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Simone Biles Reveals She's Still Suffering from the Twisties; Afghans Who Risked Lives to Help American Troops Arrive in U.S.; International Space Station Briefly Loses Control after New Russian Module Misfires. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Welcome back. So we still don't know if Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles will compete in four individual events that she's qualified for this week but a series of now deleted posts from here Instagram may give us some insight into where she is right now, at least.

In them, Biles reveals she's still suffering from the twisties. That is a condition where a gymnast loses track of their position mid-air, and it can be extremely dangerous. Her fellow athletes have been speaking up to support her after she withdrew from two Olympic events and the decision has put the subject of mental health along with gender and race in sports firmly in the spotlight at the Tokyo Games.

Joining me to discuss all of this is Sports Columnist for the New York Times Kurt Streeter. And, Kurt, your reporting on this has been excellent and very meaningful. Thanks for being here this morning.

KURT STREETER, SPORTS COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: I was struck reading a lot of what you write on this, but this in particular, you talk about Simone Biles' situation right now and you said none of these has kept Biles from performing the most significant act of the Olympics. It was an act of resilience, simple and courageous, powerful and important than any move she could have pulled off in competition. Tell us what you mean.

STREETER: Well, she's elevated mental health and mental health issues in a way that, really, on the world stage, in an event like the Olympics, she's the premier athlete at the Olympics, where the athlete that really was the most marketed and billed as the superstar of the games. And yet for her to come out, four all of the medals and all of the championships she's won and, arguably, she's the greatest gymnast of all time, I think this is actually her most important act because we're now talking about a deeply, deeply important issue, an issue that really is far more important in scope than anything in sports because it is real life and it affects so many of us all across the world. HARLOW: You're so right. And I was so struck, I just can't get it out of my head, that tweet from her this week where she said, I finally realized I'm more than my accomplishments. Because I think, I mean, most of us aren't Olympians but we've all felt like that, right, that all we're worth is what we produce every day.

STREETER: Exactly. It is a pervasive problem that society-wide, it is a global problem. And for her to talk about that and to talk about the way that she tied herself worth to her sports, of course, she's so much more than that. She's a full human being and oftentimes fans and the media and the broader apparatus that wraps around sports, we forget that these athletes are human beings in a full sense.

And I love the fact that she's bringing that to the floor and she's part of, of course, a broader movement in athletes who are struggling to talk about these issues in ways that even five years ago really would have been frowned on. So this is really -- this is really a sort of sea change moment that we're seeing in sports.

HARLOW: You wrote an incredible piece and the title frame who might not have read it yet, is the Olympic rely on but don't support black girl magic. And you've said that black female athletes will be counted on to provide standout performances in Tokyo even as they fight to be respected. And we've seen that happen during the game.

And you also write, the structure that wraps around and organizes sports, particularly the Olympic movement, fails in supporting women distinctly so for black women. How have we seen that play out here?

STREETER: Well, I mean, obviously, with the Biles case, we see it. We've seen it even before the games with the case of Sha'Carri Richardson, the sprinter from the U.S., who was -- ended up not being able to compete in the Olympics after she tested positive for tested for a trace of marijuana in her system.


And, you know, really, people say, for instance, well, the rules are the rules, and so she should have known better and she's owned up to the fact that she had this in her system. But who makes the rules? That is the thing.

Certainly, black women and women, in general, are not a part of the leadership and of these organizations, the organizations that wrap around sports in the way that they should be. So, if women are not represented in the way that they should be, certainly, black women are definitely not there in those leadership positions making the decisions about, for instance, should marijuana be a banned substance. I think not and I think I'm hardly alone in that.

So, this is a deep, deep pervasive issue and it has a lot to do with who is at the table in leadership position.

HARLOW: As so many things do, right, who is making the decisions, who is leading is reflected. Before you go, I mean, I think our viewers should know you are no stranger to being under enormous pressure as a black athlete. Before you were a sports columnist for The Times, you were an incredible tennis player, you were the first black tennis captain at U.C. Berkeley. Let's show a picture. Here you are at age 17 representing the northwest at the U.S. Tennis Nationals in '84, the only black player.

Walk us through your experience and just sort of how that -- how you see that as a precursor to what we're seeing today and how much has changed or not changed.

STREETER: Well, first of all, I mean, I was a decent college player and a low-level professional for a couple of years before I wised up and decided that I was going to be journalist --

HARLOW: You're too humble.

STREETER: But here is the thing. I was in a position where I was very frequently the only one, you know, and the only person of color in the room, in the tournament. When you're operating in these sort of spaces, and there is a similarity there, Simone Biles, Simone Manuel in some swimming, they're operating in predominantly white spaces, predominantly white sports. And they're changing the way that we start to look at those sports.

There is a particularly heavy burden and pressure when you're in those sort of situations and, obviously, in tennis now over the last 20 years, we've seen the Williams sisters just blow all of that, they've become the zenith stars. But they've done so facing monumental -- that sort of burden.

It is not an easy task for anybody to be that alone and to be that -- feel that sort of like you're the only one. And that just adds to the pressure, that just adds to when we are talking about mental health, that is certainly an element that cannot be overlooked. So, you know, we see that not only in sports but just in the world at large.

And what I love about writing about sports is that sports mirrors our society almost exactly. So, when I read about sports and when I think about sports, I see all of the fault lines that we see in society just playing out on this stage. And it's -- we're seeing some of that at the Olympics, no doubt about it.

HARLOW: We're so glad to have you writing about it, so we can all see what is really going on in our society, because you're so right, it does mirror the broader society. Kurt Streeter, thanks for your great reporting and for being here this morning.

STREETER: Thank you. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.



HARLOW: A group of Afghan nationals who risked their lives helping American troops on the ground in the war in Afghanistan have just arrived to the new home and it is here in the United States. But they represent just a sliver of the 20,000 some people facing threats from the Taliban as the U.S. military nears completing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Kylie Atwood joins me now from the Ft. Lee Army Base. Kylie, this is -- yes, it's a small group of the total but it is so great to see and so important to see because these are people who served side-by-side helping U.S. troops on the ground.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right. These are folks who U.S. troops and U.S. diplomats say were required to do their jobs on the ground in Afghanistan. They couldn't have done it without them. So it is really welcome news that they have arrived here in the United States today. And here at Ft. Lee, they'll be here for about a week.

These are a small group of the large total as you said, Poppy. And what they're going to be doing here is just going through a number of screenings to secure their medical clearance in order to finally get their special immigrant visa. They're also going to be offered the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccines. They were also given that opportunity before they left Kabul.

But the backdrop here is that this has been and will be a long and arduous process, both for the United States government, as they try and figure out where else to locate the rest of Afghans who worked alongside the United States and want to get out of country due to threats from the Taliban.


They're going to be look at U.S. facilities abroad, also going to be looking at third countries that they can go to while they wait for visas to be processed.

And then it is a long and arduous process for these Afghans because it takes years for these visas, for the security clearance processes to actually come to fruition. And as you said, about 20,000 folks in Afghanistan have applied for these visas and a lot of them say it is urgent that they get out of the country because of the threats that they are facing.

Listen to some of them that I spoke with this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I don't go out of Afghanistan, I'm counting down my end of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, we need to get out of the country. They are looking after us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our future will be dark. They're going to cut our heads too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My family hides me and told the, Ramish, was gone somewhere. Then they searched our house and I was hiding inside of the oven in my yard. They burned my house and nothing remained to us. All of our materials burned them.

ATWOOD: They burned your house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they burned my house.


ATWOOD: Really tremendous stories that we're hearing on the ground there, horrifying, frankly. That is why these Afghans are saying that they too need to get out of the country. About 200 of them here at Ft. Lee, and we will continue to watch this story and see where else the United States is able to get those other Afghans.

HARLOW: It is critically important to -- for what all they've done to get them out. I'm glad to see the process beginning. Kylie, great reporting, thanks a lot.

Well, coming up, the incident in orbit that made NASA declare emergency at the International Space Station, that report ahead.



HARLOW: A scary situation in space after a newly docked Russian space module misfired, briefly pushed the International Space Station out of position. The ISS lost control for about an hour on Thursday, but NASA officials say the seven astronauts were never in danger.

Let's go to our Space and Defense Correspondent Kristin Fisher. Kristin, good morning. It is scary, but all okay?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: All okay. I mean, NASA says that these astronauts were never in immediate danger. But any time you have to declare a spacecraft emergency, it is a very serious situation.

And so, essentially, what happened, there was in module coming from Russia, the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos called Nauka, which means science in Russian. And it has been long delayed, it's been plagued by a lot of propulsion issues.

And, finally, yesterday morning, it docked with the International Space Station, meaning it was locked together. And then three hours later, it started firing inadvertently its thruster. And so NASA flight controllers at that time, they described it as this tug-of-war up in space between this new Russian module and the International Space Station. And it is so dangerous because the space station is only designed to operate in zero G, with very little force.

And so this module was pushing and kind of torquing the International Space Station, moving it to an attitude, not an altitude, but an attitude away from where it is supposed to be. And it also meant that these astronauts lost communications for 11 minutes with Mission Control in Houston, Texas and in Russia.

Now, ultimately, they were able to regain control but it took them about an hour to do it. They are now investigating both in Houston and in Russia. But, you know, Poppy, this really just goes to show you, you hear about astronauts and folks in Mission Control training for hours and hours in these simulators, this is exactly what they are training for when they do this. They have contingency plans in place and yesterday, fortunately, it worked.

HARLOW: Fortunately. What do you think it means for the future missions to the International Space Station?

FISHER: Well, actually, today there was supposed to be a test flight, an uncrewed test flight of Boeing Starliner, which just like SpaceX, is supposed to bring NASA astronauts up to the International Space Station. But, already, that had to be delayed because of what happened yesterday with Nauka module.

So, long-term, shouldn't have any big or significant impacts, but in the short-term, it delayed this launch for about a week.

HARLOW: Kristin Fisher, thank you very much for your reporting. I'm glad everything is okay.

FISHER: I know, crazy scary.

HARLOW: Well, some cities here in the U.S. are considering vaccine passports. We'll take a look at what they're doing in some parts of Europe.



HARLOW: So, you've seen a big change this week. Some restaurants and businesses here in the United States are announcing they will require proof of vaccination for their customers. But around the world, some nations have already done this, or they're going even further taking steps of requiring vaccine passports. Here is how it works in Europe.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. As an increasing number of European countries are putting in place policies of vaccine passes or green passes, as they are also known. France just passed a law whereby only people who have been vaccinated or have record from a COVID-19 infection or who have a recent negative PCR test are going to be allowed into restaurants and cafes and also travel domestically by rail or by plane.

A similar law is going to come into effect in Italy very soon and Greece is already only letting people who are vaccinated into indoor dining facilities.

Now, of course, all of that is coming in the face of a spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus here in Europe, but also lagging vaccine uptick and it is meant to encourage people to get their vaccinations. HARLOW: Fred Pleitgen, thank you for that reporting.


And thanks to all of you for joining me here today. Have a safe, healthy weekend. I'm headed on vacation and I'll see you very soon. I'm Poppy Harlow.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts now.