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tv   Early Start With Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett  CNN  March 17, 2021 2:00am-2:59am PDT

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♪ breaking developments out of atlanta. at least eight people killed at three massage parlours. what links the victims and what we know about the suspect. bars and restaurants prepare to celebrate st. patrick's day with covid restrictions, but the cdc says the best way to stay safe is to stay home. i can say quite clearly don't come. don't leave your town or city or community. >> president biden's direct message to migrants hoping to
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come to the u.s. amid the growing crisis of children at the border. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world, we have reports this morning from seoul, the pentagon, capitol hill and rome. this is "early start," i'm christine romans. >> and i'm laura jarrett. it's wednesday, march 17th, it's 5:00 a.m. in new york and we start this morning with the big breaking news. a suspect is in custody after eight people were killed in shootings at three massage parlours in the atlanta area. now, authorities have not offered a motive yet, but at least six of the victims were asian -- in about the span of an hour eight people were killed at those three atlanta area spas spread across three miles. the attacks took place in quick secession, the fbi is assisting authorities in atlanta and cherokee county. here is a spokesperson for the chairy county's office.
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>> it's pretty unusual. as i mentioned earlier, in 2020 we had one homicide in cherokee county, we have had at least three today so it's pretty shocking for not only our responding deputies and public safety but also for the community here and we take this serious. >> the suspect was arrested 150 miles away after a dramatic car chase according to police. police believe a 21-year-old a likely responsible for the three attacks. they identified him as robert aaron long. nypd counterterrorism bureau deploying assets to asian communities in new york now in light of those shootings in atlanta. a lot of information still coming in. we will bring you the latest developments as we get them. st. patrick's day giving health officials some extra cause for concern about the pandemic this morning. disease experts warn the spread of dangerous variants and a rush to reopen may just end up prolonging the cycle of infections and restrictions. new cases in pockets across the u.s. up in 14 states week to
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week. the cdc is urging people avoid big st. patrick's day crowds, stay home. the mayor of savannah, georgia, says his city is allowing reasonable celebration. >> savannah is wide open, we've been wide open, and the way we stay wide open is to require the use of masks. this is what allows us as opposed to many other cities across the country, to remain viable. >> after weeks of declining deaths and hospitalizations and rising vaccinations, some cities are moving to reopen now, but here is the problem, the uk variant is spreading and two peer reviewed studies have linked it to an increased risk of death, not just it being more contagious but more death. overnight the cdc officially designated two covid strains first detected in california as variants of concern. efforts to reduce vaccine hesitancy among some conservatives gaining new
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voices. >> it not only helps me, it helps my family around me and all the people i associate with. so you're not only helping yourself, you're helping your neighbors also. you know, i might have been a little bit hesitant to begin with, but after looking at all the statistics i don't see anything after you take the shot, everybody seems to get along with it pretty good. >> nascar legend richard petty lending his voice to a vaccination campaign. a lot of nascar fans are right leaning men and that is a demographic that has been extra hesitant. much of that hesitancy stirred up by president trump who took his vaccine in secret but finally, you know, last night on fox he did publicly advocate for vaccination. >> although he did say this is a country for freedoms. all right. now to immigration, homeland security secretary alejandro mayorkas set to face lawmakers today as the biden administration faces a crisis of migrant children at the u.s./mexico border. he says customs and border protection is on pace to
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encounter more individuals on the border than in the last 20 years. president biden now under pressure from all sides had this message for would be migrants coming to the united states. >> first of all, the idea that joe biden said come because i heard the other day that they're coming because they know i'm a nice guy and i won't -- >> they're saying this. >> yeah. well, here is the deal, they're not. >> do you have to say quite clearly, don't come? >> yes. i can say quite clearly don't come and what we are in the process of getting set up, don't leave your town or city or community. >> our reporters and producers have talked to so many of these people crossing the border and some have been on the road for at least four months. cnn has learned new details about conditions for thousands of children crossing the border alone, they are alternating schedules to make space for each other in confined facilities. some children haven't seen sunlight in days, others are
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taking turns showering, often going days without a shower. bunk beds have been brought into one of these processing facilities to help accommodate this influx of children. one agent said some are three bunks high and some are sleeping on beverages, plastic beverages and mats on floor. the house is set to vote on two immigration bills this week, one for a path of citizenship for dreamers. let's bring in our congressional reporter daniella diaz on capitol hill. this is the democrats taking their first step in tackling immigration reform but this isn't the broader immigration bill that we heard the president talk about, it seems the democrats are really taking more of a piecemeal approach. what are you learning? >> reporter: that's exactly right, laura. the house is going to take up two separate immigration bills this week, the first bill would allow dreamers to be able to apply for citizenship and the second would allow a reform of the agricultural worker program, but these are two bills that
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have been passed through the house before, they're passing this again, it's expected to pass in the house this week, because democrats now have the majority in the house and the senate, but when it passes the house we don't know what the fate of these bills are going to be because biden's priority was to pass a comprehensive immigration reform in this congress, but that's not something that a lot of senators want, especially senate republicans and senate judiciary chairman dick durbin threw cold water on that, thinking he doesn't believe there is enough support in the senate to be able to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. republicans have been hitting biden on this influx of migrants that you talked about happening on the border right now, there is an influx of migrants crossing the u.s./mexico border as well as unaccompanied minors crossing the border and it's becoming a huge issue for this administration. republicans are sitting him on this as well as want to see more stringent border security provisions in any legislation that crosses through the senate and they want to see more
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restrictions for asylum seekers. this is becoming a huge issue and that's dividing the senate. even dividing some democrats who do not know where they stand on whether they think that this could pass, including dick durbin. we will have to wait and see how this plays out after these bills pass the house. >> people talk a lot about border security, but it's important to note here the vast majority of people are still being turned away, especially if they come in at places that are not official points of entry. the people who are coming in are children without their parents. daniella, thank you for your reporting as usual. happening right now, the secretaries of state and defense in south korea this morning, antony blinken already hitting hard at china. we have a live report next. you're clearly someone who takes care of yourself. so why wait to screen for colon cancer? because when caught in early stages, it's more treatable.
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secretary of state antony blinken and defense secretary lloyd austin are in south korea this morning for the next leg of their first overseas trip. blinken directly criticizing china for its aggressive actions abroad. cnn's paula hancocks is live in seoul for us. what did he say, paula? >> reporter: christine, these are pretty strong words from the secretary of state saying that china cannot act with impunity when it comes to the way that they are acting to those abroad. now, this was at a round table that was happening just before he got to seoul when he was still in japan saying that china was acting repress ifl at home, aggressively abroad, mentioning the south china sea, taiwan, also disputed islands saying that beijing is raising tensions not diminishing them. so this is an interesting time to be talking about this, clearly the fact that this very first trip for both of these vips is to northeast asia will not be lost on china and
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straight after secretary blinken leaves seoul he will be heading to alaska where he will meet with his chinese counterpart. he will also be joined by national security adviser jake sullivan and his counterpart and it will be really the first high-level meeting that the biden administration has had with beijing officials. so there will be a lot to look out for there. we've heard that it will be talking about security issues, but clearly what we're hearing from a senior administration official is that there will be a unified message from these officials. yes, they see china as a competitor, they will try and push back against the aggressions that they believe beijing has been carrying out recently, but it will be a unified message and also open to be able to work with china on areas where it's possible. bear in mind we are in northeast asia, the u.s. does need china's help if it wants to deal well with north korea. >> paula, unfortunately a news event happening all the way over here in atlanta, georgia, in the
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atlanta area, getting attention, international attention overnight. six people of asian dissent were killed in a shooting rampage in atlanta, at least four korean. any reaction so far? >> reporter: that's right, yes, this is certainly playing extremely high, people are concerned about the level of tension when it comes to asian-americans. we heard from the ministry of foreign affairs, at least four are ethnic koreans. there is a sizable korean population within atlanta itself. it wouldn't surprise me if within the next 20 minutes or so when we see secretary blinken going to the foreign ministry to meet with the foreign minister he is likely to be asked about this. we haven't had a comment at this point, but clearly people here in south korea are following this extremely closely. >> of course. and, again, we're still getting new information, so waiting to see all the details. there is a suspect in custody.
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paula hancocks for us. thank you for that. president biden making his first stop on the help is here tour, highlighting the benefits of his american rescue package. he visited a flooring company in pennsylvania, one of the several swing states on this publicity tour. his goal here is twofold, to claim credit for the huge and mostly popular relief package and convince americans there is more that government can do to make their lives better. >> a tax cut to help retired workers, we are in a situation to expand the paycheck -- paycheck protection program for the folks who were initially shut down, but you really made it work and i think you should be aware more help is on the way for real. is there anything else we can be doing? >> many aspects of the bill are temporary for now but the president wants to make some of them permanent like the expanded child tax credit which can help lift families out of poverty. president biden tuesday
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touting the ways his rescue plan will help small businesses but millions risk missing out. the paycheck protection program ends in two weeks but more than $110 billion remains untouched. lawmakers are urk to extend the deadline. why duds so much money remain? special application windows blocked bigger business applying. translation, this last round was meant for small business only, mainly new fraud protections and rules are keeping thousands of applications in limbo. last month the biden administration tweaked the rules to help the hardest hit businesses like sole proprietors but the change left lenders scrambling and businesses started their applications over. any loan not approved by march 31st will not be funded. that's why small business advocates want an extension through may. that ppp is a vital lifeline for small businesses ravaged by the pandemic, a third of all small businesses in the u.s. have closed since january 2020. what you see there on your screen is remarkable. a third of small businesses have
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closed. and we know, laura, when we look at jobs data, there are millions of people, 14 million people or so who say that they are not going to work because their business is either closed or there are no hours for them. so it just shows you how deep that problem is. >> it's just staggering, a third. all right. still ahead, the most comprehensive look yet at foreign interference in the 2020 election. who was involved and who was not may surprise you. i'm a verizon engineer. we built our 5g nationwide so millions of people could do what they love in verizon 5g quality. and in parts of many cities, we have ultra wideband, the fastest 5g in the world. this is 5g built right. only from verizon. lisa here, has had many jobs. and all that experience has led her to a job that feels like home. with home instead, you too can become a caregiver to older adults. apply today. you can't plan for your period's... you too can become a cwhat the gush moments.ts.
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interference in the 2020 u.s. elections. they are expected to target several countries including russia, china and iran, at least two of those nations are implicated in a newly declassified intelligence report, the most extensive assessment yet of foreign threats to the 2020 elections. there is no indication any foreign actor tried to change actual votes but the officials say the influence and disinformation campaign was extensive. alex marquardt reports now. >> reporter: good morning, laura and christine. this is the most comprehensive report we've seen about the 2020 election from the.u.s. intelligence community t details the extent of russia's major influence campaign that it used to dry to hurt joe biden's campaign and help donald trump's. the report goes farther than what we've heard before from the intelligence community, clearly stating that people close to then president trump and the administration were being targeted by russian intelligence at the behest of vladimir putin. now, that's the main goal of all of these influence operations, to divide americans, to pit us
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against one another but russia went farther according to this report saying that a key element of moscow's strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to russian intelligence to push influence narratives including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against president biden. to u.s. media organizations, u.s. officials and prominent u.s. individuals, including some close to former president trump and his administration. now, they don't name the people close to trump, but they do name andrii derkach, a family name to many, a ukrainian lawmaker who was in contact with rudy giuliani, the then president's personal lawyer. and vladimir putin according to this report had purview over the activities of andrii derkach. now, the report goes on to talk about iran's multi-pronged covert influence campaign to hurt trump and sow division among american voters. probably approved they say by iran's supreme leader.
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very interestingly china who trump and his allies had said were working to get biden elected didn't deploy any influence efforts this report says. china didn't feel that it was worth the risk to the relationship to get caught meddling in the 2020 election. christine, laura? >> alex marquardt, thank you for that. new details on our breaking story this morning out of atlanta, a shooting that killed eight people at three massage parlours, we're learning more about the victims and the suspect in custody next. i'm a verizon engineer. we built our 5g nationwide so millions of people could do what they love in verizon 5g quality. and in parts of many cities, we have ultra wideband, the fastest 5g in the world. this is 5g built right. only from verizon.
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jarrett. >> and i'm christine romans. it is st. patrick's day. happy st. patrick's day, everybody. 30 minutes past the hour on this wednesday morning. we have big breaking news from overnight. police now have a suspect in custody after eight people were shot dead at three atlanta area massage parlours. authorities have not offered a motive yet, but at least six of these victims were asian according to the atlanta journal constitution and that raises fears this could have been a hate crime as these shootings come against the backdrop of a wider increase in violence against asian-americans nationwide. we have a reporter there, cnn's ryan young is live this morning in atlanta. ryan, bring us up to speed about what authorities are saying about this. i know there is a suspect in custody. >> reporter: yeah, absolutely. look, they've been working on this case throughout the evening here. we were here last night as investigators were still combing the street, looking for shell casings and talking to people who were in the area of this shooting. this is a very busy road here in atlanta and that's one of the places where the shooting happened at the gold spa across the street there.
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that's where at least three of the victims were shot and killed, there was another victim that was across the street. this all started in cherokee county, the shooting starting around 5:30. that's how police got that video that they had of the suspect and car they were looking for. that car which sped away which was eventually found two hours away from atlanta, that's when the georgia state patrol was able to perform a pit maneuver to knock that suspect off the road. we are told he is a 21-year-old man from woodstock, they were able to capture robert aaron long of woodstock last night. all the law enforcement in the metro atlanta area was looking for this suspect, especially after those images were put out, but this has been tough, especially for people who know this community well, they could not believe these shootings happened, in fact, take a listen to this one witness. >> we just heard numerous gunshots coming from across the street. >> i won't say any names but they are really nice girls, they just do great massages, they do
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great massages over here so it's just unfortunate. >> obviously not in the right state of mind and definitely no heart. i mean, i don't know how you would go in there or what kind of motive would drive you to do such a thing. >> reporter: christine, i can't understate this enough, this is a busy street here in atlanta, this was shut down for several hours, there were people who were very upset that the area around here was closed last night. people wondering what exactly happened. now, of course, we're not sure what time that suspect will have his first court appearance, we do know there will be a news conference today with several agencies throughout the atlanta area. there's hope that maybe they've had a chance to talk to that suspect to figure out what his motive was, i can tell you aapi, the nation's leading group fighting anti-asian hate and discrimination called the deaths an unspeakable tragedy and that this latest attack with exasperate the fear and pain that the asian-american community continues to endure. people want to know exactly what
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his motive is, but the signs point to something disgusting and something detectives made clear they were working to find out exactly what happened. luckily the suspect is under arrest and hopefully we will have more information a little later this morning. >> just awful. just awful. ryan young, thank you for for that. bring us more details when you get them. >> reporter: thank you. all right. to the latest now on the pandemic. health experts pleading, begging with americans for continued vigilance, though trends across the country are mostly positive. right now 14 states in pockets across the country seeing an increase in cases since last week, but it's too early to tell if that's a real trend. >> deaths and hospitalizations are trending lower as vaccinations ramp up and new vaccine research has a lot of people asking if kids could be vaccinated before school begins in september, so parents can go back to work and businesses can reopen. cnn has the pandemic as we do every day covered from coast to coast. jet stream jacqueline howard in atlanta.
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moderna's covid-19 vaccine trial in children is officially under way. the phase two-three trial is being conducted here in the u.s. and canada and the study will enroll about 6,750 children ages six months to 11 years old. the biotech company says the first children already have been vaccinated in the study. >> reporter: i'm alexandra field in new york. more states are working to make more people eligible for vaccines. ohio governor mike dewine announcing starting on friday anyone age 40 and older will qualify for a vaccine and he is announcing an even more ambitious goal for the end of the month saying that starting on march 29 anyone over the age of 16 will qualify for a vaccine. this as president joe biden has called on all states to make all adults eligible for vaccination by may 1st. >> reporter: i'm randi kaye in palm beach county, florida. here the south florida
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fairgrounds has been turned into a mass vaccination site. they are hoping to vaccinate about 500 people here today. they're expecting a big crowd because the governor has lowered the vaccination eligibility age to 60 and above. this is one of more than 1,000 vaccination sites around the state. already the state of florida has fully vaccinated more than 2.3 million people. the governor looking to even ramp those numbers up. >> reporter: i'm stephanie elam at the waffle in hollywood. in los angeles county restaurants are now allowed to have patrons inside with capacity up to 25%. that's the same limit for museums as well as for movie theaters. as for gyms, dance studios and yoga studios, their limits for indoor capacity is at 10%, but this as we're seeing the test positivity rate over the last seven days for california and also for los angeles county is below 2%. so a sense of returning to normal a bit here in what was
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the hardest hit county in the country. >> thanks to our correspondents for those reports. president biden's ambitious agenda faces strong republican opposition in congress even with democrats in control the filibuster remains a road block. the filibuster means you need 60 votes to end debate and to get most things passed. now president biden em basing a change to the filibuster rule but he is not talking about getting rid of t daniellia diaz is live on capitol hill with more. a lot of progressives talk about ending the filibuster. what does the president say? ? >> reporter: that's right, laura. well, the president had an interview with abc news that aired yesterday, some clips had aired and he says he is open to bringing back the talking filibuster which would require a senator to hold the floor if he wants to or she wants to block legislation without taking a break. here is what he had to say in the interview. >> i don't think you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when i first got to the senate back in the old days when you
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used to be around there and that is that a filibuster you had to stand up and command the floor and you had to keep talking alone. you couldn't call for, you know -- no one could say, you know, quorum call. once you stopped talking you lost that and someone could move in and say, i move the question of. so you had to work for the filibuster. >> so you are for that reform? you are for bringing back the talking filibuster? >> i am. that's what it was supposed to be. >> reporter: so as you heard there he's for bringing back the talking filibuster but he was not asked specifically about this 60 vote threshold that's needed in the senate to be able to pass legislation, to break the filibuster, he was not specifically asked about that, which is a major issue in the senate right now with democrats. and some democrats want to see this gone, they want a simple majority to be able to approve legislation, but some democrats such as, you know, the usual suspects of virginia -- or west virginia senator joe manchin and arizona senator kyrsten sinema
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do not want to get rid of this rule that is required to be able to pass legislation which means they need 60 senators to support legislation. but senate minority leader mitch mcconnell issued a warning, he said that there would be a completely scorched senate earth if they remove this 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation. so this is a major issue in the senate which is why joe biden was asked about this issue, it continues to be depending on how the senate decides to handle this. >> daniella, thanks for your reporting as usual. the business world is abuzz with talk the white house laying the groundwork to raise corporate taxes. remember president trump's signature legislative achievement was slashing corporate taxes from 35% to 21%. that fueled a wave of corporate buy backs and really pushed corporate profits through the roof. the biden team is looking to help fund the next phase of its economic agenda by raising some revenue. corporate america says boosting
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the 21% tax rate would derail the recovery. they don't want to see a 25% or 28% tax rate, but rick reeder of black rock, the world's largest asset manager told matt egan the economy can handle rolling back some of those trump tax cuts. >> listen, do i think the economy can operate with higher than 21%? i think. i think the benefit to companies at 21% is too high relative to, you know, their ability to buy back stock, et cetera, but i do think that can move a bit higher. i do think income redistribution is a big deal for the economy and i do think there are some significant things that can be done around income redistribution. i think all of that is coming and i think the economy will do quite well. >> rieder added more tax revenue would be helpful as washington takes on trillions in debt to find the pandemic. i covered extensively those tax cuts in 2017, they passed much like this rescue plan did here
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for the democrats largely gop support. at the time companies were saying 35% tax rate is way too high. they wanted 25%. president trump gave them 21%. in some cases they got more money than they knew what to do with, so now you're talking about nudging that rate up, not back to 35, but taking back some of those trump tax cuts. >> hard to take it away once you have it. >> yeah. >> as we always say. free money and a pop o lar relief bill still not good for some republicans. 21 gop attorneys general want the biden administration to clarify how to use $350 billion pot of money set aside to help cash strapped cities, counties and states avoid layoffs. states are not allowed to use the money to pay for tax cuts but the republican attorneys general say that would interfere with states rights and are threatening to take legal action. president biden making his strongest comments about his long time friend and political ally andrew cuomo.
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two days ago the president said he wanted to wait for results into sexual harassment about whether he would comment about whether "the new yorker" governor would resign, but now -- >> if the investigation confirms the claims of the women, should he resign? >> yes, i think pro bl blee will end up being prosecuted, too. >> how about right now? you've said you want the investigation to continue, you saw chuck schumer, senator schumer, senator gillibrand, a majority of congressional delegation don't think he can be an effective governor right now. can he serve effectively? >> that's a judgment for them to make about whether he can be effective. here is my position, it has been my position since the violence against women act, a woman should be presumed to telling the truth and should not be scapegoated and victimized by her coming forward, number one, but there should be an investigation to determine whether what she says is true. >> the new york attorney general's office med with lindsey bowlen for more than
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three hours over the weekend. cuomo denies inappropriately touching any of the women and claims he never meant to make them feel uncomfortable. i'm a verizon engineer. we built our 5g nationwide so millions of people
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they haven't been asked to address the wider issue of what this is going to do to vaccine confidence or vaccine rollout or whether it might cause thousands of people to die from covid. and i think on the wider question, i think there's abundance of caution is actually very dangerous indeed. >> that warning there coming from an adviser to the uk government. the astrazeneca vaccine is now on hold across much of europe because about 40 people out of 17 million people who got the
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shot experienced blood clots. the vaccine delay for millions in europe comes as the company expects to request emergency use authorization for here in the u.s. cnn's melissa bell joins us live from rome and one of the italian regions on lockdown once again. melissa, good morning. europe's top drug regulator now voec vouching for the astrazeneca vaccine. >> reporter: that's right. officially we await to hear the european medicine agency's verdict tomorrow. until now it's been fairly consistent in its messaging saying people should continue with the rollout and that european countries should not be worried about it, but it's launched this investigation, it's been having a look at those cases that you mentioned, those more than 40 cases of people who developed blood clots to look at the nature of the symptoms. some countries said there had been some unusual symptoms in some who sadly lost their lives. the european medicines agency looking into this and hoping to fix this question once and for
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all. this is about much more than the rollout of the vaccines in europe, it's about confidence worldwide. now, we have a hint from the chief executive of the european medicines agency yesterday, this is what she had to say. >> we are looking at adverse events associated with all vaccines. at the moment we have looked at the background rates for all -- all the vaccines currently in circulation and it looks like there are similar numbers coming in across the world. >> reporter: now, if tomorrow the european medicines agency comes out with a verdict that, in fact, the astrazeneca vaccine is safe, that there is no causation, the causality between those blood clots and the vaccine itself, it will then urge european countries to get back to rolling it out. already countries like france and italy have said they will do so immediately, others may take
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slightly longer. at the moment, laura, it is 8 million doses of the astrazeneca vaccine that are sitting on european shelves even as of course these vaccine campaigns are going incredibly slow. covid-19 figures raising dramatically as a result of that third wave. >> we wait for that official announcement as so many are desperate to see what is going to happen and depending on this vaccine. melissa, thank you so much. let me take you now briefly to seoul, south korea, where moments ago secretary of state tony blinken meeting with south korea's foreign minister. this is days ahead of a meeting with his chinese counterparts this alaska. blinken just mentioned those attacks in atlanta we've been reporting to you that left eight dead, including six people of asian descent. he says he is horrified by this violence which he says has no place in america or anywhere. virginia governor ralph northam restoring voting rights to more than 69,000 people as soon as they complete their prison terms. now, this move means that virginians who have been released from prison but still
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remain on probation or parole are now eligible to vote. republican-controlled legislatures across the country are moving to clamp down on ballot access. a remarkable rescue by idaho state police. a couple and their two dogs saved after their pickup truck plunged off a bridge and was dangling nose down over the side. police say safety chains kept it from falling into a gorge. emergency crews were able to repel down, attach a harness and carry everyone to safety. >> talk about hanging on by a thread. look at that. all right. uber will reclassify drivers in the uk as workers rather than independent contractors. the move means 70,000 drivers will receive benefits including a minimum wage, vacation pay and access to a pension plan. britain's supreme court ruled last month that uber drivers are entitled to greater protections. british labor rules offer a middle ground between freelancers and full-time employees that doesn't exist in other countries so it's not clear if uber will follow suit
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in the u.s. let's take a look at business. markets around the world, asian shares have closed for the day very narrowly mixed, wie call that barely moved. european shares have also opened with the same kind of tone and on wall street u.s. stock index futures this hour also hardly moving. stocks closed mixed tuesday ending a record streak for the s&p 500 and dow. wall street's attention today is on the federal reserve's policy meeting. investors fear an overheating economy could boost inflation. that's been the fear of the past couple of weeks even as you're setting record highs in stocks, but jerome powell will likely note an improving economic lookout thanks to the vaccine rollout and stimulus and we expect he will down play concerns over inflation and with good reason. he is focused on jobs. the u.s. economy is still down 9.5 million jobs since february 2020. that puts pressure on the central bank to keep the stimulus coming. americans shopped less in february, it highlights how
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vital all of the stimulus is to consumer spending, the commerce department said retail sales 3% probably due to bad weather and waning stimulus benefits, there was a $600 check in december. experts expect americans to spend more in the near future thanks to the relief package which includes stimulus checks and more jobless aid. spending accounts for about two thirds of american economic growth. all but one of the march madness teams have arrived in indiana for the ncaa tournament and so has covid-19. andy scholes has more in this morning's "bleacher report." hay, andy. >> good morning. the ncaa says that five positive cases were identified out of the more than 2 2,300 tests they ha done so far. every person in a team's travel party right now is being tested daily as are ncaa officials that are working the tournament. virginia is the lone team from the field out of 68 that has yet
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to arrive in indianapolis. they had to pull out of the acc tournament due to covid and are expected to arrive in indy on friday. one of the positive tests was in the georgia tech program, the school says the unidentified individual is asymptomatic and has been isolated. georgia tech will take on loyola chicago in the first round on friday and the ramblers will have a very special guest in attendance, 101-year-old team chaplain sister jean got the green light from the ncaa yesterday to be at the game. she became a folk hero during loyola's improbable run to the final four in 2018. sister jean, she's fully vaccinated now, but she hasn't been to a game this season due to covid-19 protocols. >> one of the things that they were worried about was that i was going to go down on the court. i said if i'm not supposed to go on the court i'm not going to go on the court and i'm not going to cause any disturbance. i'm so happy i'm going.
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i just -- i just waited for the day that they would say yes. >> i love sister jean. be sure to compete with us here at cnn, go to cnn.com/bracket to the schedule different this year, you don't have to have it filled out until the first round gets started on friday morning. tiger woods is out of the hospital and back home in florida to continue his recovery from that devastating car crash three weeks ago. tiger tweeting that he is so grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement that he has received over the past few weeks. tiger had been in the hospital in california since the crash february 23rd. finally lebron james can add part-owner of the boston red sox to his impressive resumé. lebron confirming after the lakers win last night that he and his business partner maverick carter will be the first black men to be part of the fenway sports ownership group. >> i think it's pretty damn cool. you know, it gives us -- it gives me and people that look like me, you know, hope and
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inspiration that they can be in the position like that as well, that it can be done. it gives my kids and my i promise school more and more inspiration as well. >> lebron part-owner of the red sox now. he says his ultimate goal is to one day be an nba owner. >> very cool. thanks so much. appreciate it. i just got to say, laura, so awesome. a generation of women who went to college at mund line and loyola and chicago, for them she is an inn operation, she is an educator, an administrator and love sister jean. >> so glad to see her vaccinated. >> thanks for joining us, i'm christine romans. >> i'm laura jarrett. "new day" is next.
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