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CDC, FDA Say No Booster Yet; Delta Variant Causing COVID-19 Surge across Asia; Colombian Veterans among Suspects in Moise Assassination; Haiti in Crisis; War in Afghanistan; Tokyo Olympics Organizers Pushing Ahead with Games; Bangladesh Juice Factory Fire Kills 52; United Ireland Prospect Edges Closer; U.S. Presses Russia to Go After Ransomware Groups; Florida Condo Collapse Death Toll at 79; Richard Branson to Conduct Historic Space Plane Flight. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired July 10, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers, here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, as concern over the Delta variant spreads across the globe, mixed messages in the U.S. about COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

Officials in Haiti asked the U.S. and U.N. for help following the assassination of its president while the search is on for more suspects.

And too little, too late. We look at the plight of Afghan translators, now threatened by the Taliban with the U.S. military withdrawal.


HOLMES: U.S. health officials are reassuring Americans they do not need a third coronavirus shot right now. That guidance after Pfizer announced it is seeing waning immunity from its vaccine and is trying to develop a booster for emergency authorization in the U.S.

But the director for Centers for Disease Control says, in the rare cases where vaccinated people get infected, they aren't getting seriously ill. And that proves the shots are working. Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Nothing has changed with regard to the CDC's recommendations. So we respect what the pharmaceutical company is doing but the American public should take their advice from the CDC and the FDA.

The CDC and the FDA say if you have been fully vaccinated at this point in time, you do not need a booster shot.


HOLMES: The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency are trying to calm confusion as well, saying there needs to be more data before determining whether boosters are necessary. Athena Jones with more details now about all of that and about the worrisome spread of the Delta variant across the U.S.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Confusion and concern as Pfizer announces it's seeing waning immunity from its vaccine and plans to seek emergency use authorization for a booster shot next month.

The company citing a statement from the Israeli government to back up its claims but not releasing any new data of its own.

Within hours, the CDC and the FDA saying in a rare joint statement, "Fully vaccinated people do not need a booster shot at this time," adding, "FDA, CDC and the National Institutes of Health are engaged in a science-based rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary."

DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It's troubling there's a lack of coordination on communication between the companies and the federal government.

JONES (voice-over): The World Health Organization also saying there's not yet enough data to say if boosters will be needed.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The Israel data conflicts with some of the other data that actually show that immunity may last for years.

JONES (voice-over): All this amid new warning signs in America's battle against COVID-19.

DR. ERIC TOPOL, CARDIOLOGIST: This is a diffuse beginning of a wave.

JONES (voice-over): Twenty-nine states now seeing rising case numbers. New infections per capita particularly high in states where fewer people are vaccinated, like Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The seven-day average of new cases per day up 11 percent nationwide; hospitalizations up 7 percent.

Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation, now seeing exponential growth in COVID cases, up 165 percent over the past week, as the more contagious Delta variant becomes the dominant strain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple of weeks, we started to see a trickling in of coronavirus patients but in the last week, I've seen a significant rise.

JONES (voice-over): The surging case numbers also come as the CDC releases updated guidance for schools, emphasizing in-person learning as a priority while also promoting masking, physical distancing and vaccinations for those available.

Still, California, which has seen a 50 percent jump in COVID cases week over week, passed a bill, requiring public schools to offer remote learning options this fall.

JONES: And despite new concerns about rising case numbers in New York and in many other states, we're here outside the Javits Convention Center, one of three state mass vaccination sites that shut down on Friday.

It's part of the state's plan to allow for greater focus on local vaccination efforts in areas where the vaccination rates are below the state average -- Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Asia and the South Pacific being hit particularly hard by the Delta variant.


HOLMES: Countries that were once success stories at containing the virus are now struggling to cope with escalating infections. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout with that.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Asia, the Delta variant is fueling a growing wave of new COVID-19 cases. In Thailand, coronavirus deaths are climbing.

The country has ordered new restrictions in the capital Bangkok and surrounding provinces starting on Monday, including mall closures as well as limits on travel and social gatherings.

Cases are also spiking in Vietnam. Both the capital, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh city have tightened restrictions to contain the virus.

Indonesia has reported a record number of deaths fueled by the Delta variant. Save the Children is warning that many more children will die there.

Its humanitarian Chief in Indonesia says this, "The health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are already being overwhelmed. Oxygen supplies are running out and health services in Java and Bali are woefully ill-equipped to handle this surge in critically ill patients."

South Korea is raising its pandemic restrictions to the highest level in and around the capital, Seoul, from Monday. Health ministry officials said that the country is in a "dire situation," with the Delta variant detected at an increasingly fast pace in the greater Seoul area. Only 11 percent of the country's population is fully vaccinated. Japan has also been hit with a sharp rise in infection. Following a

new state of emergency in Tokyo, Olympic organizers on Thursday said that they would ban all spectators from Olympic venues in and around the city. Just over 15 percent of Japan's population is fully vaccinated.

China has reported its highest daily tally of infection since January, with all local cases from Ruili. It's a city in Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar. Parts of the city are in full lockdown. According to local officials, some patients were infected with the Delta variant.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases this year. The outbreak began with an unvaccinated driver catching the Delta variant from a flight crew member. Just over 9 percent of the population in New South Wales has been fully vaccinated.

The Delta variant is also ravaging the Pacific island nation of Fiji. The mortuary in Fiji's main hospital is already filled to capacity. Earlier on, countries across Asia have managed the coronavirus with some success.

But the highly contagious Delta strain, along with the slow pace of vaccination in countries like South Korea, Australia, and Indonesia, have given rise to a devastating new wave of the pandemic -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES: Haitian authorities say a manhunt is still underway for five suspects at large following the brazen assassination of president Jovenel Moise. As of Friday, a total of 20 suspects are in custody. Three others were killed in a shootout with police. That brings the total so far of those allegedly involved to 28.

Police describe the armed group as professional killers and includes two American citizens and several retired members of the Colombian military. Stefano Pozzebon is in Bogota with more on those Colombian veterans but first let's go to Matt Rivers, reporting from the site of the shootout in the Haitian capital.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a building where one of the shootouts took place between some of the suspects in this assassination and Haitian security forces.

And just by looking around at the damage here, you can tell just how ferocious this battle was. Look up here, in the ceiling. It's a concrete ceiling and there are multiple bullet holes. There are dozens just like that all across this building.

And if you come over here, look at this detail. These are the bullet holes left behind, after multiple rounds pierced this metal window frame. And if you step back, you can see this was an entire wall of windows and frames that is now basically just gone. And this kind of damage just extends throughout this entire building.

Walking into this room, you can see lots more bullet holes in the concrete ceiling. And in here, more damage, windows just entirely blown out, more bullet holes.

And here is the thing. There are still suspects on the loose after this assassination.

So, it makes you think that, could there be more confrontations like this one in store over the coming days and weeks?



STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least 13 retired members of the Colombian army traveled from Bogota to the Dominican Republic and then on to Haiti, where they were allegedly involved in the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise, the Colombian national police announced on Friday.

Two of them traveled to Port-au-Prince in early May.


POZZEBON: While the bulk of the group appear to have arrived months later, said the police chief, General Jorge Barrias (ph), who identified the 13 men in a televised presser.

Their ranks range from lieutenant colonel to soldier and all left active duty over a year ago, Colombian army chief General Luis (INAUDIBLE) Navarro said, also, on Friday.

But there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the motives and actions that led to Moise's assassination. The Haitian police announced on Friday that they are still looking for five suspects involved in the assassination.

And there are discrepancies between the number of Colombian nationals that have been arrested in Haiti and those that have been confirmed from the Colombian national police here in Bogota.

And while this is happening, Colombian president Duque ordered the Colombian national intelligence chief to travel to Haiti to follow the investigations -- on location for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.



HOLMES: Robert Muggah is the co-founder of the Igarape Institute and The SecDev Group.

And it's good to have you here to talk about this. Haiti, as you know well, has had a long and sad history of instability. What -- what do you see as the risks right now, in terms of where this

could be headed, both politically but on the streets as well?

ROBERT MUGGAH, IGARAPE INSTITUTE AND THE SECDEV GROUP: We've got a really complicated situation right now in Haiti, probably one of the most volatile moments in -- in a decade or more. You've got a constitutional and political crisis over the succession of the next president of Haiti.

You've got an intensifying security crisis with over 150 gangs in Haiti right now operating, in some cases controlling large swaths of the capital city. You've got an economic crisis, with recession and inflation and the real, the gourde, the currency falling.

And you have got a food security crisis. And on top of all of that, you have got COVID-19, which hasn't even really hit Haiti hard, yet. And with Delta, could make a bad situation tremendously worse.

So the real challenge right now is whether or not we can come up with some kind of bargain in Haiti, with the politicians, between the Left and the Right, agreeing to define who the next president of the country will be.

HOLMES: Apart from the -- the -- the political crisis, you touched on this and it's worth revisiting.

What -- what is the role of the gangs when it comes to social instability and insecurity?

I mean, there are calls and plans for elections and so on. But it'd be pretty hard to vote or campaign, when gangs control so much of the street.

MUGGAH: That's right. I mean, you've had a gang phenomenon in Haiti for quite some time. This is not something that's just emerged or materialized in the last couple of years.

Gangs are often deeply embedded in communities, across the major cities of Haiti, from the north to the center to the south. And they play a variety of roles. They provide protection. They extort and racketeer.

But most importantly, a lot of the gangs in Haiti are also implicated in politics; that is to stay, they're instrumentalized by many of the government figures or oppositional figures as a way of either getting out the vote or suppressing the vote in really key areas.

So right now, in Haiti, you've got number of gangs and federations of gangs that have essentially taken over almost two-thirds of the city, making it no-go areas for -- for anybody, let alone, you know, common citizens. So it's a really difficult situation that was coming to a boil, even before the assassination of the president.

HOLMES: What can the international community do to help?

You know, the international community has pledged, I think, it's $13 billion of aid to the country over the last decade. I mean, a lot of people say a lot of that didn't actually make it there.

But what is there to show for international support?

Did it all get there?

Where has it helped the Haitian people?

MUGGAH: It's a really tragic situation and hard to watch. I mean, I've been involved in Haiti for a couple of decades now. And as you say, there's been an enormous amount of resources poured into the country.

There are hundreds of -- of nongovernmental organizations that are delivering services. Some people talk of Haiti as being a republic of NGOs or nongovernmental organizations.

There's been at least half a dozen peacekeeping missions into Haiti over the last two decades. And yet we continue to see a country that's really at the edge, in terms of all of the sustainable development metrics and in terms of security and democracy.

And so, I think, what you are seeing in the international community is a level of fatigue and frustration. But here we are, again, you know, history repeating itself or at least rhyming with another situation that's going to demand an enormous amount of attention.

One thing I think we can say, though, is I think Haiti faces two possible scenarios right now moving forward. One scenario is that there is some kind of bargain that emerges from this succession.


MUGGAH: And right now, we have three competing candidates, who -- who -- who possibly might become president and a lot of concern in the street as to how they're going to react.

But if we do have a bargain of some kind, this could be a genuine opportunity for Haitians to come together and form a government of real unity after many years of disunity.

But if that doesn't happen in the next couple of weeks, we could see the reverse, which is a collapse, a breakdown, a continued deterioration and an even darker scenario than we currently have right now.

HOLMES: Yes. That -- that -- that is the bleak outlook, but it is a troubled land, as we say. Great to get your insights there, Robert Muggah, thank you so much.

MUGGAH: Oh, thanks so much.


HOLMES: As the U.S. pulls out, the Taliban moving in. The latest territorial gains the group is claiming in Afghanistan.

Plus, we'll update you on a massive fire at a factory in Bangladesh, where these kinds of deadly incidents are becoming far too common.

You're watching CNN today. We'll be right back.




HOLMES: The Taliban are seizing territory more rapidly in Afghanistan now that the U.S. troop exit is nearly complete. Two strategic border crossings now under their control.


HOLMES: Anna Coren reports for us on the latest developments from Kabul.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban continues to make sweeping gains across Afghanistan, seizing one of the country's main trading gateways with Iran. The militants took control of the dry port of Islam Qala in the western province of Herat, where millions of dollars worth of fuel and supplies cross.

The Taliban also claimed another border crossing bordering Turkmenistan. The government says security forces are attempting to recapture these key areas. It comes after President Biden vigorously defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces and end America's 20- year war in Afghanistan.

He said the decision was overdue that America did not come here to nation build and that it was up to the Afghan government and its security forces to defend its people.

Meantime, a delegation from the Taliban meeting with the Russian government in Moscow gave a press conference, stating that it had claimed 85 percent of Afghan territory, a figure denied by the government.

It also said that humanitarian groups should keep operating, that schools and hospitals must stay open and that the border crossings and customs offices which have been seized will remain operational.

But attempts to portray the extreme Islamist group as an alternate governing body is not convincing anyone. The fighting continues to rage on the battlefield, with tens of thousands of people being displaced, while those who can plan for an exit strategy out of this country -- Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.


HOLMES: Now 18,000 Afghan interpreters and other workers, who worked alongside the U.S., are seeking an exit. They live with constant fear of Taliban retribution. Some have already died. President Joe Biden pledging to speed up the special visa process that

will allow them to move to the U.S., along with their families. He says those who want to leave will soon be moved to safe locations outside of Afghanistan while they wait.


HOLMES: Steve Miska is a retired U.S. Army colonel, who served in Iraq. He is the author of "Baghdad Underground Railroad," which is about getting interpreters and others out of Iraq. He joins me now to talk about this.

And not for the first time. Good to see you, Colonel. The -- the president said the process is already underway. But in your view, is that true, in a meaningful sense, in the sense of actually getting people out in the numbers that need to get out?

This needs to be a mass operation and right now, doesn't it?

COL. STEVE MISKA, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Absolutely, Michael. And let me just start by saying that nobody in our coalition that I represent -- veterans groups, humanitarian groups -- we're not questioning the decision to withdraw. But we are saying, let us do it with dignity.

Let us get all of our Afghan interpreters out. And so, I imagine the president's comments were in reference to what he cited as 2,500 SIV applicants, who have applied since January. And, yes, that is marginal improvement in the SIV bureaucracy.

But it's not meeting the needs on the ground at the time, especially, if you're an Afghan or a family member attempting to get out of harm's way.

HOLMES: Yes. And the -- the -- the president spoke, he spoke directly to translators and others when he said this. Let's have a listen.


BIDEN: There is a home for you in the United States, if you so choose. And we will stand with you, just as you stood with us.


HOLMES: The thing that worries me about that is it sounds good but -- but is it true, in terms of what is happening on the ground versus what needs to happen?

What is being done right now?

MISKA: Yes. I -- so, I applaud the intent and it's important that the president said that.


MISKA: But the reality is that we need an evacuation on the scale of tens of thousands right now. And we are not seeing that. We're going to see some options exercised, where people will -- might go to third countries. They might use Guam. Some might get humanitarian parole and come direct to the United States.

But it's not enough. And that -- that figure that he cited, about, you know, half of the 2,500 not exercising that option, well, that's not a choice for them. That's a combination of either security conditions on the ground or a broken bureaucracy that's not allowing them to get out.

HOLMES: And -- yes, and some of them haven't even been able to get passports, either, just because of the security situation.

So -- so many are supporting this cause, this very just cause. But -- but speak to the damage to U.S. interests, if it doesn't act on this issue.

Who -- who, in some future conflict, will want to go near working for Americans in a foreign land, if these people in Afghanistan and Iraq are not looked after?


MISKA: Yes. It's not just the future, Michael; we've got men and women in harm's way now around the globe. They rely on interpreters. They rely on local and national support.

What are we doing to those relationships?

How are we impacting our FBI agents, who are doing counterintel -- or counterterrorism investigations anytime a bomb goes off?

What informant will want to provide us with vital intelligence in those cases?

And, lastly, I'd say, for our men and women, who are -- are finishing their time in service, taking off their uniform, going home, feeling like they've violated this ethos of leave no one behind, is that how we want them to talk to prospective recruits in their hometowns?

HOLMES: And -- and to be very clear, you know, what -- what are you hearing from Afghans waiting for the U.S. to meaningfully act?

I mean, the killings and threats are already happening.

MISKA: It's, as you know, it's been going on for 20 years in Afghanistan. I give credit to my colleagues, who are in direct contact -- with Afghans and Iraqis, by the way, every day. They are getting distress calls. And, unfortunately, some of those lines are going dead right now.

And the emotional toll that it's taking on people, who are -- are trying to help them navigate this, you know, incredible bureaucracy, is -- is really damaging to what we're trying to do here.

HOLMES: Real quick, because we were talking about this before we started this interview, that flag behind you, that means something to you, doesn't it?

MISKA: Yes, Michael. That was given to me after we started the Baghdad Underground Railroad and we started getting Iraqi interpreters out.

And as I was getting ready to redeploy back to Germany, the -- the interpreters who remained all signed that flag and they gave it to me as a parting gift. And that was the motivation for me every day, when I came into work to write and get that story told.

HOLMES: You -- you are fighting the good fight. There are many others like you. And I'm with you, all the way. It means a lot to me as well, having worked there and embedded with you in Iraq and worked with a lot of these translators, too. Let's not let this issue go. Steve Miska, always good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

MISKA: Thank you.


HOLMES: All right. Straight ahead here on the program, the Olympic flame has arrived in Tokyo, as organizers feel the heat, after banning spectators from a majority of events. We're live in Tokyo next.

Also, Northern Ireland recently marked 100 years since its creation. And only time will tell how much longer it might last. Why a united Ireland could become a reality? We'll be right back.





HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Now pressure is mounting on Olympic organizers, as Tokyo 2020 is now less than two weeks away. The games will appear vastly different this year, with fans banned from events in and around the Japanese capital because of surging COVID infections. CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo for us.

Yes, no fans are going to be allowed.

What's -- what's it going to look like?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Michael, these Olympic Games are going to look very different than anything we have ever seen before. For months, we have talked about how unpopular these games have been with the general public and medical professionals.

And while holding them without spectators is seen as a good move, the fact that they are being held at all, given the circumstances, remains a point of contention.

Now Tokyo has been living under a constant quasi- or full state of emergency since April. And there is a lot of frustration that people are being asked to make sacrifices. Yet, the Olympic and Paralympics are still being held.

Now as you mentioned organizers have announced that Tokyo -- events in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures will be held without spectators. That includes the torch relay, currently taking place behind closed doors here in Tokyo.

Now the spectator ban, also, likely, covers competitions being held in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, where the marathon, race walk, and some football matches will be held. At this time, only a handful of events taking place in Miyagi, Shizuoka and Fukushima, where state of emergency orders aren't in effect, will allow venues to be filled to 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

Now this decision was made at the time when Tokyo's experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases largely driven by the Delta variant. Now just this week, cases reached its highest numbers since mid-May and the vaccine rollout is still moving incredibly slow. Only about 17 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated.

Now as a result, on Thursday, Japan's prime minister declared a fourth state of emergency for the capital, lasting until August 22nd. And, Michael, that means that these Olympic Games will be held under a state of emergency order.

HOLMES: Yes, they won't be like the usual ones, that's for sure. Blake Essig in Tokyo, appreciate it. Good to see you. Thanks.

Now police in Bangladesh are investigating an enormous fire that officials say killed 52 people at least. The flames broke out on Thursday at a juice factory. Firefighters finally getting it under control the next day. But many factories in the country do not have adequate fire and building safety standards, as CNN's Kim Brunhuber reports.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Clouds of black smoke billow through the air of this multistory building, as firefighters struggle to put out the flames of this massive fire.

It started Thursday afternoon at a juice and food factory located just outside Bangladesh's capital. It burned until Friday afternoon. According to a fire official, the fire started on the ground floor. Workers tried to escape to the roof. But many were trapped, as the fire spread to the stairway exits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If the workers could have reached the rooftop, we could have saved them like the 25 people we rescued with our crane. If only they could have reached there, we would have been able to save them. BRUNHUBER (voice-over): A few who were able to reach the roof jumped

off and at least three died, a fire official told the national news agency. The cause of the fire is unknown. But according to the fire chief, the presence of highly flammable chemicals and plastics inside the factory made it difficult to tame the fire.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Distraught relatives of the victims surrounded the factory, waiting to hear back about their loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My son called me and said, "Oh, Mother, a fire broke out."

After a while, his colleague called me and, he said, "He's no more."

How could he survive?

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The bodies recovered were charred beyond recognition, a fire official told local media. The rescue units wrapped the remains in white body bags and piled them into a fleet of ambulances before they were transported to the hospital for DNA testing.

In 2013, more than 1,000 people were killed when an entire garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh's capital, bringing safety standards for the country's factory workers into the spotlight. But since then, blazes and other disasters have been all too common -- Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


HOLMES: London Metro police officer Wayne Cousins pled guilty on Friday to the murder of Sarah Everard. The 33-year-old woman disappeared in March, while walking home in South London, her body found 80 kilometers away in southeast England.

The killing sparking widespread protests about women's safety. A judge set Cousins' sentencing hearing for late September.

Now Loyalists in Northern Ireland are about to celebrate what they regard as a great battlefield victory over Catholics in the 17th century. Gigantic bonfires will kick off those annual celebrations and many Catholics see it as a provocation. As Nic Robertson reports, it all comes as a united Ireland suddenly seems almost within reach.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Passions among pro-British Loyalists are up, many readying for a weekend, traditionally primed for confrontation.

Massive bonfires commemorating centuries of protestant domination over Irish Catholics soon to be ignited amidst fears the historic hegemony is fading. JAMIE BRYSON, LOYALIST ACTIVIST: When you feel as if pushing class

citizens around the country, we feel under siege. And when you push and push people into a corner, people are going to kick back.

ROBERTSON: These soon-to-be towering infernos are an annual honoring of ties to the U.K. And they're this year bigger than ever, a statement signifying a raging anger in these pro-British Loyalist communities that Brexit is making them feel less British.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For a few, Brexit's new customs controls, known as Northern Ireland protocols across the Irish Sea to mainland Great Britain, are an existential threat.

BRYSON: The Unionists and Loyalists (INAUDIBLE) Northern Ireland see that's almost as the last big battle. This is on the window ledge of the union, so I have never seen anger like it in my lifetime.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): More moderate pro-British Unionists are feeling the pain of the protocols, too, the biggest party, the most divided it's been in decades and losing support.

SIR JEFFREY DONALDSON, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY LEADER: I think that talk of a united Ireland, talk of a border police divisive. It is unsettling. It's destabilizing at a time when we need none of those things.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Donaldson is his party's third leader in two months, is vowing to remove the so-called Irish Sea border.

DONALDSON: The decisions the prime minister took on Brexit and his support for the protocol have created a very significant problem, have resulted in instability here and harm to our economy and our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In recent days, the so-called sausage wars over E.U. controls of jelled meat moving from the U.K. to Northern Ireland have eased temporarily. But some businesses have already shifted supply chains toward a more economically united island of Ireland.

JAMES DOHERTY, DOHERTY'S MEATS: There is no doubt about it. It's much easier to source materials from the south of Ireland for Northern Ireland business than it is from GB. So -- and, again, that's something that the protocol has introduced.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): At sandwich makers Deli Lites, protocols have sped a natural evolution to source locally. And they are making new sales because of it.

BRIAN REID, FOUNDER, DELI LITES: We have access to the European market. We have, also, access back into the U.K. So there's a huge opportunity here to be able to produce a product here and have access to both markets.

ROBERTSON: And just down the road from Deli Lites, more changes coming. The Irish government funding a new bridge from Ireland over the river to the north, improving, increasing those connections.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Connections, Loyalists fear, that Brexit is irrevocably forging. Their fire and fury now firmly focused on torching the protocols.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nic Robertson, CNN, Northern Ireland.


HOLMES: Now as companies weigh a post-pandemic future, there are growing conversations about what the workday could look like.

Full time?

Work from home?

Hybrid model, perhaps?

Well, Iceland did some research. Public sector employees took part in two large trials between 2015 and 2019. People worked 35-36 hours a week instead of the usual 40 or so for the same pay.

Well, the result?

Worker wellbeing increased dramatically. And the study found that, even with the shorter hours, productivity either stayed the same or improved.

Every year, some teenaged brainiacs gather together to show off their mastery of words. This year's Scripps National Spelling Bee boiled down to 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde.





HOLMES (voice-over): A murraya is a type of tree. Zaila is the first African American winner, but she is much more. She's a basketball prodigy as well, with three world records for dribbling.

AVANT-GARDE: And I think I'm definitely interested in playing basketball at Harvard. And maybe, then -- then, it's like four options. I am thinking about maybe NBA basketball coach, working for NASA or maybe going into some -- treating diseases and stuff to help with neuroscience.

Or finally, ever since I learned a little bit about it and saw the two women who won Nobel prizes for gene editing, I have been looking into that, too. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Bet she does all of it. Zaila gets a $50,000 cash prize and a cool trophy.

I'm Michael Holmes. For our international viewers, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA," up next. For everyone else, I'll be right back with more CNN NEWSROOM.





HOLMES: The U.S. is turning up the diplomatic heat in Moscow over ransomware attacks blamed on Russian hackers. A string of U.S. companies has been hit recently by cyberattacks, which, among other things, led to temporary gas shortages and shutdowns of meat plants. Jeff Zeleny with more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden drawing another line in the sand with Russian president Vladimir Putin on cyberattacks. They had another hour-long phone call on Friday, of course, coming after their summit only three weeks ago, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Cyberattacks, front and center in that meeting. Now President Biden urged Vladimir Putin once again to take more action against the Russian companies that are involved in the hack. We asked President Biden about that phone call on Friday.


ZELENY (from captions): How did President Putin response to your call today, sir?

BIDEN: Well, I made it very clear to him that the United States expects, when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it's not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act and be given enough information to act on who that is.

And secondly, that we have set up communications now on a regular basis to be able to communicate to one another when each of us thinks something's happening in another country that affects the home country. And so it went well. I'm optimistic.

ZELENY (from captions): You said three weeks ago there would be consequences.

Will there be, sir?



ZELENY: So it is unclear what consequences exactly President Biden has in mind. He later said that he would consider going after the software companies, the servers of these Russian companies that are involved in the hack.

One thing is clear: the White House is increasingly stepping up its pressure on Russia.

The question is, will President Putin do anything about it?

Will he respond to this push from the White House?

Now there is a meeting scheduled next week on cyber between U.S. officials and Russian officials as well. President Biden believes an open line of communication with Vladimir Putin, of course, was the point of that summit, in the first place, is key to this.

But it also is clear that this red line seems to be closer and closer to being crossed -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: One more victim has been found in the rubble of the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. Now that brings the confirmed death toll to 79, with dozens of others still unaccounted for. CNN's Randi Kaye with the latest on the recovery effort and the investigation into what might have triggered this catastrophe.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Major progress in the recovery mission at the debris pile of Champlain Tower South and it continues around the clock.

MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT (I-FL), SURFSIDE: The pile that originally was approximately four or five stories is now almost at ground level.

KAYE (voice-over): At least 13 million pounds of concrete and debris now removed and the mission remains the same, return loved ones to their families.

Meanwhile, a few effort is underway at the sister tower just a few blocks away, a detailed inspection of Champlain Tower North to make sure it won't suffer the same fate.

CNN got a close-up look at the process as inspection teams went underground today using X-rays and testing concrete for salt residue.

ALLYN KILSHEIMER, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: We did a scan of the thickness of the slab here to know how thick the slab is. We're going to be doing that again today with a different device that can go deeper in measuring the thickness of the floor. KAYE (voice-over): Just a few miles away in North Miami Beach, residents at Crestview Towers, who were hastily evacuated a week ago based on a delinquent recertification report that showed the building to be structurally and electrically unsafe, were allowed back in the building with a police escort today for just 15 minutes to grab any personal belongings they could carry out by hand.

GUSTAVO MATA, RESIDENT EVACUATED FROM CRESTVIEW TOWERS: They told us yesterday and they told all of us that we have just 15 minutes today to take some stuff, personal stuff. Just 15 minutes. It's nothing for us.

KAYE: CNN has obtained video from Fiorella Terenzi, showing inside the parking deck at the Champlain South Tower, which two engineers told CNN shows corrosion. It was shot in July 2020. It is not clear if this damage had anything to do with the collapse.

Back at the pile at Champlain Tower South, where the rescue mission has officially become a recovery mission --


KAYE (voice-over): -- the first responders aren't giving up, despite the personal toll it takes on them.

CHIEF NICHOLE NOTTE, FLORIDA TASK FORCE, 2-K-9 UNIT: I'm physically digging but I'm also emotionally digging for more strength to continue.

KAYE: Amid all the sadness, one small piece of good news to come out of Surfside today: WSBN is reporting rescue workers found Binx the cat alive today near the pile. The station says Binx belongs to the Gonzalez family that lived in apartment 904.

It reports the mother and daughter are in the hospital and the father is still missing. Binx has been reunited with the family.

Now the Broward County medical examiner is sending in teams here because the pace of finding bodies has quickened so much, they are going to help onsite.

Also we understand from the fire chief that they are using schematics and floor plans to try and find more of these victims. They believe they're in the master bedroom, since the collapse did happen at 1:30 in the morning.

But they are digging in all areas of the pile and they've made a lot of progress. Digging in the pile, they now have reached victims on the second floor and the third floor and made their way in some areas deep into the garage -- Randi Kaye, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


HOLMES: Still to come here on the program, billionaire Richard Branson on track to make history this Sunday. He'll try to blaze a new trail 50 miles above the Earth. We'll be right back. (MUSIC PLAYING)




HOLMES: The billionaire, Richard Branson, will do what no other space tycoon has ever done. He hopes to fly to the edge of space on Sunday, in a ship built by his Virgin Galactic company.

If everything goes well, Branson will win what some people call the billionaire space race, meaning he'll beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is set to launch in his Blue Origin company's rocket nine days later.

Now Branson tweeted pictures of himself with fellow crew members but he said he is not racing Bezos.


RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN AMERICA: Whether I go a few days before him or a few days after him, honestly, it doesn't -- it doesn't matter to either of us.

What we want to do is do something extraordinary. And we're both doing something extraordinary, coincidentally on the same month, and opening up space, hopefully, for thousands of people in the years to come.


Branson and Bezos are developing commercial space flights for tourists.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. I will be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.