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Ukrainian Police Investigating Death Of Belarusian Dissident; Blast Rocks Kabul Near Acting Defense Minister's Home; Scorching Temperatures Fueling Wildfires In Southeast; World Record Deja Vu In 400-Meter Hurdles; China Scrambling To Contain Growing Outbreak Of COVID-19; France Aims To Expand Digital "Health Pass" As Cases Rise; Official Probe Remains Stalled One Year After Disaster; President Biden: Governor Cuomo Should Resign; 1,000+ Spectators Allowed at Olympic Cycling Events. Aired 12-12:45a ET
Aired August 4, 2021 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm John Vause.
Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. From one athlete perceived criticism of the regime in Belarus has ended her Olympic dreams. For another, helping those who flee Belarus may have ended his life. This hour, the high price for defying the man known as Europe's last dictator.
The first provincial capital in Afghanistan looks set to fall to a sweeping Taliban offensive, while the capital Kabul stronghold for the U.S. backed government has been rocked by a massive explosion and then the sound of automatic gunfire.
At a heat emergency in southern Europe, with the scorching temperatures fueling major wildfires in Turkey, and threatening the national power grid increase.
We begin with an unexpected twist for the Belarusian Olympian turn dissident Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and the unexpected death of another critic of the Lukashenko regime, Vitaly Shishov.
In the past few hours, as expected, Tsimanouskaya arrived at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, but did not board a flight for Warsaw after she'd been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland.
She says she feared for her life accusing Belarusian team officials at the Tokyo games of forcing her to return home for apparently publicly criticizing the government.
Instead, Tsimanouskaya boarded a flight for Vienna, and is expected to touchdown in about 10 hours from now. What remains unknown is if she will continue on to Warsaw from there or stay in Austria, where she's been training for the Olympics.
Meantime, a prominent Belarusian dissident has been found hanged in a park near his home in Kyiv. A murder investigation is underway.
Vitaly Shishov led an organization which helped Belarussians flee persecution begin new lives in Ukraine.
We get more details now from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another day, another dark episode for Belarusians. This time, an opposition activist found hanging from a tree in a park outside Kyiv.
Vitaly Shishov helped Belarusian dissidents escape to here neighboring Ukraine.
Friends said the authoritarian regime in Minsk likely killed him. But Ukrainian police said they were investigating two main theories, suicide or premeditated murder made to look like suicide.
Currently, we see abrasions on the nose, peeled skin and on the left knee and chest. The police said this can be characteristic of a onetime fall. Where it's Belarus' KGB, yes, they still call it that there. It would be pretty much unprecedented for them to kill opponents abroad.
You can see in how riot police tackle peaceful protest how the regime is at home. But it now seems bolder abroad, forcing the landing of a Ryanair jet in May so they could arrest an opposition blogger.
And according to Olympic Athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, ordering her home on Sunday after upsetting the president. Belarus has said she was distressed and emotional, which she denied.
She told me from safety in Tokyo, that two men from the Olympic team escorted her to the airport, but it was her grandmother who made her realize she could not go home again.
KRYSTSINA TSIMANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OLYMPIC SPRINTER: It's happening after my grandmother's call. Because before this call, I think maybe I can come back to home without any problem. But when she called to me on she say about this situation with our T.V. (INAUDIBLE).
TSIMANOUSKAYA (through translator): And they would most likely grab me at the airport. I don't know, maybe a jail or maybe to a psychological hospital.
WALSH: Did you ever imagine this would happen when you posted that Instagram video on Friday?
TSIMANOUSKAYA (through translator): My trainer said that to send me home was not their decision, that it was just said to them to do this.
WALSH: Your message for people in Belarus who are frightened of their government. What do you say to them?
TSIMANOUSKAYA (through translator): Do not be afraid. Always say your opinion. We have to have freedom of speech. And people must say what they think. WALSH: All of this for Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko's counterpart and friend Vladimir Putin, either a huge headache he can do without, or a welcome new worst dictator for the west to sanction and rail against.
Last week, President Joe Biden met the women Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who wants to lead Belarus out of the Kremlin's grasp, and this day she met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London amid growing fears Belarus could get anyone even in exile.
SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: If regime wants, they probably could reach everyone.
WALSH: What do you need the west to do right now?
TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Think this happening because regime feels impunity, so it's high time to show teeth.
WALSH: Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The International Olympic Committee now wants to hear from the two officials allegedly involved with the attempt to send Tsimanouskaya back to Belarus against her will. Partly just begun disciplinary commission into the incident.
In Afghanistan's capital, a car bomb has exploded near the home of the acting defense minister. A Defense Ministry spokesman says the minister and his family are unharmed, but four attackers were killed. So far, no claim of responsibility for the bombing.
CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Kabul. She heard the explosion and filed this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was just before 8:00 p.m. when that loud blast shook the city. We actually ran up onto the roof, we could hear sporadic gunfire, there was a loud siren, then there were two smaller blasts.
So far, nobody has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. But we know that it happened in a neighborhood where Afghanistan's acting defense minister lives. We are told that he was not at home at the time that he has not been injured.
And since that blast, it's been extraordinary to hear people all across the city have come out onto their balconies, and they have been chanting over and over again Allahu Akbar, meaning God is great, as they're doing that chant in support of the Afghan security forces. And essentially in defiance of this attack on the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling served in the U.S. military for 37 years, he was the commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army. And he's with us now from Orlando in Florida. Good to have you with us, Sir.
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's good to be with you, John.
VAUSE: I want to continue with the Kabul attack which appears to target the acting defense minister. The U.S. State Department says it that there's a hallmarks of the Taliban and had this warning from the Taliban that this was an attempt to undermine peace talks with the Afghan government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: They will be an international pariah. They won't have the support of their people, they won't have the support of the international community. And the concern on the part of all of us, one of the main -- one of many concerns is that the result will be civil war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, here's a newsflash, the Taliban are already international pariahs, they don't have a lot of support among Afghans. Apart from China, they have almost zero international support. None of that seems to bother the Taliban. But it does leave the question of civil war. How likely is that?
HERTLING: It's happening. I mean, I don't understand anyone saying that it could lead to civil war, it's already occurring.
You know, most Afghan watchers, John, have predicted things are going to be bad. And there are going to be a lot of tough fights in the cities between the Afghan National Army and the Taliban.
I predict that it's going to be worse than most expected, a lot sooner than most expected, because of the fact that the Taliban have the rural areas. They are now encircling the population centers as we saw it today in Kabul, they're threatening the population. Even though there are some very strong Afghan military that are willing to fight back in some of the key population centers, it's going to be continuous activity, just like you see in any insurgency where the enemy or the insurgents are threatening the population in the government.
VAUSE: Well, the United Nations says it stands by ready to help. But there's a but, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKESMAN FOR THE U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: We are there to help the Afghan people but it is up to the Afghan parties to reach a political solution. We and the international community are there to support and guide in whatever way we can. But there needs to be a -- there needs to be a political solution. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, when it comes to a political solution, according to a U.S. diplomat attending peace talks in Doha. At this point, they, the Taliban, are demanding that they take the lion's share of power in the next government given the military situation as they see it.
That's not a negotiated political solution, that seems just shy of total surrender.
HERTLING: Yes, let's remind ourselves who the Taliban are. They call themselves the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan, they are a Deobandi Islamic organization that is stuck in the 14th century. They believe in the harsh interpretation of Sharia law. They have a long history of genocide, denial of food, extrajudicial punishment, you name that tune.
So, when we were negotiating with the Taliban, without the Afghan government at the table, there were a lot of people that would say, don't expect great results from them from a diplomatic perspective.
They lied. They continue to lie in terms of what they're going to do, and you can't depend on them as a representative group of people of the entire state of Afghanistan.
VAUSE: Well, Taliban controlled nine to 10 districts in Lashkargah which is the capital of the Helmand Province. And Afghan commander is urging civilians in those districts to evacuate. There's an indication more U.S. strikes are on the way. Elite commando units from the Afghan government are effectively only resistance on the ground.
VAUSE: So, to quote one U.S. military official from Monday, it's not going well. Then there is reporting from the Wall Street Journal, the Taliban commander overseeing an assault on the key southern city of Lashkargah is one of 5,000 former prisoners released by the Afghan government last year, under pressure from the United States, that's Afghan Western officials according to them.
It seems hard to imagine that this could get any worse. If Lashkargah falls, will be the first provincial capital which goes two other provincial capitals are under siege. This -- is this a sign of a domino effect?
HERTLING: Well, I'm not sure because the Afghan army is standing tall in quite a few of the population centers.
But remember, in a press conference that General Milley and Secretary Austin had a few weeks ago, they suggested that the Afghan government would be centralizing their forces -- to fight more effectively against the Taliban and the key population centers.
They haven't had the time to do that yet, the Afghan National Army has been spread across the country, so that reconstitution to defend the major population center is going to be a difficult military maneuver. And unfortunately, most of the provinces that allow the transit of
these military forces have been overcome by the Taliban intimidation and killing.
So, it's going to be tough to even have a supply chain, or the fact that the Afghan army can move between provinces to resubmit against the Taliban forces. So, it's going to be difficult.
VAUSE: Yes, the Taliban seem to be on a roll, which, you know, success begets success. And we're out of time though, but good to have you with us. We appreciate it. (INAUDIBLE) Thank you, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, take care.
Wildfires continue to burn across South Europe but made so much worse by heat emergency, which has brought the highest ever recorded summer temperatures to some parts.
Firefighters in Greece are battling dozens of forest fires in a heatwave which the Prime Minister has described the worst in more than 30 years.
Officials in Turkey have pleaded for international assistance as 150 fires burn out of control damaging thousands of homes. One town with thermal power plant has called for help as the flames draw closer. Low humidity, high winds has spread the fires during the past week.
And Italy, hundreds of residents and tourists were evacuated as fires destroyed a nature reserve. Emergency workers have responded to more than thousand calls for help since Sunday.
Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with the very latest on the fire and those weather conditions. So, it does seem that this is not getting any better, at least in terms of the heat and the drought like conditions, which the region is seeing.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, John, I was just curious about how this temperature compares to the global maximum temperatures on Tuesday. And we're talking about the middle and upper 40s widespread across portions of southern and southeastern Europe. These are temperatures that are comparable, and in some cases warmer than the all of the warmest temperatures I could find on earth for Tuesday.
Really, speaks to the incredible nature of this heatwave. You see the smoke from the satellite images looking down across this region. The thermal signature of the fires kind of shows you what has happened in recent days, the widespread coverage across Europe.
But how about 154 fires since the 28th of July across parts of Turkey and the concentration of it along the southern coastline there were not only a lot of villages in place there but also a lot of tourist communities that are being severely impacted by what is happening there on the ground.
But here we go, Langadas, Greece, we had a temperature reached 47.1 degrees on Tuesday. The all-time hottest temperature ever observed in the continent is 48 degrees that was back in 1977 in Athens. That record is poised to be potentially set here over the next several days but not at these temperatures.
When you take that 47.1 look at the hottest temperatures on earth for Tuesday. Kirkuk, Iraq comes in with a 45.2 speaks to what is happening there in parts of Greece when it comes to the heat and the fires.
And incredibly, this observation site is only 20 kilometers John, away from the (INAUDIBLE) sea and the Mediterranean. So, it kind of shows you how excessive this heat is that even when you're close to the Mediterranean, it really doesn't cool off much. In fact, again the hottest temperatures on Earth, John.
VAUSE: That says a lot. Pedram, thank you.
At the Olympics track and field moves into high gear in the coming hours on day 12 in Tokyo, gold medals are up for grabs in 10 sports including sailing, cycling and weightlifting. Japan has two favorites in the first ever women's skateboarding park event and Cuba's Arlen Lopez will go for gold in men's light heavyweight boxing. His opponent is Benjamin Whittaker an aspiring hip-hop artist from Great Britain goes by the stage name Benzo. Go Benzo.
Let's bring in CNN "WORLD SPORT" anchor Patrick Snell. That was very latest. So yes, looks like a case of deja vu at the track.
PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, absolutely, John. Back to back days (INAUDIBLE) incredible, the great storylines do just keep on coming from these Tokyo games. Another day that's already given us a really special moment.
For the second day on the bounce, a 400-meter hurdles Olympic final, a thrilling finale and two athletes breaking what was the previous world record in this particular event.
Now this time in the women's race as the American duo Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad going head to head so much focus on them ahead of the race. Well, McLaughlin actually breaking the world record to win gold in a time of 51.46 seconds and that beats the mark. She said in late June, when she actually ran it in time of 51.90.
Meantime, Muhammad who won Olympic gold in this event in Rio 2016, winning the silver medal in a time of 51.58 seconds a time. Get this, a time that would have surpassed McLaughlin's mark from June and the bronze medal going to Femke Bol of the Netherlands in a time of 52.03. Amazingly, that is now the fourth fastest time ever, in this particular event.
While there may well be no Usain Bolt at these games, but Jamaica still has much to celebrate after Elaine Thompson-Herah completing a truly historic Double-Double, adding the 200 meters gold medal to the 100 meters crown just as she did at the Rio Games.
Not only did she finish first, this was in Tuesday's final, but she was well ahead of her rivals as well crossing the line in 21.53 seconds, the second fastest time ever in this event.
And history also made as well by the Namibian teenager, Christine Mboma, who came second just weeks after switching from a normal event of the 400 meters due to world athletics DSD rules.
And I do want to get to the world record holder Mondo Duplantis. It was a few weeks ago he told us here John, on CNN "WORLD SPORT" he'd already dreamed of winning Olympic gold since those childhood days he spent training in his own backyard in Louisiana with gold. Now his reality for the 21-year-old American born Swede represents his mother's homeland nation after he soared over 6.02 meters that was in his very first attempt at that height. His great rival just for context here, the double World Champs Sam Kendricks not in Tokyo after missing the games following a positive test for COVID-19.
But Duplantis, the overwhelming favorite through, happy to get the job done. He did come close by the way to setting another world record. As I say, he's happy and ecstatic to get that childhood dream secured. John, back to you.
VAUSE: So many special days. Patrick, thank you. Patrick Snell, we'll see you. I guess in 30 minutes.
SNELL: I forgot to mention "WORLD SPORT".
VAUSE: Unlike you.
SNELL: I know, 25 minutes from right now, what are you doing? Join us.
VAUSE: Goodness. Thank you very much.
OK, still to come here, shifting the focus from the liberty of the unvaccinated to the rights of the vaccinated. What does that mean? We'll discuss it up next.
VAUSE: With growing outbreak of COVID infections, tough new restrictions are now in place in China, including no entry by road or air from travelers or by rail I should say, from travelers from hard hit cities into the capital Beijing.
China has also approved its Sinovac vaccine for use on children aged three to 17. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout as always live from Hong Kong at this hour and China is taking some very tough measures like it has done in the past. But the outbreak here continues to grow.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the China's Delta outbreak is continuing to grow, it is spreading fast and it's also causing alarm with scenes of panic buying in Wuhan.
Yes, this is the city where the coronavirus first emerged and now the Delta variant has been detected there. And you can see the scenes of panic buying there on your screen. Now on Wednesday earlier today, China announced its latest numbers
about the outbreak. Reported 71 locally transmitted cases of the virus is higher than the day before and yes, the fact that the virus has managed to spread to 26 cities and 16 provinces across the country in the last two weeks continues to generate concerns. Sweeping pandemic restrictions are in place including lockdowns, we have an entire city under lockdown right now. It's a popular tourist destination called Zhangjiajie, all residents all tourists are not allowed to leave.
Also, mass testing campaigns involving tens of millions of people underway in places like Nanjing and Wuhan as well as Zhengzhou seen of these recent floods in central China and of course massive travel restrictions.
You have all the provinces and provincial level areas in China now urging residents do not go to medium-risk or high-risk areas. Do not leave the province where you live unless you have to leave.
23 railway stations have stopped selling tickets to Beijing. All airlines and flights and Nanjing and Yangzhou have been suspended. Yangzhou has been dealing with an outbreak involving several mahjong parlors in the city.
China is throwing everything in its pandemic playbook against this variant. Is it going to work? Here's Ben Cowling of Hong Kong University.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN COWLING, PROFESSOR AND HEAD OF DIVISION OF EPIDEMIOLOGY & BIOSTATISTICS: Yes, China can use this playbook again. It's worked successfully for the last year. The things they can do in China maybe can't be done elsewhere.
They can use the mass testing, the lockdowns, the quarantines to get Delta under control, but it may take a little bit longer than previous outbreaks have taken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: And if it doesn't work, the Delta outbreak could jeopardize plans for the big domestic travel season coming up in two months, October one, that is the Golden Week holiday and starting today, we are just six months away from the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, back to you.
VAUSE: Six months. Wow. Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout live for us there in Hong Kong.
France is once again tightening COVID restrictions as the Delta variant causes a surge in the number of infections. And outdoor mask mandate is being reinstated in various vacation spots including Cannes and Nice and the digital health pass, which provides vaccination status could soon be needed to access to all public venues including restaurants, bars, as well as shopping centers. For instance, Constitutional Council is expected to rule on that come Thursday. Arthur Caplan is a professor of bioethics at New York University. He
is with us this hour from Ridgefield, Connecticut. Good to have you with us.
ARTHUR CAPLAN, PROFESSOR NYU GROSSMAN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Thanks for having me.
VAUSE: Like I said, France now has essentially a government policy of making life miserable for the unvaccinated. And the French president made no excuses for that speaking on Tuesday, here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I will be the first to be happy that we abandoned the health pass, the mask, social distancing against the virus. That would mean a very simple thing. It is the battle would then be won, and that we would be done with the epidemic.
But this is unfortunately not the case. We are facing the fourth wave. We must therefore continue to take measures to save lives, protect everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, if the law which puts us into practice survives a legal challenge, it will mean the unvaccinated then locked out of public events, long distance travel, anywhere where there's a large gathering of people essentially.
So, I know you're not a big fan of mandated vaccination. So, how is this approach better than a government mandated vaccine?
CAPLAN: Well, I think we've got a first shift the moral terrain in the U.S. too much talk about protecting the rights of the unvaccinated. And I agree with Macron, we've got to start to protect the rights of the vaccinated.
Look, it's the unvaccinated that put the economy at risk, threatened lockdowns, threatened to have schools shut down, make it hard to go to work. We have to do everything we can to make sure that people get vaccinated. And the way to do that is to not strap them down and vaccinate them. But to make it clear that they're right. Get on an airplane, get on a cruise ship, go to work, go to a restaurant really depends on their being able to prove they've been vaccinated.
VAUSE: And you wrote about this at length for an opinion piece in the USA Today. Basically, the vaccine should be forced to disclose their status, wear masks, practice social distancing, here's a little bit more.
The unvaccinated posing direct risks to the health and wellbeing of the immunocompromised, the frail and the elderly and especially young children who cannot yet be vaccinated. Until now, society has pussy-footed around the right of the
unvaccinated to inflict harm. The choice to not vaccinate does far more harm than any infringement of the rights of the unvaccinated.
None of this though can happen if there is not a system of vaccine passports or health passes like you have in France, which seems to be a nonstarter in some U.S. state. And what if the unvaccinated just outright refuse? Then, so how do you see this working?
CAPLAN: We're way behind on the vaccine passport idea. I've been calling for us to create some form of vaccine proof or authentication that's easy to carry. And it could even be on an iPhone or an iPad for months.
I don't know why our government won't push this idea forward. I think they fear political pushback. Many states have said they don't want passports.
My argument is if we're going to respect the rights of the vaccinated and we're going to keep America open, as well as permit travel elsewhere, you have to have the ability to prove that to nation.
So, not issuing vaccine passports or state-based cards only sets us back. It's not getting us more freedom, it's getting us less freedom as the honor system about who says they're vaccinated and who says they're not just doesn't work.
VAUSE: Yes, the other argument made is that those who refuse vaccination when vaccine is readily available, and now eligible should be held financially liable for that choice.
You argue, just as someone who does not stop at a red light may have to cover medical costs, lost wages and earning capacity, and pain and suffering an accident victim may face an unvaccinated individual who hospitalized someone else may be liable for hospital costs, potential lost wages and declining earning capacity. It's similar to, you know, smokers paying a lot more for health insurance, right?
CAPLAN: Right, you can do it as increased rates, because you're doing something dangerous like we do in many countries for smoking. And by the way, they always do for many health conditions for life insurance and disability insurance. Those people want to know, what are you doing that might make you sick? What are you doing that might make others sick?
Moreover, I'm saying you could also sue somebody, if you are my child, made them disabled, sent them to the hospital. And I can trace that to your entering a place unvaccinated? Not always so easy to do, but when it's doable, I think you should be held responsible for costs.
VAUSE: Just very quickly, would you stop short of say stay at home orders for the unvaccinated if a lockdown was looming?
CAPLAN: Well, I think it's tough to enforce stay at home orders. Very difficult to do that even unless you're going to get completely totalitarian like China and board people up into their houses. It's really tough to do. I'd rather have checks where people try to go rather than trying to make them stay in place.
But at the end of the day, look, I understand when people say my body, my rights. What I want them to hear in a plague, in a pandemic is my body, I've got to keep it as safe as I can so we can all have our rights.
This is a question of getting more freedom, more liberty through vaccination, not worrying that vaccination is somehow taking away choice.
VAUSE: We shall leave it there. Arthur Caplan professor of bioethics. Good to see you. Thank you, Sir.
CAPLAN: Thank you.
VAUSE: Coming up next on CNN NEWSROOM, new calls for justice in Beirut. One year after a deadly blast of the city's port. Why there are no answers? Why is no one been held accountable?
VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.
One year on, since a massive blast at Beirut's port, and demands for answers and accountability continued to go unheeded. A former government investigation continues to stall, not just because of the ongoing political deadlock.
CNN's Ben Wedeman reports now from Beirut. But first, a warning: his report contains graphic images some viewers will find disturbing.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five fifty-four p.m. Tuesday, the 4th of August, 2020. A fire rages in Beirut port's hanger No. 12.
Fourteen minutes later, this.
WEDEMAN: One of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history ripped through the heart of the Lebanese capital, killing more than 200 people, wounding more than 6,000, rendering at least 300,000 people homeless.
The official investigation into the blast has stalled. All the questions about how and why this bloodbath happened remain unanswered.
What is clear, however, is that soon after a Moldavan-flagged ship docked in Beirut port in 2013 with 2,750 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate. Lebanese officials didn't act on all the warnings that had posed a mortal threat to the city. A flurry of notes passed around the government highlighting the
danger, but no one did a thing.
The most generous explanation for the cause of the Beirut port blast is criminal negligence, that what happened here was the result of years, if not decades, of corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence. The Beirut port blast was not a freak accident.
Beirut port has long been described as Alibaba's cave, a dark dan of official corruption, where Lebanon's political factions share the spoils.
NIZAR SAGHIEH, DIRECTOR, LEGAL AGENDA: It's negligence when everyone was aware, and nobody acted. What does it mean? That means that there is a total banalization (ph) of the public interest, of the public danger.
WEDEMAN: Samir Devan's (ph) husband, Hamid (ph), was killed in the blast, and on this day, she has joined the families of those killed at a protest, demanding accountability from Lebanon's leaders.
"For 30 years, they destroyed us," she says. "They made us beggars. They impoverished us. They humiliated us. They murdered us."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were so concerned of fear (ph) --
WEDEMAN: Investigative journalist Riyadh Kobeissi has spent years reporting on skullduggery in the port.
RIYADH KOBEISSI, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, AL-JADEED NEWS: What happened, first of all, it's not a random mistake. It's a system failure. It's a system failure. And those who composed the system, despite the fact, the contradiction between them, they are refusing to hold responsibility for what happened. The first of August is a direct result of this cohabitation between the mafia and the militia.
WEDEMAN: Lebanon's caretaker justice minister declined our request for an interview, but provided a statement saying, in part, "I abide by the principles of separation of power, judicial independence and secrecy of the investigation."
Yet, Lebanon's track record for investigations is spotty. Over decades, a series of assassinations have rocked Lebanon, followed by investigations, and the culprits have almost always gotten away.
But this atrocity was different.
Tracy Naggear lost her 3-year-old daughter, Alexandra, in the blast.
TRACY NAGGEAR, MOTHER OF BLAST VICTIM: The difference between the death of my child and the death of the politicians that were kids from 2005 onwards is that Alexandra is a kid. She didn't ask anything from anyone. She's a citizen. She was living in her house. She was happy.
WEDEMAN: And now Alexandra and more than 200 others are gone. After such knowledge, after such trauma, so many here are asking, what forgiveness?
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.
VAUSE: And CNN's "CONNECT THE WORLD" will bring stories of dignity, courage, and hope as Lebanon marks one year since the port explosion. Our special report, that's 6 p.m. in Beirut, 4 p.m. in London.
Well, Tokyo Olympics are the first ever of the modern era to ban spectators. But the site of empty stadiums may be no more, at least at the velodrome, just outside Tokyo. A live report when we come back.
VAUSE: Iran is denying involvement in an incident, possibly a maritime hijacking, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
On Tuesday, the British Maritime Trade Agency reported a potential hijack was underway but gave no more details. The U.S., Britain, Israel, and Romania blamed Iran for a drone attack on a ship in the same area off Oman last week.
Well, it seems the clock may be ticking for the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo. Some of the most powerful people in his party are now calling on him to resign after a state investigation accused of sexually harassing multiple women. And if the calls to step down don't do it, an impeachment probe might.
Allegations against the governor include inappropriate kissing, groping, asking an aide about her sex life. They dogged Cuomo for months, but the report from the New York attorney general is reigniting calls for him to resign.
It reviewed allegations from 11 women and found all of them to be credible. And here's what the president, Joe Biden, when asked about the governor by CNN's Kaitlan Collins had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Back in March, you said that if the investigation confirmed the allegations against Governor Cuomo, then he should resign. So will you now call on him to resign, given the investigator said the 11 women were credible?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stand by that statement.
COLLINS: Are you now calling on him to resign?
COLLINS: And if he doesn't resign, do you believe he should be impeached and removed from office?
BIDEN: Let's take one thing at a time here. I think he should resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Cuomo has strenuously denied the allegations and said Tuesday he's never made inappropriate sexual advances.
Competition underway in 22 Olympic events with gold medals at stake in ten, including track and field, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting.
China, the U.S., Japan are all leading the gold medal count so far. U.S. ahead in total medals.
The men's team pursuit in cycling is -- you know, gets underway in a few hours, and the venue outside of Tokyo will feature something we have not seen a lot about these games. There will be spectators.
CNN's Blake Essig is a spectator. He is there for us. People cheering, clapping, why? Where's the loophole here?
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, John, I mean, the loophole is that there's no state of emergency declared here in Shizuoka. So, because of that, spectators are allowed.
No more than 10,000 or half the capacity of whatever venue the event is taking place. In the Izu velodrome behind me, that big arena is one of those venues and one of five venues allowing limited spectators across the country and only -- the only venue that's enclosed, that's doing so, as well.
Now, that's again because no state of emergency is declared here. And because of that, in the next few hours, fans-- yes, John, fans -- will be in the stands to watch track, cycling, and cheer on the athletes.
Now, before these games started, more than three and a half million tickets were sold, but given the state of emergency orders in Tokyo and several other prefectures, as well as other areas just opting out of holding fans, only 70,000 tickets were made available.
But because of COVID-19, tens of thousands of those tickets have gone unused. Officials say about 30,000 people have asked for refunds. Tokyo 2020 says that those tickets and others were not sold, and they didn't have a chance to even resell those tickets. So empty seats.
So last week, another cycling event here in Shiuoka at the Fuji International Speedway, 10,000 people were allowed to be inside a 22,000-seat venue, but only 2,600 showed up to watch the event. Just to put that into perspective, right.
Well, COVID-19 does remain a huge concern. Some lucky fans who were able to secure a ticket to today's event couldn't be more excited for the chance to experience these games in person. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOJI MATSUBARA, SPECTATOR (through translator): I love cycling. So the idea of watching the world's top athletes right in front of me just brings me so much joy.
These Olympics are like none other, and they're taking place under unprecedented circumstances. But the games are underway, and the fact that I can even attend an event is a memory that I'm going to hold onto forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ESSIG: Of course, this is an incredibly rare experience at these games, given the ban on spectators at 97 percent of events and 88 percent of Olympic venues. Even though the velodrome will only be halfway filled, at most. It should be a really exciting experience for fans and the athletes looking to feed off the fans' energy -- John.
VAUSE: Yes. It's something which has been notable very much by its absence over the last, what, 12 days or so, so it will be good to see. Blake, thank you.
Blake Essig's there live for us in Tokyo. We'll have a lot more on the Olympics coming up on WORLD SPORT. Then I will be back at the top of the hour with a lot more CNN NEWSROOM. In the meantime, here's Patrick Snell. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.