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Scorching Temperatures Fueling Wildfires In Southeast; Blast Rocks Kabul Near Acting Defense Minister's Home; Taliban Moving To Capture Provincial Capitals; IOC Opens Disciplinary Commission for Belarus Case; Rights Group Calls for International Probe into Blast; Sydney McLaughlin Shatters 400-Meter Hurdles World Record. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 4, 2021 - 02:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Ahead this hour. Hundreds of fires across southern Europe at a blistering heatwave worsening conditions for firefighters. We are live in southern Turkey.

Back to the Future in the city where COVID began. Panic buying and Wuhan as China poses new restrictions after an increase in community spread Delta coronavirus.

Plus, day 12 in Turkey belong to the young. The really, really, really young including a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old, taking home Olympic medals. Good for them.

Dangerous heatwave is gripping Southern Europe with countries declaring heat emergencies as temperatures soar almost to record levels, setting the stage with deadly fires. Emergency crews increased. A belly dozens of forest fires, forcing many residents to evacuate. The country is experiencing a heatwave. The Prime Minister described as the worst in more than 30 years.

Officials in Turkey have pleaded for international assistance to control raging fires that have damaged thousands of homes. One town near thermal power plant has called for help as the flames draw closer. Low humidity and high winds have spread the fires at a rapid pace for a week now.

CNN's Arwa Damon has been to the frontlines. She now joins us live with more on the situation. In Turkey, particularly, this seems to be a battle which the emergency crews are not losing. But they're certainly not winning at this point.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, it's actually quite difficult to describe what the fight against these fires ends up looking like because you have these incredible efforts on the ground. And I'm not just talking about firefighters being on the front lines battling these flames. I'm talking about an army of volunteers. People who have never picked up a fire hose in their life have now spent days on end trying to bring these flames under control.

But the minute and I literally mean, the minute it seems as if they have a fire under control, it'll spark up right next to them on a different hilltop, or what appears to be smoldering will very quickly just go back up in flames. There are helicopters that are helping out in the effort. But as you watch them trying to dump buckets of water on top of the fires in some of these areas, it just feels as if it's not enough, they aren't able to get the upper hand.

Because even though yes, Turkey has controlled the vast majority of the fires that have broken out here over the past week or so, those that it has been unable to control John are devastating. And Turkey is also experiencing that same heatwave that Southern Europe is going through. I mean, temperatures have been extraordinarily hot, not just now, but also back in May. And all of these factors, these rising temperatures, the fact that there's such low humidity, this is down to climate change.

This is what we have done to our own planet. Because even though yes, climate change does not start these fires but the conditions that climate change has created they all are on the side of the fires. And that's why we're seeing them so aggressive. That's why we're seeing them so powerful, so quickly able to gobble through all of this land. I mean, it's quite startling when you drive through parts of this country to see just how large the fires became.

On our way driving just to this location for example, John, we drove for 10 minutes. 10 to 15 minutes through entirely burnt out forests. Last night, a village that we left where they all thought that the flames were under control, 4:00 in the morning or so, it flares up again and then it had to be evacuated and people are exhausted by all of this and they're angry.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. And they have every right to be at this point. And it seems climate change isn't the cause but it certainly is a multiplier effect. Arwa Damon there in Southern Turkey. Thank you for that report. Let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with more because Pedram we just heard blaze there from Arwa about, you know, how the residents and the volunteers trying to contain these places.

So what's the situation there in Southern Turkey and across the region? What can I expect?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, we're going on seven days, John. Seven days where this massive area of high pressure has sat in place and of course, as you noted, go back to May, go back to June. This area has been so dry for such an extended period that these extensive heat waves the building places essentially remove any moisture left out of the soil, out of the -- essentially the grasslands across this region.


JAVAHERI: So, any additional fires and we've seen an average of about 20 per day, those ignite rather quickly. You notice the smoke very much visible across the satellite perspective. See the wildfire coverage across all of Europe but also into Turkey in particular, the southern and southeastern fringe there, some 154 fires observed since late last week. The 28th of July. So it kind of speaks to what an incredible pattern this has been over the last several days.

But work your way into Greece and the hottest temperatures on our planet happening just near the shoreline there of Greece. An incredible observation of 47.1 coming in Langadas, Greece on Tuesday afternoon. The hottest ever observed on the continent, Athens, Greece 1977, it was 48 degrees. Tell you what, the forecast models have hinted this number, may be going into the books and breaking here over the next several days.

The heat has been so impressive over the last several days. But there it is. That observation site just 20 kilometers from the coastline. And notice it is warmer there than in Kirkuk, Iraq on Tuesday afternoon. That was the high there 45.2 degrees. So, here's what's happening, that dome of high pressure still in place, we think it may begin to break down or at least weakened just a little bit going in from Saturday into Sunday.

But still some 200 locations across Greece exceeding 40 degrees come Tuesday afternoon. That was an incredible observation there. But again, notice there is cloud cover, there's some moisture trying to come in. I think the ridge will break this down quite a bit. We think some moisture may try to sneak in in the form of just cloud cover that allow those temperatures to cool off a little bit.

But John has you noticed, when you get into this region of Turkey, July and August rainfall almost unheard of and it doesn't look like and ease in the forecast anytime soon.

VAUSE: Not could you. But Pedram, thank you. Pedram Javaheri there with the very latest. We appreciate it.

Well, Kabob attack in a very secure green zone in Kabul is the latest sign of deteriorating security Afghanistan.


VAUSE (voice-over): The explosion in the capital appeared to target the acting defense minister. Officials say he was unharmed so to his family but for attackers killed. No one so far has claimed responsibility. But it comes as the Taliban makes major territorial gains in rural areas, and is now pushing towards major cities.


VAUSE: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling served in the U.S. military for 37 years. He was the Commanding General for U.S. Army in Europe and seventh army. And he's with us now from Orlando in Florida. Good to have you with us, sir.


VAUSE: I want to continue with the Kabul attack which appears to target the acting defense minister, the U.S. State Department says it bears the hallmarks of the Taliban, this warning for the Taliban, if this was an attempt to undermine peace talks with the Afghan government.

HERTLING: They will be in a national prayer, 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 many -- one of many concerns is that the result will be civil war.

VAUSE: Well, here's the newsflash, the Taliban are already international (INAUDIBLE) they don't have a lot of support among Afghans. But 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 in circling the population centers, as we saw 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.


STEPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKESMAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We're there to help the Afghan people but it is up to the Afghan parties to reach a political solution. We and the International Committee are there to support and guide in whatever way we can. But there needs to be a -- there needs to be a political solution.


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 of Afghanistan. They are Deobandi Islamic Organization that is stuck in the 14th century.

[02:10:05] HERTLING: They believe in 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 have the entire State of Afghanistan.

VAUSE: Well, Taliban controlled nine to 10 districts in Lashkar Gah 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 the only resistance on the ground. 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 Lashkar Gah is one of 5000 former prisoners released by the Afghan government last year, under pressure from the United States. That's Afghan and Western officials, according to them. It seems to imagine that this could get any worse. If less I got false will be the first provincial capital, which goes to other provincial capitals are under siege. This -- is this the sound of a domino effect?

HERTLING: Well, I'm not sure because the Afghan army is standing tall and 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 and to fight more effectively against the Taliban in 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, I will tell them they seem to be on a roll, which, you know, success begets success. And we're out of time a little bit. Good to have you with us. We appreciate it. Thank you, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Take care.

Day 12 Olympic sailing set to start this hour just outside Tokyo and gold medals are in play in 10 Sports. Some of the biggest track and field events are yet to come. World records have been tumbling and some of the youngest Olympians ever taking their place on the middle podium. Let's go to CNN World Sport anchor Patrick Snell in his very latest. 19, 13 and 12.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: John, your memory is impeccable for an old fellow. Let's start with (INAUDIBLE) just take it and do it yourself. You do my skip for me. Thank you so much, mate. Incredible. Those ages are very, very relevant indeed. Hold on to that thought because it's another golden moment to tell you about for the host nation Japan, or rather too as they take the top two spots on the podium.

A little earlier today this in the women's skateboarding park event, Sakura Yosozumi, 19-year-old winning gold and Kokona Hiraki at 12 years of age. I'll say it again. 12 years of age winning silver. By the way, the favorite, Sky Brown, actually born in Japan but Great Britain's youngest participant in the history of the Olympics at age 13. Earning a Bronze. It's just amazing stuff from all of those competitors.

But as far as the host nation Japan is concerned of the nine medals in skateboarding awarding so far as these Summer Games five have gone to Japan including all three goals. Just incredible historic stuff as well.

Well, this Wednesday has already given us a truly special Tokyo 2020 moment or shall I say another one for the second day in a row, a 400- meter hurdles Olympic final. We've got the thrilling finale and two athletes breaking what was the previous world mark in this particular event. This time in the women's races, the American duo Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammadg going head to head.

McLaughlin breaking the world record to win gold in a time of 51.46 seconds, and that besting the mark she sat in late June when she ran in a time of 51.90. Meantime, Muhammadm who won Olympic gold in this event in Brazil in 2016, winning the silver medal and a time of 51.58 seconds. And this is what's incredible about this particular stat. That is the time that would have surpassed McLaughlin's mark from June.


SNELL: And even the bronze medal which by the way, Femke Ball of the Netherlands in a time of 52.03. Amazingly, that now, the fourth fastest time ever, in this event. The great storylines is keep on coming our way, don't they this Wednesday? Well, there may well be no Usain Bolt to these games but Jamaica still with so 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 our Rio '16.

Not only did she finish first, this was in Tuesday's final that she was well ahead of our rivals crossing the line in 21.53 seconds as the second fastest ever time in this event. And history also made by Namibian teen Christine Mboma who came second just weeks after switching from a normal event of the 400 meters. This due to world athletics DSD rules. And I do want to tell you about the world record holder in pole vaulting Mondo Duplantis, you told us recently right here on CNN.

He always dreamed of winning Olympic gold since those childhood days spent training in his own back garden in Louisiana. Well, gold, now the reality for the 21-year-old American-born Swede after soaring over 6.02 meters on his very first attempt at that height. His great rival, the double World Champ Sam Hendrix not in Tokyo after missing the games due to a positive test with COVID-19.

The overwhelming favorite though, Deplantis getting the job done. By the way he did come close to setting another world record without childhood dream of his, John, is now a golden moment. And it's now been realized. Back to you.

VAUSE: And we are happy for him.

SNELL: We are.

VAUSE: More a great day, Patrick. Thank you. We appreciate that. We will take a short break. When we come back, a surge in community spread is in China approving its Sinovac vaccine for children. Details in a moment. Also the rights of the many versus the liberties of the few. The debate of vaccine mandates. That's also ahead.


VAUSE: With the growing outbreak of COVID infections, China is once again imposing tough pandemic restrictions. Including no entry by train or air to Beijing for travelers from cities with high rates of infections. And the homegrown Sinovac vaccine has been approved for use for children aged 12 or rather three to 17. That's right. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout live for us this hour in Hong Kong.

There have been some concerns over Sinovac and low efficacy in adults. Is there any data on just health activities for children?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, especially given this new announcement that in the midst of this highly contagious Delta variant outbreak in China, Chinese authorities have approved emergency use of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine for kids from the ages of three to 17. It's already gone through to rounds of trials in China. It is already started rolling out in cities across China including Chong Ching as well as Guangzhou.


STOUT: Earlier today I spoke to an epidemiologist and vaccine expert based in Hong Kong, of the Hong Kong University School of Medicine and asked him, you know, is this safe? Is this effective? Take a listen.


BEN COWLING, HEAD OF THE DIVISION, EPIDEMIOLOGY AND BIOSTATISTICS HONG KONG UNIVERSITY: The data that they've that they've reviewed to approve the vaccine show that it's safe and effective in children. In other parts of the world, children haven't been the highest priority because COVID is generally mild in children. The Delta variant changes it a little bit because we've seen children being more susceptible to the Delta variant and also being responsible for some transmission.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STOUT: Separately, the UAE has announced that it will start giving another Chinese-made vaccine to kids. The seiner form vaccine, it will start giving to kids aged three to 17. This in addition to the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine, that it's already distributing and administering to kids 12 and up. Back to you, John.

VAUSE: Thank you, Kristie Lu Stout live for us in Hong Kong. Well, a major milestone for the U.S. and the push for global vaccinations. President Joe Biden says the U.S. is on track to deliver more than 110 million doses to 65 countries. Another 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be donated to 100 low income countries. 200 million of those doses will be delivered this year, the rest will go out in the first half of next year.

This comes as the U.S. seeks to position itself as the global leader in helping to vaccinate the rest of the world.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These vaccine donations from America are free. We're not selling them. There are no demands, no conditions, no cores and attached and there's no favoritism and no strings attached. We're doing this to save lives and to end this pandemic. That's it. In fact, we're donating vaccines to countries that have real issues -- we have real issues with.

And we'll continue to give tens of millions of doses away across the summer, and work to increase U.S. manufacturing and manufacturing of vaccines around the world as well.


VAUSE: Here's where most of the vaccines have been delivered so far. Indonesia received the most eight million doses, followed by the Philippines, Colombia, South Africa and then Bangladesh. And more countries are tightening their COVID restrictions as the Delta variant drives a surge in new cases. Israel will now require travelers from the United States, Italy and France to quarantine on arrival.

So expanding the green pass systems require proof of vaccination, the gatherings of less than 100 people. France also looking to expand the digital health pass which provides vaccination status. It could soon be needed for access to all public venues that includes restaurants, bars, shopping centers. The country's Constitutional Council is expected to rule on this new measure. 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.


VAUSE: OK. So 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 (through translator): 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.


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 vaccinations. So how is this approach better than a government mandated vaccine?

CAPLAN: Well, I think we've got to 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 school shut down, make it hard to go to work. We have to do everything we can to make sure that people get vaccinated.

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 more. The unvaccinated posing direct risks to the health and well-being of the immunocompromised, the frail and the elderly and especially young children who cannot use be vaccinated.


VAUSE: The 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 right of the unvaccinated. None of this can happen if there is not a system of vaccine passports or health passes like you have in France which seems to be a non-starter in some U.S. state. And one of 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 a 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'll go into 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 is the honor system about who says they're vaccinated and who says they're not just doesn't work.

VAUSE: You know, the other argument make is that those who refuse vaccination when vaccine is readily available and they are 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. Any accident victim may face and unvaccinated individual who hospitalized someone else may be liable for hospital costs.

Potential loss 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.

When 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: Ahead here. An unexpected twist for the Belarusian Olympian seeking a safe haven. Where she is heading right now and what Olympic authorities have to say about the officials who allegedly tried to send her home against her will.

And Iran's already strained relationship with the West could get even more complicated. The country's new president prepares to take power. We'll have the latest from our correspondent in Tehran. Coming up.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause.

The International Olympic Committee is opening a disciplinary commission into alleged threats made by Belarusian officials to sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya. Olympic authorities want to hear directly from the two officials who allegedly try to send her home against her will after she publicly criticize the team's coach.


MARK ADAMS, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE SPOKESPERSON: The IOC is opening a disciplinary commission to establish the facts in this case, in the case of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, and to hear the two officials, Mr. Artur Shumak and Mr. Yuri Moisevich, who have been allegedly involved in this incident.


VAUSE: Confirmation there. A few hours ago, Tsimanouskaya arrived at Tokyo's Narita International Airport but did not aboard a flight for Warsaw, even though she had been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland.

Instead, Tsimanouskaya boarded a flight down for Vienna. What remains unknown is if she would travel on to Warsaw from there or stay in Austria, where she had trained for the Olympics.

Meantime, a prominent Belarusian dissident has been found hanged in a park near his home in Kiev. Vitaly Shishov led an organization which helped Belarusians fleeing persecution, begin new lives in Ukraine. A police investigation is underway to determine if his death was either murder or suicide.

Nick Paton Walsh has details.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): Another day, another dark episode for Belarusians. This time, an opposition activist found hanging from a tree in a park outside of Kiev. 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. Police said this can be characteristic of a onetime fall.

Were its Belarus' KGB, yes, they still call it at that there, it would be pretty much unprecedented for them to kill opponents abroad.

You can see in how riot police tackled peaceful protests, how the regime is at home, but it now seems broader abroad, forcing the landing of 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 but 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 SPRINTER: (INAUDIBLE) after my grandmother's call, because before this call, I think maybe I could come to home without problem, but when she called to me and she say about this situation is (INAUDIBLE), so after this, I decided the team in Belarus will meet, it will be dangerous. They would most likely grab me at the airport. I don't know, maybe a jail, maybe to a psychological hospital.

WALSH: Did you ever imagine this would happen when you posted the Instagram video on Friday?

TSIMANOUSKAYA: My trainer said 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: Do not be afraid. Always say you are opinion. We have to have freedom of speech and people must say what they think.

WALSH: All of this, the 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 woman, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 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 an exile.

SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: If the regime wants, they probably could reach everyone.

WALSH: What do you need the west to do right now?

TIKHANOVSKAYA: I think this is happening because the regime feels impunity. So it's our time to show teeth.

WALSH: Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: New details this hour about a possible maritime hijacking off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, the British Maritime Trade Agency reported a potential hijack was underway. Now, according to the same agency, the vessel is safe and those who boarded left. There had been no other details at this point.

But Iran has already denied any involvement in this incident. The U.S., Britain, Israel and Romania have accused Iran of carrying out a drone attack on a ship off Oman last week.

It comes as no snow surprise here but Iran's incoming president, Ebrahim Raisi, is striking a defiant tone towards the west. He's a hard-line conservative and he laid out some of his policy priorities on Tuesday ahead of his inauguration later this week.

A man in Tehran is CNN's Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran's political transition is nearly complete as the incoming hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, is officially accepted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi vowing to try and get sanctions on Iran lifted but not cooperate with countries, like the U.S.

We will definitely seek to eliminate and lift the tyrannical sanctions, he said. We will not make the people's livelihood conditional. We will not tie all these things to foreigners. We will definitely pursue the matters that are immediate issues for us and we are facing today.

Iran faces a multitude of immediate issues, the economy continues to struggle as tough sanctions put in place by the Trump administration continue to take their toll. Water shortages have recently led to demonstrations, some of them violent in parts of the country, with Iran's supreme leader saying he understands the protesters and that their demands need to be addressed.

Raisi vowing to tackle the matter. These matters have been detected, and I assure the people that the solutions have been delineated, and we have benefited from the views of experts and scholars, and this will be urgently dealt with.

Raisi will take office amid heightened tensions with the west. The U.S., Israel and the U.K. are blaming Iran for the drone attack on the Israeli-linked tanker, Mercer Street, an attack that killed two sailors from Britain and Romania.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are in a very close contact and coordination with the United Kingdom, Israel, Romania and other countries. And there will be a collective response.

PLEITGEN: Iran denies the allegations and is warning against any retaliation. The incoming administration in Tehran says it will get tougher on the U.S. while negotiations are continuing to try and revive the Iran nuclear agreement, Ebrahim Raisi has already shut down any direct talks with Washington. When asked at a recent press conference if he would speak with President Biden, he simply said, no.


PLEITGEN (on camera): Well, Iran's outgoing president, Hassan Rouhani, was eager to improve ties with the west. Iran's new president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, says under his conservative administration, Iran will act according to its own interests and try to become a self-reliant as possible.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

VAUSE: He became something of a hero during the early days of the pandemic for his direct, straight talk, but now, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is under pressure to resign after a state investigation confirmed allegations of sexual harassment.

11 women made those accusations, and all 11 were found credible by the state attorney general. President Joe Biden did not call for Cuomo to step down when the allegations surfaced months ago. Here is what he now told CNN's Kaitlan Collins.




COLLINS: And if he does not resign, do you believe he should be impeached and removed from office?

BIDEN: Let's take one thing at a time. I think he should resign.


VAUSE: Biden did not call for impeachment, but at least one of Cuomo's accusers has. Here's what she told CBS News.


CHARLOTTE BENNETT, CUOMO ACCUSER: If he is not willing to step down, then we have a responsibility to act and impeach him. He sexually harassed me. I am not confused. It is not confusing. I am living in reality and it's sad to see that he is not.


VAUSE: The New York State Assembly began an investigation back in March. The governor has denied the allegations. He said on Tuesday he's never made inappropriate sexual advances.


He released an 87-page rebuttal to the 26-page report.

Coming up next on CNN Newsroom, new calls for justice in Beirut, one year after deadly blast at the city's port, why are there no answers? Why has no one of official status been held accountable?

Also, Indonesia facing a shortage of medical oxygen amid the surge in COVID cases, why police are warning criminals are trying to take advantage of a crisis, in a moment.


VAUSE: One year since the deadly blast at Beirut's port, a Human Rights Watch says some government officials likely foresaw fatal risks posed by the large amount of chemicals stored there, and, quote, tacitly accepted the risk of death.

The rights group is calling for an international investigation into the explosion, and says evidence shows multiple authorities were, at minimum, criminally negligent. This as Beirut remembers the victims of thousands who were killed and wounded, the hundreds of thousands left homeless by a blast so powerful, it was felt almost 250 kilometers felt away in Cypress.

The official investigation remains stalled, even though Lebanon's president said Tuesday, he fully supports an impartial investigation.


MICHEL AOUN, LEBANESE PRESIDENT: Our martyrs cry out for conscience and the eyes of the world are staring at us. And the challenge facing the judicial investigator and the judiciary is to reveal the truth, conduct a trial and issue a fair judgment in an unacceptable period of time, because justice delivered late is not justice.


VAUSE: Last hour, I spoke with Nazih Osseiran. He reports on Lebanon and Syria for The Wall Street Journal. He joined me from a neighborhood hit hard by that explanation.

I asked him about the protests which are expected in the coming hours.


NAZIH OSSEIRAN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I expect the protest today to be big, we expect them to be a bit violent. People are very angry at the establishment politicians for failing to provide accountability and justice this past year.

But more important, I think, and I was talking to Alexander's (ph) dad yesterday, and he made this point, which was these protests are very much a sign of solidarity. The Lebanese have been going through a very, very difficult year, being part of one of the worst crisis in the past 150 years.

So these protests today are also really about solidarity, about people showing each others that they are there for each other, that they are not alone, because even though 200 people were killed thousands were injured, the entire country is traumatized. So you have 5 million traumatized. So these protests are really about healing and also demanding accountability.

VAUSE: Yes. And one of the reasons why there is so much anger there is because there has been no real government investigation. A Human Rights Watch has actually done their own, finding a number of senior officials, including then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab and the director of security, Tony Saliba, were the first told on the evening of June 3rd about the chemicals. That was two months before the blast.


They were told the chemicals where at the port/

Here is more now from Human Rights Watch. Listen to this.

AYA MAJZOUB, RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Caretaker, Prime Minister Hassan Diab told us that on the same evening, he requested that state security finalize and send him the report within days, but that Saliba told us that Diab did not ask for such a report.

Diab then told us, I then forgot about it and nobody followed up. There are disasters every day.

VAUSE: There are disasters every day, but not like this one. So, finding the people responsible does not seem to be particularly hard. So what is stalling the government investigation even though there is a new government in place?

OSSEIRAN: So far, more than two dozen people have been arrested in relation to the explosion, but most of these are very much low-level employees. Ministers, security officials, former prime ministers have not been taken in for questioning. And the reason legal watchdogs say is because these people control the levers of power.

And the Human Rights Watch report has been spot on. Almost all concerned city officials knew about the presence of these explosive substances but all of them failed to act in time

VAUSE: And it appears that not and all of the ammonium nitrate, which was delivered to the port, exploded. Reuters is reporting the FBI's October 7, 2020 report, estimates around 552 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded that day, much less than the 2,754 tons that arrived on a Russian-leased cargo ship in 2013.

Yet, the bit that exploded about 20 percent of the initial amount, which leads to a couple of questions, what happened to the other 2,200 tons of nitrate? Where could it be? Was it stolen? And how much worst could the devastation had been if the entire amount went up?

OSSEIRAN: So, these questions kind of speak to the ambiguity of the investigation. Here we are a year later still raising all of these questions, which we do not have concrete answers for. We don't know that the ammonium nitrate, the remaining part of it that didn't explode just kind of flew off in the explosion and the (INAUDIBLE) of definition. We don't know for sure if it was stolen and made its way to Syria and was used in manufacturing explosives there. We don't know if it was stolen and then taken and sold on the black market. We still have all of these very open, essential questions that are unanswered questions.

But is for sure is that the fatalities would have been much higher rate had the entire amount went up. And also it's kind of a miracle, like coincidence, that the fatalities weren't much higher because of the 500 tons that went up. Because had the port been just a little bit higher, had the (INAUDIBLE) wheat silos then placed just a bit differently, then that blast would have stretched a much wider area and causing a lot more damage.

Military intelligence officials I interviewed at the time estimated that something like 6,000 people would have been killed had the port been just a bit higher or the silos placed differently.


VAUSE: And CNN's connect the world will have stories of dignity, courage and hope, as Lebanon marks one year since the port explosion. Our special report today at 6:00 P.M. in Beirut, 4:00 P.M. in London.

To Indonesia now, and a month-long surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant has overwhelmed health care workers, and according to Johns Hopkins University, the highest number of infections since the pandemic began.

The health ministry in Indonesia reported Monday though the peak has passed, but as CNN Indonesia's Yudi Yudawan reports, there is still a desperate shortage of medical oxygen.


YUDI YUDAWAN, CNN INDONESIA ANCHOR (voice over): A devastating second wave of coronavirus left Indonesia gasping for breath with a rise in demand for oxygen. Price manipulation, forgery and related crime have risen too.

DEONIJIU DE FATIMA, TANGERANG METRO POLICE DEPARTMENT: People really need oxygen. So, a suspected drug dealer took to selling fire extinguishers disguised as oxygen cylinders online at higher prices than a regular oxygen cylinder.

YUDAWAN: Police a 26-year-old sold this fake oxygen cylinder online at ten times the usual market price. This went in for ten months.

FATIMA: The profits he garnered ran into dozens of millions of Indonesian rupiah.

YUDAWAN: The government has formed a committee to look into such crimes. For now though, it downplays their impact.

SITI NADIA TARMIZI, SPOKESPERSON, INDONESIAN MINISTRY OF HEALTH: The oxygen, I don't think really is a big issue in Indonesia. There is one thesis I think in some area, but it has been investigated by the police.

YUDAWAN: But optimism is sorely lacking in the long queues for oxygen across the nation's capital, Jakarta. HERY WARDHANA, JAKARTA RESIDENT: I have three family members infected, my uncle and two aunts. It's hard to find oxygen. You have to look everywhere, queue up for hours and hours.


It's difficult and always out of stock.

EKA, JAKARTA RESIDENT: The price has skyrocketed. Sometimes after queuing for five to six hours, you are told that oxygen has run out.

YUDAWAN: In early July, this hospital nearly ran out of the life- saving gas. More than 60 people died there over two days. One of the victims was 67 years old, Sukini.

JOHNNY, LOST HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW DUE TO LACK OF OXYGEN: How can my mother-in-law die? We don't believe it.

YUDAWAN: Her son-in-law, Johnny speaks of the shock.

JOHNNY: I believe it was the lack of oxygen. When the device sounded, her condition began to deteriorate.

YUDAWAN: Desperation for oxygen has not only hit COVID patients and their families, it has also left others stranded, like Indah, whose father died of bronchitis when her search for oxygen failed 13 hours.

INDAH, LOST HER FATHER DUE TO LACK OF OXYGEN: When my father was sick, it was very difficult for us to find oxygen, either cylinder or to refill. All family members were looking for oxygen for my father.

YUDAWAN: With the health care system stretched, volunteer efforts like this one have come up across the country. They lend oxygen cylinder for those isolating at home due to a lack of beds. The idea is similar to renting a car. Cylinders are giving out on oxygen and borrowers are expected to refill before returning them. If they can't, then they can return them empty.

For some, schemes like this are blessings but they have their limitations too.

YAYAH SUHARLIM, CHAIRWOMAN, WANDANI, BANTEN PROVINCE: There were times when patients needed these cylinders but we couldn't help because of all of them were lend out. I was really sad and could not sleep at all that night. The reality is so bitter. As an Indonesian, I felt really sad.

YUDAWAN: Despite those limitations, charitable schemes such as this stand in stark contrast to those looking to make a quick buck.

Yudi Yudawan, CNN, Indonesia.


VAUSE: New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination for a variety of indoor settings. Come September 13th, proof of at least one shot will be needed enter restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms. So far, just half of the city's residents have been fully vaccinated. New York's mayor is saying the mandate may be extended to other businesses as well.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): So, let me tell you, the whole ball game is vaccination. The delta variant is bearing down on all of us. Unless we want to go back to restrictions and the horrible, horrible impact that COVID had on our families, we got to get serious. That means vaccination

Only one thing will stop the delta variant, vaccination on a much higher level. So, it's time for mandates. The voluntary approaches were great, the incentives were great, mandates are what are going to really work now.


VAUSE: Still to come here, the Tokyo Olympics and the first ever of the modern era Japan spectators, but decided those empty stadiums might just be no more at the Velodrome outside of Tokyo in the next few hours. We will explain why, up next on CNN Newsroom.



VAUSE: American Sydney McLaughlin has broken the world record in the women's 400-meter hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics. Dalilah Muhammad, who won gold in Rio, was placed second. The men's record in the same event also fell on Tuesday.


And host nation Japan took the top two spots in the women's skateboarding park event, the silver and bronze medalist, 12 and 13 years old respectively. China, the United States and Japan leading the gold medal counts so far with the U.S. ahead in total medals.

More than 1,000 spectators will be on hand for the men's team pursuit cycling event, a rare sight during the Tokyo Olympic Games. CNN's Blake Essig is there. Here he is.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Izu Velodrome behind me is one of five Olympic venues allowing limited spectators across the country and the only enclosed venue to do so, that is because no state emergency order has been declared here in Shizuoka prefecture. And because of that, fans are allowed to watch track cycling, cheering on the athletes.

Now, there are only three prefectures were events are being held across the country that aren't under a state of emergency and have decided to allow a limited number of spectators. But those venues will only be allowed to half capacity, not exceed 10,000 people. Well, for the event today at Izu Velodrome, that seats 3,600 people. Because of COVID restrictions, only total of about 1,800 seats can be filled. But the total number of people who actually show up will likely be much less than that. That is because tens of thousands of people who had tickets to events were spectators were allowed have asked for refunds.

And while COVID-19 remains a huge concern, some lucky fans couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience these Olympic Games in person.

Blake Essig, CNN, Izu.

VAUSE: And we'll finish with new research which has found Machu Picchu in Peru is older than we've previously thought. A study published in the journal, Antiquity, found the famous Inca citadel was occupied from around 1420 to 1530 A.D. That's decades earlier than what historians previously believed.

The researchers used radio carbon dating to come to this conclusion. They say it's a lot more reliable than historical records written by the Spanish conquerors.

Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. CNN Newsroom continues after a very short break with Rosemary Church.