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Climate Report: "Code Red for Humanity"; PSG Fans Await Possible Arrival of Barcelona Legend; Canada Reopens Border to Vaccinated U.S. Travelers; Chinese Court Upholds Death Sentence for Robert Schellenberg; More Provincial Capitals Fall in Taliban Offensive; Children Caught in the Crossfire of Taliban Battles; Climate Crisis Threatens Puffins; Tokyo Games Featured the most Openly LGBTQ Olympians Ever. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Ahead this hour:

Code red for humanity. In a major report from the U.N.., thousands of scientists warn of the reversible impact of climate change. But what we do know now will determine how bad this crisis will be.

One of the most prominent accusers of child sex defendant Jeffrey Epstein has now filed a lawsuit against U.K.'s Prince Andrew.

Also ahead, team LGBTQ. How the Tokyo Olympic Games were a landmark in the fight for equality.


VAUSE: Each day it seems, the devastating consequences of a warming planet are happening in real-time.

At this hour, deadly wildfires raging around the world and in many cases, they're burning with ferocity and intensity like never before. So far this year, the U.S. has reported close to 40,000 wildfires. Some of the worst in California, more than 12,000 people there have not been ordered to evacuate.

Across Bolivia, nearly 150,000 hectares of land have been burnt so far this year. More than 800 fires reported so far this month.

And the flames continue to spread in Greece made so much worse by a searing heat wave and drought. The country's prime minister has apologized for any weakness in the response to the fires and has promised compensation for the destroyed property. The prime minister goes on to say this is a disaster of unprecedented proportions, saying the government has done all it can to battle the blazes, but it's not enough for those who lost everybody.

Here's CNN's Eleni Giokos.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Firefighters have been working around the clock to try and douse the flames in Evia. Right now, this island, which is the second largest in Greece is the eye of the storm of the wildfires as it ravaged various parts of the country. Over half of Evia has been burned according to officials, and the number is growing.

This place behind me has been burning for most of the day despite efforts with helicopters and aircraft to put this out, it's still raging and burning. The only thing that will ensure this doesn't spread are sand roads which are being dug deliberately to try and stop the spread of the fire.

International assistance from 22 countries around the world has assisted in trying to put out the flames. But you see wherever you look on various hills, you'll see enormous flames and plumes of smoke and also, devastation clearly evident.

Locals tell me they felt that the national assistance came too late that local authorities also reacted very slowly and they told me that the livelihoods comes from the forest, whether it's resin or honey, or olive trees as well as figs, most of that has been destroyed.

Eleni Giokos, CNN, Evia, Greece.


VAUSE: CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us with the very latest.

So, what's the forecast for Greece and elsewhere across Europe?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, slightly cooler temperatures as what we're looking at across this region, but unfortunately we are going from about 40 to around 33 to 34. It's going to be very warm outside. You see some of these images where we have a multinational effort across portions of Greece and on the island of Evia in particular. Seven consecutive days we've had active fires across this region. Of course, hundreds of homes destroyed. You see the images. Thousands have been evacuated across this region.

And some of the satellites here, 35,000 kilometers up. These are the geostationary weather satellites located and looking right down towards if you, and zoom in and look at what it looks like from space and see the remarkable coverage of smoke, haze, the pyrocumulus clouds, and then the outer line there of the fires are kind of encompassing this region. And, of course, it almost looks like a scene out of a movie here, a horror movie was we've heard with how things have been decimated across the island.

But look at the area of coverage there. Not just in Greece, not just in areas around Turkey, but we talked about the widespread coverage of wildfire activity on the southern periphery across Europe in recent weeks and days. Even in northern Africa as well, but some 96 percent of wildfires around the world, those human induced. Sometimes deliberate, sometimes unintentional, but 96 percent. Humans are directly responsible for it, with 4 percent oftentimes being lightning strikes, which are natural causes of fires around the globe.

But we've looked at the data before. We know the strongest evidence between the link of climate change and, of course, the fires and droughts.


A lot of that, the strongest evidence typically leads to direct extreme heat waves, which, of course, is how we ended up in part with the drought situation there in portions of Europe, and, of course, and Athens. We know that the temperatures are going to be cooling down again. Not going to be necessarily cold by any means necessary. Going to be into the thirties, but the concern is the winds will pick up as the temperatures cool off. So, this could be more of a double edged sword as conditions improve slightly, but the winds will pick up.

John, the images there out of Greenville, California, and historic town that has been decimated also by wildfires. You see the U.S. flag resting on top of some of the rubble across this region. The 195,000 hectares of land consumed, that is roughly about two and a half times the size of New York City, speaks to the incredible amount of coverage of wildfires across this region.

And then notice the number of fires across the United States so far in 2021 have been about 6,000-plus across the state of California, I should say. You kind of see the amount of land consumed versus where we were this time in 2020, versus where we typically are on average anywhere you look at it, 2021 is well above the average, well above previous years and really one for the books across a large area of the world -- John.

AVLON: We'll see how the situation will be moving forward. That's the future possibly.

Pedram, thank you.


AVLON: A major report for the U.N. says wildfires, droughts are direct result of climate change and will only get worse. Among the main points, the climate crisis has been caused by our addiction fossil fuels. The earth is warming faster than previously thought, 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than preindustrial levels and could reach the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees within the next decade. And the window is closing to avoid catastrophic outcomes.

Allison Crimmins is a climate scientist, director of the National Climate Assessment. She is with us this hour from Washington.

Welcome to the program. It's good to have you. ALLISON CRIMMINS, U.S. NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT DIRECTOR: Thank

you. Good to be here.

VAUSE: Let's get to the science in a moment. But first, the everyday reality. Here is the prime minister of Greece talking about fires currently sweeping across southern Europe. Here he is.


KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, PRIME MINISTER, GREECE (through translator): We are facing a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions. In just a few days, 586 fires broke out and all the corners of the country. Fires, because of the unique heat wave and several months of drought have been the cause.


VAUSE: So, attribution science as it's called, can now make what, a direct link from global warming to individual weather events. So the fires burning across Greece, instead of saying we're not caused by climate change but rather climate change had a multiplier effect? Is that right?

CRIMMINS: I can't speak specifically to the fires in Greece just yet, but I can tell you that the report that just came out from the U.N., the working group one report does include a lot of advanced science in terms of attribution. So, we are all able to, you know, know a few weeks after an extreme event has happened, days to a few weeks afterwards, just how climate influence of that, whether it made it worse or caused it. That has really been a big advancement in the science in the last 10 years.

VAUSE: And all these extreme weather events, I want you to listen to the climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Here she is.


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: These are just symptoms of the climate crisis. We're not talking about the root cause itself, the things that is actually fueling these events. We are not holding people in power accountable. We are not talking about the available science, what it says, how the situation looks like now. And we are especially not talking about the gap between what politicians are saying and what they are actually doing.


VAUSE: So where do things stand right now in terms of what we are actually doing to try to address this climate crisis? And would actually needs to be done to avoid the worst of it?

CRIMMINS: It's absolutely a gap. This report demonstrates that the window of possibility of staying at one point, 5 degrees Celsius, 1.5 degrees global average temperature, over pre-industrial temperatures. If we have any hope of staying there, we must take very swift rapid sustained action. And that window is rapidly closing as we are already at about 1.1

degrees. With the emissions as they are now, it won't be long before it becomes absolutely closed.

VAUSE: So, a very simple equation right now at this point, that the more we do to mitigate emissions and reduce emissions, the less extreme the weather events will be moving forward.


CRIMMINS: Absolutely, less frequent and less severe. Another thing we are starting to see a lot more of are these compounding or concurrent events. So, you get a heat wave and a drought, and they wildfire all happening at the same time, or you'll get heavy precipitation and sea level rise and storm surge leading to massive flooding like we saw in Europe this year, all happening at the same time.

So, climate change is not just making each one of these extreme weather events worse, it is making these compounding or cascading events occur.

VAUSE: There are critics, for some reason, especially from the Murdoch media, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board says the report is similar to what it was a few years ago, in some ways saying it is less dire, an assessment that there is low -- of complete Arctic Sea melt.

And added this: Keep in mind at the IPCC report is a political document, it is intended to scare the public and motivate politicians to reduce CO2 emissions, no matter the cost, which by the way the report summary never mentions.

From your perspective, scientific perspective, is this a scientific report? Does it lay out the facts just as they are or politics involved?

CRIMMINS: It is absolutely a scientific report. And really, that's the strength of it. The findings of this report are not policy. Even though we're talking about what it would take to stay at 1.5 Celsius increase. That is not policy. That is science. It's just physics.

VAUSE: This report does highlight the frequency and intensity of cold snaps, for example, have decreased and will continue to decrease. Few people are dying from those, which is a positive in many ways. The CO2 in the atmosphere is acting like a fertilizer for parts of the planet. It's called the greening trend. That's in the northern hemisphere.

And then on the price, the economic price of a warming planet, Science Direct has this, common portrayals of devastation are unfounded. Scenarios are set out under the UN Climate Panel show human welfare were likely increase to 450 percent of today's welfare over the 21st century. Climate damages will reduce this welfare increase to 434 percent.

And a lot of critics point to the facts saying there is an overemphasis on the bad. Is that a justified criticism? And is this why a lot of people just tune out and refused to listen to all the dire warnings?

CRIMMINS: This report is focused on the physical drivers of climate change. So, it's really looking at temperatures, precipitation, sea level rise. The upcoming second and third working group reports will focus more on impacts, and adaptation, mitigation. So, those are the -- those are the reports that are going to get into things like impacts on agriculture, impacts on health and economics.

But I can tell you from my own experience and background, that this is very dire. It is very important. This report and others clearly demonstrate the severe impacts of climate change that are happening right now as we heard in Greece, but also the ones we are facing in the near future.

So I think those voices that are trying to downplay the impacts of climate change are really fading from the conversation as it becomes increasingly clear that these impacts are white spread and rapid and intensifying.

VAUSE: Yes, the dire warnings are there and are dire because it's a dire situation right now.

Allison, thank you. Really appreciate your time. Thank you for being with us.

CRIMMINS: Thank you.

VAUSE: The football superstar nicknamed "The Flea" about to make his biggest jump ever.

The word Lionel Messi land in Paris.

Also ahead, as Canada reopens to vaccinated Americans, emotions are running high to those who have gone months without seeing loved ones.

Also ahead --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's ridiculous that any university requires a vaccine for me to come to school here.


VAUSE: Once the concern was a fake ID to buy booze. Now, it's fake vaccine cards. How the debate over vaccine mandates is playing out on campus.



VAUSE: Fans for Paris Saint-Germain are hoping to gain one of the game's all-time greatest, as they rally outside of the stadium for a second straight day. That is after Barcelona legend, Lionel Messi, said it is possible that he may sign at the club. Capturing the crown jewel from a champion's league rival would be quite a coup.

But, can the Parisian club afford him?

Let's go to CNN's World Sport, Don Riddell, following us here at the CNN center.

A big player, big price tag.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Yeah, for sure, although not quite as big as it might have been, because he's out of contracted Barcelona. So, PSG, or any club for that matter, it doesn't have to pay a hefty fee to break him over contracted exists, but they will have to pay his salary, which has been reported to be in the realms of $35 million a year.

What is being reported, that I think a lot of people aren't expecting, is that he will go to Paris Saint-Germain. Apparently, he has been offered a 2-year deal, with the offer of a one-year extension.

And as you said there, John, Messi has not confirmed, nor denied, or exactly played it down at that Sunday press conference, where he would go or not. He said, it is a possibility, but that is certainly what people think. And you just saw those fans in Paris, they clearly are expecting it, and they are very, very excited about the prospect of him going.

There are many clubs in the world that could afford him, whether or not there's a buyout clause or not. It is being reported that Paris Saint-Germain is preparing to sell 10 players, in order to make room financially, and balance their books. But they, certainly, will be hoping that he be worth it, and it's a very intriguing prospect.

Remember, Messi has only ever played for one club, he's been in Barcelona for more than 20 years, but he's been so successful with that team, I think people are interested to see what kind of impact he could have at a different team.

If he goes, he will be reunited with Neymar, the Brazilian superstar, who was once his teammate at Barcelona, and he would be paired up with another Argentine, Mauricio Pochettino. He is the coach of Paris Saint-Germain. So, he will have a familiar face there.

VAUSE: But how much of an impact could Messi have on what's already a pretty star studded squad?

RIDDELL: Well, he is the man at the magic touch. He is a phenomenal player, people who watch the game, whether they support Barcelona, or Argentina, or any other people, I mean, people just adored Messi for the way he plays, and he really can change the game, just in an instant.

So, I think that, his expertise, he is the kind of player who's making a huge difference. Of course, he's 34 years of age, so is not as young as he used to be. I think there is an expectation, now certainly, in Paris, that he could land the one thing they have always been chasing, and has always eluded them, the Champions League title. They are close, getting to the final a few years ago, and lost. But, they have never won it.

Messi, with Barcelona, is won the Champions League four times, usually experienced in European football. So, that is the reason that they want him. Of, course it helps further boost the image of Paris Saint- Germain, which is something that Qatari owners would like very much as well. But, as the Champions League want, and they hope that with him, they could finally get it.


VAUSE: Hey, Don. Thank you. Don Riddell there for us, with some insight, about Lionel Messi and what he means. Thanks so much, Don.

China is trying to contain a growing number of COVID cases in 13 provinces, and are now reporting high risk areas. Mass testing is underway in some cities.

Manisha Tank joins us now live from Singapore, with more on the situation there. Not just China, but around the region as well. We are seeing country after country, after country, that have done well, and the virus is now struggling in many ways.

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Yeah, and, you know, John, that's become exactly the talking point, all of these countries we thought we were talking about, well at the very beginning, around this time last, year and just before now really struggling.

China, 143 new cases of local transmission, 180 of which, and Beijingers are being told, they are not allowed to leave the city to go to these places, where the new cases have been reported, unless it's for emergency reasons. And past travel is also being monitored, and all of this, of course, six months ahead of the Winter Olympics, which is due to take place in Beijing, for 2022. I'm sure the authorities will keep a close eye on that, and preparations for it, and how any increase in cases in the country may affect prospects.

But, as you say, there are other reports coming in across the Asia Pacific region. Let's take Australia, for example, 356 local transmissions reported. It's the highest case count of the pandemic in New South Wales. The capital of, which is Sydney, which has been through seven weeks now of strict lockdown. And, local authorities there saying that, actually, they thought that the figures would have been, worse had it not been for the lockdowns.

Important to point, out the vaccination rates in Australia, still, low relative to other like countries. If you think about the United Kingdom, the United States, actually, in Australia, as running at 22 and a half percent or, so or just over that. Elsewhere, Thailand, dealing with a very difficult situation, 235 new deaths, reported from COVID-19, in the last 24 hours alone. This means that we see a record for the number of deaths from COVID.

Again, vaccination rates in Thailand are low. 6.7 percent of the population, receiving just one dose of any vaccine, 23.9 percent or so, just under 24 percent, receiving at least one jab. But in places like Bangkok and Phuket, actually vaccination rates are a lot higher. The government trying to get the likes of Phuket open for international tourists, to bring in those very important tourism dollars, which means so much to the economy. Of, course the economy being hammered through this.

I do want to leave your thoughts for Vietnam, John, almost 9,700 new cases, reported there. More than a third of those in the biggest city, which is Ho Chi Minh. So, so much work, still to be done in this part of the world.

VAUSE: As there is pretty much everywhere else. Manisha, but, yeah, absolutely right. Thank you. Manisha Tank there live for us in Singapore.

Well, Canada's border has now reopened to fully vaccinated Americans.

As CNN's Paula Newton reports, the decision to lift this border restriction, coming in a surge of COVID cases in the U.S.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A day of long lines at Canada's border crossings, really from one coast of the country to the other, as anxious Americans, and U.S. residents, are eager, here, to come into the country finally, after nearly a year and a half. Now, Americans need to be fully vaccinated, and they have to show proof of a negative COVID test, a lab confirmed, but, really, for so many of, them it is been such a relief.

So many family reunions, and certainly property owners in Canada, unable to see those properties, for such a long time. Also, small businesses from one of the country, to the other, wanting to have that cross border business back again. All of, it though, a prelude to Canada actually accepting international visitors, hopefully, in September.

Now, there were concerns given the high rate of infection in the United States with the coronavirus, that Canada would change its mind. So far, it has not. It says that this is a tentative step, and will continue to keep an eye on the cases here in Canada. While the vaccination rate here in Canada is high, Canada's top, Dr. Teresa Tam, also says that a 4th wave is underway. That does not mean that hospitalizations, or deaths, are anywhere near the increases that they saw here during the third wave, but they are keeping an eye on things.

Paula Newton, CNN, at the U.S.-Canada border, in Cornwall, Ontario.


VAUSE: Monday is about the first day the first extended health pass requirements in France, the passes proof of vaccination, or negative test, or recovery from a previous infection. Needed for restaurants, bars, long distance train travel. Francis seen mass protest against these pass in recent weekends, but many believe this is a small imposition, with a big payoff.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As customers, I think that once we have the health pass, it is quite easy. We only have to show it, and it works very fast. But, for the restaurateurs, for people who are in situations where people are hesitant, I think it's a shame that this hampers them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I really don't know what this is. We are sitting at an outdoor table, there is two of us, no one else around. It is digital, and already pushing it quite far.


VAUSE: The U.S. defense secretary, seeking a mandate from the White House, the vaccine, or active duty military personnel no later in the middle of next month. President Biden supports the move, but the presidential waiver ordering the vaccine will be needed if it is not fully approved by U.S. regulators.

College campuses are also hotly debating the vaccine passport. Students are Indiana University have taken the case to the Supreme Court to have blocked. In the meantime, other colleagues are finding illicit ways to dodge the jab, and get back on campus.

Here is CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Move over, fake ID, there's a new counterfeit business on college campuses, fake vaccination cards.

SIMON PALMORE, UNC STUDENT: It is really disturbing the length that some students are willing to go to subvert the university requirements.

BROWN: Among those requirements at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, a copy of a vaccination card before coming back to campus or students must be tested regularly.

But at least one UNC professor has raised the alarm about students possibly trying to use counterfeit vaccine cards. Some students tell CNN affiliate WRAL, their peers are buying them for as much as $200.

J.D. BOYD, UNC DENTAL STUDENT: We're on an educated college campus in one of the most educated places in the world. And it's like how can you be faking a vaccine when we have people to care about?

BROWN: UNC isn't the only school where students are trying to skip both the shot and the tests. Some have actually gone so far as to sue their school over a vaccine mandate.

According to university spokesperson, 771 University of Connecticut students applied for a nonmedical vaccine exemption from the school's requirement.

ANIRUVH UNDRAKONDA, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT STUDENT: If that's what they choose, then that's their decision. You know, I don't think forcing people to get the vaccine is appropriate. But people understanding the value of keeping others safe is also very important.

BROWN: UConn has approved more than 500 of those requests, with the others still pending.

And Indiana University, which has also been sued by a group of students over the mandate, Hoosiers are voicing their opposition.

JACKSON PAUWELS, INDIANA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I think it's ridiculous that Indiana University requires a vaccine for me to come to school here.

BROWN: A federal judge ended up ruling in favor of IU.

So far, more than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to get the COVID vaccine before returning to campus.

MICHAEL LOVELL, PRESIDENT OF MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY: When you're in college, it's a very social time, they live close in community. And we want to ensure that they can have the best experience possible when they are on campus while still being safe.

BROWN: It's a move many public health officials are applauding.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: And I'm personally glad to see that. It's so straightforward here to try to keep us from having outbreaks on college campuses. With vaccines that are safe and effective, I can see why they'd want to avoid more trouble, more sickness, more deaths.

BROWN: Experts saying college students need to ditch the idea that they're invincible from the virus, because with the ever growing highly contagious delta variant, that mindset could be increasingly dangerous.

COLLINS: Look at the statistics now. An awful lot of the people in the hospital in the ICU and some of them in the morgue are well under 30 years old.

BROWN: Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: One of Jeffrey Epstein's most prominent accusers is now suing Prince Andrew, alleging sexual abuse. Virginia Giuffre says when she was 17 years old, the prince forced himself on to her, multiple times. In the lawsuit, she claims that happened in Epstein's home in New York, and his private island, and, at his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell's address, in London.

Prince Andrew said he has never met Giuffre, despite a photo of the 2 of them together. CNN has reached out to the prince's representatives for comment on the lawsuit.

Afghanistan are fleeing the fighting ahead of a Taliban offensive, but they're running out of safe places to go, the latest on the Taliban military offensive in a moment.

And, as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for joint military drills, Pyongyang has a new warning for both countries.



VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

A Chinese court has upheld the death sentence for a Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 and five years later was sentenced to death.

The high court upheld a lower court's ruling saying the sentence was appropriate. This decision though comes amid worsening diplomatic tensions between Canada as well as China.

CNN's Steven Jiang live for us in Beijing. So how much of this is politics and how much of this is actually a case about drug smuggling?

Steven? Steven Jiang in Beijing? I think we have some communication issues right now with Steven. We will come back to him when we can.

In the meantime, joint U.S. and South Korean military drills are set for later this month. And while they've been scaled back because of the pandemic, the North Koreans seem as angry as ever.

Kim Yu-jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong-un, says both countries will face a more serious security threat for ignoring earlier warnings.

Pyongyang also criticized the Biden administration and called once again for the U.S. to leave South Korea, saying in part, quote, "If peace is to be established on the Korean Peninsula war equipment deployed by the U.S. in South Korea must be removed. As long as the U.S. forces are stationed in South Korea, the fundamental cause which periodically worsens the situation on the Korean Peninsula will never be eliminated."

Let's go back now to Steven Jiang in Beijing with more on the case of the Canadian man who's been sentenced to death allegedly for drug smuggling.

And Steven, I'm just curious. How much of this case has to do with actual politics and how much has to do with drug smuggling?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well John, really it depends on who you ask, right. The Chinese government has insisted this case is all about the rule of law, their judicial independence. But many people, of course, would beg to differ.

Now, the Canadian government has responded, condemning this decision, but also promising that they would continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest level to request clemency for Schellenberg.

But the decision itself is obviously not shocking for anyone who knows anything about how the legal system works here with its almost 100 percent conviction rate, and how rare it is for higher courts to overturn death sentences. So now Schellenberg 's case awaits the final review by the Supreme Peoples Court before an execution could be carried out.

But for many critics of the Beijing government, of course, this is another example of China's so-called hostage diplomacy. That is something the government here denies, but it's worth taking a look at the timeline of this case.

He was first tried on November 28th, 2018 for being an accessory to the smuggling of more than 200 kilos of meth and he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. But he decided to appeal.

And this state was important, because a few days later on December 1st, Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant, Huawei was arrested at a Vancouver airport by Canadian authorities on behalf of the U.S. government for her alleged role in dodging U.S. sanctions against Iran.


JIANG: That move by Canada infuriated the Beijing leadership with officials here promising unspecified but serious consequences for Canada. And within weeks of that, Schellenberg was ordered to face retrial.

It was during that proceeding the prosecution said they had uncovered new evidence and decided to try him as a principal to the case. He was convicted and sentenced to death in January 2019. He appealed and was granted a hearing in May of last year but it was not until today he found out that his death sentence had been upheld.

Now all of this of course is happening as the Meng Wanzhou case has also entered a very crucial final arguments facing Canada, as she continues to fight her extradition to the U.S. And indeed, John, her case was discussed by both U.S.-Chinese officials during their recent high-level meeting here in China.

And it's also worth remembering Schellenberg is not even the only Canadian facing potential execution here, with two other Canadian citizens who were arrested shortly after Meng's arrest in Canada and they have since been tried and charged with espionage, which also could potentially carry the death sentence. So all of these -- all of these cases, John, are considered interconnected and their results having major geopolitical implications and impact, John.

VAUSE: Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang, live for us in Beijing. Afghanistan government forces are losing their fight with the Taliban. At least five provincial capitals have fallen in a matter of days. There are reports a sixth has now been taken by the Taliban. The militants now control a large part of the country.

A senior Afghan official says government forces are in need of close air support from the U.S. As he put it, things are getting nasty.

Nick Paton Walsh has more now on the latest developments.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: A startlingly bad five days for the Afghan security forces and government after 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

Beginning on Friday when the first provincial capital fell, Zaranj near the border with Iran things then spiraled over the weekend. Three more provincial capitals falling, bringing it now to a total by Monday's end of five, with two other cities intensely pressured.

Now, over the weekend a key city fell, Kunduz, that has twice in the past six years been taken by the Taliban briefly, only to have Afghan security forces combined with U.S. air strikes kick them out.

Seems unclear at this stage if that is something the Afghan government can repeat again because the insurgency's momentum seems to have moved on already, threatening another provincial capital, Samangan and another key city too, Ghazni.

There's a real, I think, sense of fear that Afghan security forces are simply not quite sure which fire to put out next. Where to deploy the finite resources they have of effective Afghan commanders. So much of the Afghan police or army at times ram shackled when it comes to taking on a dedicated and focused insurgency.

There's also a key battle raging in the south of the country in Lashkargah in Helmand Province, which many U.S. troops and NATO soldiers have lost their lives in over the past years. Obviously, a decisive symbolic fight for the Afghan government there.

Also two Afghan officials expressing concern, because while U.S. air power reduced in how much it's used at the moment compared to previous years, has been very helpful for Afghan forces, it hasn't really changed the dimension much in the last five days. And the concern is in three weeks it is due to stop entirely.

The U.S. has been very explicit that at the end of their presence on the ground, by the end of the month they will also stop airstrikes against the insurgency. That is their still policy.

And so the concern amongst Afghan forces is that even the last five days haven't been altered much by the use of U.S. air power, things could get significantly worse come the beginnings of September.

I think many were expecting that this sort of insurgency advance was inevitable once the U.S. withdrew from the grounds to the extent that it has already.

I think many are concerned to see it happening quite so quickly around Kabul, it seems quite so forcefully, and with fears too about how the capital may become increasingly vulnerable in the months ahead.

The Taliban clearly feeling the degree of momentum here, able to apply pressure on many different urban centers at the same time. And the Afghan government surely wondering quite where it's next crisis to tackle will come from.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: And the reality is in Afghanistan, children are now being killed. UNICEF says in the past 72 hours at least 27 children died, more than 130 others were injured mostly in Kandahar Province.


VAUSE: A statement from UNICEF reads in part "Children should not pay for this worsening conflict with their childhood. As long as the conflict rages, children's right to thrive is compromised. Their futures jeopardized and their contributions to the nation's prospects diminished."

Chris Nyamandi is a director of Save the Children International in Afghanistan. He is with us from Kabul. Chris, thank you for taking the time.

Just for want of a better term, are dead children essentially collateral damage from the Taliban offensive or are they actually being targeted by Taliban fighters?


Clearly this violence is now affecting children. I think this is more collateral damage because we see the violence is increasing in urban areas, including airstrikes as the government tries to hold on to territory, especially the important cities such as Helmand and also trying to retain Kunduz.

This is really a reminder, John, that this is a dangerous situation in Afghanistan. This violence must stop absolutely. Children are dying. These are not just numbers. These are loved ones. And we call on all parties to the conflict to stop the violence and go to negotiations to save the lives of children of Afghanistan.

VAUSE: So these kids are dying, not just at the hands of the Taliban, but by the Afghan government response when they bring in airstrikes or they're trying to force back the Taliban offensive, right?

NYAMANDI: That is correct. And I think it is not just about children dying, as we know. There are thousands of children who also have been displaced and have to leave their homes. I was talking to my staff yesterday who I -- they tell me that some families (INAUDIBLE) go to places where they feel that they are safe. So yes, it's not clear at this point that there is a targeting of children, but the level of violence and given that this violence is happening in (INAUDIBLE) areas is certainly going to cause increased civilian casualties, including children.

VAUSE: And one of the concerns is when children are being recruited to fight for not just the Taliban but for other sort of militant groups within the country. Are you seeing much of that at the moment?

NYAMANDI: We have had reports of children being used. This is one of the grave violations that we see. The children are being used, being recruited to be used as soldiers in the conflict.

Again this is a war crime. And we (INAUDIBLE) conflict, this is really not acceptable. There is no law that children should be used in this way in this conflict.

VAUSE: You know, the U.S. on Monday, basically said, they kind of wiped their hands of the situation saying it's up to the Afghan National Forces to defend the country. Saying that basically the Afghan army has a huge advantage over the Taliban, at least on paper. Listen to this.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: They have an air force the Taliban doesn't. They have modern weaponry and organizational skills. The Taliban doesn't. They have superior numbers to the Taliban.

And so again, they have the advantage -- advantages. And it's really now their time to use those advantages.


VAUSE: All that may be very well and true, but do you have confidence in the Afghan national army that they'll be able to defend civilians and hold off the Taliban takeover?

NYAMANDI: So that might be true, but I don't think that's the -- I think the important precedent (ph) is we have men with guns fighting and involved in egregious violence and children are (INAUDIBLE). Yes, the politics of what is happening in Afghanistan, whether the government can hold on or not, I think that is not for us.

(INAUDIBLE) no aid agency to comment on. Really, if children are dying in the way that they are dying right now, families are grieving. My staff, by the way, I have 17 of my staff across the country. We've also had to flee.

So we are not able to provide assistance. It is dangerous for us to have to be on the street to provide assistance. And children are going to continue to die. Some of them including through injuries or indeed through diseases and lack of food. We're in the middle of the COVID spike, and so I really would like to

call up on pockets of conflict to come to an end to try to stop this violence as soon as possible.

VAUSE: Yes, the 27 dead kids, it's just the tip, and then you have, you know, the injured, you know, the mental and emotional impact. You have the impact of diseases. A whole bunch of stuff. And it's just getting worse.

Chris, we wish you all the very best in the work you do there. Thank you for being with us.

NYAMANDI: Thank you, John for the opportunity.

VAUSE: The climate crisis is threatening a number of species to its extinction. We're looking at the risks facing Atlantic puffins and their habitat.

That's all when we come back.



VAUSE: Dancing and dining in ankle-deep water in the famous St. Mark's square in Venice. Over the weekend water was up to a meter deep in places. That's the highest summer level in more than 25 years caused by rising seas, unusually high tides and other factors, all exacerbated by climate change.

Rising waters and temperatures are also putting certain species at risk, like the U.K.'s beloved puffins.

CNN's Scott McLean has more on the threat to their habitat.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A few miles off England's sandy northeastern coastline, there's a rocky archipelago. Isolated, barren and nearly unscarred by humans save for a few lighthouses and a 650-year-old former monastery.

For centuries the Farne Islands have been left almost unchanged, attracting only a few solitary hermits, sunbathing seals and hundreds of thousands of breeding birds like the Atlantic puffins.

But even on this remote outcrop where only nature appears to govern who survives and who doesn't, there's now another force to contend with, climate change.

Every morning Gwen Potter and her team of park rangers arrive before the crush of tourists.

GWEN POTTER, PARK RANGERS: They are very delicate. They can sometimes collapse so we've got to be very careful.

MCLEAN: They go burrow to burrow, shoulder deep, to count how many puffins are underground with their eggs.

POTTER: Oh, unoccupied.

MCLEAN: No one home.

POTTER: I really want a nibble.

MCLEAN: The global population of Atlantic puffins is in steep decline so the count is done every summer. The growing frequency of extreme weather threatens to flood their burrows and the eggs inside them. The rising temperatures are disrupting their food chain.

But on this sunny day, it's hard to imagine the Farne Islands puffin has anything to worry about.

MCLEAN (on camera): I'm just looking at all the birds behind you. It's difficult to envision that these birds could in any way be threatened?

POTTER: What we are seeing here is a snapshot in time, but over the long term, all of these birds are declining.

MCLEAN: You'll often see puffins holding fish in their mouth, that's their primary food source called sand eels. When the eel eggs hatch, they are supposed to feed on plankton which blooms at around the same time of year.

But with rising sea temperatures, those two events are now out of sync by almost three weeks. Less food for sand eels, ultimately means fewer sand eels for puffins.

POTTER: And these puffins also they pair for life. Puffin divorce rate we believe is quite low.

MCLEAN: They are better at commitment in relationships than we are.

POTTER: They are much better at bird marriage than human marriage yes.


MCLEAN (voice over): A human commitment is exactly what these birds need. The 2015 Paris climate accord committed world leaders to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

But a new published report from the WWF warns of an uncertain future for the Atlantic puffin if temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees. Leaders will have another kick at the climate crisis can at the Top 26 summit this fall in Scotland.

MARK WRIGHT, WWF-UK DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE: If we do not step up at the end of this year at the climate meeting, it will have been a complete abdication of responsibility, a real missed opportunity. And we'll be letting down future generations if we don't act now.

MCLEAN: Puffin populations in Norway have dropped sharply. And in Iceland colonies are at risk of dying out completely according to the WWF. But on the Farne the puffin population appears to stable after

declining over the past two decades.

POTTER: What really caused these issues is rapid change. And while our lifetime may not feel like a rapid change, that is a rapid change.

MCLEAN (on camera): They can adapt to a slowly changing climate, but not at the rate that we are at right now?

POTTER: That's exactly it. Yes.

MCLEAN (voice over): Meaning the rest of the world will have to change but these islands don't.

Scott McLean, CNN -- on the Farne Islands in northern England.


VAUSE: Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg will be on the cover of the first edition of Vogue Scandinavia which will only be available online to eliminate paper and packaging waste.

Thunberg's calls for the fast fashion -- calls out the fast fashion industry for making cheep trendy clothing at high environmental costs. Thunberg told the magazine in an interview, "If you are buying fast fashion then you are contributing to that industry and encouraging them to expand and encouraging them to continue their harmful process.

When we come back, Tokyo 2020. While Olympic games are over, the Paralympics are next. But the next stop of the summer games will be France.

Coming up Paris rolling out the red carpet as the Olympics head to the city -- the city of lights for the first time in nearly a century.

Also ahead, a historic number of openly LGBTQ athletes won medals for their countries at this year's Olympics. So we'll hear from some of them. The impact of competing with pride.


VAUSE: Celebrations in Paris as they hoisted the American Olympic flag as the next host of the summer games in 2024. Paris mayor says she learned a lot from Tokyo's experience with the pandemic, and says the games will be open to spectators if she can help it.

She also celebrated the Olympics making an historic return to France.


MAYOR ANNE HIDALGO, PARIS, FRANCE (through translator): We are very happy, it is an immense joy. A hundred years later the flag is here and flies once again in front of the city hall and above Paris.

I want to tell you this is a huge joy. I thank you very much. We're going to do wonderful things. These games will do us good, and we will make our own history.


VAUSE: The gold rush at the Tokyo games is all about national pride, but one of the most successful groups of athletes goes beyond borders -- LGBTQ athletes.

As CNN's Will Ripley reports, pride at the Olympics has made a big impact all around the world.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Out at the Olympics -- out and proud. LGBTQ representation hit an all-time high at Tokyo, more than every other summer games combined. Out Sports says, if they had their own country, out Olympians would rank 7th in the world, with 56 medals, including a gold and a bronze for British diver Tom Daley.


TOM DALEY, BRITISH DIVER: I mean it's great that we have more out Olympians than ever before.

RIPLEY: He says more work needs to be done. Being gay can still mean the death penalty in nine Olympic nations.

DALEY: I feel extremely lucky to be representing Great Britain, where I can have a husband and I can have my son and be -- you know, and not have any ramifications.

RIPLEY: Tom came out publicly in 2013. He married his husband Lance in 2017. Today, they have a young son, a modern family cheering him on.

DALEY: I just hope that seeing more out athletes competing at the Olympic games and in other sports, that any little kids out there a feel a little less, feel alone, feel different, and don't quite fit in, know that if they work hard they can achieve anything.

And just because of who they are isn't going to change what you're able to achieve.

RIPLEY: Trail blazers like Daley make it easier for younger Olympians to come out, like 21-year old Australian skateboarder Poppy Star Olsen.

POPPY STAR, AUSTRALIAN SKATEBOARDER: We have come so far and it's definitely a lot easier than it was say 20 years ago. I am very lucky in skateboarding because skateboarding is very inclusive and I had all these role models I looked up to, so that really helped me a lot too.

RIPLEY: Those role models from previous Olympics also often battled stigma and shame. Australian diver Matthew Mitcham (ph) tried to train himself not to be gay. He says he numbed his pain with alcohol and drugs.

Despite those struggles, Mitcham made history on two fronts in Beijing 2008.

MATTHEW MITCHAM, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIVER: That Olympic record, I still have but will be broken one day. But the one thing nobody will ever be able take away from me is the fact that I was the first openly gay man to win an Olympic gold medal.

If that helps somebody else in their journey to being their authentic selves, then that is worth more than all of the gold medals that I could ever win in my career.

RIPLEY: Mitcham says trans and non binary athlete still battle stigma and discrimination.

MITCHAM: A lot of work still needs to be done to make it safer for trans people, for trans people of color to live and exist and to thrive and flourish in this world.

RIPLEY: A world that allows people, all people to live and love. A goal that goes well beyond the Olympics.

Will Ripley, CNN -- Tokyo.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'll be back with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.

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