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Athletes Leaving After Testing Positive; Tokyo Games Director Ousted; Take the Vaccine or Leave It; Speaker Pelosi Refuse Detractors from GOP; Inferno Engulfed Thousands of Acres of Land; China Rejects Second Phase of WHO Covid Origin Study; President Biden Saying Kids Under 12 Could Be Able to Get Vaccines Soon; COVID Cases Rising Among Children as Schools Set to Reopen; Russian Mercenaries Accused in Horrific Killing; Brother of Syrian Victim Speaks to CNN; Tokyo 2020, Surfing, Skateboarding to Make Olympic Debut. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): The Tokyo Olympics hit with another scandal. The man in charge of the opening ceremony has been fired just one day before the big show.

Vax it and mask it. Prominent health officials in the U.S. call for revised masking guidance as COVID cases surge.

And China balks at World Health Organization plans to continue investigating the origin of COVID.

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.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I'm proud to salute the world's Olympic athletes, and I thank the people of Japan. The Olympic experience brings out humanity's best, teamwork and solidarity, talent, tolerance. It inspires and unifies us in troubled times.

We are all in mourning for those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every effort in Tokyo has overcome enormous obstacles and demonstrated great determination. If we bring that same energy to our global challenges, we can achieve anything.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): That was U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with a welcoming message on the eve of Summer Olympic games in Tokyo. About 950 dignitaries are expected to attend the opening ceremony when it kicks off on Friday. Now, this is a video of jet fighters rehearsing on Wednesday. But the director of the event has been fired, reportedly over anti-Semitic jokes he made years ago in a comedy skit. Meanwhile, more than a dozen athletes have dropped out of the

competition after testing positive for COVID-19. Seven of them tested positive after they'd already arrived in Japan.

CNN's Blake Essig joins us from Tokyo. Blake, this controversy just the latest in a growing list of problems for these games.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim. I mean, look, these Olympic Games have been plagued with scandal for years. And this as you said is just the latest controversy to impact these games. The ceremonies' director Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed for mocking the Holocaust and making anti-Semitic jokes during a comedy routine back in the '90s.

As a result, he released this statement saying, quote, "as it was pointed out, there were some inappropriate expressions in the scripts from my past skit. I understand that my foolish choice of words at the time was a mistake, and I regret it."

The director's dismissal takes place just a few days after the man in charge of composing music for the opening and closing ceremonies stepped down -- or was forced to step down and resigned after admitting to bullying children with disabilities years ago. Although Olympic organizers said that he wouldn't -- or that they wouldn't use the composer's music, they didn't say how they would react to the director's removal and how that might impact tomorrow night's event.

Now, while controversy surrounding the opening ceremony continues to grow, so do the number of positive COVID-19 cases, of people involved with the Olympic Games. That number currently stands at 91 with four new cases confirmed in the Olympic Village, bringing that total up to eight. It's a clear sign that the Olympic Village bubble has in fact been punctured.

Yesterday Tokyo recorded its sixth highest daily case count since the pandemic began and the highest daily total since January. Athletes are worried about catching COVID-19 or being considered a close contact with someone who tested positive, essentially ending their Olympic dream before it even has the chance to start.

It's a cruel situation that's already played out for five members of team USA and 13 athletes from around the rest of the world. Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs is one of those athletes who tested positive here in Tokyo. She took to social media yesterday to say that she was heartbroken and that she did everything in her power to prevent this scenario and took all the precautions but sadly there's no question that this story will continue to repeat itself in the days and weeks to come. Kim?

BRUNHUBER (on camera): Absolutely. Blake Essig in Tokyo, thanks so much.

U.S. First Lady Jill Biden has just arrived in Tokyo to lead the U.S. delegation at the Olympics. It's her first solo trip abroad as first lady with at least two diplomatic events also scheduled for her five- day stay in Japan. The White House says the first lady and President Biden both feel it's important to support the nation's athletes including cheering them on at Friday's opening ceremony.


Well, back in Washington top Biden health officials are holding talks on revising mask recommendations for vaccinated Americans. And with the Delta variant now making up more than 80 percent of cases, these conversations are becoming more urgent.

Now, it comes as the daily pace of vaccinations reaches its lowest point since January, leading some communities to rethink their own mask mandates.

Here's CNN's Athena Jones.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): With new coronavirus cases surging in 47 states, driven in large part by the more contagious Delta variant, nearly 30 percent of the country lives in a county with high COVID transmission according to the CDC. That's 91 million people. Eighteen million more than the CDC reported earlier this week. The U.S. seeing a startling 55 percent increase in cases over the last week, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Florida, and Nevada leading the nation in new infections per capita.

UNKNOWN: We are literally at the beginning of a wildfire. If we don't get young people vaccinated, we are all going to be at risk for a really awful fall ahead.

JONES: And with less than half the population fully vaccinated, some are rethinking mask mandates and vaccination requirements. Starting in August, New York City will require workers at city hospitals and health clinics to either get vaccinated or be tested weekly.

MAYOR BILL DEBLASIO (D-NY): We have 22 million health care workers in the United States and by the information we have only about 50 percent are vaccinated. This is unacceptable.

JONES: Officials in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, passing a temporary mask mandate for employees at work. And the U.S. Capitol now recommending mask mandates once again after several new cases. And in Kansas City, Kansas a new mask mandate for all public- school students with few exceptions including on school buses and for parents visiting school buildings.

UNKNOWN: Getting the masks on, although they're not always the most comfortable thing, they are what's going to keep us safe.

JONES: Still there's no sign the CDC is planning to change its guidance on masking, which focuses on the unvaccinated. Former U.S. surgeon general Jerome Adams urging the agency to revise its policy in places where cases are rising yet vaccination rates remain low, writing in the Washington Post, instead of vax it or mask it, people might need to vax it and mask it. Starting today, Jackson health system in Florida will again no longer allow visitors in most in- patient units or any adult emergency departments. LILIAN ABBO, CHIEF, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM: This

virus is highly contagious, highly transmissible. This is not a joke.


JONES (on camera): And there is stunning new data from the CDC showing just how much COVID ravaged the nation over the last year. Life expectancy falling by a year and a half, the largest decline since World War II, with minorities hit hardest, Latinos and blacks seeing a three-year decline while life expectancy for whites fell 1.2 years.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

BRUNHUBER: President Biden is calling on Americans to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. At a CNN town hall on Wednesday he said his administration is working to tackle vaccine disinformation.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What we're doing is number one, restore America's faith in science is listen to the scientists. I'm not joking.


BIDEN: I mean, literally, listen to the scientists. And not interfere. Not rush anything. Just make -- let the scientists proceed because they desperately want to get this right, number one.

Number two, you may have heard, I never get myself in trouble as you know politically, but you may have heard that I was critical of some of the things that are on Facebook. And I was attacking Facebook. I wasn't attacking Facebook. There was a report out saying that something like 45 percent of the overwhelming disinformation on Facebook comes from 12 individuals. I said they're killing people, those 12 individuals.


BIDEN: That misinformation is going to kill people. Not a joke. Not a joke. It's like telling your kid, I tell you what, four years old, when you see a red light cross the street. I mean, come on.

And so, what we're trying to do is use every avenue we can, public, private, government, non-government, to try to get the facts out, what they really are. And one of the things, doc, that's happening that I'm feeling better about, I'm not being a wise guy now.

You know, you -- one of those other networks is not a big fan of mine. The one you talk about a lot. But if you notice, as they say in the most southern part of my state, they've had an altar call, some of those guys. All of a sudden, they're out there saying let's get vaccinated. Let's get vaccinated, the very people who before this were saying -- so that -- I shouldn't make fun. That's good. It's good. It's good. We just have to keep telling the truth. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER (on camera): When it comes to vaccines in children, President Biden was optimistic the Food and Drug Administration will have enough data in the coming months to allow those under age 12 to become eligible for the shot.


Well, the Delta variant is also fueling a massive surge in European cases. They shot up across most of the region last week when compared to the week before. Many countries in orange and dark red there, some are going ahead and loosening COVID measures while other hot spots like Italy are tightening them.

And in the coming hours the Italian government is expected to announce some kind of health pass similar to the one in France that will ban the unvaccinated from certain activities.

Meanwhile, England lifted most of its COVID measures earlier this week despite soaring infections and a spike in hospitalizations, the opposition Labour Party leaders calling this a summer of chaos.

And our Nina dos Santos is standing by for us in London. But first let's bring in CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau in Rome. Barbie, tell us more about what the Italian government is doing to stem the rising number of cases.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they're still hammering out the details of this so-called green pass, but as it stands right now it's very complicated. To eat inside of a restaurant, for example, you'd need two doses of the vaccine. To sit at a table outside the restaurant you'd only need one. If you were to sit at a coffee bar like the one behind me you wouldn't need any.

To go to a disco or a nightclub or a gym you'd need both doses of the vaccine. All of those sorts of things are complicated, especially for those business owners who don't really know where they stand in terms of how this is going to affect their business.

There are also logistic issues here in Italy. There are still some parts of this country where people aren't even eligible yet to have their vaccine. So, they'd be sort of punished and prohibited from going inside a restaurant and it wouldn't necessarily be their fault.

Also, they would allow, you know, the negative tests, negative PCR tests to be allowed to be inside some facilities but those tests aren't free in Italy. So, it can be very, very expensive. Your dinner can be doubled just by the fact you have to be tested if you don't have a vaccine. All of this is being hammered out. We expect some sort of announcement later today. And it would very likely come into effect on Monday.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We'll be watching for that. Thanks so much. Nina, now to you, it happens so often, COVID and politics are intertwined and that's very much the case right now in the U.K. What's the latest there?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Kim, we have similar things going on over here that Barbie mentioned there, that mismatch between the actual logistics and practicalities of implementing some of these government policies and those government policies that seem great perhaps on paper but not necessarily practical in real life.

This brings me to the subject of the prime minister's question time yesterday because Boris Johnson had the last question and answer session with other members of the U.K. parliament before the summer recess and he couldn't even be present in parliament for that, largely because he was isolated alongside the second senior most member of the government Rishi Sunak.

The chancellor also isolating because as we know, both have been in contact with the health secretary who himself came down with COVID on the eve of this country plowing ahead with lifting COVID restrictions.

Despite all of that, they have decided to go ahead and lift those COVID restrictions and also flip-flop on some issues like, for instance, these sort of pseudo vaccine passports that are going to be implementable for youngsters largely who Boris Johnson wants to make sure that they're vaccinated in the September months if they go into things like nightclubs.

This has created ire from the opposition. And as you can see, Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, has said Boris Johnson is a super spreader of confusion.


KEIR STARMER, LEADER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY: I have to say, even after 15 months of these exchanges I can't believe that the prime minister doesn't see the irony of him spending Freedom Day locked in isolation and, and announcing plans for a vaccine I.D. card. I remember when he used to say he'd eat an I.D. card if he ever had to produce one. Now he's introducing them. So, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to creating confusion, the prime minister is a super spreader.


DOS SANTOS (on camera): Well, there's been an interesting twist in developments in the last 24 hours since you saw Keir Starmer make that intervention in parliament. He himself is now in isolation. It came after one of his children tested positive for COVID-19. Just soon after he was there in parliament to question the prime minister and make statements like that.

The real question now in the U.K. that they're having to grapple with is how many people are under isolation because they've been in contact with somebody who has COVID-19 even if potentially they don't necessarily have the disease themselves.

The government says they're going to be amending the rules to allow people who are in essential jobs like health care workers to have a test even if they've been pinged by the so-called NHS app. But the reality is the British retail consortium that represents shops and food, supermarkets and so on and so forth, says they're really concerned about there not being enough food on the shelves, there not being enough workers to keep supermarkets open.


The police force is saying that some of their members of the police force are having to isolate in large numbers. That could affect policing. We're also seeing some of the big fuel companies saying that they can't get enough petrol into petrol and gas stations here.

So, there's a real concern not just about the pandemic but what's been dubbed the pingdemic with people's mobile phones and the applications about test and trace telling a lot more people in this country that they have to isolate now even if they're vaccinated, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's right. Those pictures of empty grocery shelves due to the pingdemic as you say, were quite striking. Nina dos Santos and Barbie Nadeau, thank you both so much. I really appreciate it.

A pay raise for Britain's National Health Service workers is being called a bitter blow. The U.K. says NHS workers will get a three percent raise to recognize their pandemic contribution. But Pat Cullen, the head of the Royal College of Nursing, says it's not enough.

She says the 3 percent hike amounts to a pay cut when compared to the 3.7 percent projected increase in inflation by the end of the year. Earlier this week, Downing Street received a petition with 80,000 signatures calling for a 15 percent raise for NHS workers.

The U.S. attempt to investigate the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is once again hitting Republican road blocks. And now the U.S. president is weighing in.

Plus, making progress. Firefighters say they're getting a better handle on the biggest wildfire burning right now in the U.S. We'll have more on that. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER (on camera): President Joe Biden is slamming Republicans for obstructing the investigation into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol and for trying to whitewash the assault on democracy.


BIDEN: I don't care if you think I'm Satan reincarnated. The fact is you can't look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th. You can't listen to people who say this was a peaceful march.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER (on camera): Now, those remarks from Biden's town hall came just hours after a flurry of drama over a special U.S. House panel that will investigate the attack.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Now, Democrats preparing to go it alone in the aftermath of the blowup between House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi over the January 6th select committee. The panel that would have investigated and that still plans to investigate what happened on that day on January 6th, the attack in the capitol.

This has been a squabble that has been going on for months but now it's clear, Democrats are going to go it alone. This in the aftermath of her rejecting two of McCarthy's picks. Pelosi saying that those two picks, Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, two staunch Trump defenders, did not deserve to sit on the panel based on their past statements.

Those past statements I'm told included Banks suggesting that the investigation was an effort to advance the left's authoritarian agenda. Jordan saying this is all an effort to go after Donald Trump. She believed, Pelosi, they were not serious members and they should not sit on the committee.

Kevin McCarthy responded saying that he would pull all five of his selections out of this because of his concerns that this was a partisan investigation and Pelosi should not be taking this step, he believes. Pelosi herself acknowledging this was an unprecedented move to deny a minority party's picks.

Now, there is still a Republican member, Liz Cheney. She is still -- she's one of Nancy Pelosi's eight picks. Pelosi says that she has a bipartisan quorum and can move forward because of Cheney. And Cheney in the aftermath of this came out swinging, criticizing McCarthy, agreeing with Pelosi, and telling me that she does not believe that McCarthy should be the Speaker of the House after the 2022 midterms.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law. And Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.


RAJU (on camera): Now the first hearing is still slated to take place next week. It will hear testimony from capitol police officers as well as D.C. metro police about their experiences that day. And the Democrats with Liz Cheney plan to press ahead, potentially even calling in witnesses who interacted with Donald Trump like Republican members of Congress, potentially even Jim Jordan.

Jordan himself told me earlier this week he is willing to testify about his conversations with Trump. And McCarthy too has said to me earlier he'd be willing to talk to anybody including the select committee potentially that could come to a head in the months ahead.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

BRUNHUBER (on camera): Also, I spoke with CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. I asked him about the latest turmoil surrounding the House investigation into the January 6th insurrection. Have a listen.


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The fact is that we faced on January 6th the most serious attack on our democracy probably since the Civil War and that after an initial flurry of activity Republicans, most Republicans have moved into a position of doing everything they can to prevent a full excavation of what happened and former President Trump's role in what happened.

That's what Kevin McCarthy was doing by putting Jim Banks and Jim Jordan on the committee. That's what he was doing after I think the speaker correctly, you know, questioned whether those members were there to help unearth truth or merely to undermine the proceedings.

And then he kind of, McCarthy kind of doubled down with the stunt of pulling everybody off the committee. I mean, that's the reality that we face. You saw it in a poll this week by CBS, one of our networks here, that 55 percent of Republicans now describe the attack on the capitol as defending freedom, whereas only 20 percent describe it as an insurrection.

That is the real story about what's happening, the kind of the tolerance that is spreading in the Republican coalition for this kind of violence if that's what it takes to maintain power in a diversifying society.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): That was senior political analyst Ron Brownstein speaking with me a short time ago there.

Firefighters in the U.S. state of Oregon say the biggest wildfire in the country is now 38 percent contained. The so-called bootleg fire is one of dozens spreading across 13 states. Forest officials say it was started by lightning and smoldered for days before it was detected. Calmer winds and cooler more humid weather over the past few days have helped firefighters make progress.

California's biggest blaze, the Beckwourth Complex fire, is now 96 percent contained. But the Tamarack fire near the border with Nevada is providing -- proving to be a lot more challenging. The national interagency fire center reports it's zero percent contained.

Have a look at this. A rancher and his wife recorded this video on Monday as they went to check on their neighbors' cows. He said it sounded like Niagara Falls as the fire came up the hill behind the pasture.

We have more now from CNN's Dan Simon.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This has been a very stubborn fire, this Tamarack fire that is burning near the Nevada-California border. It broke out on the 4th of July with a lightning strike and it remained very small until this past weekend when it absolutely exploded. It went from about 500 acres to now about 40,000 acres. And since then we're seeing little to no containment.

Fortunately, the property losses have been limited but you do have a number of communities that have been forced to evacuate.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Dan Simon reporting there. I spoke earlier with Craig Clements, professor of meteorology at San Jose State University. I asked him what can be done to prevent these devastating fires.


CRAIG CLEMENTS, PROFESSOR OF METEOROLOGY, SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, one thing is forest management. We need to really look at how we manage the fuels, like the trees, the shrubs, and we need to get more prescribed fire. This is purposely set fires, back into the ecosystems because that reduces the amount of stuff that can burn and it reduces it in terms of its more natural.

And so, prescribed fire really does help these ecosystems and it reduces the fuels and the threat. So, it's something we can actually do right now and implement in the next few years.

BRUNHUBER: And before we go, in terms of the research into the wildfires, it's obviously never been more important. I was lucky a while ago to visit the fire sciences lab in Missoula, Montana to see the research there into phenomena like fire tornadoes. So, what's one of the most important problems that researchers like yourself are hoping to solve that might help us down the road limit the spread of these massive fires and prevent the loss of property and life?

CLEMENTS: Well, there's a number of different things that researchers and colleagues of mine are doing around the world. One aspect is really looking at extreme fire behavior and getting better models of fire spread and understanding how these fires are spreading so rapidly from spotting -- understanding how fires create embers and how those embers are transported in the plume and the winds and how these fire- induced winds are really pushing the fire.

So, there's a lot of different things but that is one thing that's really exciting. And a number of teams are doing around the world. And so, I think that's where we need to focus, is looking at extreme fire behavior and how these fires spread.


BRUNHUBER: And our thanks to Craig Clements from the University of San Jose for his analysis there. Well, the death toll has jumped to at least 33 with eight people

missing from severe flooding in central China. Heavy rain pushed the Yellow River over its bank in Henan province where more than 120,000 people have fled their homes. A dozen people were killed when floodwaters rushed into subway cars in the provincial capital.

State media report the train was stuck between two stations and some passengers waited more than three hours to be rescued.

COVID-19 cases in children are on the rise here in the U.S. just as schools are getting ready to reopen. We'll discuss that next. Please stay with us.




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

China is rejecting the WHO's plan for a second phase of the study into the origins of the coronavirus. The plan includes the theory the virus could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory. But the Chinese official says that the investigation is quote, "Compromised by political manipulation and disrespect of scientific facts."

CNN's David Culver is live in Shanghai. David the reaction in Beijing, not surprising maybe. Walk us through why the government is so outraged here.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It really is not surprising, Kim. We've heard this type of rhetoric over and over from officials pushing back against any suggestion that the virus started here in China in a lab in particular in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They had pushed back against that categorically.

And today was another opportunity for them to do that. And they also, at the same time, seem to close the door on any possibility of a second WHO visit here at China. They say that that would go against science, go against common sense. And as you pointed out, they consider this to be political manipulation. Take a listen here and you can hear a bit more as to how they describe this ending of a phase two from their perspective.


ZENG YIXIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CHINESE NATIONAL HEALTH COMMISSION (through translator): It's impossible for us to accept such a plan. The origin study is a science matter. And the Chinese government supports origin studies based on science. But we oppose politicizing origin study.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CULVER: Not an entirely new stance taken by Beijing. But what we have

got to put in context here, Kim, is the timing. We are basically a month away from when the Biden administration's 90-day Intel Community Wide Review of the origins is set to be finished. That's going to be roughly the end of August. We are also having this time around when the head of the WHO made very clear claims to China that they need to open up, be more transparent and allow the raw data to be processed by scientists so that they can get to the bottom of what the actual origin of this virus is.

None of that is going over very well here in China, needless to say. And this is going to continue to be the rhetoric that we expect to see, especially as this country is celebrating 100 years of the Communist Party and set to host the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Thanks for putting that in context for us. CNN's David Culver in Shanghai, I appreciate it.


Right now in the U.S., nearly 16 percent of all COVID cases reported each week are children. That's 23,000 kids just last week according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Now one reason why is that children under the age of 12 aren't eligible to get vaccinated. President Biden said the FDA could give them the green light soon. Both maybe in the beginning of the schoolyear and even though children are less likely to have serious forms of COVID-19 than adults. The head of the CDC has this to say.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION, MASS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I think we have fallen into this fraud thinking of saying that only 400 of these 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been in children. Children are not supposed to die. And so 400 is a huge amount for a respiratory even.


BRUNHUBER: Let's also discuss this with Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases. Thanks so much for being with us, Doctor. We are being told right now that it is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and kids seem to form part of that group of unvaccinated. Either because they are too young to get it or they are eligible and just haven't got it. And not surprisingly as I mentioned earlier, we are seeing the COVID cases in kids rising, what are you seeing right now?

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER (on camera): Yes, well we're seeing similar things in my neck of the woods in Nashville, of course. This is happening across the country. It's clear that in my medical center, literally 98 percent of the people who required admission to the hospital, because of serious COVID, they are unvaccinated. It is really quite unusual to have a vaccinated person require hospitalization. And this of course means that the vaccines are working, they are

keeping those vaccinated people out of the hospital. And it's also really quite sad. Because if you look at the unvaccinated people who are in the hospital and you say, my goodness, all of this illness could have been prevented and those folks taken advantage of the vaccines.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah. Absolutely. In a few weeks school will be starting. There are fears this Delta variant will cause runaway spread in kids. I just want to play a clip here from the chair of the CDC, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, speaking on CNN. Listen to this.


JOSE ROMERO, CHAIR, CDC ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES: We are seeing outbreaks in cites that we didn't see last year. So, we are seeing closures in daycares, closures in summer camps. And all of that leads me to believe that in a setting where you don't have strict mitigation, that it will spread very, very quickly. Like our schools.


BRUNHUBER: So how concerned are you about that? And how worried should parents be about their kids this fall?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I think we all want children to go back to school. The trick is to do it in this low risk way as possible. And there are several things we can do to provide that assurance. One is, in our communities, there should be as little spread as possible. That means all of us who are unvaccinated, should get vaccinated.

Number two, certainly every adult associate with the school, teachers, school bus drivers, the folks who work in the cafeteria, the custodians, and on and on, they should by now all have taken advantage of the vaccine. And then, you know, children 12 and older, they should be vaccinated also. We haven't made enough progress then.

And for the youngsters, they will wear masks, social distancing, good hand hygiene. Improve the ventilation, perhaps staggered start and stop times. Every school won't be able to do everything, but every school should do several things. And then if we do all of that together, I think schools can be rather safe. But we have to do those things.

BRUNHUBER: And finally, before we go on to this town hall, the president said kids should be getting the vaccine soon. But then the latest I heard from the experts was that vaccines for children likely won't be available until this winter, basically a full year after adults started getting the shots. Is there any update that we should know about? And maybe explain why it's taking so long relative to the rest of us.

SCHAFFNER: Well, the reason it's taking a bit of time, of course, is that we first did the clinical trials, to see how well the vaccine would work and how safe they are in adults. Then we walk down the age ladder to the adolescents. And now we are doing trials in children. And those trials in children, will mature this fall, probably, as you said, late in the fall.

So, we'll see. We expect the vaccines to work. And if we have opportunities then, we will start vaccinating the younger children, probably sometime this winter. But in the meantime, unvaccinated children, wear the mask.

BRUNHUBER: Great advice, as always, Dr. William Schaffner. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.

BRUNHUBER: A Syrian family and human rights group point a finger at Russian mercenaries, over a horrific torture and killing that was caught on video.


Next, the victim's brother speaks exclusively to CNN and demands justice.


BRUNHUBER: Listen. Russian mercenaries have been accused of grave human rights abuses that in some cases, experts say could amount to war crimes. CNN has reported extensively on the alleged atrocities committed in Africa. We now bring you another report, this time from Syria, where the horrific torture and murder of a Syrian man in 2017, allegedly at the hands of Russian mercenaries is now a landmark case.

The first ever legal effort to hold Russian Wagner Mercenaries accountable. The victim's brother spoke exclusively to CNN about the tragedy that's devastated his family, and his dangerous quest for justice. And we have to warn you, the images you are about to see are extremely disturbing.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A series of videos emerged beginning in 2017, revealing one of the most disturbing incidents of the war in Syria. An unarmed man taunted and tortured by four Russian speaking men in military fatigues. They pinned him down, and with a sledgehammer, they repeatedly strike his feet and his hands. He screams of agony, drowned out by the sounds of nationalist Russian military music and their laughter.

Later that year and in 2019, more video clips of the incident surfaced online. They are too graphic to show. Too gruesome to even detail. The men take turns dismembering and beheading their victim, whose last words appeared to be reciting the shahada, a declaration of a Muslim's faith typically spoken as a death right.


Their perverse pleasure evident throughout this ordeal that played out in their makeshift Syrian Desert torture chamber. One of the men was identified in a 2019 investigation published by the Independent Russian paper, "Novaya Gazeta" as an alleged member of Wagner, The Shadowy Russian Private Military" entity witlings to the Kremlin that's operated in Syria alongside Russian forces.

The victim was identified as Mohammed A, a Syrian army deserter. In 2019, Moscow sent the reports quote, "Have nothing to do with the Russian military operations in Syria." And requests by "Novaya Gazeta" to the country's main investigative body to launch a probe were dismissed. Four years after that grisly killing, right groups from Russia, France and Syria had filed legal action in Moscow in an attempt to trigger an investigation into the incident.

It is the first time anyone has ever tried to hold any member of Wagner accountable for what rights groups say is part of a growing list of alleged atrocities committed by the mercenaries within expanding global footprint that allows Russia to advance in off-the- books foreign policy. The case was filed on behalf of the victim's brother, who broke his family silence in an exclusive CNN interview. But the safety of families still inside Syria, Abdullah asked us to conceal his identity.

UNKNOWN (through translator): I want the world to hear about my brother's case. So these criminals are held accountable. My brother is gone, he will never come back.

KARADSHEH: Abdullah says Mohammed never took part in the war. To support his young family, he worked as a construction labor in Lebanon. The last time Abdullah heard from him, Mohammed said he'd been detained by the regime on his way back into Syria and forced to join the military, but he planned desert.

UNKNOWN (through translator): He said I'm going to leave. But I don't know if I'm be able to get back to you. Take care of my children, and my wife. It was as if he knew something was going to happen to him.

KARADSHEH: The family lost contact with Mohammad for months. Until this.

UNKNOWN (through translator): A man from our hometown sent me a video clip, he said watch this video, it could be your brother. Of course, I recognize my brother from his clothes, his voice, his appearance. He was being tortured by soldiers.

KARADSHEH: At first Abdullah only got the torture video. And for months the family held on to the hope that Mohammed may still be alive. His father traveled to Damascus, he searched hospitals and jails for his son. Mohammed's death was only confirmed when the rest of the horrific videos appeared online. Relaxed, smoking cigarettes, they pose for photos before setting his body on fire.

UNKNOWN (through translator): When I watch the video, I stayed in a room, and I didn't leave the room for three days. I did not send the video to my parents and my other brother developed a kind of psychological illness from the video. We have a very heavy burden, I want to try to describe it now, but I can't. I can't express what's going on inside me.

KARADSHEH: Abdullah's never heard of Wagner. He just wants his brothers executioners punished.

UNKNOWN (through translator): If the criminals who tortured him are arrested, the least they deserve is jail. We will not be like them. We would not demand what happened to my brother, happens to them. I just want them to be held accountable. Even if this cost me my life.

KARADSHEH: In a war, where well documented atrocities had gone unpunished, Abdullah's quest for justice will not be easy. How does anyone get justice from the faces, shadowy Russian outfit unaccountable to anyone? One that officially doesn't even exist.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: And CNN reached out to Russia's Investigative Committee for comment, but so far there's been no response. Wagner has been unreachable for a number of CNN reports in recent years, including this one. We'll be right back.



BRUNHUBER: One day left, until the opening ceremony of an Olympics completely changed by the coronavirus, but also some major firsts. Two new events make their Olympic debut on Sunday, surfing and skateboarding.

CNN's Blake Essig spoke with the members of an underground skateboarding crew, fighting for the same respect of their Olympic counterparts.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At Triangle Park in Osaka, creativity is key. Here, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, or how much air you catch. It's all about innovation. Art and self-expression.

CHOPPER, SKATEBOARDER FROM THE OSAKA DAGGERS (through translator): People should feel free when the skateboard. It's better if there are no rules.

ESSIG: For more than 30 years, this park has been home to Japan's underground skateboard scene. The birthplace of alternative skating. In a diverse crew of skaters known around the globe is the Osaka Daggers. Taichi Nakamura, better known as Chopper is considered by many as its father. He's been skateboarding on the streets of Osaka since he was a teenager.

CHOPPER (through translator): Scapegoating represents freedom and diversity for me. So I'm trying to inspire younger people to value those ideas too. We want to foster an environment where everyone is free to express their own unique style.

ESSIG: The Osaka Daggers are not a team, but instead a culture of pioneering group that was once considered nothing more than rebels and misfits, now represents the foundation of skateboarding here in Japan. A foundation that Daisuke Hayakawa, coach of the Japanese Olympic Skateboard Team said will, in a sense be on display when skateboarding makes it Olympic debut at the games here in Tokyo.


DAISUKE HAYAKAWA, COACH, JAPANESE OLYMPIC SKATEBOARD (through translator): At the Olympics, people will be able to see how skaters express their creativity and ideas through skateboarding. While skateboarding became an Olympic sport, it's important to remember the culture around it.

ESSIG: A culture that could become more widely accepted, as the sport goes mainstream.

HAYAKAWA (through translator): I think the future is bright for skateboarding.

ESSIG: Back in Osaka, while the Olympics have already have a big influence on shifting perceptions around skateboarding, these skaters say acceptance and change, means a constant struggle. Skating here is still technically against city rules.

CHOPPER (through translator): From the outside, it looks like this park belongs to young people. But when we skateboard here, the place always come.

ESSIG: But that hasn't stop Chopper and his crew from doing what they love at Triangle Park. And just down the street, at the indoor skate park. Sharing the passion and culture embedded in their DNA with the next generation.

HOKUTO YONEMURA, SKATEBOARDER (through translator): I started skateboarding when I was three. I think it's a really fun sport.

ESSIG: Hokuto Yonemura, at 9-years-old, is the youngest Osaka Dagger. A talented skater with big aspirations.

YONEMURA (through translator): I want to make it to the Olympics. Because I really want to win the gold medal.

ESSIG: A dream starting this year that could become a reality as sport and culture collide for the world to see.

Blake Essig, CNN, Osaka.


BRUNHUBER: Well, I'm Kim Brunhuber. Thanks for being with us. Isa Soares will be here with more CNN Newsroom in just a moment.