Then in another part of Georgia and elsewhere, gun sales are on the rise, especially among Black women. As major cities across the country deal with a spike in crime, Americans are now taking matters into their own hands to keep their families safe, they say. Ryan Young visited a gun range in Georgia to find out more.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a little intimidating.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These Black women at this gun range in Covington, Georgia, are practicing how to fire a gun, some of them for the very first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I needed to learn how, when, how-tos and dos and don'ts.

YOUNG: What's it like to be out here with all these Black women?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's beautiful. It's -- like I was saying, for me, it's a feeling of self-empowerment.

YOUNG (voice-over): And a desire for training to protect themselves and their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like in this country, in this climate, if you don't know how to take care of yourself, you're at a disadvantage.

YOUNG (voice-over): Gun sales spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic with women and people of color driving a majority of that increase, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The number of Black buyers increased 58 percent last year compared to 2019, more than any other group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think for the most part we're getting them for self-defense.

YOUNG (voice-over): Phillip Smith (ph) is the president of the National African American Gun Association. He says his group has seen a dramatic increase in membership over the last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking to Black doctors, nurses, lawyers, biochemists, from every walk of life in the African American community and they're saying, hey, Phil, we had a conversation about getting a gun tonight.

YOUNG (voice-over): He says they've seen more interest from women specifically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black women and men have stepped up. And they are joining in droves.

YOUNG: Some of the people who have never shot before, you can see them getting that one-on-one training before aiming their gun at the target and firing. They say this is something that's very empowering to them and something they're glad they've been able to do.

YOUNG (voice-over): While the latest spike in gun sales among Black buyers may be driven in part by the pandemic and an uptick in crime in major cities nationwide, it's not necessarily new.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guns have always been in our history. It's just not told.

YOUNG (voice-over): But could carrying a gun for protection become a factor that could lead to a deadly confrontation with police?

That's also on the minds of Black gun owners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have a gun and you're a Black gun owner, you have a different set of rules. YOUNG (voice-over): Philando Castile, who was licensed to carry, was

shot and killed in 2016 by a police officer during a traffic stop. The officer said he opened fire when he thought Castile put his hand on his firearm. He was later found not guilty on all counts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we don't want to turn around the next day and say, you know what, we ought to put our guns away because that's the worst thing you can do because we are getting shot anyway. We need to protect ourselves and let everyone know that you have a right to the Second Amendment. Your -- our ancestors died for that. My ancestors died for that.

YOUNG (voice-over): On the range, they want to shift what gun ownership in America looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good shooting.

YOUNG: Are you hoping to change the perception of Black folks and guns?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do, actually. I do because I don't see why we can't exercise our Second Amendment rights.

If everyone else can, why can't we?

YOUNG (voice-over): You really heard it over and over, crime and safety, being concerned about what was going on during the pandemic and the fact that it seems like crime is on the rise. (INAUDIBLE) they want to be able to protect themselves. They want to be able to protect their families -- Ryan Young, CNN, Covington, Georgia.


CURNOW: Great piece there, thanks, Ryan, for that.

Coming up here at CNN, people in North Korea tell CNN they've experienced drastic food shortages and extremely high prices. Why officials say it's likely to get worse. That is next.





CURNOW: Residents in Pyongyang tell CNN food security in North Korea has gotten much worse during the coronavirus pandemic. In recent months they've struggled with shortages and, extremely high prices. Paula Hancocks has more from North Korea's food crisis.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Soonkwon Kim was known locally as Dr. Corn. An agricultural scientist, he developed high yield corn strains, taking them to North Korea.

His first visit in 1998 toward the end of the devastating famine, he said that the situation was worse than any other country he had worked in. After 3 million people may have died the actual number is unknown.

Dr. Kim says he sent 1.6 million bags of fertilizer and nearly 100 tons of corn seeds and corn to Pyongyang over the years. That ended, abruptly, when North Korea shut its borders in January 2020.

SOONKWON KIM, THE INTERNATIONAL CORN FOUNDATION: Because of COVID, I cannot visit. Because of COVID, even this year, the super sweet corn seed, I said last month I would go to the DMZ and just hand over the seeds at the border.

But they did not accept the ideas.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Kim Jong-un said this week food shortages are a top priority, saying, the people's food situation is now getting tense, according to state-run media KCNA.

The news bulletins are focused on preparing for the upcoming rainy season. Youth groups have been recruited to help in the rice paddies. A nationwide focus on the recurring issue of food insecurity.

The United Nations, estimating that North Korea will have a shortfall of more than 2 months food this year, if it cannot supplement with food aid or imports. Both, unlikely, while the border is closed. It predicts a harsh lean period later this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Normally, North Korea imports grain from China in large quantities, when the price is low. But with COVID-19 restrictions, movement is impossible and the price of imported goods like flour or sugar has risen considerably.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Pyongyang residents tell CNN, even some locally produced goods have risen in price in recent months. Giving an example of the price of potatoes, tripling in one market. The U.N. is calling on Pyongyang to allow humanitarian aid to cross the border but no sign of easing restrictions yet.

In April, Kim Jong-un called on the country to prepare for another, quote, "arduous march," a term most recently used to describe the deadly famine of the '90s and a clear signal, from the very top, of hard times ahead -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.



CURNOW: You're watching CNN. We'll be back.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a great start. This is a holiday, something that we all should come out and celebrate.



CURNOW: It is a holiday weekend here in the United States. Around the country, people are marking the first national observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. and the day, in 1865, when former slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally told slaves in the U.S. were freed. President Biden signed the Juneteenth holiday bill into law on Thursday. He gave the first pen to 94-year-old Opal Lee, the woman known as the grandmother of Juneteenth.

She helped lead the fight to make the day a federal holiday. Suzanne Malveaux reports now from Washington.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: It's a Juneteenth celebration here, in the nation's capital, an official national holiday. This is the holiday, of course. And the official day that it is happening, June 19th, 1865.


MALVEAUX: That is when the Union troops told those in Galveston, Texas, that in fact they were emancipated, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

This is the festivities you see at the center of 14th and U Street. Earlier, we were at Black Lives Matter Plaza, really, iconic locations for civil rights and for social justice. Many of the people, who I talk to, say this is a celebration.

But we, also, saw T-shirts that said "free-ish," meaning, there is so much more work to do be done when it comes to voting rights, housing rights, economic parity and, of course, fighting against police brutality. But this day, an acknowledgement of Black achievement and Black resilience. Take a listen.


JUSTIN JOHNSON, ORGANIZER, MILLION MOE MARCH: So that's what all this is about, us coming together, putting the culture on display but also infusing it in politics and getting our community more politically engaged and more politically motivated to participate in the political process essentially. Just like this man, Black Lives Matter Plaza, what does that really change for us?

Not much. You know, we still don't have justice around the world. We still don't have justice around the country. At the same time, it is cool to know this is a space of kind of belonging, though, it takes much more than that. You know, Juneteenth is the same thing.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I love about it that it's Juneteenth, it's something that we can celebrate our freedom, something that we used to celebrate, being Black. And something that we use to embrace ourselves and embrace our culture.

And that's why we have chosen Double Dutch to just have fun and choose joy, no matter what.


MALVEAUX: So as you can hear uniquely, the go-go music in the background, that really originally, from here, Washington, D.C., a celebration but also, a message. The many people that I talk to, Washington, official Washington to political Washington, that lawmakers must work harder, must work with the community, from the ground up, to change the laws and to make sure that, indeed, there is more progress, to make sure that African Americans are truly free in this country -- Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, in Washington.


CURNOW: 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. Martin Savidge has the 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, GEORGIA, RESIDENT: As a little girl, they looked like a white ghosts. You know, they stand like ghosts did and looked like white ghosts.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Crosses would burn on the nearby mountain top. 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: We'll have a dance group and African dancers, a live deejay; we'll have vendors and food and then we'll end the night with fireworks. SAVIDGE (voice-over): Deputy mayor Chakira Johnson is excited to show up how much is 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 things have changed. We may not be perfect but we're 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 a mountain in Stone Mountain Park.

With its Confederate named 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 what the park does?

JOHNSON: Yes. No say. Zero say.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The controversy was sparked when a protest group, the Stone Mountain Action Coalition, which describe themselves as a movement dedicated to a more inclusive Stone Mountain Park, requested a booth at the village's Juneteenth festival to pass out flyers 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.

Mereda 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's 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 Rockies."

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., MINISTER AND ACTIVIST: Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! But not only there; let freedom ring from the 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, Georgia.


CURNOW: Thanks, Martin, for that.

So New York City has unveiled a new statue of George Floyd just in time for Juneteenth. The six foot sculpture is a bust of Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis last year. His death sparked nationwide protests for racial justice.

Floyd's brother, Terrence, unveiled the statue and local media report will be on display at Flatbush Junction in Brooklyn for several weeks before moving to Union Square in Manhattan.

Thank you for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. You can join me and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I'm Robyn Curnow. See you again same time, same place tomorrow. Enjoy, the news continues.