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Branson Set For Historic Space Plane Flight; Delta Variant Cases Spike In U.S.; Less Than Half Of U.S. Vaccinated; War In Afghanistan; Euro 2020 Final; Argentina Win Copa America; Surfside Condo Tragedy; Extreme Weather In Western U.S.; Pope Francis Recovers; Belgium To Return Art To DRC. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 11, 2021 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A renowned risk-taker now about to reach the edge of space. How Richard Branson's journey kicks off a commercial space race and the other billionaires he is beating to get there.

Also, ahead. England helps to leave 55 years of hurt behind them. And they beat formidable opponent Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

And excessive heat is smothering millions along the U.S. West Coast. We will tell you just how high the mercury will go today.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching us here, in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: We begin with a short flight to space but a big leap for tycoons who want to turn the great beyond into a tourist destination. In less than four hours, billionaire Richard Branson is set to take off in a spaceplane built by his company Virgin Galactic.

Well, if he succeeds, he will be the first businessman to do so in a spacecraft whose development he funded. A short time ago, he tweeted this mission statement for his upcoming flight.

"My mission statement is to turn the dream of space travel into a reality -- for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone."

So how does Branson feel before potentially making history?

Well, he opened up to CNN's Rachel Crane.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The countdown is on. And in just hours, entrepreneur Richard Branson hopes to become the first person to ride a self-funded rocket into suborbital space.

RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: Astronaut 001 Richard Branson.

CRANE (voice-over): A launch nearly two decades in the making.

CRANE: Tell me, how do you feel?

BRANSON: Well, I managed to avoid getting excited for 17 years since we started building spaceships and mother ships and spaceports and all these things. And I finally got the call from our chief engineer saying that every single box have been ticked on the safety aspect and that I was, would I like to go to space? And I hit the roof, I was so excited.

CRANE (voice-over): The Virgin Galactic rocket-powered space plane is set to take off tomorrow from New Mexico. The mother ship will release the spaceship at around 40,000 feet. The rocket will ignite and take Branson, two pilots and three others on a 2,400-mile-per-hour ride more than 50 miles up to touch the inner edge of space, as defined by the U.S. military and NASA. The crew will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before gliding back to earth.

BRANSON: When you're up there, the spaceship will turn over under these enormous windows and it's going to be able to float around.

CRANE (voice-over): If successful, the space baron will edge out fellow billionaire and world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, who is set to ride his own company's rocket into space in the coming days.

The two men have jockeyed for the astronomical bragging rights that come with being first. Branson has insisted that there's no space race with Bezos and that the missions are different.

BRANSON: The kind of experience you're going to get with the two companies are almost as different as chalk and cheese. So we don't see ourselves as a direct competitor.


CRANE: While Bezos' flight will be after Branson's, his rocket system, New Shepard, will go even higher, past the Karman line, which is the altitude internationally recognized to be the demarcation of space.

His company Blue Origin taking a shot at Branson's trip, tweeting their rocket was, quote, "designed to fly above the Karman line, so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name."

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: If you fly 50 miles or 62 miles, you're in space. You're not going to notice the difference between those 12 miles. Neither of these vehicles go into orbit, by the way. They touch space and then they come right back down.

CRANE: Both space companies have had successful suborbital test flights over the past decade. But with space travel comes inherent risk. In 2014, a co-pilot for Virgin Galactic was killed during a test flight of a previous model of their spacecraft. MIKE MOSES, PRESIDENT, SPACE MISSIONS AND SAFETY, VIRGIN GALACTIC: I like to say you can do risky things safely if you know the risk you're taking, you know the controls you have in place and you verify that they are active and we do just that. I don't think the risk of this flight is high.


MOSES: It's not zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, zero and liftoff. The final liftoff of Atlantis on the shoulders of the space shuttle.

CRANE: In the 10 years since the launch of Atlantis, NASA's final space shuttle mission, the privatization of space flight has quickly expanded.

Today, the commercial aerospace company SpaceX, founded by yet another billionaire, Elon Musk, regularly takes NASA astronauts and supplies into orbit at a fraction of the cost of the space shuttle. So far, NASA has been supportive of the billionaire's endeavors, especially after the successes of SpaceX.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We are seeing the result of these billionaires, that you call them, putting their wealth into the research and development of the space program. We're seeing a lot of advancing of technology, which is good for our country. It's good for building American jobs as well.

CRANE: If tomorrow's mission is successful, it could launch yet a new era of space travel and the final frontier could soon open to space tourism. So far, hundreds of people have signed up for future Virgin Galactic flights, some paying more than $200,000 each. Branson hopes that someday will be soon.

BRANSON: I've had to wait almost a lifetime to be able to go into space. Hopefully, we can speed that process up for many, many others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a billion-dollar view.

CRANE: Here at Spaceport America, they are in their final stages of preparation for this hotly anticipated space flight. But it's important to remember that this is still a test flight.

Virgin Galactic is taking extra safety precautions as a result. All the passengers will be wearing parachutes and supplemental oxygen will be on board -- in Truth and Consequences, New Mexico, I'm Rachel Crane.


BRUNHUBER: So as you just heard, much is being made of the so-called rivalry between Branson and Bezos to see which of the two billionaires can be first into space. Well, the Amazon founder is setting that aside. In a post on Instagram Saturday, he wished Branson and his team a safe and successful flight. Now earlier, I spoke with space commentator and lecturer David

Livingston and I asked him what doors this journey could open in terms of commercial space flight. Here's what he said.


DAVID LIVINGSTON, HOST, "THE SPACE SHOW": This is all commercially done. This is not government money, government technology, although it's built on what the government did in the past. And the people that are going up are private citizens, just ordinary people that want to fly to space.

So it's opening some new doors. It's beginning of what is potentially going to be a very big industry, hopefully, in the not too distant future, as prices come down, and it's been a long time coming. Branson's been working on this since the XPRIZE, almost 17 years ago.

BRUNHUBER: So one giant step for space tourism. I want to play something that Neil deGrasse Tyson, said speaking to our Jim Acosta.


NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: Launching from New Mexico. Spaceport, OK? That word feels a little weird.

But does it -- is it any weirder than the first people who heard the word airport, OK?

Just think about that: spaceport, airport.

So it could be as routine as what time does the train leave or what time does the plane leave?

What time does your rocket leave in the future?


BRUNHUBER: He is talking about how this is helping to launch a whole new industry. I know you're a huge supporter of commercial space travel.

What are the advantages that space tourism and commercial space travel might bring?

LIVINGSTON: There -- it's opening doors to innovation and technology and to all sorts of different opportunities -- space manufacturing resource usage, things that can really make life different here on Earth and better for people, not just countries that have a spaceport located in it.

More (INAUDIBLE) more people to go to space, more opportunity we have for creative innovation, for success for problem solving, for things back here on Earth that were very limited when all we had were space shuttle flights and government astronaut flights.

BRUNHUBER: But then on the other hand, I want to share maybe a more cynical take from one of our writers, Zachary Wolf. He recently wrote that this competition doesn't have any of the patriotic energy of the space race that led to the moon landing.

He wrote, this year's race between the billionaires features none of that national pride or opposing ideas. It's tax-averse tycoons who want to sell high-priced tickets to rich people interested in experiencing weightlessness.


BRUNHUBER: So I know you've said Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has single-handedly saved the space industry.

Isn't there a chance something is lost here when practically the whole industry is in the hands of the mega-rich and it isn't truly a national effort, as it was this the past?

LIVINGSTON: Well, I would absolutely disagree with all of that and, also, I think the comparisons are really erroneous. We went to the moon as a result of the Cold War.

Does your author of that statement want to have us relive the Cold War now, maybe with China?

Does he want us to do duck and cover drills again in school, like I had to do when I was an elementary school kid?

We're going to space now for what space can do for humanity. And the price -- the government can't do this. It is not possible for the government. It's not part of NASA's mission.

But the private sector can do this. And it starts with the private sector, where money, Elon Musk, Bezos, Branson and other people, they're kicking it off. It's not just about their being able to sell tickets and make money.

It's about the innovation that's going to come out of this.


BRUNHUBER: The Delta coronavirus variant is ripping through the United States, putting unvaccinated communities in extreme risk. We'll talk about that next.

Plus, Haiti is grappling with chaos and confusion as the motive behind the president's assassination is still unknown. We will have the latest from the nation's capital coming up. Stay with us.




(MUSIC PLAYING) BRUNHUBER: The U.S. is seeing a surge of new COVID cases, as the

highly contagious Delta variant spreads. Friday marked the fourth day in a row the U.S. recorded more than 20,000 new COVID cases. The last time that happened was back in May.

With fewer than half of Americans fully vaccinated, health experts are warning that trend could continue, especially as the Delta variant becomes more dominant.

Even some areas with higher vaccination rates are seeing a surge. Los Angeles County is reporting that new cases jumped by more than 150 percent over the last week.


BRUNHUBER: Dr. Stephen Parodi joins me from San Francisco. He is the associate executive director with the Permanente Medical Group at Kaiser Permanente.

Thank you so much for joining us, Doctor. We're seeing the rise of the Delta variant, mostly in the South and places like Missouri, where the vaccination rate is extremely low, but also in California where it's now the dominant variant.

Probably the best example is L.A. County. It's reported the highest number of cases in months now. In fairness, it's still way lower than what we saw during the peak. But I guess it's the rate at which it's increasing that is worrying experts.

So the many hospitals that you help manage that treat millions of patients across the state, so you get a great overview of what's happening, what are you seeing?

DR. STEPHEN PARODI, ASSOCIATE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PERMANENTE MEDICAL GROUP: Well, you know, it's really clear that the Delta variant is much more transmissible than before. We were talking about it as an abstraction about a month ago. And now it's become the predominant strain in the United States.

And it's quickly going to be that in California as well. In California, I can say that because we've got higher vaccination rates. While we've seen increases in hospitalizations, we're at really 10 percent to 15 percent of where we were at the peak back in January.

That's different and in contrast to other parts of the country, where we're seeing, particularly in Missouri, as you called out, running out of hospital beds or running out of ventilators.

So the key message here, when it comes to the Delta variant, is that if you're unvaccinated, you're at high risk for getting infected and getting hospitalized and potentially dying from it.

If you're vaccinated, you are seeing lack of illness and lack of hospitalization; in fact, 99 percent of the hospitalizations that are occurring right now in our Kaiser Permanente system are in people that are unvaccinated. BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's a very important point to make. And I think

that 99 percent, we're seeing that practically across the country. But if it weren't enough, the Delta variant, now there's in California the Epsilon strain to worry about, I understand, which seems to make the vaccines dramatically less effective.

So as an infectious disease specialist yourself, what can you tell us about that?

PARODI: Well, you know, so this virus is doing what viruses do. If they're allowed to circulate around, they form new mutations. So the Epsilon variant is yet another version of that.

Fortunately, even with the early studies -- and we know that the Epsilon variant has been around in California since May, it has not become the predominant strain. And neutralizing antibodies are still made, even with the vaccines.

So my key message here is that the way to get this under control is to get vaccinated. And even if there are fewer antibodies made, you still have protection with the currently available vaccines that we have.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, I mean, getting vaccinated is the key. There have been sort of different ways to sort of reach those people who haven't been vaccinated, some say going door to door to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Other people are suggesting that getting the vaccines fully approved by the FDA would help.

What do you think would make the most difference?

PARODI: I think what I've been finding is that it's literally making those personal connections. At this point, everyone's heard the messaging. And it's really reaching people where they are.

So it's either getting the vaccine into the community directly, where people have transportation issues still and/or the ability to access health care. But more importantly, when it comes to the hesitant population, it's actually listening to their stories and understanding where they're at.


BRUNHUBER: But before we go --

PARODI: -- connection.

BRUNHUBER: -- before we go, I don't have much time but I did want to get your input on this.


BRUNHUBER: Because this has been a big story this week, the confusion over the boosters. We heard Pfizer's CEO announce its vaccine loses efficacy over time, so we'll definitely need the booster. CDC and FDA came out quickly and said, no need for a booster. So there

has been a lot of confusion created in the public, already confused about mixed messages over COVID.

So what's your -- do you have any fears here that this might sort of undermine public confidence in the shots?

PARODI: My take on this is that the boosters are something that is really going to be something we're using later on and when there is a true vaccine variant that escapes. Right now, we've got vaccines that are effective.

The durability of the vaccinations are up to a year and perhaps even longer. So right now, our focus needs to be on getting people who haven't gotten vaccinated vaccinated.

And when we get that emergency use authorization for those children, the 6-month old to 11-year olds, especially since they're going become to school, getting them vaccinated. That's really the order of the day.

BRUNHUBER: Absolutely. All right. That is all the time we have. I really appreciate having you on, Dr. Steven Parodi, thank you so much for being with us.

PARODI: Thank you so much.


BRUNHUBER: Haiti is plunging deeper into political chaos and uncertainty, as the motive and the masterminds behind the assassination of president Jovenel Moise remains unknown.

A special unit of Colombian police are now in Haiti to help authorities with the investigation. At least 28 people are suspected in the killing; 26 are Colombian nationals. CNN's Matt Rivers has more from the Haitian capital.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the manhunt here in Haiti continues in earnest for the remaining suspects in the assassination of Haiti's president.

With Haitian authorities not really having updated their official numbers in a little while now; 20 suspects have been detained, three suspects have been killed officially and five remain on the loose at this time.

We know that there's 28 suspects in all, 26 of which are Colombian nationals, two of which are Haitian Americans. But that is about all the information that we really have from Haitian authorities that's very solid.

What we don't have is a motive.

Why did nearly 34 nationals come here to Haiti to kill this country's president, as Haitian authorities say they did?

Who financed them?

Who armed them?

How long had they been in this country before the assassination took place?

That's all answers that we don't have right now. And in the absence of official information, there is a lot of theories floating around the Haitian public about why and how this was allowed to take place.

Meanwhile, the political instability in this country continues in earnest. It was on Friday night that Haiti's senate elected the senate president to serve as the interim president of Haiti overall.

The swearing-in ceremony was supposed to take place, according to the senate, sometime during the day on Saturday. That didn't happen and it was in the evening on Saturday that the senate president tweeted out that the swearing-in ceremony had been postponed without really elaborating as to why that is.

It's also not clear that, had that happened, other political factions all around the country would have expressly recognized that fact. It just goes to show how unstable right now the political climate is here in Haiti.

This is a place that political unrest, it's not something that hasn't happened for a long time. There are a lot of protests over politics that happen in this country; some of them do turn violent. That hasn't happened yet. But we are going to watch and see how this plays out over the coming days and weeks -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, the U.S. is investigating an indirect fire attack in Eastern Syria on Saturday. It happened near an area with oil and gas fields known as Conoco just east of Deir ez-Zor. It is one of several locations in Syria where U.S. troops operate to help local partner forces fight ISIS.

A U.S. Defense official says no one was hurt in the attack. It comes about two weeks after President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes on Iranian-backed militia groups in the border region between Syria and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, another link to the outside world may have fallen to the Taliban. The militants say they have cut off a key highway to Pakistan as they lay siege to Kandahar. CNN's Anna Coren reports from Kabul.


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban is continuing its offensive across Afghanistan, targeting strategic road and border links as embattled Afghan security forces desperately try to hold ground.

The militants claim to have cut the main highway between the southern city of Kandahar and the border with Pakistan, saying all army outposts in a nearby town have been overrun.

They also claim to have the city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, under siege. In recent days, the Taliban has taken control of one of the country's main trading gateways with Iran.


COREN: The dry port of Islam Qala is where millions of dollars worth of fuel and supplies cross every day. Customs officials, also confirming that militants took control of a border crossing with Turkmenistan.

The Afghan ministry of defense saying its forces had killed almost 200 Taliban fighters in 24 hours in operations across Afghanistan and will continue ground offensives and airstrikes to recapture lost territory.

As the fighting rages, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, is still campaigning for peace talks. He is traveling to Qatar, Pakistan and Uzbekistan to meet with regional stakeholders in an attempt to advance these stalled peace talks.

But many here in Afghanistan are convinced that the Taliban is not interested in peace or sharing power -- Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.


BRUNHUBER: A man charged with illegal voting in Texas is reportedly out of jail. The nonprofit Bail Project says it put up the money to have Hervis Rogers released after bail was set at $100,000. Rogers was arrested on Wednesday. He spoke to CNN in 2020 about waiting for six hours to vote in the Democratic primary.

Authorities say he also voted in 2018. Well, all that would be fine except Texas says Rogers was on parole after burglary charges in the '80s and '90s and that would make his votes illegal under state law.

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Rogers' case. The ACLU says laws shouldn't intimidate people from voting and it'll push back on efforts to restrict voting rights.

Soccer passions are at fever pitch ahead of the Euro 2020 final. We will look at why England and Italy both have something to prove in today's clash of the Titans at Wembley.

And later, we will give you an update on how Pope Francis is doing after his surgery last week. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here, in the United States, Canada and around the world.

The excitement is building for soccer fans ahead of today's highly anticipated Euro 2020 championship between England and Italy. The Italian players are hoping to reclaim the European title their team last won in 1968. They have played strong throughout the tournament, beating Spain by a penalty shootout to reach the final.

Meanwhile, the English squad is hoping a home field advantage will bring them an historic victory. It's their first time ever in a Euro final and the first appearance for England's men's team in a major final since they won the World Cup in 1966.

Well, Queen Elizabeth was there 55 years ago to present the World Cup to the national team. She sent this letter congratulating the Three Lions, as they're known, and wish them luck ahead of today's match. Well, CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Don Riddell has a preview of today's showdown at Wembley.


DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The tournament, delayed by one year, then played by 24 teams across 11 different countries, will finally be settled on Sunday night when England play Italy at Wembley Stadium in London. These are two countries, both craving success after the emotional pain of COVID-19 and the lockdown.

And, on the field, both teams will have something to prove. Italy are no strangers to success. This will be a 10th major final for the team that won this title back in 1968 and who won the World Cup no less than four times.

However, by their own standards, Italy have kind of been in the wilderness. They failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have not lost a game in the three years since.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We need both attributes tomorrow. You can't survive a final at Wembley, against England, without a warm heart. And you can't do it without cool heads.

There will come times when we will need to be more daring, when we need to go for it. And there will also be times when we need to be cooler and try and keep the situation under control.

RIDDELL: England have ridden a wave of euphoria to the final, playing five of their six game so far in London, reaching their first major final since 1966. That was the year they won the World Cup, their only trophy to date. And their fans are dreaming of lifting another trophy some 55 years later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What has come before is not unimportant, because we recognize the contribution others have made and we are respectful of that. But the near misses and the tournaments that haven't gone so well weren't important for this team.

And over the last four years, they have knocked down so many barriers and they have come through so many different challenges, different ways to win matches, had to come back from being behind, had to go through extra time, had to go through penalty shootouts.

So their resilience and experiences as a team have really prepared them well for this moment.

RIDDELL: While Italy has consistently excelled over the years, England has really struggled. A series of tournament blowouts or heartbreaking near misses have become so infamous, so painful, that the misery and yearning for success, are almost now part of the national psyche.

RIDDELL (voice-over): All of that heartbreak, captured in a song in 1996, "Three Lions," and the fans have been singing it throughout the tournament. They will be singing the chorus, "It's coming home again," at Wembley on Sunday.

Is the trophy coming home?

Or is it going to roam?

We will soon see. Back to you.




BRUNHUBER: A brutal heat wave is blanketing the western U.S.

So how long will these hot temperatures last?

We'll get the latest from our meteorologist when we come back. Please, do stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: In Surfside, Florida, the official death toll at the collapsed condo has increased, as more bodies were recovered Saturday. They include family members of Paraguay's first lady. The country's foreign minister says they identified the first lady's sister, brother-in-law and one of their three children. They also identified their 23-year-old nanny.

So far, 86 people are confirmed dead, with 43 people still unaccounted for. The grim job of recovering bodies is moving at a faster pace after the demolition of the remaining tower. But it comes with a personal toll on the recovery crews.


CHIEF NICHOLE NOTTE, FLORIDA TASK FORCE 2: I feel like I'm physically digging but I'm also emotionally digging for more strength to continue.

I think the first time it really hit me was when I found a passport with a baby in it. And I found the entire family of passports as well.

Those are the moments that I -- whew -- I take a deep breath and bury my head in that moment.


BRUNHUBER: One positive development: Binx, a cat that lived on the ninth floor, has been reunited with family members. The woman holding Binx is related to two people who lived in the building.

More than 30 million people across the western U.S. are under heat alerts. Another historic heat wave is baking the region from the Canadian border all the way down to the Mexican border. Temperatures are running 15-25 degrees hotter than normal for this time of year.

And more than 100 record high temperatures are forecast to be broken through Tuesday morning.



BRUNHUBER: Well, the heat wave on North America's Pacific Coast has had a surprising and smelly side effect. Clams and other shellfish are literally being cooked alive on the hot rocks exposed to the sun on Western Canada's beaches.

Now a professor from the University of British Columbia found dead, rotting mussels with shells popped open at a beach in Vancouver. And he says he could even smell it before getting there.

Well, Pope Francis is about to lead his Sunday Angelis prayer and it is the first time he will be doing it from the hospital. He is recovering from a recent surgery. We'll head over to Rome live.

Plus, artwork looted long ago is now set to be returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo, wooden statues, musical instruments. But there's a catch. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: In just a few minutes, Pope Francis is supposed to lead a Sunday angelus prayer from the university hospital in Rome. [05:50:00]

BRUNHUBER: He is recovering there from the scheduled surgery he underwent last week. CNN's Delia Gallagher joins me live from Rome.

So Delia, the pope's appearance today, is that proof that he's well on the road to recovery?

What's the latest?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, it's definitely one of the things that we're looking for. You know, this is the first time that we'll see the pope in a week since he went in for major colon surgery. He's 84 years old. That surgery was under a general anesthetic.

The Vatican has been giving us updates all week, saying that the pope is recovering well; he's walking, he's eating, even managed to have dinner with some of the doctors and nurses that have assisted him. But this is going to be the first time that we will see him, in about 10 minutes from now.

I don't know if you can see, behind my shoulder, there is an open window up there, the top floor of the balcony. Those are where the pope will be coming to the window for what is really a traditional weekly address, you know, the Angelus. We are used to seeing him from the window of St. Peter's Square.

So this is an appointment Pope Francis obviously doesn't want to miss. But it becomes even more important, given the events of the past week. There is a bit of a precedence for this kind of thing, Kim. John Paul II used to do this when he was here at the hospital.

This is a hospital which has taken care of popes for decades. But this is the first time that we will get to see Pope Francis, we'll get to hear from him and, obviously, be able to check that he's doing well.

The prognosis, last Monday, Kim, was that the pope would spend seven days of recovery in the hospital, barring any complications. We haven't had an update on that yet. But that would mean that he would be expected to be released tomorrow, on Monday -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: OK. So then, if he is released, will he have time to recuperate once he gets back to the Vatican?

Or does he basically -- heads straight back to work?

GALLAGHER: Well, there is some downtime for the pope. This is July. This is a time when, anyway, he doesn't have public appearances. You know, usually, at the Vatican, on Wednesday, goes out with all the crowds and speaks to them. But he doesn't do that, anyway, during July.

So he does have a little bit of downtime. As I said earlier, this is an important surgery. Doctors stressed to us that an important part is also the recovery afterwards, just to make sure that all the organs are back working and that the pope gets time to rest.

So actually, July is a good time for him to get a little bit of downtime. But then, he's got to be back up and going. He's already got a trip planned to Hungary and Slovakia in September and, of course, all the other things the pope has to take care of at the Vatican -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much for that update. CNN's Delia Gallagher, in Rome appreciate it.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, two Confederate monuments have finally been taken down. The city removed statues of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on Saturday. Debate over Lee's statue removal ignited the so-called "Unite the Right" event almost four years ago. And it ended that bloodshed when a white supremacist killed a counterprotester by driving a car into a crowd.

The White House was asked about President Biden's reaction to the statue's removal. Here's what a spokesperson said.

"The president believes that monuments to Confederate leaders belong in museums, not in public places, and welcomes the removal of the statues today."

Well, Lee and Jackson weren't the only statues to come down in Charlottesville on Saturday. The city council also voted to remove a monument to American explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their Native American guide, Sacagawea.

Belgian officials made a blunt acknowledgment, in their words, "It doesn't belong to us." So they will begin returning art looted during the colonial era to the Democratic Republic of Congo but it won't happen right away, as CNN's Eleni Giokos reports.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over many decades of colonial rule, Belgian and other European explorers and soldiers stole artwork from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thousands of wooden statues, ivory masks, musical instruments and other artifacts, taken by force and eventually displayed in the Africa Museum near Brussels. Now Belgium says it will return the stolen art.

THOMAS DERMINE (PH), BELGIAN SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCIENTIFIC POLICY (through translator): The approach is very simple. Everything that was acquired through illegitimate means, through theft, through violence, through pillaging, must be given back. It doesn't belong to us.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Belgium will transfer legal ownership of the artifacts to the DRC but it will not immediately ship the art itself to the country unless the work is specifically requested by DRC authorities. That way, the museum can keep the works on display and pay a loan fee to the DRC.

GUIDO GRYSEELS, DIRECTOR, AFRICA MUSEUM: I have no problem whatsoever to transfer the ownership to the Congolese, where it rightly belongs. It's a moral question.


GRYSEELS: And then negotiate, A, we would like to use it in an exhibition.

Under what conditions can you help?

Will we pay you a loan fee?

Will you leave it here for the time being?

Or what is the condition?

GIOKOS (voice-over): The museum will also spend time determining if it is not clear which items were stolen and which were obtained legally.

GRYSEELS: I guess that in five years with a lot of resources we can do a lot. But it could also be a work for the next 10 to 20 years to basically be absolutely sure of all the objects that we have, that we know the precise circumstances by which it was acquired.

GIOKOS (voice-over): At the opening of the DRC's national museum in 2019, president Felix Tshisekedi called for Congolese artifacts to be gradually returned in an organized way. Now that work appears to be underway -- Eleni Giokos, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are celebrating a record-setting anniversary. The couple marked 75 years of wedded bliss in their hometown of Plains, Georgia, on Saturday, surrounded by friends and family.

Carter thanked his wife for staying by his side through the years. The Carters are the longest married president and first lady in American history. Congratulations to them.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For our viewers in the United States and Canada, "NEW DAY" is just ahead. For everyone else, it's "CONNECTING AFRICA."