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CNN NEWSROOM

L.A. County Recommends Masking In Indoor Public Spaces; FAA Posts Video Of Kids Telling Adult Flyers To Behave; Thailand Launches "Phuket Sandbox" Tourism Program; Delta Variant May Compromise Herd Immunity; Japan Mudslide Claims Two, 19 Rescued; Florida Condo Search And Rescue Paused Ahead Of Impending Demolition; U.S. Updates Emergency Evacuation Plans For Kabul Embassy; Police In Standoff With Armed Group In Massachusetts. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 4, 2021 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[03:00:00]

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KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, concerns over the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant as it creates havoc around the world. I'll discuss with my guest, who was the chair of the Hong Kong inquiry into SARS in 2003.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The shocking moment a wall of mud and water swept through a popular coastal resort town southwest of Tokyo. We're live on the ground with the latest.

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BRUNHUBER: Plus what started as a traffic stop escalated into a nine- hour standoff between police and heavily armed men in tactical gear.

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BRUNHUBER: The highly transmissible Delta variant is complicating the U.S. fight against the coronavirus and pushing case numbers back up. Authorities say the strain is the likely driver for a 10 percent rise in U.S. infections this week, compared to the week before.

Experts say the Delta variant is hitting states with the lowest vaccination rates the hardest. Right now nearly half the U.S. population is fully inoculated and that's not enough to reach herd immunity, when 75 percent to 80 percent of people are immune to the disease.

Health authorities say the Delta variant could make reaching that threshold harder. In California, where the positivity rate has doubled, the strain is responsible for more than one-third of new infections. Some officials are asking people to wear masks in indoor public spaces even if fully vaccinated.

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BARBARA FERRER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: Now we are not requiring people who are vaccinated to wear those face coverings indoors. We're just made a strong recommendation.

If you're indoors, in a setting where you don't know everybody else's vaccination status and, in fact, there may be unvaccinated people around, for security for others and for safety for others, it is best at this point to prevent another surge here in L.A. County by having everyone in those settings, where it could be crowded and you're indoors, often with poor ventilation, to keep those face coverings on.

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BRUNHUBER: It's Independence Day here in the United States and the U.S. travel organization AAA estimates about 48 million people are travel this will holiday weekend by air or car.

Those big numbers are causing big headaches. Southwest and American Airlines both had to cancel dozens of flights with hundreds more delayed. CNN's Polo Sandoval reports.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By now, most Americans who plan to travel this holiday weekend may have already braved the Fourth of July frenzy on the roads.

VALENTINE CHAVARIA, TRAVELER: I think it's going to be pretty busy and congested. Yes, that's why I didn't want to wait and leave any, any later than today.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Or at some of the nation's airports, many of which seem to be bursting at the seams on Friday. AAA expecting nearly 48 million people will have traveled either by road or by air by the time this 4th of July weekend comes to a close.

Most of them, some 43 million, opted to drive to and from their destinations, according to Andrew Gross from AAA.

ANDREW GROSS, AAA: The biggest difference probably the number of people traveling by car and there are a number of factors figuring into that, international travel is still down, cruising has not picked back up yet.

And people may generally feel a little more comfortable traveling by car, you can decide when you're going to leave, where are you going to stop and maybe not everybody in the family is vaccinated yet.

SANDOVAL: Gross expects rising fuel prices likely aren't keeping families from a long overdue post pandemic getaway. It won't come cheap though with the cost of a gallon of gas averaging $3.12, nationally, the highest in seven years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $11.00, I'm at 2.5 gallons.

SANDOVAL: Experts say not only a summer demand to blame but a shortage of fuel truck drivers that has left some service stations empty.

Flying this weekend, you want to adhere to your air crew's instructions or face paying some hefty fines. The Federal Aviation Administration has received over 3,000 reports of unruly passengers this year alone. A majority of incidents related to non-compliance of the federal mandate requiring mask wearing on flights.

Hoping to address people who don't listen to crew instructions, the agency rolled out a video message for those who should know better from those who do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll go to jail if they keep doing that stuff.

[03:05:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is so unsafe. They should know better if they're like adults.

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

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BRUNHUBER: The Delta variant isn't just a problem for the United States; it's wreaking havoc in countries around the world. Our correspondents have the latest.

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VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Vedika Sud in Delhi. So many national lockdowns underway in (INAUDIBLE) transport offices and malls will remain closed through the lockdown, only essential services are allowed.

According to government guidelines international flights remain operational. Army, border guard and (INAUDIBLE) personnel are deployed on the streets. People violating guidelines are being arrested and could face up to six months in jail.

The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is the main cause for the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Southeast Asian country. A study conducted by an international research center in Bangladesh indicates 68 percent of the current cases in the capital city Taba (ph) are off the Delta variant.

In a boost to vaccination program, the U.S. is donating 2.5 million doses to Bangladesh. About 2.6 percent of the country is fully vaccinated.

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ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: I'm Angus Watson in Sydney, Australia, where much the of the country is either in or coming out of lockdowns amid a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 fueled by the Delta variant.

The city of Sydney, some 5 million people told to stay at home until July 9th. On Friday, prime minister Scott Morrison announcing that in an effort to keep out the virus, the number of Australians allowed back into the country each week would be halved from 6,000 to about 3,000.

Some good news, however. With Scott Morrison offering future freedoms for vaccinated people in an effort to lift Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout, just about 8 million jabs administered so far.

The Australian government wants to give a chance to every Australian eligible for a vaccine to get one before the end of the year.

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I'm Barbie Nadeau in Rome, where Italian health authorities are concerned about a surge in COVID-19 cases tied to the contagious Delta variant in some European countries.

They've seen increases in the United Kingdom and in Portugal, where they've had to reinstate the curfew to try to stem the contagion rate.

The World Health Organization warned this week that the European football championship tournaments, which are being held in 11 countries across the region, have played a role in the spread of the Delta variant.

This comes especially worrying to countries like Italy, where vaccination levels are low; only 38 percent of the population has received two doses of any sort of vaccine. This also comes on the back of reopening of the economies and opening of international tourism that could leave many countries vulnerable.

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HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. Israel is experiencing a new surge in COVID cases at levels not seen since April. Since Monday, at least 280 new positive cases have been recorded per day.

According to health officials, over 90 percent of those cases are of the Delta variant. However, hospitalization rates have not reached the same levels as in previous waves. And on Friday, under 30 people were listed as in serious condition.

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BRUNHUBER: One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world has now reopened to vaccinated travelers. It's part of a test program in Thailand and doesn't require the tourists to quarantine. Our Paula Hancocks has this report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big gamble for Thailand's biggest island, Phuket. The prime minister himself rolled out the red carpet for vaccinated international tourists that leads straight to the picturesque sandy beaches without any quarantine restrictions.

In a surreal contrast to the year that's been and to the rest of Thailand that's mostly shut down due to rising cases and three days of record deaths, nearly 400 tourists from the Middle East and Singapore arrived under an experiment called the Phuket Sandbox, ready to hit the beach armed with sunscreen and COVID antibodies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eat some nice Thai food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very happy?

HANCOCKS (voice-over): There's a lot riding on their return and the island has been preparing. More than 80 percent of its population have been vaccinated, with at least one dose; about 65 percent are fully vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am quietly confident that the industry and the government has done all it can to make this Sandbox scheme both safe and effective.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): An assurance echoed by Thailand's tourism minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Looking at the nationwide coronavirus infection rate, we would say we are not ready. But if you focus only on Phuket, we've laid our groundwork for more than three months. We are 100 percent ready.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The government estimates at least 100,000 tourists will arrive over the next three months, bringing in nearly $300 million in revenues, desperately needed on an island that relies on tourism.

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HANCOCKS (voice-over): Still, some are not convinced that this is the right time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, I'm very confident among the people of Thailand, that, if there's now spread in Thailand.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): But the sun seekers aren't complaining; neither are the local business owners, like Suzanne, who describes the past 1.5 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrid. We didn't expect the last wave to hit us the way it's hit us.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Tourism accounts for 20 percent of Thailand's GDP. But in Phuket, it is 95 percent of its economy, which is why the Thai minister of tourism says it's a calculated risk worth taking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In 2019, revenue from both domestic and international tourism stood at about $95 billion U.S. That shrank to nearly $20 billion in 2020, a huge drop.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): So while it may seem like a parallel universe, for now, Thailand is pinning its hopes on Phuket, while the world watches -- Paula Hancocks, CNN.

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BRUNHUBER: Dr. Sian Griffiths was cochair of the Hong Kong government's inquiry into SARS in 2003 and is an emeritus professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She joins me now via Skype from Toulouse, France.

Thanks so much for being with us. I want to contrast what's happening in France, where you are, and in England. Because of the threat of a fourth wave due to the Delta variant, France is delaying lifting COVID restrictions in some areas.

But in England, where the Delta variant is much higher -- represents some 99 percent of cases, I think -- it looks like the government is intent on fully reopening July 19th as planned.

Which country has it right here?

DR. SIAN GRIFFITHS, EMERITUS PROFESSOR, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: The major difference between France and the U.K. is the rates of vaccination. And in the U.K., there has been a big drive on vaccination since vaccines have been available.

What we're seeing in the U.K. is we are seeing an increased rise in the cases now across all age groups, although initially amongst younger people. But we're not seeing the commensurate rise in hospitalization.

Some small numbers have increased in terms of hospitalization. And the people being hospitalized are mainly the unvaccinated. So the big hope is, if you can get the population vaccinated, get the second dose, which is what the concentration in the U.K. is, second dose of all adults by July 19th, it will be possible to relieve some of the lockdown restrictions.

It's obviously carefully monitored and some parts of the U.K. have had higher rates than others, such as the northeast. But the general feeling is that, if you can get people vaccinated, then we're learning to live, we're moving away from saying that we'll get rid of the virus, the containment policy, toward a mitigation policy, where we're learning to live with the virus. So if we're going to learn to live with the virus, we have to

understand what we need to do.

In France, the vaccination rates are much lower. And France is putting big effort onto getting first doses into the adult population at the current time. But across Europe, across the E.U., the rates of vaccination are about 40 percent; whereas in the U.K., they're over double that.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, vaccination is the key, as you say. Here in the U.S. and elsewhere, of course, we're seeing debates about whether employers can require employees to get vaccinated. It's legal here right now but it's being challenged.

There in France, the health minister said the government is considering making the vaccine mandatory for certain health care professionals, like people who work in hospitals and care homes, because not enough of them are getting the shot.

Do you think mandating it for those people is a good idea?

GRIFFITHS: In general, it's much better to persuade people so that it's done willingly because obviously you don't want to be mandating things that people don't want or reducing the workforce by excluding people who don't want to be vaccinated.

However, there is an ethical element, a sort of moral imperative, that, if the disease is being spread by those who are caring for the sick or the elderly in care homes, you have to ask the question, isn't it better to protect the vulnerable and to do that through vaccinations?

The best way is to use persuasion, discussion and to work through communities. And that's the approach that's been taken in the U.K., where we're quite averse to mandating but also recognize the need to increase the rates in certain parts of the community.

BRUNHUBER: Because of the super-transmissible Delta variant, we're seeing some experts in the U.S. encouraging people to wear masks under some circumstances, even if they've been vaccinated.

Do you think that's a good idea?

Maybe more importantly, that is realistic?

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BRUNHUBER: Just anecdotally, I don't see people willing to get their masks out of storage now that they've tasted freedom, so to speak.

GRIFFITHS: Masks are always rather a divisive subject to talk about. When I worked in Hong Kong post-SARS, everybody had masks available. If there was an increase in upper respiratory tract infections or if they had symptoms, often people would wear masks in the office, it's a social responsibility. I think you have to translate mask wearing not into some mandatory

framework but into a framework, where people say, masks can add protection. So if I'm going into a crowded place and I know the rates are high or increasing, such as on a subway train, maybe I will wear my mask.

It becomes more normative, rather than it being something that's mandated. I think that's probably what living with COVID means, at the end of the day. It means that we're taking some responsibility if we know that COVID is around.

So i would not put my mask into cold storage. I'd keep it available and wear it at times of risk and get that to be more of a general behavior in society, as it is in Southeast Asia.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. Really appreciate it, Doctor, thanks again.

GRIFFITHS: Thank you.

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BRUNHUBER: An update now on breaking news. CNN Philippines has confirmed at least 17 were killed when a C-130 military transport plane crashed in the Southern Philippines. At least 40 people have been rescued from the crash site.

The Philippine air force plane was carrying troops to an island in the Philippines' Sulu province when it missed the runway and crashed into a nearby village. Officials say at least 92 people were on board when it crashed.

Photos we just got show flames and smoke pouring from the crash site. Military and civilian firefighters are now on scene, working to put out that fire. Again, a military transport plane with the Philippine air force crashed in the Southern Philippines. At least 17 people have been killed and 40 people rescued so far.

We will bring you more details as they become available.

We want to bring you some new information just coming in to CNN in the last hour. Officials in Japan say nine more people have been rescued following a mudslide that's devastated the coastal city of Atami. That brings the total to 19 rescued so far. Let's bring in CNN's Blake Essig, who joins us live in Atami, Japan.

Blake, just looking at the monitor here, just incredible scenes behind you. Really just hard to see there.

What can you tell us about the latest on the ground there?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, when you look at this path of destruction, it's hard to believe that anyone was able to survive, that was in the path of this mudslide. And the fact that so far 19 people have been rescued is just incredible. But the frantic search for survivors continues after torrential rains

triggered a massive landslide in the seaside resort town of Atami. That horrifying scene was captured on cell phone video around 10:30 Saturday morning.

A section of the hillside gave way, sending residents scrambling, as a torrent of mud and water came crashing through town, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. You can see this path of destruction.

This was, once upon a time, a residential area, littered with homes; now, very little is left. Atami city officials say 130 homes have been completely buried or swept away, hundreds more affected. Search and rescue efforts have been underway throughout the day to find survivors.

We've seen crews searching on the ground, at sea, at times from the sky. There's a drone above me right now that has been going back and forth, kind of surveying this area where the landslide hit. We've also seen a rescue dog enter impacted buildings, searching for signs of life.

So far, city officials say 19 people have been rescued, dug out from their homes. Around 700 people are assisting with operations. That includes police officers, firefighters, the Coast Guard and members of Japan's self-defense forces.

Early Sunday morning, roughly 380 people have been evacuated throughout 10 evacuation centers in the city. We spoke with one man, who says he and his family are lucky to be alive. They got out just moments before the landslide hit, burying part of their home.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I wasn't watching the mudslide from home but at a different place. The ground rumbled and the electricity pylons were shaking. The mudslide looked like a tsunami. It was like a big wave that made a thunderous noise and came crashing down on to the ground.

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ESSIG: Adverse weather conditions and steep mountainous terrain have made the search and rescue effort more difficult. It has been raining throughout the course of the day.

That being said, there are fears that more landslides could take place, not just here but in several areas along the coast. In fact, since we arrived earlier this morning, we've received multiple messages sent to our phones, warning of that very possibility.

Because of those concerns, evacuation orders have been put in place in several cities along the coast. Experts say, even if the rain stops, the risk of another disastrous incident, because of the amount of water that's already accumulated in the ground in an area prone to landslides.

BRUNHUBER: All right, stay safe, Blake Essig in Atami, Japan, thanks.

Demolition of a collapsed condo in Florida could take place within hours. Officials fear an approaching tropical storm could knock it down if they don't take it down first. They can't wait too long. Heavy wind and rain could arrive in the area in a couple of days. We'll have those details straight ahead. Stay with us.

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BRUNHUBER: The impending arrival of tropical storm Elsa in Florida has dramatically moved up the timeline for demolishing what remains of a collapsed condo. It could take place as early as the next few hours.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Have a look here. This is a live look at the site. If left standing, there is growing concern that the storm -- well, that wasn't a live look; these are just pictures.

There's concern that the storm could topple the unstable 12-story structure. Engineers now believe they can safely bring it down before the storm arrives.

In the meantime, search and rescue efforts have been suspended.

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MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL: Search and rescue does have to pause temporarily while the demolition preparation is underway. And that there is threat to the standing building that is posed to the first responders, as we've told you.

And we will begin the search and rescue once again on any sections of the pile that are safe to access as soon as we're cleared.

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BRUNHUBER: CNN's Brian Todd is in Surfside, Florida, with the latest developments.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials here in Surfside, Florida have announced a pause in the rescue operation while they prepare to demolish the remainder of what's left of that condo complex that collapsed. There is part of the Champlain Towers South complex in Surfside that

remains upright but they have paused the search-and-rescue operation. They're planning to bring that building down via demolition, probably within the next couple of days.

They say they want to do that before the tropical storm that is tracking toward South Florida, tropical storm Elsa, gets to this area. Now it's not clear what, if any, impacts Elsa is going to have on Surfside and the nearby area.

But the storm could at least provide some remnants of high wind and heavy rain here. And they want to make sure they get that building demolished before that happens.

Will they be able to do it?

That's not clear. They had to pause the rescue operations at 4:00 pm Eastern on Saturday while they prepare for that demolition. That includes drilling into columns and doing other technical work to prepare for the demolition of the building because that building, as it stands upright, remains simply too dangerous.

There are concrete slabs, there are concrete columns hanging from it. Part of the rubble has shifted under the building. There are sensors indicating cracking. So it's a very dangerous structure as it remains.

They're going to try to bring it down in the next couple of days. The mayor said they will not need to evacuate anyone from nearby buildings for that demolition -- Brian Todd, CNN, Surfside, Florida.

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BRUNHUBER: We want to show you what tropical storm Elsa looks like on satellite as it moves west through the Caribbean. Its path the next 48 hours is uncertain. But a tropical storm watch has been issued for the Florida Keys.

Even if it doesn't directly hit the Miami area, bands of strong winds and rain could further compromise the collapsed condo building in Surfside if it isn't torn down first.

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BRUNHUBER: The U.S. is updating evacuation plans at its embassy in Kabul as America takes its most significant step yet in the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. The latest from the Afghan capital next.

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

The threat of escalating violence in Afghanistan has led U.S. officials to update their emergency evacuation plans at the American embassy in Kabul. It comes days after the U.S. troops left Bagram Air Base, the center of military power in Afghanistan during the 20-years' war.

The Taliban have made recent gains across the country and top U.S. military commanders warn, civil war could follow the American pullout. CNN's Anna Coren joins us from Kabul.

Anna, President Biden promised the U.S. isn't abandoning Afghanistan diplomatically but how long can the U.S. keep its diplomats in the country?

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's a really good question. I can tell you now that, yesterday, hot on the rumor mill, was that the U.S. embassy was closing.

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COREN: That's what local Afghans were telling us. Obviously, that is not the case. It's more an update of the emergency evacuation plan, which the State Department says is something that they do at embassies all across the world.

But there is certainly a sense of urgency when it comes to the embassy here in Kabul because of the deteriorating security situation. You mentioned the Taliban, the offenses that they've been carrying out around the country, particularly in the north. We're hearing through the local news of districts falling every single day.

This is mainly in the countryside but they are getting closer and closer to cities and provincial capitals. Peace talks with the Taliban are virtually nonexistent. So a political roadmap for Afghanistan seems to be in tatters.

We know there's political infighting within the government; that unified state is not in play here in Afghanistan. And that just leads to the fear and uncertainty when those U.S. and NATO forces flew out from Bagram Air Base on Friday morning. That was really the nail in the coffin for so many people here in Afghanistan.

That sense of security, knowing that there were U.S. forces in country, has now gone. Of course, there is a very small footprint; 650 Marines will protect the U.S. embassy. There will be others, as well as contractors, who help provide security for the international airport.

But that will only be a temporary solution until something more permanent comes into play. Kim, yesterday I spoke to a local NGO here. And he's angry. He feels an absolute sense of betrayal and abandonment.

He can't believe that the West and America in particular is leaving Afghanistan after 20 years, leaving it in this state of hopelessness, of insecurity and with this widespread violence across the country. He said this just does not bode well for the future of Afghanistan.

BRUNHUBER: Great to have you there on this important story, Anna Coren in Kabul, thanks so much.

An armed standoff ended about as well as it could Saturday in Massachusetts; 11 people were taken into custody and no one was hurt after heavily armed men were confronted by police on the side of a busy interstate.

But that may be little comfort for residents, who woke up to scenes like this, officers in the streets and orders to shelter in place. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro has more.

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EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A sigh of relief outside Boston Saturday as an armed standoff with police on a major highway ends peacefully.

COL. CHRISTOPHER MASON, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: We were able to successfully resolve this situation through a combination of negotiation and some tactical maneuvers.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): An hour's long standoff between heavily armed men and police on one of the nation's busiest interstates ended without incident as authorities took 11 people into custody.

Still, many questions are left about what exactly was behind this potentially dangerous Saturday morning just north of Boston.

MASON: They wanted to be heard. They wanted to be -- a variety of not demands but requests that they just be allowed to leave the area, transit the area without any accountability. And at the end of the day, we couldn't accommodate that.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Overnight, a Highway Patrol car came upon two vehicles in the breakdown lane on I-95. Police say the heavily armed men wearing tactical gear we're attempting to refuel one of their vehicles. After learning the men were armed but not carrying firearm licenses, the State Trooper called for backup, some of the men fled into nearby woods.

The standoff began.

MASON: We are currently engaged with the subjects through our hostage negotiation team. We are talking with the subjects -- some that are in the woods, some that are still at the vehicles in the breakdown lane where the original interaction occurred and we are hopeful that we will be able to resolve this peacefully with them.

We're committed to a negotiation with them, having a conversation --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Portions of I-95 were closed in both directions for several hours on a busy holiday weekend. Those in nearby homes were told to go into lockdown as police attempted to negotiate with the group. JAHMAL LATIMER, IDENTIFIED LEADER OF WAKEFIELD STANDOFF: I don't know if you can see this but he's loading his gun right now.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The armed group appears to have livestreamed their side of the standoff online. It's unclear if the man filming the incident was one of the 11 arrested.

LATIMER: We are not anti-government. Our nation which our flag is right here has a treaty with your government.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): They appear to belong to a group called Rise of the Moors, which seems to be connected with the Moorish Sovereignty Movement that believes among other things, an 18th Century treaty between the U.S. and Morocco grants them special rights.

[03:40:00]

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): In livestreams from the highway, one member insisted they did not break laws and they did not intend to be hostile. Police said the men were passing through the state on their way to attend some sort of training operation.

LATIMER: We're abiding by the peaceful journey laws of the United States Federal courts.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): But Massachusetts officials said the state's laws are clear.

MASON: They did not have gun licenses on them. First of all, Massachusetts does not allow the carrying of a loaded or unloaded firearm on an interstate highway such as this.

You can imagine 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung on an interstate highway at two in the morning certainly raises concerns.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The men eventually surrendered to police on site without incident where they seized a still undisclosed number of guns.

MASON: I can share with you that a number of firearms have been seized. I cannot share with you the exact number. The two vehicles that were at the scene are being towed from the scene. They will be processed pursuant to a court authorized search warrant and only then will we know the exact number of firearms that have been seized.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The vital artery that is I-95 was finally reopened to holiday travelers but the investigation around the incident is ongoing. It is expected officials will look into this little known group and their motivations.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The bunch of armed men are traveling in a car to do something and we don't know what that something is. So that's where the investigation is going to go right now.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Authorities say the men taken into custody should appear first in court on Tuesday. The investigation into that incident continues. For now, the highway is back open to traffic -- Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.

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BRUNHUBER: A former South African president finds legal wiggle room in the face of a 15-month prison sentence. Still ahead, a last-ditch legal move that keeps Jacob Zuma out of prison for now.

And later, one of the medal hopefuls of the U.S. track and field team is now forced to miss her signature event. Sha'Carri Richardson speaks out about what led to her suspension.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Former South African president Jacob Zuma appeared before chanting supporters in his hometown Saturday. Zuma is facing a 15-year prison sentence for contempt of court.

He was up against the deadline of today to turn himself in to police. But his attorneys made a last-ditch legal move to buy him some time. CNN's David McKenzie is standing by in Zuma's hometown, about 500 kilometers southeast of Johannesburg.

There was so much praise for the country's judicial system after Zuma's sentence.

What does this mean for Zuma and for the country?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there are two options. One option is that it's just a delay and that we'll be here in this situation in a few weeks after this application for Zuma's legal team to see mitigating circumstances on this order to send him to prison.

Jacob Zuma was supposed to hand himself in to prison later today. But because of this application, he will be heard. They say he's old and that the 79-year-old former president shouldn't be put in prison. They say it's a death sentence.

His supporters have been here. Late yesterday he came out himself with the traditional Zulu warriors. And the feeling now is this is a big test of South Africa's democracy and the situation could get tense. Here's one of Zuma's sons.

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EDWARD ZUMA, JACOB ZUMA'S SON: They can give Zuma 15 months. They can give Zuma 24 months or they can give him 100 months. He is not even going to serve one day or one minute of that. They would have to kill me before they put their hands on him.

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MCKENZIE: So there's been a lot of talk like that. Now the tension has defused but the long-running issue is putting this country's constitution to test.

BRUNHUBER: I can see.

Concretely, then, what happens next?

MCKENZIE: On July 12th, his team will have a virtual hearing in front of the constitutional court. Just in a couple of days, on Tuesday, they still have to lodge an application to the high court.

It gets into very in-depth legalese but, effectively, it's expected they won't order that police action on him while the constitutional court hears this. But as you say, there was a lot of praise on the constitutional court standing firm.

President Zuma talks a lot about facing justice and being willing to go to prison. But his actions don't show that over many years, fighting in every way, form to avoid hearing the allegations of corruption, fraud and racketeering, in just one case, and the many allegations subsequently.

He's avoided those charges both in court and at an anti-corruption commission, which is why we are standing here today. He's expected to speak later today. And I expect he'll continue to fight on.

In the meantime, this issue remains unresolved and it's a very tense, potentially, political time in South Africa going forward the next few weeks.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for tracking this story that we'll keep on top of throughout the day. David McKenzie, appreciate it.

After a year-long delay, the Tokyo Olympics are less than three weeks away. And Japan's capital city is fighting a rise in coronavirus cases. I'll speak with a doctor who advised Team USA next.

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BRUNHUBER: A little more than 19 days to go until the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin and Japan's capital is facing a rising number of coronavirus cases. The Olympic torch relay was reduced to a stage show in Chiba prefecture due to COVID-19 safety measures. On Friday, organizers said Olympic team from countries with cases of COVID-19 variants like the Delta variant would be subject to stricter measures while in Japan. Earlier I spoke with Dr. Scott Miscovich. He was involved with

overseeing testing and protocols with four of the U.S. national teams. I asked him how organizers are trying to prevent the spread of COVID- 19 as people from around the world train and compete together during a pandemic.

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DR. SCOTT MISCOVICH, FAMILY PHYSICIAN AND NATIONAL CONSULTANT: We just completed the major testing for our big events, as you described. We had no athletes eliminated due to COVID during the main events.

The other thing I can say, although I'm not allowed to give specifics, there was quite a good penetration above the national averages of vaccinations. So those are two positive things.

The other thing is congrats to all the Olympic leadership. We ran very strict testing protocols. Even if you were vaccinated, you were still tested to make sure that you're not one of those 2 percent, 3 percent, 8 percent, that is breaking through with the Delta variant.

So that's the way you're going to do this. Not much has changed since the beginning of COVID. Testing is so important. And frequent, recurrent testing in the sporting events, like we did with the SEC, minimum three times a week. Now in Japan they're testing daily.

Do I agree with that?

Yes. That's the way you stop this as we move forward.

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BRUNHUBER: Thanks to Dr. Scott Miscovich there. You can see my full interview with him coming up in the next hour.

A top U.S. track and field star is speaking out about her failed drug test ahead of the Tokyo games. Sha'Carri Richardson was suspended one month from the U.S. Olympic team after testing positive for THC, a chemical found in marijuana.

So that means she's forbidden from running in the 100-meter sprint, her signature event. She may still be allowed to compete in a later event like the 4x100 meter relay.

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BRUNHUBER: She says the shock of learning about her mother's death from a reporter is one reason why she consumed marijuana.

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SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON, OLYMPIC SPRINTER: I apologize for the fact that I need to know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time. But sitting here, I'll just say don't judge me because I am human. I mean, I'm you. I just happen to run a little faster. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: U.S. President Joe Biden said he was really proud of the way Richardson responded to her suspension and he weighed in on the drug test policy.

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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in. Whether they should remain that, that should remain rules is a different issue. But the rules are rules and I was really proud of her, the way she responded.

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BRUNHUBER: English soccer fans are on cloud nine after their national team finally reached the Euro 2020 semifinals. Let's have a look here.

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BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Football's coming home, that's how they celebrated in Rome after England crushed Ukraine 4-0 in the quarterfinal Saturday. That was the first time in 25 years that England reached the semis.

The Three Lions will face Denmark, the Cinderella story of the tournament. The Danes beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the second quarterfinal match of the day. They'll go up against England at Wembley on Wednesday.

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BRUNHUBER: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. We'll be back with more, please do stay with us.