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Taliban is Rapidly Gaining Ground; Health Pass Required to Visit French Cafes, Restaurants and Long Distance Trains. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 9, 2021 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. Coming up here on the program, the Taliban gaining ground rapidly. Several provincial capitals, including a major city, falling to the militants.

An Olympic unlike any other comes to a close. New records, empty stadiums, and the spirit of camaraderie on full display in Tokyo. And apocalyptic scenes out of Greece, wildfires ravage the country as thousands fleeing for their lives.

The Taliban now control most of at least four provincial capitals in Afghanistan, underscoring how heavily Afghan government forces have relied on U.S. military power to hold back the militants. The Taliban's relentless push kicking into high gear when U.S. forces and other international forces began their withdrawals in May. They seized rural areas first, but now they're going after bigger cities.

A local official says most of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan fell on Sunday. Taliban video, which can't be verified, purports to show a government compound after the militants took over. Nick Paton Walsh with more now on the string of major setbacks or Afghan forces.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: An unprecedentedly bad 72 hours for Afghan Security Forces and their government. Startling to see the first big city fall to the Taliban since the U.S. began their withdrawal. There is still fighting going on there. We understand Afghan Security Forces trying to push the Taliban out of that major city. They've been successful twice in the last six years when the insurgency overran it for a brief period of time, but Kunduz fell after an awful 72 hours for the Afghan government.

They lost their first provincial capitals around near the border with Iran on Friday, and two others appear to have fallen, possibly another as well bringing to a total of five that may be under threat by the Taliban. All have fallen to them in the last 72 hours. And I think the concern is that this is a sign of the momentum the insurgency have.

Taliban have been quite powerful in rural areas that are less populated. That's where they found themselves easily - more easily able to gain territory, but it's been cities that the Afghan government have focused their security forces on. And if we now as we see in the last few days begin to see those cities fall to the Taliban, the concern possibly is that security forces will now feel overstretched, that feel the efforts they put into some cities and not rewarded with them still being held by the government.

There's intense fighting going on in Lashkar Gah in the south, in the province of Helmand, the place where many American and NATO soldiers have lost their lives. And so, the concern I think possibly is the sense of Afghan Security Forces maybe being overstretched at some point in the days and months ahead.

U.S. airstrikes in the past have successfully held the Taliban back when they move into urban areas. It's so much harder to use them when the Taliban and the fighting against them is happening in densely- populated areas, too. The U.S. saying they have been using airstrikes in the recently fighting.

The Taliban whose track record themselves of civilian causalities is appalling, accusing them of, in fact, possibly airstrikes having hit civilian targets. That's something the U.S. hasn't directly commented on, but startling, though, to see the pace in which these four possibly five key cities, including Kunduz, the first major city, seen to be falling to the Taliban.

It is possibly reversible, but certainly the sense of this momentum behind the insurgency something which is new, possibly unprecedented for the last 20 years. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Now as Nick just reported, the Taliban offensive has led to a troubling number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. According to the United Nations more than 1,600 civilians were killed in the armed conflict in the first half of the year. That's the highest number of civilian casualties since 2018 for the same time period. And the U.N. warning the number of deaths could rise even further as the Taliban sets its sights on more Afghan cities.


Joining me now from Brisbane, Australia is Peter Layton. He's a Visiting Fellow with the Griffith Asia Institute. Thanks for being with us, Dr. Layton. I want to show people a long ward (ph) journal map of Taliban control, which shows the speed with which the Taliban have swept the country. And as we watch this map turn red, you can see exactly how quickly it's happened. What is happening in this hugely significant city of Kunduz as well? When you see what's unfolded are you in any way surprised or was this entirely predictable after the west pulled out?

PETER LAYTON, VISITING FELLOW, GRIFFITH ASIA INSTITUTE: I'm certainly very surprised at the - at the - at the speed of it. I would suggest the speed of it indicates that the Taliban has been - has been planning this probably for about 12 months and that they've received reasonable amount of support from, say, Pakistan in terms of provision of the vehicles and weaponry. And the Taliban are at the present time following a script if you'd like, and they're moving remarkably quickly.

HOLMES: What - from what you're seeing, what is the trajectory of events? And is there any way for the Taliban to be stopped? I mean, what happens if the north of the country is lost?

LAYTON: Of course, if we sort of go back sort of 20 years ago when the west intervened in the Afghan Civil War, the coalition forces intervened on behalf of the anti-Taliban forces who occupied about 10 percent of the northern part of the country.

The Taliban are clearly trying to close off that loophole. So we are moving towards a situation we'll have the Taliban versus the anti- Taliban forces, which will be the government and the war lords. Sort of bearing in mind this is a civil war, so this is a war for the people if you like. It just depends how many Afghans supports the Afghan government or support the Taliban. And at this point (ph) -


HOLMES: What is - what is really concerning, too, is far from the Taliban separating themselves from Al-Qaeda as they promised the U.S. they would do they are in many places fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Al-Qaeda. What are the risks you see of terror bases, Al-Qaeda, or for that matter ISIS being reestablished on Afghan soil?

LAYTON: I think very high. The question is who will their targets be? The trouble for Pakistan is that now Pakistan has really tied itself to the Taliban. If the Taliban start launching terrorist attacks out of Afghanistan the world will be concerned, but there's also not just Pakistan but China and Russia as well are providing support for the Taliban at forums like the U.N. sursur (ph) and security council.

So you have a difficult situation where you almost have a proxy arm here if you like of terrorist groups. It will be interesting to see sort of what Chain, Pakistan, and to a certain extent Russia do about reining those (inaudible) in.

HOLMES: Well also you've got some of those countries that have supported the Taliban and encourage them, and now might get blowback from them. You raise an interesting point, the risk of regional instability with the Taliban takeover. You got India and Pakistan competing for influence. You point out China and Iran and Russia. They've got their own interests. Do they face risks of blowback with the Taliban rule of Afghanistan next door?

LAYTON: I'm assuming that the Pakistanis will be trying to encourage the Taliban toward striking into India and in particular into Kashmir. So there are certainly dangers there of a renewed Pakistan-India conflict sort of downstream say 12-18 months time.

HOLMES: The U.S. has said before that the Taliban want to rejoin the international community, travel freely and so on, and so would negotiate and share power. Well clearly that's nonsense and was a pretty naive approach. There doesn't seem to be any sign of them doing that. Do you think the Taliban care what the world thinks, the western world in particular?

LAYTON: I don't think they care what the western world thinks, but they - but they will care to a certain degree what Pakistan thinks. The question is how much Pakistan can control the Taliban.

HOLMES: You know, one other thing I wanted to ask you, do you think that there is a risk for the Taliban domestically that having gotten their chief demand, which is the departure of foreign forces, that their continuing fight and the killing of fellow Afghans might backfire on them in terms of whatever grassroots support they have? They're killing their own people.

LAYTON: That's the sort of great hope I would suppose. As I said, this is a - this is a civil war for the people.


If a large enough number of the Afghan people don't want the Taliban, then the Taliban may be able to quickly conquer the suds in boots (ph) sort of approach, but then - but then so holding ground may get - may get more and more difficult. Bear in mind, of course, nations like India and even the U.S. may do as before and perhaps arm anti-Taliban forces.

HOLMES: And will those groups attack within China, which has its own rescued Muslim population as well? Dr. Peter Layton, a lot to talk about, a lot unfolding as we speak. Really appreciate you joining us from Brisbane there.

LAYTON: Thank you very much, Michael. Always.

HOLMES: French cafes, restaurants, and long-distance trains are now off limits to those without the controversial health pass. The government is expanding the list of restrictions to try to contain a fourth COVID wave. People must be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test, or show that they've recovered from COVID in order to get the health pass, but the measure continues to be met with anger and resistance among some. For the fourth straight weekend, hundreds of thousands protesting the health pass around the country as well as a new mandate for caregivers to get vaccinated.

Across the Asia Pacific region many people are back in lockdown, health systems being pushed to their limits due to, of course, the Delta variant. Cities in China rolling out mass testing and imposing lockdowns with case numbers ticking up. The country reporting 125 new infections on Monday, most of them locally transmitted.

Vietnam saw a record number of new cases Sunday, almost 9,700 according state-run news. All but six of those cases locally transmitted. And on Sunday, the Philippines posted its highest daily death toll since early April. New infections soaring there, and Manila under strict lockdown.

Let's get the latest on all of this from our Steven Jiang who joins me now live from Beijing. Steven, let's start with where you are - China. What is the latest on the cases and what's being done?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well Michael, that's right. You mentioned the latest figure, but of course the one member everybody is paying attention to is new locally transmitted case, and that number was 102 recorded on Sunday. Still pales in comparison to what we are seeing I many parts of the world, but in this country this is simply unacceptable because of the government's insistence on its zero tolerance approach to locally transmitted cases. And we are increasingly seeing officials at the local level being punished or even sacked whenever a new cluster of locally transmitted cases emerge in their jurisdictions.

I think that's why across the country you see local officials adopt evermore stringent policies in terms of even more rounds of mass testing, more extensive contact tracing, and increasingly draconian lockdown measures as well as travel restrictions especially in and out of the capital city, Beijing, which, of course, happens to be the host of the Winter Olympics, which is only six months away.

Now there have been some questions or even subtle hints from Chinese experts that a government may want to rethink the long-term sustainability of this policy, try to coexist with the virus, but that notion has now been thoroughly and harshly rejected through a series of state media editorials or commentaries over the weekend with a former health minister, for example, saying that any suggestion that China should learn or take a page from western governments' approach is just ridiculous, pointing to their failures as well as the erroneous that wrong (ph) had a notion of individual liberties trumping everything else.

And this minister - former minister said if anything Chinese government authorities should not only stick to its current approach but strengthen their measures, including border closures. So do not expect to see any international spectators to the Games at this stage, and even reporters and athletes coming in to respect a very stringent quarantine requirement as well as a bubble requirement, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Not far away now. I wanted to ask you regionally - the whole region is being hit so hard by the Delta variant, and vaccination rates are low - really low in some countries in the region and the spread is fast. What about the outlook regionally?

JIANG: That's right. This is an increasingly alarming picture as you say countries especially in southeast Asia - Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and especially Vietnam having reporting record-high number of daily cases. And that, of course, as you mentioned corresponds to their very low rate of vaccination usually staying in the single digit. And that is a trend, a situation that is not likely to change any time soon, and that's also why we are seeing many countries, their already very stretched healthcare system, medical facilities being pushed to the brink.


In Malaysia, for example, last week you see thousands of doctors and nurses went on strike to protest over the conditions at their hospitals even at the same time a lot of the governments in the region have extended, reintroduced, or strengthened their COVID containment measures from quarantine requirements to travel restrictions. Michael -

HOLMES: All right, Steven Jiang. Good - great round up there. Thanks so much. Appreciate it there in Beijing. Now an alarming reality here in the United States where COVID numbers are skyrocketing, erasing months of progress in containing the virus.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. is averaging more than a 100,000 cases a day, largely driven by the Delta variant and the unvaccinated. Those are the highest numbers in nearly six months. And while vaccinations have been ticking up a little recently, only a little more than half the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and health experts say it is taking a heavy toll.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We would not be in the place where are right now with this Delta surge if we'd been more effective in getting everybody to take advantage of these immunizations, and now we're paying a terrible price as the cases go up quickly.


HOLMES: As of a few minutes ago, people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated now have one more option when it comes to leaving their country, but as Paula Newton explains it does not work both ways.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's official now, and despite the rising incidents of the coronavirus in the United States, Canada has now reopened its border to fully-vaccinated Americans and U.S. residents. That is the first time in more than 16 months, and there are family reunions and Americans who haven't seen their Canadian properties in months. They can now cross at the land border, but what's interesting here is that the Biden administration has not reciprocated.

If you are Canadian and you are travelling for non-essential reasons our can't cross at the land border, although in what is functioned more like a loophole, Canadians have been able to go to the United States by air since the pandemic started. Canada itself is now dealing with what Canada's top doctor, Theresa Tam, says is the beginning of a fourth wave. The level of vaccination in Canada is now so high that many public health officials say it is time to safely reopen the border, and that begins with fully-vaccinated Americans. Fully- vaccinated international visitors should be able to enter Canada in September. Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.

HOLMES: All right, quick break. When we come back, Tokyo puts out the Olympic flame after wrapping up the Summer Games that were truly one of a kind. We're live in Japan coming up. Also wildfires raging in Greece, destroying thousands of hectares of pristine forest and displacing entire villages of people. We'll have the latest when we come back.



Fireworks there marking the end of the Summer Games in Tokyo after the pandemic forces a one-year delay in the 2020 Games. And with COVID still very much in the spotlight, these were, of course, and Olympics unlike any other. For just two weeks, athletes competed in events that played out without spectators as organizers worked to prevent an outbreak. When it was all said and done Team USA headed home with the most hold medals and more medals than any other country for the third straight Summer Olympics.

Let's head straight out to Tokyo now where we find our CNN's Blake Essig standing by. Let's start with the - with the closing ceremony. We knew it wasn't going to be like a normal one, but give us a sense of how it went.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Michael, despite being somewhat restrained it was still a moving ceremony. Of course, it wasn't the closing ceremony we're used to and definitely not the closing ceremony that anyone wanted, but that's been the reality of these Games from the start that were held in the middle of a global pandemic.

I was one of the local few to be inside the stadium and witness the closing ceremony in person. Like every event I attended throughout these Games it was a surreal experience to sit inside the 68,000 seat stadium seemingly alone and watch the celebration of sport, the fireworks, the parade of nations, the athletes. It was honestly strange.

It was strange to watch thousands of athletes come out onto the field waving flags and waving to a couple hundred journalists in the stands. Now don't get me wrong, it was an absolute amazing experience, something I'm never going to forget, but throughout the night I couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like to have experienced that moment alongside the people of Japan.

Now Michael, it's honestly heartbreaking. Yes, there were incredible sporting achievements and amazing moments that reminded us what these Olympic Games are all about, but this was not the Olympic Games anyone wanted and definitely not the Olympic Games that the people of Japan deserved.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. Now that it's over I'm curious of your take. Did you - did you see any change in how the Japanese people felt about the Games, whether the reward was in the end worth the risk?

ESSIG: Yes. You know, Michael, the mood really shifted almost immediately once competition got underway. There was a desire by a lot of people to experience the Games in any way possible. We saw people constantly gathering outside of competition venues, alongside race routes, and still today right here outside the Olympic rings. There's about a 30-meter long line of people just waiting to take a picture with the Olympic rings. That has been a constant theme throughout these Games.

Of course, winning can also help change attitudes and generate excitement. We saw a lot of wonderful moments during competition. Japan did extremely well at these Games winning 27 gold medals. That's 11 more than Japan had won at any other Olympic Games ever before, and it's important to remember, though, at the same time the health and safety concerns that led to the unpopularity of Tokyo 2020.

That hasn't changed, and while the people of Japan came out to support the athletes, the circumstances in which these Games were held has left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Michael -

HOLMES: Yes. Well put. Appreciate it, Blake, and thanks for all of your efforts over the last few weeks. You can go home and see the wife and kids now. Thanks, Blake.

CNN Sports Analyst, Christine Brennan, joins me now from Tokyo, and she's also a sports columnist for USA Today. Great to see you. Look, we spoke at the start at of these Games, so it seems fitting to bookend it with another chat. So obviously the atmosphere was always going to be different with these Games, perhaps even problematic. Was it as you expected or more or less so?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I think as we expected, Michael, there really weren't surprises in the sense that we knew there would be no fans and there were no fans. Some arenas and stadiums were more cavernous feeling than others. I spent the first week at the swimming venue, and with all the teams - you know, so you would have the Australian team, the U.S. team, Chinese team, Great Britain, et cetera cheering on their swimmers. There actually was some sound in the arena, and you did have a sense that there were people there.

And also when the performances are excellent, when the races are great really the only people who could save these Games were the athletes, and time and time again they really did in terms of on the field of play. And in that sense it did seem like a real Olympics.


BRENNAN: In most other ways it wasn't, but certainly there was - there was that sense the athletes tried to save the Games.

HOLMES: Yes, and I know you talked to them all. What did the athletes tell you about their experience, what it meant to them, how different it was? Could it be as special as a normal Olympics?


BRENNAN: You know, almost to a woman and man, Michael, they were so appreciative of having the opportunity at all that they would take whatever they got. So many athletes from Katie Ledecky to Caeleb Dressel to Lilly King, American swimmers, the Australian swimmers, Ariarne Titmus, they were - they had no idea that this was actually going to happen. They've lived the last year and, what, almost year and a half as we all have, but this is their dream, and they had no clue if this long wake would end in an Olympic Games.

And so, to have that happen, which they knew obviously a few months going in they knew it was going to happen, I think that that's - that was the overriding thought, and they left as appreciative as any group of athletes I've ever seen.

HOLMES: Athletic highlights for you?

BRENNAN: Certainly swimming just because I was there for that first week and it's nothing but races and medals and anthems and Katie Ledecky, as I mentioned, just coming back at 24, two golds, two silver, Caeleb Dressel, five gold for the Americans, and the Australian women were just amazing in the pool. Certainly Allyson Felix comes to mind, the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete ever at 35 who's also fought for working moms and equal pay. Allyson Felix, the American runner getting that gold in the women's 4 by 400 relay.

I would say also the Simone Biles story. I mean, that - who would have thought she would leave with a silver and a bronze and we would be talking about her in such glowing terms, but the way she brought that mental health conversation to the - to the front and to the floor was remarkable and will be obviously remembered for generations to come.

HOLMES: I wanted to ask you, though, despite the pandemic, too, I mean, for Japan they did so well. I mean, they really outperformed expectations. Wouldn't you agree?

BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. They had a great Olympics.


BRENNAN: It happened in the pool. It happened all over. They were just - they were really - they had a great Games. Often this does happen with the host nation because once you get the Games seven or eight years beforehand, usually the host country will ramp up. They will throw money into youth sports. They will - we saw with Canada in Vancouver in 2010. We saw it with Russia in Sochi in 2014. We have seen it over even Seoul in Korea back in 1988.

Over and over again nations decide just for pride that they want to really have a great Games, and they will - the government or whomever - will throw money in to try to develop those young athletes in time, and that happened in Japan, and they were great. There was some real pressure on the Japanese swimmers and runners and, you know, all the - the karate, judo.

So there was pressure because they knew the eyes of their nation were on them. You know, surveys have said that 90 percent of the Japanese population watched at least some of the Olympic Games. They couldn't buy in, they couldn't buy tickets. They couldn't be there, but they still watched, and I think they watched with pride as their countrymen and women really had an excellent Olympics.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. I think I will always remember the skateboarding 13-year-olds who were the happiest competitors I've ever seen, and the two high jumpers, the Italian and I think the Qatari who shared the goal. They were my little highlights. I wish we had more time, but we don't. They're cutting us off here. Christine Brennan, always a pleasure. Great to see you there in Tokyo doing a great job.

BRENNAN: Michael, my pleasure. Thank you.

HOLMES: Coming up here on the program, Greece suffering from extreme heat and dry winds, making it incredibly hard for firefighters to get control of devastating wildfires. We'll find out whether any relief is insight after the break.



HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Firefighters are struggling to put out wildfires in Greece. These images are from the island of Evia where uncontrolled flames have forced thousands of people to flee their homes. One evacuee says it is, quote, "like a horror movie."

Greece has been battling major wildfires since early August, spurred on by the country's worst heat wave in three decades. At least one person has died. Dozens of homes and businesses destroyed.

Let's talk more about the extreme heat driving these fires with meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri. Pedram --

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLGIST: Michael, you know were going on 12 days now across portions of southeastern Europe where excessive heat and, of course, the dry conditions have culminated in what we're seeing here across the beautiful island of Evia.

As you noted some people saying this is just like a horror movie. And if you've seen images of Evia, if you get done with the segment and kind of get online and look at the images it is one of the beautiful places in the world. And if you ever make a trip out to Greece is the area you kind of dream about making a visit to. About 80 kilometers north of Athens, but the perspective has really been heartbreaking in recent days with the second largest island in Greece.

We know thousands of hectares consumed. Thousands have already been evacuated as this forest here takes on the brunt of what has been happening, and really an international effort here. We've had countries such as Cyprus and to France, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the United States not only send firefighting efforts but also aircraft to help with what has been happening in recent days.

And the broader picture shows you it is not just Greece. It is not just Turkey. Much of Europe, especially in the southern half of the continent dealing with wildfires over the last several weeks, so the concern continues.

You notice when it comes to fire activity around the worlds 96 percent are human induced. Whether it's unintentional or deliberate it's about 96 percent that humans are directly responsible for. 4 percent are generally the lightning strike variety is what is the natural variety when it comes to lightning strikes but - and fires, but globally speaking since the 19th century we know Earth's air temperature has warmed up by about 1 degree Celsius. Sea surface temperatures have warmed up by about 0.8 degrees Celsius. The reason that is important is because the oceans are mother nature's air conditioning that essentially absorb additional heat, additional CO2. And that energy when the ocean is already warming, essentially less energy can be absorbed, and that leads to additional wildfire activity, additional drought kind of feeds into itself.

Notice in 2021 156 percent of normal, Michael. 220,000 hectares of land have been consumed across Europe. About 142,000 hectares of land is what is average for wildfire activity to consume, and you'll notice that is well above where it should be for this time of the year. So an incredible here with what has been happening in recent days.

HOLMES: Yes. It's not as if the planet isn't warming - waning us. Pedram, thank you. Pedram Javaheri there.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well next leader of the U.N. climate talks warns that the world is on the brink of catastrophe. That comment from British Conservative M.P., Alok Sharma, comes before the intergovernmental panel on climate change that's due to release its latest assessment. He adds that we simply cannot afford to wait.

Now we'll show you two satellite photographs that starkly illustrate the effects of the climate crisis on our planet. What you're seeing there is Lake Oroville, the second largest reservoir in California. You can see the photo on the left is from June 2020, the one on the right from last - this month. State officials blame a drought created by what they call accelerated climate change.

Now those severe drought conditions are also fueling devastating wildfires in the western U.S. More than 100 wildfires currently burning across the country. The largest by far, the Dixie fire in northern California. It is now the second largest fire in state history scorching nearly 2,000 square kilometers.


And the drought isn't just making these fires worse. It's also making it harder for local farms to earn a living. CNN's Dan Simon reports on that.


JOE DEL BOSQUE, FARMER: When we're harvesting cantaloupe, what we're looking for is this golden color that you see right there.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's harvest season at Joe Del Bosque's farm in central California. These organic cantaloupes picked from the fields at the peak of perfection.

DEL BOSQUE: Take that little piece and give it a taste.

SIMON: Delicious.

DEL BOSQUE: Isn't it?

SIMON: Really good.

DEL BOSQUE: This is - this is what we grow here.

SIMON: But growing has become increasingly difficult as the California drought crisis intensifies and water becomes even more scarce.

You've been a farmer your entire life. Is this the worst you've ever seen it?

DEL BOSQUE: This is the worst. I have trouble sleeping sometimes because I just don't know if we're going to have enough water to get to the end.

SIMON: Faced with dwindling water, Delbaske already made the painful decision in the spring to destroy his asparagus fields. The moment captured on this video.

DEL BOSQUE: And so, it was a difficult decision to make, and I decided to destroy the asparagus to save the melons.

SIMON: But now there's a new and even bigger concern. His cash crop melons that aren't ready for harvest still need water, and there's no assurance he'll have enough.

DEL BOSQUE: In the past we had water reductions but we knew how m much water we were going to get, and this year we have water reductions but we don't even know if we're going to get that.

SIMON: He's far from alone. Just this week California regulators cut off thousands of farmers from their main irrigation channels of rivers and streams to ensure the state has ample drinking water and to protect endangered fish. It comes as nearly half of the state is an exceptional drought, the most severe category.

From raging fires to depleted reservoirs, Lake Oroville, the state's second largest, has seen its level fall to a historic low, causing its hydroelectric power plant to be knocked offline, the first time in history.

GAVIN NEWSOM, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Reality at the end of the day is we need to approach things differently. We need to acknowledge that the hots are getting a lot hotter and the dries are getting drier.

DEL BOSQUE: Years ago we should have seen this coming because we've been in terrible droughts now for 12 years.

SIMON: Del Bosque says for too long state leaders have failed to come up with better water solutions. He says the far he started 36 years ago in hopes to pass along to his children suddenly feels vulnerable. DEL BOSQUE: I was a farm worker myself. I worked in this field driving a tractor, pulling trailers, so this is kind of like my American dream right here, and I hate to see it lost like that when it's something out of my control.


HOLMES: The planet is warning us. The Winter Games in Beijing are just around the corner, and China under growing pressure as it looks to make a big impression on the world stage. We'll have that after the break.



JACK FORSTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HODINKEE: The Royal Audemars Piguet (ph) is the world's first stainless steel luxury sports watch.

ANDREW MCUTCHEN, FOUNDER, TIME and TIDE WATCHES: Famous watch designer, Gerald Genta, drew inspiration from a deep sea diver's helmet, which had an octagonal shape as well as riveted screws around the design.

FORSTER: It sold for around $3,000 when it was first released in 1972, and you know, this was considered both by the industry and by the general watch-buying public as just a piece of an explicable insanity. You know, you just didn't charge that for a stainless steel watch.

And not only did they not go out of business. It has gone on to become the single most important watch commercially and aesthetically for Audemars Piguet. They're avidly collected, and yes. They are icons of modern watch design. It's gone on to become one of the most successful wrist watches of all time.



HOLMES: After a successful showing at the Summer Games, China hoping to build on that momentum when it hosts the Winter Games in Beijing now less than six months away.


Yes. A whole new Olympics in six months, but with that spotlight also comes with new pressure and scrutiny on the communist regime. CNN's David Culver reports.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A surge of Chinese pride in Tokyo. China's athletes bringing home the second highest number of gold medals, just narrowly using to the United States but setting the world stage for a fierce competition in February's Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. China hoping for a show stopping repeat of 2008.

That was China's ceremonial stepping out onto the world stage hosting a Summer Olympics in Beijing and a moment many expected would lead to a further opening up of the country. The Games were a mesmerizing production revealing China's potential to rival the west in both athletic competition and beyond.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: This competition is going to be one of the central challenges of this century.

CULVER: But since 2008 under the ruling communist party and its increasingly powerful leader, Xi Jinping, the people's republic has not only seen its economy soar but also a rapid build up and flexing of its military and cyber might, making countries like the U.S. increasingly uneasy.

In less than six months the Olympics are set to return to Beijing, and you can expect China to impress once again starting with its hardware. CNN was recently invited to visit some of the Olympic venues. China building big and fast well ahead of schedule.

Look around. You've got the buildings up. The brandings up inside. They're pretty much done. The only thing they're waiting on are the athletes.

Dramatic backdrops for the events with sweeping mountain views. Of course as you look out the venue's going to look at bit different come winter. This will all ideally be covered in white.

Italian engineers working years in advance to bring the snowy Alps to Asia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we can control the quality of the snow.

CULVER: And China making a big environmental promise. These will be the first Games in which all the competition venues will be fueled 100 percent by green energy.

We're on top of one of the slopes. As you look out you can pan across and you see dozens of windmills. Beyond that, solar panels.

But there are chilling realities that threaten to overshadow these Games. Chinese cities are quickly re-imposing targeted lockdowns as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads. Extreme containment measures while seemingly effective aren't exactly welcoming to the rest of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will continue to press China.

CULVER: China is also facing mounting pressure over the investigation into the origins of the virus, which has claimed more than four million lives worldwide. And then there are the growing calls for countries to boycott Beijing for alleged human rights abuses, specifically its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. The worsening tensions between China and the west coincided with an intensified nationalism at home, which begs the question even with all the expected pageantry and performance in the upcoming Beijing Winter Games can China change how the world views the emerging superpower? David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching and spending time of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @holmescnn. Do stick around for WORLD SPORT. I'll see you in about 15 minutes.






SIDDHARTH KARA, ADJUNCT LECTURER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The big companies selling you your smartphones and electric vehicles are worth trillions of dollars. All those devices and cars have cobalt in them, but the people digging that cobalt out of the ground earn a dollar or two a day. That's an injustice. That is modern slavery, and that cannot stand.

My name is Siddharth Kara. I'm a British Academy Global Professor and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. For the last few years I've been travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I've been researching cobalt mining. What I've seen in the Congo is hell on Earth.

There are children caked in grime and filth, digging in pits and tunnels to excavate cobalt-containing ore, and that ore gets processed and refined and sent up into the formal supply chain to smartphone makers and E.V. manufacturers around the world.

I think the most important thing young people can do is to be aware of the fact that the children in the Congo scraping and scrounging for cobalt are directly touching their lives every day, and I think knowing that and spreading awareness of that is the most important first step, and awareness will lead to action.





AKALA, RAPPER, AUTHOR AND ACTIVIST: The Elizabethan era in London has really been heavily sanitized. Shakespeare was pretty much the only playwright who never went to prison. Of Shakespeare's closet contemporaries one was stabbed through the eye and killed in a bar brawl, the other killed two people himself and pledged to the benefit of the clergy. That's Ben Johnson and Christopher Marlowe.

It was a very gritty time in London, and actually the Elizabethan theater was the only place where the rich and the poor conglomerated in the same place. It was the popular entertainment of its day. It was heavily involved with the underworld, so on and so forth. So there were lots of ways in which really we've sanitized that era and sanitized the role that theater played in Elizabethan London.

And as someone who was lucky enough to take my high school exit exam the year the Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet came out, I was all - and grew up in a theater, I was always interested in presentation on the stage and who had the right to be the custodian of that knowledge and the way in which particular artistic representations are portrayed and the way in which we interpret even more than hip hop (ph).



TIM ELLIS, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, RELATIVITY SPACE: Relativity was founded five years ago to 3D print entire rockets, so not only are we designing and building the world's first fully 3D printed rocket, we've actually had to build the world's largest metal 3D printers.

The launch vehicles we're building have a 100 times fewer parts than a traditional rocket, and we're actually able to build it from raw material coming in the door to fully complete in only 60 days once we're fully operational with the factory. So it really is a totally different way of building, and I was originally inspired - I came from Blue Origin. My co-founder came from SpaceX, and we actually want to 3D print the industrial base of humanity on Mars. That's why we founded the company