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Second-Largest Afghan City, Kandahar, Falls to Taliban; U.N.: 390,000 Afghans Displaced this Year; Mexico Reports 24,700+ New COVID Cases Thursday; Trump Supporter's "Cyber Symposium" Ends Up Being a Dud; "Field of Dreams" Game and Messi Trains with PSG; Britney Spears Dad Intends to Step Down as Co-Conservator. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 04:30   ET



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. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

Updating our top story, the Taliban have now taken control of two major cities in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah. Video released by the militant group claims to show victory celebrations with Taliban fighters riding on a U.S. Humvee through the streets of Kandahar. Now CNN can't independently verify the video's authenticity.

The Taliban have taken over 14 provincial capitals in just the past few weeks. And the rapid advance has the U.S. gravely concerned about the capital Kabul. It is sending 3,000 additional troops to help evacuate most American civilians from the U.S. Embassy.

And hundreds of thousands of Afghan's have fled their homes due to the explosion of violence. The U.N. says that almost 400,000 Afghans have been displaced inside the country just this year, out of over 5 million in total, others have fled the country. Pakistan hosts almost 1.5 million Afghan refugees while some 780,000 are living in Iran.

Many of those recently uprooted have made their way to Kabul in search of refuge. But with the Taliban's latest advances, the capital may soon be no safe haven. Our Michael Holmes has more.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: (voice over): Families sleep on the hard ground outside this school in Afghanistan. It may not look like the most comfortable place to rest, but at least for now it is safe, away from the trail of violence left behind by the Taliban's advance.

Many bombs were dropped on our village, one woman says. The Taliban came and destroyed everything, we were helpless and have to leave our houses.


One Afghan official in Kandahar province where the school is located says there are thousands of displaced families in his province alone. Trying to escape the fighting but for some it is too late.

The Taliban were firing guns next to our house, one man says. Many bullets came our way, in the end my wife was killed.

A hospital filled with wounded civilians' shows just how pitched the battle is. One patient says, I was on the side of the street, I was hit by a mortar and one of my legs was injured.

Some people taking refuge in the country's capital Kabul thinking it is one of the safest bets with the Taliban on the move. This man left the besiege city of Lashkar Gah two weeks ago, but hopes to return one day.

If you ask most people in Afghanistan, 99 percent of the people will say the fighting is not the solution, he says. The only way is peace and the Afghan people want peace.

A peace that seems more elusive as more civilians are forced from their homes.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Mexico has just had its highest single day COVID increase since the pandemic began, almost 25,000 new infections. Some health officials worry if this trend continues, Mexico's health care system once again could be pushed to the brink of disaster. CNN's Matt Rivers is in Mexico City with a look at what is driving the surge.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Public COVID-19 testing centers packed in Mexico City as yet again, the pandemic spirals out of control in Mexico.

This week, yet another new record set. The highest number of cases reported in a single day since this all began. The seven-day average of new cases, about as high as it's ever been. Experts blame loosening restrictions and the Delta variant.

DR. FRANCISCO MORENO SANCHEZ, DIRECTOR, COVID-19 PROGRAM, ABC MEDICAL CENTER: We have on patient (INAUDIBLE) but they reject eight. So, the exponential growth is just because you have more severe, a more contagious variant.

RIVERS (voice-over): Multiple doctors told CNN more and more young people in their twenties and thirties are now filling ICU wards across the country. And as beds fill up, once again, do the morgues.

About as many people are dying of COVID each day in Mexico as in the U.S., despite the U.S. population being more than two and a half times larger.

Mexico's testing rate also remains among the worst in the world. Experts say that means the true number of deaths and cases is inevitably far higher. And yet, life around the country goes on as normal in many places.

SANCHEZ: There is one world in every hospital and another world outside of the hospital. Because you go outside, and it's like nothing is happening.

RIVERS (voice-over): Part of the reason, continued mixed messaging from the government. Go to the health ministry website, and Mexico City is at red level, The country's highest COVID-19 alert. But the city's mayor says, no, things aren't that bad, and insists on keeping the city at orange level, a notch below, meaning fewer restrictions are in place.

The good news in all this, a vaccination campaign continues. Just over 21 percent of the country has been fully vaccinated, and more than 40 percent have received a first dose. U.S. and Mexican officials announced the U.S. would donate millions more vaccines to Mexico in the coming weeks, crucial, experts say, in curtailing a pandemic that respects no border.

DR. CARISSA ETIENNE, DIRECTOR, PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION: But this strategy is also dangerous. There is no path to recovery for any country while its neighbors remain vulnerable and while variants circulate and multiply.

RIVERS (voice-over): Medical experts have speculated Mexico might follow a similar path to what we saw recently in the U.K. A huge spike in cases followed by a swift decrease.

But a complicating factor looms. Mexico's millions of schoolchildren head back to the classroom on August 30th. Some fear it could keep driving cases higher and push medical systems to their absolute limits.

SANCHEZ: We're now at completely the use of the time and the stress of having younger people very sick, with young children. We -- I am really frustrated.

RIVERS: And so, with the numbers released by the government on Thursday, that marks two single-day records for coronavirus cases recorded in a 24-hour span. As of now, hospitalization rates across the country remain at manageable levels, but that doctor you just heard from in that piece told me that, if these numbers continue to go as they have been, continue to rise, that ICU space will begin to run out very quickly.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


BRUNHUBER: Martinique is asking tourists to leave. The Caribbean Island tightened lockdowns for the next three weeks. [04:40:00]

All beaches and nonessential businesses in the French territory are closed. Hotels are open, but only for residents. Many tourists are disheartened.


MANON CHOUX, TOURIST (through translator): I thought I was going to have a dream holiday, but in the end, I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I wanted. Even though we did have a few activities, it's a bit ruined. It's a shame.


BRUNHUBER: It seems though Lollapalooza, a the music festival in Chicago, didn't become the COVID super spreader event many feared it would. The state health Commissioner said only about 200 new cases have been linked to the event. No one has died or been hospitalized. Nearly 400,000 people attended the festival two weeks ago, but about 90 percent of them were vaccinated, the reason officials say they think the cases were relatively low.

A top supporter of former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed he could prove the last election was stolen, but the event where he claimed he reveals so-called evidence for conspiracy theories turned into a flop, that's ahead.

Plus, Britney Spears gets a win as her dad says that he will step down as her conservator, what he had to say, coming up. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: A big promise by a top supporter of former U.S. President Donald Trump turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. Businessman Mike Lindell, known for a company called My Pillow, said that he would present evidence to back up the conspiracy theory that the last presidential election was stolen. But as Donni O'Sullivan reports, Lindell couldn't deliver on his baseless claims.


MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MYPILLOW: We got attacked by China and they flipped the selection and down tickets to the tune of tens of million. This is crazy. And all you have to do is come to the symposium.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For weeks MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been touting his so-called Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Claiming he would present data that would prove to the world China hacked the 2020 election and stole it from Donald Trump.

O'SULLIVAN: If you're correct, if you have that evidence. LINDELL: No, what -- just forget about the evidence. If I'm right, then China took our country. Right now, do you care? Would that bother you? Would that bother you?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, you have to show the proof right now.

LINDELL: No, no. Would that bother you?

O'SULLIVAN: Of course, I would.

LINDELL: OK, then why do you think I keep going? Do you think I like getting attacked?

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Lindell invited the media and cyber experts to the symposium to vet his claims. We went along and brought Harri Hursti a world renowned cyber and voting machines expert.

O'SULLIVAN: If you see something in there, if you see some data, that does seem legit, that does show that there was some sort of fraud, you're ready to investigate it, right?

HARRI HURSTI, ELECTRONIC VOTING SECURITY EXPERT: Absolutely. I will follow the evidence wherever the evidence will go.

LINDELL: This was an attacked -- the whole technology was attacked.

O'SULLIVAN: So, the conference was supposed to begin about an hour ago. But Lindell is having some problems with streaming live the event on his website. He's claiming without any evidence that it's because of an attack that his systems have been attacked.

LINDELL: There's attacks and cyber-attacks every day, as you can see.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And it went downhill from there. Lindell ultimately didn't produce the data to prove his claim the election was stolen by China.

TONY BAKER, EVENT ATTENDEE: I think the guy makes a wonderful pillow. But I wish some of this information would have been organized a little better.

O'SULLIVAN: Were you given any data at all, from the 2020 election, anything useful. Anything that would show any sort of fraud?

HURSTI: We were not given any kind of raw data, which we would even be able to ask to start to look in that.

O'SULLIVAN: But if your stuff is legit, if the data is legit, wouldn't it be better for you to hand it over to as many cyber experts as possible?

LINDELL: You know what I'll give you the answer, because I've been told that they can go out there and corrupt it and make fake stuff and put fake news out. So, I don't need your people to go out and doctor the evidence and put out a -- Mike Lindell is a conspiracy theorist.

O'SULLIVAN: But you have been saying for months, media, experts, everybody come see the data.

LINDELL: We're showing it right on screen right now. So, you can't sit here and do a hit piece when it's on screen right now.

O'SULLIVAN: To your knowledge was anything on those screens proof of Lindell's claims that the election had been stolen.

HURSTI: Based on everything we've found that is meaningless. There was nothing there even compare to draw any conclusions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not a computer guy. I don't know what most of this stuff means. But I've been researching this election since November 3. But the CNN's of the world, you guys need to start reporting this and stop fact checking it.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And in case you needed more proof, this is a sham Ron Watkins spoke remotely at the conference for hours.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): He was allegedly behind the QAnon movement according to a HBO documentary, an allegation he denies.

LINDELL: Do you understand, all I need is for all those experts to say, yup, it's from the 2020 election.

O'SULLIVAN: But that's --

LINDELL: That's all you need --

O'SULLIVAN: That's not proven the election was rigged?

LINDELL: Yes, I have that prove with my people that we're bringing the Supreme Court. I don't need the media drive in the narrow chip before my case to the Supreme Court.

HURSTI: We expected a huge pile of data which we couldn't -- which we wouldn't be able to understand and how it can be evidence we didn't expect there's no pile of anything.

O'SULLIVAN: There's not even a pile of bullshit here. There's just a pile of nothing.

HURSTI: There's only pile of nothing.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): No evidence of election fraud here, but plenty of promotions for pillows and other products.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bathrobes, slippers, pajamas, bath mats. So go look at what you like. There's so much cool stuff.

O'SULLIVAN: Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up, Britney Spears' dad is giving his daughter what she wants but he is not happy about it. We'll have reactions, next. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: If you build it they will come. Remember that? Well, there's been a real life "Field of Dreams" game in Iowa to the delight of baseball fans. And Lionel Messi is training with his new club for the first time. Don Riddell has our minute in sports.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Thanks, Kim. Many of Europe's top football leagues will be returning to action later this Friday and the summer of mega spending continues. The European champions Chelsea have completed the signing of Inter Milan's Belgium's striker Romelu Lukaku for a club record fee of $135 million. It means Lukaku returns to the club that he last played for in 2014.

Meanwhile Lionel Messi has trained for the first time with his new club Paris Saint-Germain after completing his shot move from Barcelona on Tuesday. He's now been reunited with his former Barcelona teammate, Neymar. PSG are in action this weekend, but Messi isn't expected to play for them until the end of the month.

This wonderful video from the Olympic games is going viral. The Jamaican hurdler Hansle Parchment returning to thank the volunteer who paid for his cab when he was lost. He gave her the money back and showed her what she had helped him win -- an Olympic gold medal.

And baseball romantics have been loving MLB's one-off game in Iowa on Thursday, recreating the scene from the iconic Kevin Costner movie the "Field of Dreams." The White Sox beat the Yankees with a walk-off home run. That's all we've got time for just now. Kim, back to you.


BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks.

One of South Korea's top business tycoon says he is truly sorry as he walked out of prison several hours ago. The Samsung's Vice Chairman Lee Jae-Yong was released on parole, one of hundreds set free for South Korea's Liberation Day. Lee was caught in a scandal that led to the impeachment of the country's first female president in 2017. He was convicted of bribery and embezzlement and can't work without a special permit from the justice ministry. Lee still faces separate charges related to a corporate merger in 2015.


A court filing says Britney Spears' father intends to step down as co- conservator of the popstar's estate. A move her attorney calls vindication for Britney. CNN's Stephanie Elam has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jamie Spears says that he doesn't think that there's any grounds for his removal as conservator of his daughter's estate. He's indicated that he will step aside and help her current lawyer find a new conservator. That said, he said he doesn't necessarily believe that it is going to be in the best interest of Britney for him to step aside at this point, but he also believes that a very public battle with his daughter would definitely not be in the best interest.

For their part, Mathew Rosengart, who is Britney Spears' new current lawyer, says that this is vindication for his client and that they plan on continuing their investigation into Jamie Spears' behavior while he has been the conservator of her estate. They even claim that he has profited millions of dollars while in this position and that they continue to investigate that.

If you remember back in July when Britney Spears was part of a hearing in court about this very issue, she said that she wanted to press charges against her father, and she says that he is guilty of conservatorship abuse.


BRUNHUBER: Well, that wrap this is hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "EARLY START" is next.